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Why did God warn Cain in Genesis 4:7 against sin and not the devil. The devil tempted Cain's mother in the Garden. Wouldnt it have made more sense for God to warn Cain against the devil? Unless this personification of sin ties in with Romans 7:8 and 11? Is the serpent actually sin personified, and there is in fact no devil?

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.

Romans 7:8, 11 KJV

8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. ... 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

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  • This might be of help. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/48145/… Nov 13, 2023 at 13:53
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    Romans 7:8 "But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced IN ME every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead." Similarly in Genesis 4:7, God told Cain it was inside him, it was Sin. Eve was tempted by the devil, at that time, the devil was not inside her. Nov 13, 2023 at 14:40
  • Your question would be improved by including biblical quotations, rather than chapter and verse only. It would also help if you clarify you main question: why didn't God warn Cain about the devil, does the devil really exist, etc. Nov 13, 2023 at 15:24

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That is the traditional understanding of the Hebrew scriptures, that the "serpent" was a representation of man's inclination to sin.

Earlier Judaism spoke of the human tendency to evil [yetser ha-ra] and the tendency to good [yetser ha-tob]. This tendency to evil they understood as being at times personified or symbolized by "the devil": "Satan and the yetser ha-ra are one" (1). But earlier Judaism rejected the idea that angels had rebelled, and they specifically rejected the idea that the serpent in Genesis was satan. At that time, "the Jewish devil was little more than an allegory of the evil inclination among humans" Source: realdevil

The current idea of a "devil" as a spiritual entity that causes people to sin is actually from the Persian, Greek and Roman pagan beliefs of "good" gods versus "evil" gods. These pagan beliefs began to overlay and be inserted into teachings of the scriptures during the intertestamental period and into the 1st and 2nd centuries AD and is now so commonly adhered to that most people never question it. The idea of "the devil" or "satan" as an evil spiritual being became so prevalent that the idea of individual responsibility is thrown out. It became the basis for Flip Wilson's comedy routine of the "devil made me do it."

This idea that an evil spiritual being called "the devil" causes us to sin ultimately would mean that God's judgment of us would be unrighteous. The entire concept violates all of God's scripture. Ultimately the idea would mean we are not at fault. How then could a righteous God place the blame for sin upon us?

The choices to do good or evil are always ours. God says that our thoughts are evil, and that evil comes from within the heart of man (Gen 6:5; Matt. 15:11; Mark 7:20-23). Therefore, we are responsible for what we do. We have the ability to change our thoughts and that is what God told Cain when He said that Cain's countenance was fallen (Gen. 4:5-6). Look at the better translation of Gen. 4:6-7 in Young's Literal Translation.

6 And Jehovah saith unto Cain, `Why hast thou displeasure? and why hath thy countenance fallen? 7 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.' (YLT)

The phrase "a sin-offering is crouching" presents a different perspective that God was providing a correct offering of an animal that Cain could sacrifice and present to God. What did Cain choose to do? What did Eve choose to do?

It is always our choice, and is why the scriptures teach that we are to control ourselves (Prov. 25:27-28; Gal. 5:22-23; 1 Tim. 3-23, etc). It is this battle for self-control that Paul referred to in Rom. 7:15-20.

15 for that which I work, I do not acknowledge; for not what I will, this I practise, but what I hate, this I do. 16 And if what I do not will, this I do, I consent to the law that [it is] good,

17 and now it is no longer I that work it, but the sin dwelling in me, 18 for I have known that there doth not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh, good: for to will is present with me, and to work that which is right I do not find,

19 for the good that I will, I do not; but the evil that I do not will, this I practise. 20 And if what I do not will, this I do, it is no longer I that work it, but the sin that is dwelling in me. (YLT)

The inclination to sin dwells within us. We are the real devil. The word "devil" is never used in the Hebrew scriptures (OT). In the Greek it is "diabolos" and means a false accuser, a slanderer. (1) It is man that brings false accusations, and there are many false accusers throughout all generations.

This is a very hard study to overcome centuries of false pagan teachings. Jesus was both man and God before His crucifixion. He was tempted in all things as are we (Heb. 4:15) which tells us that His "human" inclination to sin was a part of Him. So, when He was tempted of the "devil" after 40 days and nights of fasting, can we not sympathize with a weakened human condition where His human desires and thoughts had to be overcome?

Others may bring forth an objection citing the "ha satan" of Job. But this being is not the same as the concept of the "devil" or "serpent" representing man's inclination to sin. The Hebrew "ha satan" simply means "adversary", or one who opposes another. (2) But a careful examination of "ha satan" in Job shows that adversary had to ask permission of God before He could harm Job, which means that ultimately God was in control of what happened to Job (Job 1:12), and that "satan" is an agent of God. That adversary is a real spiritual being that acts only upon God's permission (Luke 22:31).

I encourage you to study the info Duncan Heaster brings forth at his site here. It is eye opening, and brings the scriptures into harmony. I have several posts at my blog that explore the false concepts so commonly believed of fallen angels, devils, and demons.

