Published: 10 May 2021

Sin Is Crouching At The Door

Cain’s reaction

Bible students love to contemplate the unanswered questions of the Scriptures such as why God didn’t look favorably upon Cain’s offering. The author of Genesis (Moses) doesn’t dwell upon the offering, but instead upon Cain’s reaction to God’s rejection of it. 

Cain’s reaction is what God wants us to focus on. What was Cain’s reaction? 

“So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.” (Gen. 4:5 ESV)

What the Scriptures record here is the prelude to a murderous temper tantrum. Of course, God knew what kinds of terrible things Cain’s attitude could lead to and attempted to turn this situation into a teachable moment.

Sin desires to dominate

“6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why is your expression downcast? 7 Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it.”” (Gen. 4:6–7 NET)

God likened sin to some sort of creature hiding just inside a door where it can attack its unsuspecting victim by surprise. Furthermore, it is the nature of sin to dominate us. Curiously, we’ve seen this same expression before in Genesis but it doesn’t stand out in English like it does in Hebrew.

God told Eve, “You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you” (Gen. 3:16 NET). There seems to be consensus among scholars that God was predicting there would be a struggle for control between Adam and Eve. The general message is that there will be friction between husbands and wives. Any married couple can vouch for the truthfulness of this. 😉

Struggle for control

The phrase in Gen 3:16 is almost the same as Gen 4:7:

You will want to control [teshuqah, תְּשׁוּקָה]
your husband, but he will dominate [mashal, מָשַׁל]
you.” (Gen. 3:16 NET)

It desires to dominate [teshuqah, תְּשׁוּקָה]
you, but you must subdue [mashal, מָשַׁל]
it. (Gen. 4:7 NET)

Is it just a coincidence that God spoke of the relationship between man and sin using the same words as were used for the conflict between husbands and wives? Had Cain observed conflict between his parents and God used that as an example of his (and our) struggle with sin?

Self inflicted wounds

On a related note, it is interesting that while God said that He would increase Eve’s pain in childbearing, He did not say He was the source of the friction that would exist between her and Adam. Perhaps we inflict the friction all by ourselves? 

James would agree with this because he said, “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” (James 1:14 NIV). We are our own worst enemies because the desire to sin is inside each of us. When we yield to our selfish desires, sin is the result. Like with Cain, it is a creature crouching out of sight waiting to catch us in a moment of vulnerability.

Sins we hate to love

What about the sins we want to commit? Sin can dominate us by means of a gossiping tongue. Sin can dominate us through pornography. Sin can dominate us through extramarital or pre-marital sex. These sins (and others) we commit, knowing they are wrong, yet want to commit them (at least in the moment) and then feel horrible about it afterwards. The domination of sin can feel so complete that it seems there is no possibility of overcoming it. 

Sin can be subdued

God gave Cain (and, by extension, us) a very simple solution. God said, “Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine?” Doing what is right is not easy. Ask anyone suffering from addiction if they feel dominated by drugs or alcohol. If they are honest they will confirm the truthfulness of God’s statement

One does not have to be addicted to drugs to feel the domination of sin. We all have sins which are daily struggles to keep in check. Sometimes we fail to keep them in check. God told Cain that sin desired to dominate him, but that he must rule over it. So must we.

A way of escape

For the Christian, sanctification is a lifelong process. We don’t overcome sin the moment we commit to being Jesus’s disciple. We can be sure that sin will always be crouching by the door. However, God has promised to make a way of escape from temptation.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13 ESV)

The trick is wanting to take the way of escape when we are in the midst of strong temptation. God will make the way of escape, it is up to us to take advantage of it. 

It is important to realize that we aren’t on our own. Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside us helping us to do what is right.

“Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it.” (Phil. 2:13 ERV)

So, what is our reaction going to be? We know what Cain’s was. God gives us the power to overcome, it is up to us to receive it.