Young's Literal Translation

Is there not, if thou dost well, acceptance? and if thou dost not well, at the opening a sin-offering is crouching, and unto thee its desire, and thou rulest over it.'

New International Version

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."

Every translation says "sin" while YLT says "sin-offering". What is the justification for YLT?


In Gen 4:7, the operative word is חַטָּ֣את (Chatat), lexical form: חַטָּאָה (Chatta'ah) which means: "sin, sin-offering". That is, it means either:

  • Sin itself, Gen 18:20, 31:36, 50:17, Ex 10:17, 32:30, 34,, 34:7, 7, etc.
  • A sin offering, Ex 29:14, 36, 30:10, Lev 4:3, 8, 14, 20, 21, etc.

The context usually determines the correct meaning.

In Gen 4:7, sin is personified as a beast waiting to pounce on Cain unless he made appropriate safeguards to resist and keep the beast of sin away. That is, חַטָּאָה (Chatta'ah) is personified temptation.

I am at a loss to understand YLT translating "sin-offering" in this instance.

Cambridge commentary notes this:

sin coucheth] The meaning is, “and, if thou doest not well and cherishest evil in thy heart, then, remember, sin, like a savage wild beast, is lying in ambush ready to spring out upon you.”

Ellicott is more descriptive:

We have in this verse proof of a struggle in Cain’s conscience. Abel was evidently outstripping him in wealth; his flocks were multiplying, and possibly his younger brothers were attaching themselves to him in greater numbers than to Cain. Moreover, there was a more marked moral growth in him, and his virtue and piety were more attractive than Cain’s harsher disposition. This had led to envy and malice on the part of Cain, increased, doubtless, by the favour of God shown to Abel’s sacrifice; but he seems to have resisted these evil feelings. Jehovah would not have remonstrated thus kindly with him had he been altogether reprobate. Possibly, too, for a time he prevailed over his evil tempers. It is a gratuitous assumption that the murder followed immediately upon the sacrifice. The words of the Almighty rather show that repentance was still possible, and that Cain might still recover the Divine favour, and thereby regain that pre-eminence which was his by right of primogeniture, but which he felt that he was rapidly losing by Abel’s prosperity and more loving ways.


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