Did Cain Kill Only Abel: ‘Your Brother’s Blood Cries Out To Me From The Ground”

In the previous post, we discussed in detail Cain’s rather ‘odd’ reply to God when God asked him the whereabouts of his brother Abel. Today we will continue with this topic and talk about God’s reply to Cain. Here is the biblical source:

“The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10)

Similar to the words ‘Am I my brother keeper?’, the expression ‘Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground’ has become one of the most well-known biblical idioms. But what does it actually mean?

In the original Hebrew, this idiom ‘Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground’ appears as ‘Kol Demei Achicha Tzoakim El’ai Min Ha-Adamah’. {קול דמי אחיך צועקים אלי מו האדמה}

The original Hebrew phrase for ‘Your brother’s blood’ is ‘Kol Demei Achicha’ {קול דמי אחיך} which uses a unique grammatical structure that is quite common in Semitic languages such as Hebrew but not in European languages – and this is called the ‘construct state.’

In Hebrew, we use the ‘construct state’ every time a noun is modified by another noun in a genitive construction. In case the noun is masculine and plural (for example), the first noun changes its normal appearance and becomes slightly shorter.

Many of you are probably thinking, ‘Now that is a nice lesson on Hebrew grammatical structures, but how does it connect or influence the meaning of this well-known biblical idiom?’

Well, both Biblical Hebrew scholars as well as Jewish Bible commentators have noticed an UNUSUAL grammatical Hebrew form when reading this verse in the original Hebrew.
There, in the original Hebrew, the word for ‘blood’ appears as ‘Demei’ {דמי} which is the masculine plural of the construct state of the word ‘Damim’ {דמים} and that means the word for ‘blood’ is found in this biblical text  in its PLURAL form and not in its singular form as one can plainly see in the English translation above.

The fact that Hebrew actually has a plural form for the word ‘blood’ is quite interesting and suggests there is a difference between ‘blood’ in singular and ‘blood’ in plural!

The difference between the two versions of the Hebrew word for ‘blood’ is that when it appears in its singular form it describes  ‘blood’ in general.
However, when it appears in its plural form it is usually related to bloodshed or murder – like in the case of Cain and Abel – and the reason is because when a man kills another man he is also killing his future descendants as well. In other words, the original Hebrew uses the plural form of ‘blood’ to emphasize that when Cain killed Abel he did not just kill one person – Abel – but also many others (Abel’s future descendants).