Alternative interpretation of Genesis 4:7
I am 'not' a great proponent of the KJV Bible, but I do use it on almost a daily basis in conjunction with a few modern translations mainly because the words in KJV are linked to Strong's concordance and other reference textbooks. However, in many instances, the translation of certain words in the KJV Bible is more accurate than in many modern versions of the Bible, and Genesis 4:7 (KJV) is an example of a more accurate translation.
Despite the accurate 'translation' of Genesis 4:7 in the KJV Bible, most 'interpretations' of the last sentence in Genesis 4:7 are in my opinion completely false!
Genesis 4:7 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.
The false interpretation of Genesis 4:7 is in my opinion partly caused by the absence of a verse division in Genesis 4:7 which would potentially enhance the correct interpretation and understanding of the text in this verse.
Specifically, it would be appropriate to include a verse division in Genesis 4:7 so that the last sentence is a stand-alone verse as shown below and indicated by the suffixes 'a' and 'b' in the divided verse:
Genesis 4:7a (KJV)
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.
Genesis 4:7b (KJV)
And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
INTERPRETATION AND EXPLANATION
My interpretation of the two parts of Genesis 4:7 which are identified using suffixes 'a' and 'b' (i.e. Genesis 4:7a, and Genesis 4:7b):
In Genesis 4:7a (KJV):
The terms 'thou doest' and 'and if thou doest' are the construct of translators in order for the sentence to make sense. However, these two terms could also be replaced with the word 'are' or equivalent.
The word 'well' (Strong's H3190), could also be translated as 'good' or 'pleasing' or 'right'.
The phrase, 'sin lieth at the door' infers that the propensity to commit 'sin' (i.e. transgression) increases exponentially in a person who is not 'good' or 'pleasing' or 'right'.
In contrast to Cain, Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). Why? Because he was 'perfect' and 'righteous' (Genesis 6:9; 7:1).
Although replacing the terms, 'thou doest' and 'if thou doest' with the word 'are,' and replacing the word 'well' with the word 'good' (or equivalent), may appear to be of no significance, the changes would in my opinion correctly reflect that the propensity to commit 'sin' (transgression) is directly proportional to, and totally dependent on, the 'state of the heart' rather than 'doing well' which is the 'outcome' of a 'good or right' state of heart, as distinct from 'doing well'. The difference is only subtle but is highly significant in my opinion.
If the above was adopted an example of the revised Genesis 4:7a (KJV) would read:
Genesis 4:7a (KJV)
If thou are good, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou are not good, sin lieth at the door.
In today's English, the revised Genesis 4:7a would read, for example:
Genesis 4:7a (Today's English)
If you are good, will you not be accepted? and if you are not good, sin lies at the door [of your heart].
In Genesis 4:7b (KJV):
The words 'thee,' 'his,' thou,' and 'him' are pronouns that in some instances refer to Cain, and in other instances refer to Abel, as shown in the square brackets [Cain/Abel] in the revised Genesis 4:7b (see below). And I am of the strong opinion that none of the said pronouns in this part of the verse refer to sin or Satan.
The word 'desire' (Strong's H8669), means longing, which infers that Abel's desire (longing) will be to please Cain.
The word 'rule' (Strong's H4910), means to govern or to exercise dominion and infers that Cain and his descendents would govern or exercise power and dominion over Abel and his descendents; and would be dominant and prominent in matters of this life.
If the above elements were adopted, the revised Genesis 4:7b (KJV) would read:
Genesis 4:7b (KJV)
And unto thee [Cain] shall be his [Abel's] desire, and thou [Cain] shalt rule over him [Abel].
In today's English, the revised Genesis 4:7b would read, for example: –
Genesis 4:7b (Today's English)
And Abel's desire (longing) will be to please you Cain; and you Cain will govern Abel.
Combining all of the above elements, the interpretation of Genesis 4:7 is:
If Cain is good (by implication, if Cain's heart is good and right), he (Cain) will be accepted by God.
If Cain is not good (by implication, if Cain's heart is not good or right), 'sin' (transgression) lies at the door; i.e. if Cain's heart is not right, the propensity for Cain to transgress will be magnified, and will inevitably result in Cain committing a 'sin' (i.e. a transgression, which in Cain's case, was murder).
If Cain is good or right, Abel will voluntarily desire to please and submit to Cain's rule or governance. By implication, Abel will honour Cain, and acknowledge Cain's dominance and superiority, and Abel will not in any way challenge Cain, and the descendents of the two will live in perfect harmony (see Note below).
If Cain is good, Cain will rule or govern Abel (and by implication, Cain's descendents will rule or govern Abel's descendents).
Note: In Genesis 4:7, the terms 'Cain' and 'Abel' are not limited to Cain and Abel, but they also apply to the 'descendents' of the two (until Abel was murdered before having any offspring). Similarly, in the passage of scripture in Genesis 4:11-15, the term 'Cain' is not limited to Cain, but it also applies to the 'descendents' of Cain.
The murder of Abel by his brother Cain is evidence that Cain was not good or right; i.e. Cain's heart was not perfect or right, which magnified the propensity in his heart to commit 'sin' (transgression), which in his case was the heinous crime of murder (Genesis 4:8).
Additional evidence that Cain was not good (i.e. Cain's heart was not perfect), is demonstrated by the fact that he: –
Attempted to conceal his murder of Abel by burying Abel's dead body secretly (inferred in Genesis 4:9-10);
Lied to God about not knowing the whereabouts of Abel (or his dead body) (Genesis 4:9);
Brazenly admitted that he did not consider himself to be his brother's 'keeper' (guard, protector) (Genesis 4:9); and
Did not express any regret or remorse for murdering his brother, but was totally focused on himself; i.e. self-centred (Genesis 4:13-14).
Although somewhat speculative, it is highly likely that Cain and Abel were twins because Genesis 4:1-2 explicitly states that Eve conceived and first bare Cain and then she bare Abel. However, the said passage of scripture does not state that Eve conceived again before giving birth to Abel, which infers that there is a possibility that the two were twins, and Cain was the firstborn.
The Bible theme of the dominance, greatness, superiority, etc, of the younger brother or the younger twin, continues in the descendancy of Adam and Eve, and includes Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:21-26), Pharez and Zarah (Genesis 38:27-30), Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 48:1-29), King David (1 Samuel 16:1-13), King Solomon (1 Kings 1:13-39).