6) Gen 4:6–7: This portion of the narrative implies that God continued to meet with people face-to-face even after he drove them out of Eden (Gen 3:22–24).[1]

First, the Lord employed an idiom, “Why is it burning (kharah) to you?” to question Cain regarding the source of his anger.

Then he asked, “And why has your face fallen (naphal)?” indicating that Cain exhibited depression.[2]

Just as in Gen 3:9, God already knew the answer.[3] Nevertheless, he gave Cain an opportunity to confess his error.[4]

Some scholars describe v. 7 as one of the most difficult verses in Genesis to translate and to comprehend.[5]

It opens with, “If you do well, exaltation (seth).”

Other strong translation possibilities for “exaltation” include “acceptance” and “forgiveness.”[6]

Whichever option we select, one thing is clear: Cain could obtain God’s favor.[7] Furthermore, obedience would raise Cain’s countenance.[8]

Sadly, Cain left the Lord’s questions unanswered, revealing his true nature.  He knew the right thing to do but rebelled against it, illustrating the power of original sin.[9]

After Cain ignored his questions, God continued, “And if you do not do right, at the doorway sin lies stretched out” (rabatz).[10]

In Ancient Near Eastern thinking, one who would lie across a threshold either sought to keep the entrants safe or a was a demon (rabitzum in Akkadian) who lurked there to harm those who crossed its path.[11]

Among the curses which the seventh century BC Assyrian emperor Esarhaddon placed upon his vassal kings for disloyalty was this:[12] “May…evil spirits, demons, and lurkers select your houses (as their abode).”[13]

Therefore, most Hebrew scholars contend that this verb depicts sin skulking in Cain’s path,[14] waiting for its victim in order to launch a vicious attack (Cf. Gen 49:9).[15]

            Using the same phrase as in Gen 3:16, the Lord told Cain that sin’s “longing (teshuqah) is toward you.”[16]

With emphasis,[17] God declared “and you must rule over (mashal) it.”[18]

This conversation indicates that Cain could choose to do the right thing. It did not present him as one so utterly depraved that he could not avoid sin.[19]

The serpent employed his persuasive deception to lure Eve into ignoring the Lord’s command (Gen 2:16–17Gen 3:1–6). In contrast, Cain stubbornly refused to all God’s plea to divert him. He embraced the way of the serpent.[20]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Gen 4:6–7. What did God command Cain to do? How does this depiction of sin fit with your experience? Are you more like Eve or like Cain?




Go to Instruments of Righteousness


[Related posts include Forbidden Fruit (Gen 2:16–17); Serpents in the Ancient Near East (Gen 3:1); A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6); A Day of Reckoning (Gen 3:9–13); An Anguishing Process (Gen 3:16); Access to the Tree of Life (Gen 3:22); Driven Out (Gen 3:23–24); A Servant of the Ground and a Shepherd of a Flock (Gen 4:2‒5); and Cain Arose against His Brother (Gen 4:8)]

[Click here to go to Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Brothers (Genesis 4:1‒16)]


[1] Walton, Genesis, 263.

[2] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 224.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 104.

[4] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: a commentary, 98.

[5] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 225.

[6] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “שְׂאֵת” (seth), 673, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/672/mode/2up.

[7] Walton, Genesis, 263–4.

[8] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 105–6.

[9] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 98.

[10] Brown, Driver, and Briggs “רָבַץ” (rabatz), BDB, 918, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/918/mode/2up. An alternative is “at the door sin makes its lair.

[11] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 227.

[12]James B Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, 3rd Ed. (ANET) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 265.

[13]Esarhaddon, “Treaty of Esarhaddon with Baal of Tyre,” in ANET. Translated by D. J. Wiseman, 534–41, line 493, 539, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n569/mode/2up.

[14]E.-J. Waschke, “רָבַצ” (rabatz) in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (TDOT) (Rev. Ed., G. J. Botterweck, H. Ringgren, and H.-J. Fabry (Eds.), D. W. Stott (Trans.) (Grand Rapids; Cambridge. U.K.: Eerdmans, 2004), 13:298–303, 303.

[15] Walton, Genesis, 264.

[16] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “תְּשׁוּקָה” (teshuqah), BDB, 1003, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/1002/mode/2up.

[17]F. W. Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (GKC) (ed. Emil Kautzsch; trans. Arthur Cowley; Oxford: Clarendon, 1910), 437, https://archive.org/stream/geseniushebrewgr00geseuoft#page/436/mode/2up. Since Hebrew verbs already contain a subject, the appearance of the pronoun “you” makes the statement emphatic.

[18] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “מָשַׁל” (mashal), BDB, 605, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/604/mode/2up.

[19] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 228.

[20] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 100.