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In Gensis 4.7 we read (in relationship to Cain and Abel and ruling over sin) "If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it."

What is meant by "but thou mayest rule over it?"

The Hebrew text reads, וְאַתָּה, תִּמְשָׁל-בּוֹ. (ve'atah ti'meshal bo) and the Strong's says mashal means to rule, have dominion, reign.

It appears that from this text Cain could rule over sin, that is, he had a choice to rule over his evil inclination.

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  • it seems that you have the right understanding of "thou mayest rule over it", that "he had a choice to rule over his evil inclination." What remains unclear to you? perhaps you should edit this question!
    – Bach
    Jan 16 '18 at 20:22
  • Good question. Up-voted.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 16 '18 at 23:51
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I do not see the manuscripts stating the rule being over sin. This is what I find:

From the Westminster Leningrad Codex Genesis 4:7:

הֲלוֹא אִם־תֵּיטִיב שְׂאֵת וְאִם לֹא תֵיטִיב לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ וְאֵלֶי תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ וְאַתָּה תִּמְשָׁל־בּוֹ

hálô im-Tëy†iyv s'ët w'im lo tëy†iyv laPetach cha‡ät rovëtz w'ëleykhä T'shûqätô w'aTäh Tim'shäl-Bô

Transliteration: ?·not if you-are-doing-good to-lift-up-of and·if not you-are-doing-good to·the·portal sin-offering reclining and·to·you impulse-of·him and·you you-are-ruling in·him

The text appears to say: because you desire sin he will rule you -OR- Because you desire sin your rule will be through him. NOT you will rule sin/him

This statement from verse 7 reads like: you rule yourself in goodness or in sin, either way you are ruling, so you're accountable. Which is why in verse 6 YHWH is asking Cain:

And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?

YHWH asks Cain why he's upset with YHWH rather than himself, and in verse 7 YHWH explains to Cain, it's all under your control, you rule yourself through goodness or through sin.

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  • Good answer....1 caveat. Who is the "he" who will rule over you if you sin?
    – Tau
    Jan 17 '18 at 23:15
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    @YochananMauritzHummasti, my friend the Leningrad codex is the surviving form of the Torah Scroll in the Tanakh. A Sifrei Torah is a handwritten copy of the Torah scroll for synagogues. Is what you meant to say that you're not sure what the Leningrad Codex is?
    – N.Ish
    Jan 18 '18 at 0:30
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    @YochananMauritzHummasti - If I am not mistaken, the so-called Leningrad Codex was produced by Jews, not Christians. In any case, if you have access to and trust in Rashi's commentaries, why are you asking the question here? According to Rashi, "but you can rule over it" means "If you wish, you will overpower it." From your comments, perhaps Mi Yodeya would be a better fit for you. It seems someone has posed a similar question there.
    – user33515
    Jan 18 '18 at 2:14
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    @YochananMauritzHummasti I consulted the Rashi, because the "ruling over" of the evil inclination seems to be included; but the text used does not appear to be in agreement with the Strongs(which uses the KJV), in which case I viewed the Leningrad Codex-which is the Masoretic Text in complete form(the Aleppo is incomplete). I fear the HB uses certain Targums, which I've found 'corrupted' in several instances. Strongs relies heavily on the Masoretic text-and the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary, though "Christian" uses the Masoretic.
    – Tau
    Jan 18 '18 at 4:10
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    @YochananMauritzHummasti, *Tanakh. I find it strange that you seem to hold yourself in such high regards as a literary expert yet you dismiss historically strong texts and seem to have no knowledge of sourcing. Rather than having the capacity to educate, you are dismissive and make only assertions. Your assertions are unfounded and entirely unsupported by your inability to dialogue and make meaningful statements in defense or in opposition. I'd love to hear your perspective but I fear you have only pretentious presuppositions and limited reference. I hope you prove me wrong.
    – N.Ish
    Jan 22 '18 at 5:12
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The Previous answer spells out the grammatical equivalent of what is being stated: rather "mashal" is indicating who has rule over you.

