In Jordan Peterson's Biblical Series lecture titled "Cain and Abel: The Hostile Brothers" he refers to Genesis 4:7:

"...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."

Peterson says a metaphor is used here, in which sin is likened to a "sexually aroused, cat predator thing". He expounds upon the idea saying that sin is waiting for you to invite it in to have it's way with you, and that when you do you enter into a creative exchange with sin, the result of which is the birth of something not good essentially.

Wondering if anyone knows of any backing for this interpretation. I can see the animal metaphor in the versions I've looked at, though I don't see the sexual context.

  • Strong desire is typically associated with sexual desire, so the word often used: "concupiscence" is literally just a strong desire, but especially sexual desire. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/concupiscence
    – ninthamigo
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 17:47
  • @ninthamigo I would further draw a distinction between healthy sexual desire and that 'concupiscence' that intimates sin. (see Song of Songs) Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 20:43
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    Are cats even mentioned anywhere in the Bible?
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 23:42
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    @Kris—Gen. 4:7 is explicitly mentioned in the body of the post. Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 0:28
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    @Kris—Evidence of allusions to a cat would definitely get brownie points, but evidence of the idea in general would suffice (i.e. sin being some kind of sexual partner that you willingly enter into union with). I saw a comment somewhere saying maybe Peterson got the idea from the Rabisu of Akkadian mythology, but I couldn't find anything sexual about the Rabisu. Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 1:50

1 Answer 1


Though I'm not aware of a source which directly speaks out the metaphor Jordan Peterson uses, there is room for such a metaphor based on traditional Jewish sources.

The Hebrew text of Genesis 4:7 reads:

הֲל֤וֹא אִם־תֵּיטִיב֙ שְׂאֵ֔ת וְאִם֙ לֹ֣א תֵיטִ֔יב לַפֶּ֖תַח חַטָּ֣את רֹבֵ֑ץ וְאֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָת֔וֹ וְאַתָּ֖ה תִּמְשָׁל־בּֽוֹ

After saying that the sin crouches at the entrance, the verse says "It's desire will be for you, and you can rule over it."

This is the exact phraseology used earlier in Genesis. When describing the curse Eve received for eating the forbidden fruit the verse (Genesis 3:16) states:

אֶֽל־הָאִשָּׁ֣ה אָמַ֗ר הַרְבָּ֤ה אַרְבֶּה֙ עִצְּבוֹנֵ֣ךְ וְהֵֽרֹנֵ֔ךְ בְּעֶ֖צֶב תֵּֽלְדִ֣י בָנִ֑ים וְאֶל־אִישֵׁךְ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָתֵ֔ךְ וְה֖וּא יִמְשָׁל־בָּֽךְ And to the woman He said, “I will make most severe Your pangs in childbearing; In pain shall you bear children. Yet your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”

What does it mean that Eve's desire will be for her husband? Explains the classical commentator Rashi:

ואל אישך תשוקתך. לְתַשְׁמִישׁ, וְאַעַפִּ"כֵּ אֵין לָךְ מֵצַח לְתָבְעוֹ בַּפֶּה, אֶלָּא הוּא יִמְשָׁל בָּךְ, הַכֹּל מִמֶּנּוּ וְלֹא מִמֵּךְ The phrase "Your desire for your husband" refers to your desire for marital relations. Yet despite [your desire] you won't have the audacity to verbally demand it. "He will rule over you" means he will initiate it, not you.

So we see that the same phrase is used to refer to Eve's desire for sexual intimacy and her husband's ability to regulate such connections; as well as sin's anthropomorphic desire for Cain, and Cain's ability to regulate it.

This would support Peterson's explanation that the metaphor has a sexual undercurrent.

  • What about the cat?
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 3:28
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    excellent answer binyomin, +1.
    – bach
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 15:04
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    @Kris I don't have a specific source for his metaphor about the cat. I'm assuming he is coming from the phrase "the sin is crouching by the entrance." It conveys an imagery of an animal-like being (the verb "rovetz" /crouching is mainly used by animals) which crouches in ambush by a door. What animal does this? Cats often do. Perhaps this is his source.
    – Binyomin
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 18:56

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