What does Genesis 4:7 mean?
ESV: If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it."
NIV: If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."
NASB: If you do well, will your face not be cheerful? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.'
CSB: If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."
NLT: You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.'
KJV: 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.
NKJV: If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
Verse Commentary:
In the previous verse, God asked Cain why he felt so much anger when God rejected his offering. God had shown favor on his brother Abel and his offering, which seems to have enraged Adam and Eve's firstborn son. God now speaks a wise warning to Cain. Cain will not heed it, but it is a warning for us as well.

God asks Cain to adjust his understanding of what is good to God's understanding of goodness. If Cain does well by God's standard, God will accept him. In other words, there is no reason for Cain to be angry about God's rejection. The cure for that rejection is obedience: if Cain does what is right, God will accept him.

If Cain insists on setting his own standards for what is acceptable, sin "is crouching at the door." That poetic phrase captures the nature of our rebellion against God. Sin desires to own us, and our refusal to let God set the standard for right and wrong in our lives is the fast track to sin.

God acknowledges the reality of human nature. We are locked in a battle with sin's desire for us (or our desire to sin). God tells Cain he is responsible to win that battle, to rule over his sin. The Hebrew terms used in this verse are exactly the same ones spoken to Eve in Genesis 3:16. These are from the root words tashuwqah, translated "desire," and mashal, translated "rule over." Despite sin's "desire" for control over him, Cain must "rule over" his temptations and not give in.
Verse Context:
Genesis 4:1–16 tells the beginning of human history in the wake of Adam's and Eve's sin and separation from God. This passage details the murder of Abel by his older brother Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel work the ground and tend sheep. They worship God, but Cain kills Abel in a fit of envy over God's rejection of Cain and his offering. The first human born on earth becomes the first murderer. God forces Cain to leave his family and wander the earth, but God also marks Cain with a promise of great vengeance on anyone who would kill him.
Chapter Summary:
The consequences of sin become apparent in chapter 4: envy, arrogance, rebellion, murder, punishment, separation from family, and separation from God. Adam and Eve's firstborn son, Cain, jealously murders his brother Abel and loses everything. Adam and Eve lose them both. Cain's descendants amplify his sinfulness. Still, God provides help for Eve in childbirth and even provides protection for Cain in his wandering. Eve remains a woman of faith, even in her loss. And the sons of Seth, born after the murder of Abel, become a people who proclaim the name of the Lord.
Chapter Context:
The first three chapters of Genesis explain the creation and loss of paradise, as Adam and Eve are separated from God both physically and spiritually. Their relationship with Him does not end, however. Eve recognizes His help in bearing her son Cain and later Seth. Cain and Abel both worship God until Cain kills Abel. God provides protection for Cain, whose descendants become innovative, artful, arrogant, and violent. The descendants of Seth, however, begin to call on the Lord's name. This chapter bridges the story of Genesis from our ultimate origins to the story of Noah, introduced in the next chapter.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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