I will be a restless wanderer
Cain polluted the land by the shedding of blood and so he is forced to be a wanderer. As well as leading to abuse and slavery, the way of Cain also leads to restlessness, it leads to a way of constantly searching anxiety. It seems that there is no peace for human beings unless they learn to live with healthy relationships, and under the providence of God.
Unlike Adam, his father, who accepted his punishment meekly, Cain protests strongly that his punishment is too much.
my punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me
It seems there is a difference to be made between the ‘land’ – that place which has been given to them by God, the familiar place that is home – and the ‘earth’ – which is foreign and strange and dangerous. The act of violence has violated the land, violated their home, and everywhere becomes the foreign, dangerous earth. That’s what happens when violence enters. Threat is everywhere. No-one is family and nowhere is home.
Cain finds himself a wanderer who has left the presence of God and become a fugitive. In fact, God ‘drives’ him from his home (4:14) just as years before he had driven his parents from their home (3:24). Adam and Eve had moved east out of Eden (3:24) so to, when Cain is driven from the presence of God, he moves east (4:16).
It seems that in these early stories, to move east is symbolic of the move from the presence of God.
And he too, like his parents who hid in the trees (3:8), feels he must hide (4:14).
Literally and metaphorically as men and women abandon God they are driven further and further from their home in God to a fugitive existence, wandering restlessly in the land of Nod.