Genesis 4:6-7 God’s Holiness Gives What We Choose

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Genesis 4:5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.

Genesis 4:6 The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 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 for you, but you must rule over it” (emphasis added)


The story of Cain and Abel is an incredibly sad one since Cain’s anger led him to murder his brother (Genesis 4:8) and refuse to repent (4:9). Because of this God placed a great curse upon the life of Cain (4:10–11).

The truly sad thing is it didn’t have to be this way

Even sadder…God didn’t want it to be that way

God had commanded offerings be given to Him as a form of worship and obedience. Abel brought the best he had to God in an attitude of faith and humility so that the Lord would bless Him (Hebrews 11:4). Cain brought fruit of the ground, but this appears not to be his best or offered in the right attitude, because God refused to bless Cain in the way that He blessed Abel (4:5).

I view Genesis 4:6–7 as a “father and son talk” between Cain and God. The Lord begins by clarifying what happened to Cain was fair (if you do well, won’t you be accepted?). I wrote about fairness yesterday using Genesis 3:24–26, but it bears repeating that the Lord will always give to us what we deserve.

In the second half of verse seven God goes a step farther by warning Cain of what will happen if his anger continues.

He says that sin (the desire to kill Abel) was “crouching at the door.” While some believe this is an animal about to attack, the Hebrew word used gives the idea of resting [1]. So in my opinion this is an animal resting at the door watching and waiting for the best moment to make his move.

But Cain’s anger wasn’t just lying at the door. God says it’s “desire is for him” which should be translated “wants to dominate you.” This is the same word used to describe the husband wife relationship in Genesis 3.

Gen. 3:16   To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (emphasis added)

Following their act of rebellion against God, Adam and Eve’s relationship with each other was totally broken. Now instead of focusing on others needs and ministering to them, relationships will revolve around control.

The word desire here doesn’t mean anything physical but instead explains that Eve will desire to have the place of decision-making (control) and Adam will rule over her (keep that position of control at all costs). I personally believe all of our relationships could be described as a battle over control.

editors note:  I’m in no way saying here men are better decision makers than women, in fact we often do a poor job of it.  However Scripture is clear that the place of leadership or decision-making belongs to the husband.

So the sin-nature (desire to kill his brother) wanted to control Cain and make him do the wrong thing. Therefore instead Cain must “rule over it.” This doesn’t refer to a completely sinless life since for individuals on their own that’s impossible. Instead God’s telling Cain to fight that anger in the Lord’s strength.

Basically God here is giving Cain a choice:

  1. Fight against that anger before it becomes a desire to kill your brother
  2. Or allow it to grow and experience my curse

We don’t know how Cain felt after this warning from God, but we do know he chose the second option.

It’s interesting that after God does curse Cain he claims it’s too much to bear (Genesis 4:13–14) but the truth is he has nobody to blame but himself. God simply gave to Cain the results of his actions.

As a child I struggled with stubbornness so my parents often used the phrase “okay we can do this the easy way, or the hard way.” This was usually followed up by an explanation of both options.

Now after choosing the hard way and its time for my punishment I couldn’t look at my parents and say…”this isn’t fair!”

Well actually I could, but they would have a fantastic response

You chose this

In the same way I have no reason to complain about God’s Holy punishment when I willingly chose to do things the hard way.

God doesn’t punish me because He enjoys it, instead He loudly calls for me to go the other way (more on this tomorrow).

But in His holiness the Lord will give me the path I choose…even if it’s a painful one.

  1. lie down, lie: of domestic animals, ass (under heavy burden), (in obstructed path) (at ease; poet. in, sim.); sheep, in repose; fig. of people; calf, in repose; of wild beasts, lion, in lair; = make lair, abode (fig.); leopard (with kid); = brood, of mother-bird; of man, in repose; of the deep; fig. of curse (b pers.); of sin.  ↩

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