Maybe I'm missing something in the story, but I see no obvious way for Cain to know that he actually killed Hebel and the latter will not wake up, heal or resurrect.

How could Cain know that Hebel was actually dead?

  • He was bleeding away
    – interested
    Feb 13, 2021 at 21:34
  • He had seen animals, with a much shorter lifespan, die a natural death. Feb 14, 2021 at 0:06
  • What is the time frame you are allotting as reasonable for him to know?
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Feb 14, 2021 at 2:56
  • @Dr.Shmuel A year after he's buried.
    – Al Berko
    Feb 14, 2021 at 17:37
  • @MauriceMizrahi There was no "natural death". Death was attributed to God withdrawing the vitality. Cain couldn't see natural death and couldn't infer from slaughtering because the animal wasn't dead but exalted to a different and unknown status.
    – Al Berko
    Feb 14, 2021 at 17:40

1 Answer 1


The Gemara in Sanhedrin 37b mentions this exact point:

אמר רב יהודה בריה דר' חייא מלמד שעשה קין בהבל אחיו חבורות חבורות פציעות פציעות שלא היה יודע מהיכן נשמה יוצאה עד שהגיע לצוארו

Rav Yehuda the son of Rav Chiya said that that this teaches that Kayin caused multiple wounds and multiple injuries to his brother Hevel, since he (kayin) didn't know from where the soul departs until he reached the neck.

So it would seem from the Gemara that he happily pummelled away not knowing what would be the killer blow and then when he reached the neck this seemed to be the final, fatal blow that made it clear to him.

Along this line of thinking, also refer to the Bereishis Rabbah 22:8 that notes one view that Kayin witnessed at what point his father slaughtered the bullock and at what point he slew Hevel and that was his marker.

  • I'm aware of this Midrash, but it presumes apriori knowledge of the biological nature of human killing. THere was no basis to assume that human fate is identical to the bullock's. Humans could easily heal or resurrect thanks to their heavenly part. Notice that the Midrash already knows that the soul departs, but how did Cain know?
    – Al Berko
    Feb 14, 2021 at 17:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .