22 July 2010

Sin Lieth at the Door

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?


  1. Brother David,
    Not sure if this will be a help or not, but the phrase "lieth at the door" seems to be used very interestingly throughout Scripture. Here is a link with all the scriptures where this phrase is used.


    Hope it is help and blessing.

    God bless,
    Bro. Jason

  2. Brother David,
    There is also this verse in Leviticus:

    Leviticus 12:6 KJV - "And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest:"

    "...for a sin offering, unto the door..."

    Hope this helps as well.

    In Christ Jesus our Lord,
    Bro. Jason

  3. Thanks, brother. Did get a great spiritual application. In the first reference, sin is lying at the door (Genesis 4:7). In the last reference, Jesus is knocking at the door (Revelation 3:20). Choose you this day whom ye will serve (Joshua 24:15)!

  4. Amen!!!

    Sin lying at the door (Genesis 4:7) then the one Who was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) is knocking at the door (Revelation 3:20) waiting on someone to open it so that He can come in.

    It is also interesting to note that sin, when "it is finished" (James 1:15) is also found in John 19:30.

  5. "...and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." Seem to me that any time we do not do well we have the opportunity to progress into a sinful act/thought, therefore, if we thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.
    Sin is always there waiting for us to not do well. To not do well is not a sin, but it sure can lead to sin.



  7. Ok just some thoughts, Cain was angry because somehow he missed it got it wrong and God didn't have respect to his offering, maybe it was meant to be a lamb, ok Cain was angry (the word of God says be angry but sin not) When we feel anger we have a choice whether to sin or not (sin crouches at the door) but we don't have to sin, Cains anger lead to the murder of his brother his pride led to anger and anger led to sin. But Cain could have ruled over that emotion of anger but he chose not to. When someone else gets it right and we get it wrong then negative emotions can spring up pride then Anger because of our pride and if these negative emotions not dealt with"ruled over" "cast down" or mastered but are instead meditated on they lead to sin. We know that we are not supposed to go to sleep angry (dont let the sun go down on your wrath) May be Cain went to bed angry we know that he didn't let it go because if he had he wouldn't have murdered his brother. Able had done what was right there was nothing for Cain to be angry with him about. But his own pride of getting it wrong, His own pride led to him being angry with his brother and killing him because the sin of pride. If God was telling Cain that he should have offered a Lamb as a sacrifice and was giving him a chance to get it right, who do you think Cain would have to, to get one probably Able not an easy thing to do when pride is ruling you and you are already angry, just a thought. I have had this happen to me against another person they got it right and I got it wrong and a strong emotion of pride rose up in me and I had all sorts of wrong thoughts towards them fortunately I knew that those thoughts were exulting themselves above my knowledge of God so I took them captive and cast then down. Asking God to forgive me for entertaining those thoughts and asking for help with my pride.

    1. I agree with this explanation brother. Stay blessed.

  8. Please all. The interpretation of "Sin Lieth at the door" is this. The Sin that lies at the door is a Pascal lamb provided by God for the sacrifice and unto cain shall be the desire of the lamb(to do unto the lamb what he desires) becos he has rule over it, just as God provide a ram for sacrifice to Moses instead of Isaac. The lamb will submit to cain on how cain desires to use it. The sacrifice should be a blood atonement. Isai. 53:4-10(perfect submission to the will of God in the face of death) The door doesn't signify knocking at the door of your heart, for the door is the door of cain's tent. Remember the heart of man could not be purged/circumcise until Christ came and shed his blood as the blood these sin sacrifice animals only covers their sins, Heb.10:1-4. A provided lamb for sacrifice awaits cain by his tent.

  9. It seems that everyone is intrigued by the first part of the verse, which I have a general, intuitive understanding of, but no one addresses the second part which I am totally confused by: "And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him".." To start with, who is "thee/thou" and who is "his/him" referring to? I wonder if the original blogger from 2010 (David) is still watching and has something to offer.

  10. According to the grammatical structure of the sentence, it's like this -- Unto thee (Cain) shall be his (Abel's) desire, and thou (Cain) shalt rule over him (Abel). The implication is that if Cain would repent and "do well" he would enjoy authority over his brother (see Genesis 3:16). Instead of doing well and allowing the Lord to work this out, he took matters into his own hands and murdered his brother.