Genesis 4:7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
Well, here’s one of those Bible passages that I just don’t understand (yet). We all know the story of Cain and Abel and the important lessons the chapter teaches, but what in the world did God mean when he told Cain that sin lieth at the door?
Did some research on what the commentators say about this verse a while back. Here’s a summary of what I found. The standard teaching is that God is telling Cain he can correct his mistake by making the proper offering; that “sin” really means “sin offering,” in the Hebrew.
The only thing that gives this idea any credence in my mind is the fact that when I checked the references, I found that “the door” does not have to refer to the door of a tent (why would a sheep be there?) but can refer to the door of a sheepfold (John 10:1), which would make more sense. Still, I am not comfortable with this take on the verse. You either have to change “sin” to “sin offering” or say that God refers to a sacrificial lamb as “sin.”
A second thought is summarized by John Davis’s Paradise to Prison: The second and more likely interpretation is that “sin” refers to the effects of sin. Thus, God is warning Cain that if he sins, tragedy will follow. God might be suggesting the word picture of a wild beast couching at the door, waiting to attack the one who opens it. This would explain the masculine gender of “lieth,” which would normally be feminine to agree with its subject “sin.”
AW Pink concurs in his Gleanings in Genesis: To summarize our suggested interpretation of verse 7, Cain’s offering having been refused, anger filled his heart. Jehovah asks him why he is wroth, and tells him there is no just cause for his displeasure, and that if he will bring the required offering it would be accepted and Cain would then retain the rights of the firstborn. At the same time God faithfully and solemnly warns him of the consequences which will follow his refusal to bring the specified sacrifice. If his sin is not removed by an expiatory offering, it will spring upon and devour him. Cain refused to comply with Jehovah’s demands and the Divine threat was carried out. What an illustration of James 1:15! “When lust (desire, passion) hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin when it is finished (consummated), bringeth forth death.”
This view spiritualizes the statement and is consistent with what the Bible says about the nature of sin. Note, SIN bringeth forth death (James 1:15); the wages of SIN is death (Romans 6:23); SIN will find you out (Numbers 32:23); SIN binds (Proverbs 5:22); he that soweth to his flesh shall OF THE FLESH reap corruption (Galatians 6:7). It is important to understand that God doesn’t do those things to people who sin but SIN does those things to people who sin.
So perhaps God is warning Cain of the consequences his sin will bring upon him if he does not repent and offer the proper sacrifice. This is the position Bro. James takes in his devotional commentary on Genesis, so it’s probably right ;) I’m just not completely 100% satisfied this is what God is saying to Cain.
There’s one more idea I had come across in my Bible reading and was reminded of when I read the verse again this past week. Not sure that it works, but it’s an interesting thought.
Deuteronomy 9:21 And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.
In recounting the ordeal regarding the golden calf, Moses identifies the calf itself as the people’s sin. So when God tells Cain, “sin lieth at the door,” perhaps God is helping Cain identify his sin – by calling the fruit of the ground he offered instead of a lamb the “sin” that “lieth at the door?” Now, I can’t prove that and I’m not sure that it matches the structure of the sentence; nor am I necessarily convinced that Cain didn’t know he was supposed to offer a lamb instead of what he did. But I would sure like a cross reference that helps me understand Genesis 4:7, and this is about the closest I’ve come.
Let me know what you think. What ideas have you come across as to the meaning of Genesis 4:7?