ESV - 6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
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Although murder might appear from an intuitive or "common-sense" standpoint to require the death of the perpetrator, a formal commandment from God against murder, and the ordering of death as the punishment for it, is not found in the Bible (as noted in the question) until after the Flood (Genesis 9:6). Therefore, it seems to me that a possible reason that Cain was spared (despite the fact that he had killed Abel) was that it would have been unjust for God to take his life when he had not specifically known beforehand what the penalty for murdering his brother would be. (The same logic would apply to Lamech (Genesis 4:23-24), who was apparently spared despite his admission of having killed another man.)
After killing Abel, Cain was not put to death; rather, he was forbidden to farm and left to wander the earth. God gave him a special mark to indicate to others who he was and that no one would kill him (Gen 4:10-16). God in His mercy offered Cain the opportunity to repent. But Cain only hardened his heart, encouraged rebellion against God, and became the patriarch of a family of sinners. We have to realize that we are not alone in this universe. In Job 1:6-8 we read about God meeting with sons of God. Adam is called the son of God (Luke 3:38) thus it makes sense to believe that the “sons of God” who appeared before God in heaven were unfallen created being. Interestingly enough, God here is bragging about Job being a blameless man. Most likely there are countless unfallen created beings and heavenly creatures who are watching us interacting with God and each other - read: (Heb 12:1; 1 Cor 11:10). We also know that Satan deceived a third of the angels and all were cast out of heaven (Rev 12:4). In light of this knowledge, I believe that God's actions in regard to us here on earth have a much broader implication. Satan is the accuser who day and night is trying to find fault with us and God's decisions (Rev 12:7-10). Although God is omnipotent and can do whatever He likes, He is also a fair and just God (Isaiah 51:4-5). In sparing Cain’s life, God presented before the whole universe the result of evil (Gen 6:5). Cain’s life shows what happen when the sinner is allowed to live on in rebellion against God. The patience of God, instead of repentance, makes the wicked bolder and more defiant in his sinfulness. The non-capital punishment of Cain did not slow down the tide of murder that swept over the world. To the contrary, the world of that time became so violent and lawless that God was forced to destroy it with water. After the Flood, God pursued a different strategy (Gen. 9:6) - if you murder someone, someone else is going to take your life - because human life, made in the image of God, is precious.
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