Demons, Devils, & Idols - Part VI(a)

Demons, Devils, & Idols - Part VI(b)

Demons, Devils, & Idols - Part VI(c)

Slandering Angels - Part IV(a)

Slandering Angels - Part IV(b)

Jesus conquered that "devil" by conquering over our sins through His sacrifice.

Notes:

  1. Biblehub

  2. Biblehub

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    + 1 Good info about the yetzer harah and the concept of satan. Nov 13, 2023 at 15:20
  • @hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/users/19653/gina Excellent answer, well researched. Thank you. It is exactly what I have found to be the truth through research and why I posted this question to see if there are others out there who see it as I do. It puzzles me though why God would allow this influence into His Word through the New testament authors, the temptation of Jesus, creating the impression of an external being that exercises authority over the world, and in Revelation the dragon called the devil and satan. Any thoughts on that? Nov 22, 2023 at 2:39
  • Eastern mindset is familiar with similes, metaphors & hyperbole; whereas the western mindset has been trained to be very literal reading on the surface. Even so, the ppl were hard of hearing (Isa. 6:9-10; Matt. 13:15; Acts 28:25-27; Heb. 5:11) they didn't want to hear. They only wanted smooth things (Isa. 30:10). I think it is a combination of method to relate spiritual ideas thru earthly comparisons the ppl would understand. In prophesy, the wild beasts (therion) wolves, bears, lions represented the wicked, tyrant rulers that fed off the weak & young of the domesticated animals....
    – Gina
    Nov 22, 2023 at 12:29
  • ...the sheep, lambs, doves that God represented as His ppl. In like manner the "devil" and "ha satan" were representative figures that were applied to any person that took on that role of false accuser or adversary. Those were just as much simile & metaphor as lions and wolves for the wicked. Duncan Heaster makes a good case for God speaking in the "language of the day", using the phrases & words as ppl used them to convey understanding, deconstructing their false ideas w/ truth of His absolute powers. Thereby pagan idols (demons) were no-gods, & powerless to affect them. Best I can say.
    – Gina
    Nov 22, 2023 at 12:34
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There is more than one question here, but the basic answer is this: God did not warn Cain about the serpent or Satan because the real issue was Cain's responsibility to resist sin (in this case meaning the impulse to murder), regardless of the source of his temptation. The same principle applied to Adam and Eve. Rather than warning them about the serpent's wiles, God warned them not to eat of the forbidden tree. In both cases, the issue was human responsibility to resist temptation, regardless of how it came.

To the OP's specific questions:

  • "Wouldn't it have made more sense for God to warn Cain against the devil?" No, because the problem had to do with Cain's jealousy toward Abel. There is no biblical record of the serpent or Satan interacting with Cain.

  • "Is the serpent actually sin personified, and there is in fact no devil?" This question should be divided into two separate issues. The serpent is indeed a personification of sin or evil. But traditional interpretations also understand it to represent the devil, who is likewise such a personification.

It is also important to understand the Jewish doctrine of the yetzer harah - the tendency to evil - which is a natural part of God's creation but must be resisted. (See @Gina's answer or the link above for more details). But in any case, the basic answer remains: it was Cain's responsibility to overcome his murderous impulse, however it originated. "You must master sin" (Gen. 4:7) is more profound advice than "don't listen to the serpent."

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Perhaps the question can best be answered by focusing on the word 'desire', and seeing its connection with God also using it in Genesis 3:16.

The Hebrew word 'teshuqah' means 'longing'. When God pronounces his judgment on the woman for having sinned, he says that "thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." (A.V.) Or, as the Y.L.T. puts it, "toward thy husband [is] thy desire, and he doth rule over thee."

Notice the similarity when God later warns Cain prior to Cain committing murder: "And unto thee [shall be] his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." (Gen. 4:7) Or, as the Y.L.T. puts it, "and if thou dost not well, at the opening a sin-offering is crouching, and unto thee its desire, and thou rulest over it."

Desire is spoken of by God in the sense of desiring to rule over (the woman's husband, and then of sin ruling over Cain). God does not refer to any serpent, or any spiritual entity, but to a sinful desire of the woman to rule over her husband (but he shall rule over her), and Cain's sinful desire to murder a brother whose sin-offering was acceptable to God (while his offering was not), sin then ready to pounce on Cain and control him.

This is outward evidence of sin getting its first grip on humanity; by disobedience, sin enters the world of humanity, first through a deceived woman, then through a willful man, and thirdly through a jealous son. This shows why sin is in all of us, and that it is a satanic, devilish, desire of the evil one to control us, and the Genesis account explains this in a staggeringly simple way. But, by the time we get to the last book of the Bible, the evil one has been thoroughly exposed, through all his dirty tricks, and Jesus is shown to have conquered him. That is why those, whose desire is Christ, cannot be overcome by the evil one; the love of God, in Christ, indwells us. Those, on the other hand, who desire the things of the world, are controlled by Satan, whose desire is to rule over humanity. That's how the personification of sin 'works' in the Bible account.