From Keil and Delitzsch's Commentary:

"Why art thou wroth, and why is thy countenance fallen?" The answer to this is given in the further question, "Is there not, if thou art good, a lifting up" (sc., of the countenance)? It is evident from the context, and the antithesis of falling and lifting up (נפל and נשׂא), that פּנים must be supplied after שׂאת. By this God gave him to understand that his look was indicative of evil thoughts and intentions; for the lifting up of the countenance, i.e., a free, open look, is the mark of a good conscience (Job 11:15). "But if thou art not good, sin lieth before the door, and its desire is to thee (directed towards thee); but thou shouldst rule over it." The fem. חטּאת is construed as a masculine, because, with evident allusion to the serpent, sin is personified as a wild beast, lurking at the door of the human heart, and eagerly desiring to devour his soul (1 Peter 5:8). היטיב, to make good, signifies here not good action, the performance of good in work and deed, but making the disposition good, i.e., directing the heart to what is good. Cain is to rule over the sin which is greedily desiring him, by giving up his wrath, not indeed that sin may cease to lurk for him, but that the lurking evil foe may obtain no entrance into his heart. There is no need to regard the sentence as interrogative, "Wilt thou, indeed, be able to rule over it?" (Ewald), nor to deny the allusion in בּו to the lurking sin, as Delitzsch does. The words do not command the suppression of an inward temptation, but resistance to the power of evil as pressing from without, by hearkening to the word which God addressed to Cain in person, and addresses to us through the Scriptures.

What is expressed is by his anger, he is allowing evil(Satan) to rule over him, whereas by restraining his impulse, he continues to remain in fellowship with God. The individual bears the consequence for his actions, as the previous author states, but it is "who' rules over you which determines your "mashal".

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  • +1) I appreciate this contribution. However, the way you handle 'mashal' I do not understand why or how you come to an implied need to treat it this way. In this instance, the mashal is accessed through another agent "rule through him". It seems your using mashal as lordship. Can you help me understand this?
    – N.Ish
    Jan 18 '18 at 0:22
  • King David said in 1 Chronicles 29.12 and Thou rulest over all; in this context mashal means to "rule over" as in absolute rule - whatever third person agent you are referring makes no sense whatsoever. either one can rule over sin or not Jan 18 '18 at 1:39
  • The "mashal" is 1st used on Gen. 3:16, "he shall "yimsal/mashal" over you. God gave Adam the command "to rule/have dominion" over his wife. It is God's authority that makes this possible, not Adam's ability to subjugate Eve. Adam is ruling, yet Eve understands it's God's rule, not Adam's 'whim'. But when Cain allows his anger and envy to get the best of him, Satan makes use of his anger to incite Cain to murder. Both Adam and Cain are responsible for their actions, but the desire of God is they would respond to His influence, and not Satan's.
    – Tau
    Jan 18 '18 at 4:50
  • To "sin" is to disobey God; in thought, word, and action. There is no "neutral" position. Whatever influences you causes you to sin, to "rule over sin" is to obey God who certainly influences to do well. Conversely, to sin is allow the evil one(Satan) to rule over you, and influence your behavior.
    – Tau
    Jan 18 '18 at 4:57
  • In Isaiah 45:7, we see that Hashem is the creator of everything, as the text says, “bringing forth light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil, I am G-D who does all these things.” G-D (HaShem) always gives a person the freedom to choose between the yetzer tov and the yetzer hara (the inclination to good or evil). The evil one (Satan) is merely an agent of HaShem who is an enticer of evil. Ultimately it is HaShem (G-D) who gives the adversary permission to entice or to influence people as in Job chapter 1. Only G-D is Mashal - Satan has no rule over anything he is HaShem's servant! Jan 21 '18 at 22:20

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