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If, as many believe, the Book of Job is the earliest book of the Bible ever written, then "Satan" appears in the first chapter. Here is a list of cases where “Satan” appears as a person with super-human capabilities and as adversary:

  • Job 1:6, 7 - One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. “Where have you come from?” said the LORD to Satan. “From roaming through the earth,” he replied, “and walking back and forth in it.” See also Job 1:8, 9, 12, 2:1, 3, 4, 6, 7.
  • Zech 3:1 - Then the angel showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, with Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
  • 1 Chron 21:1 - Then Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.

In the NT, "Satan", Σατανᾶς is a transliteration of the Hebrew, שָׂטָן and occurs 36 times in the NT from Matthew to Revelation. Significantly, as BDAG describes this word thus:

in our literature, only as a title or name: (the) Satan , in a very special sense, the enemy of God and all those who belong to God, simply, Satan, the enemy ... almost always with the article.

[For more details in the extensive entry, see BDAG.]

Note that not only does Σατανᾶς almost always appear with the article, but it also occurs in the vocative case, eg, Matt 4:10, 16:23, Mark 8:33, where Jesus directly addresses Satan.

Other Names

In two places in Revelation Satan is given alternate titles:

  • Rev 12:9 - The great dragon was hurled down, that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
  • Rev 20:2 - He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

This confirms what is already revealed in other places that when διάβολος has the article, “The Devil”, it is referring to “Satan”, eg,

  • Compare Matt 4:1, 5, 8, 11 with V10
  • Luke 4:2, 3, 5, 6, 13 tells the same story of Jesus' temptations.

In Matt 10:25, 12:24, 27, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15, 18, 19, Satan is given the name Βεελζεβούλ, (Beelzeboul), “lord of flies”, a false god of the Ekronites (2 Kings 1:2) - a Jewish name of extreme contempt.

In the rest of the New Testament Satan is either given the proper name “Satan” (Acts 5:3, 2 Cor 2:10, 11, 11:14, 2 Thess 2:9, 10, 1 Tim 5:14, 15, Rev 3:9), or “devil” (Matt 4:10, 11, 2 Tim 2:26, Eph 6:11, Rev 12:9, 1 John 3:8), “the serpent” (Rev 12:9, 15, 20:2), “the dragon” (Rev 12:9, 20:3), “Beelzebub” (Matt 12:24), “Belial” (2 Cor 6:15), “the temper” (Matt 4:3), “the enemy” (Matt 13:39), “the evil one” (Matt 5:37, 13:35, John 17:15, 2 Thess 3:3, 1 John 2:13, 14, 5:18), “the adversary” (1 Peter 5:8), “the thief” (John 10:10), “father of lies” (John 8:44), “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), “ruler of this world” (John 12:31), and “the deceiver” (Rev 12:9).

In both Rev 12:7 & 9 we are told that Satan commands a large force of “angels”, evil spirits loyal to Satan (see also Luke 10:17-20), all of whom are opposed to Michael and His angels.

Thus, both the OT and the NT treat Satan as personal being just as much as any other person whether human or superhuman, including vocative address. The theology of Satan is far more highly developed in the NT than the OT.

Origin

Several passages in the NT describe Satan and his minions as falling from heaven to earth such as Luke 10:18, Rev 8:10, 9:1, 12:8, 9, 13. These all appear to allude to the poetic/symbolic references in Isa 114:12-15 and Eze 28:12-17. Lastly, the naming of Satan as the "serpent" in Rev 12:9, 20:2 appears to allude to the very thinly veiled description of the serpent in Gen 3.

Therefore, based on the Bible data, the OP's assertion that "there is no devil" is difficult to sustain.

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  • -1 Count me out of the many who believe Job was the first biblical book written. More important it seems you address only the question of Satan's existence not the OP's first query as to why God didn't warn Cain about him. Nov 13, 2023 at 15:13
  • Did you know that 1 Chronicles 21;11 has a counterpart in 2 Samuel 24:1 where God enticed David to number Israel. God in one passage and 'ha satan' in another referring to the same event. The Hebrew word 'ha satan' is used in many other places in the Old Testament where it refers to human beings acting as adversaries. It is for that reason why it cannot be said that 'ha satan' is the devil we see in the New Testament. Nov 22, 2023 at 2:49
  • @LisaCremer - that sounds like the topic of another question. Suffice to say here that where ha satan occurs it always refers to Satan and in other places (with the single exception of 1 Chron 21:1) it is a human.
    – Dottard
    Nov 22, 2023 at 3:24
  • I would encourage you to go back and study all scriptures where 'satan' is used in the Old Testament. You will be surprised at what you find. Look at H7854 and its root H7853. Nov 22, 2023 at 3:40
  • @LisaCremer - I have done that and read them all in the original Hebrew.
    – Dottard
    Nov 22, 2023 at 6:41

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