on Genesis 4 :6
Why art thou wroth? - This was designed as a gracious warning, and a preventive of the meditated crime.
on Genesis 4 :6
Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? - The Lord does not yet give up Cain. In great mercy he expostulates with him. He puts a question which implies that there is no just cause for his present feelings. Neither anger at his brother, because his offering has been accepted, nor vexation in himself, because his own has not, is a right feeling in the presence of the just and merciful God, who searches the heart. Submission, self-examination, and amendment of what has been wrong in his approach to God, alone benefit the occaslon. To this, accordingly, the Lord directs his attention in the next sentence.
If thou do well, shalt thou not be accepted? - To do well is to retrace his steps, to consider his ways, and find out wherein he has been wrong, and to amend his offering and his intention accordingly. He has not duly considered the relation in which he stands to God as a guilty sinner, whose life is forfeited, and to whom the hand of mercy is held out; and accordingly he has not felt this in offering, or given expression to it in the nature of his offering. Yet, the Lord does not immediately reject him, but with longsuffering patience directs his attention to this, that it may be amended. And on making such amendment, he holds out to him the clear and certain hope of acceptance still. But he does more than this. As Cain seems to have been of a particularly hard and unheedful disposition, he completes his expostulation, and deepens its awful solemnity, by stating the other alternative, both in its condition and consequence.
And if thou do not well, at the door is sin lying. - Sin past, in its unrequited and unacknowledged guilt; sin present, in its dark and stubborn passion and despair; but, above all, sin future, as the growing habit of a soul that persists in an evil temper, and therefore must add iniquity unto iniquity, is awaiting thee at the door, as a crouching slave the bidding of his master. As one lie borrows an endless train of others to keep up a vain appearance of consistency, so one sin if not repented of and forsaken involves the dire necessity of plunging deeper and deeper into the gulf of depravity and retribution. This dread warning to Cain, expressed in the mildest and plainest terms, is a standing lesson written for the learning of all mankind. Let him who is in the wrong retract at once, and return to God with humble acknowledgment of his own guilt, and unreserved submission to the mercy of his Maker; for to him who perseveres in sin there can be no hope or help. Another sentence is added to give intensity to the warning.
And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. - This sentence has all the pithiness and familiarity of a proverb. It has been employed before, to describe part of the tribulation the woman brought upon herself by disobedience, namely, the forced subjection of her will to that of her husband in the fallen state of humanity Genesis 3:16. It is accordingly expressive of the condition of a slave under the hard bondage and arbitrary caprice of a master and a tyrant. Cain is evidently the master. The question is, Who is the slave? To whom do the pronouns "his" and "him" refer? Manifestly, either to sin or to Habel. If to sin, then the meaning of the sentence is, the desire, the entire submission and service of sin will be yielded to thee, and thou wilt in fact make thyself master of it. Thy case will be no longer a heedless ignorance, and consequent dereliction of duty, but a willful overmastering of all that comes by sin, and an unavoidable going on from sin to sin, from inward to outward sin, or, in specific terms, from wrath to murder, and from disappointment to defiance, and so from unrighteousness to ungodliness. This is an awful picture of his fatal end, if he do not instantly retreat. But it is necessary to deal plainly with this dogged, vindictive spirit, if by any means he may be brought to a right mind.
If the pronouns are referred to Habel, the meaning will come to much the same thing. The desire, the forced compliance, of thy brother will be yielded unto thee, and thou wilt rule over him with a rigor and a violence that will terminate in his murder. In violating the image of God by shedding the blood of thy brother, thou wilt be defying thy Maker, and fiercely rushing on to thy own perdition. Thus, in either case, the dark doom of sin unforsaken and unremitted looms fearfully in the distance.
The general reference to sin, however, seems to be the milder and more soothing form of expostulation. The special reference to Habel might only exasperate. It appears, moreover, to be far-fetched, as there is no allusion to his brother in the previous part of the address. The boldness of the figure by which Cain is represented as making himself master of sin, when he with reckless hand grasps at all that comes by sin, is not unfamiliar to Scripture. Thus, the doer of wickedness is described as the master of it Ecclesiastes 8:8. On these grounds we prefer the reference to sin, and the interpretation founded on it.
There are two other expositions of this difficult sentence which deserve to be noticed. First. "And as to thy brother, unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him with all the right of the first born." But (1) the reference to his brother is remote; (2) the rights of primogeniture are perhaps not yet established; (3) the words do not express a right, but an exercise of might against right arising in a fallen state Genesis 3:16; (4) the Judge of all the earth is not accustomed to guarantee the prerogatives of birth to one who is in positive rebellion against him, but, on the other hand, he withdraws them from the unworthy to confer them on whom he will. For these reasons we conceive this exposition is to be rejected. Second. "And unto thee shall be sin's desire; but thou shalt overcome it." But (1) the parallelism between the two members of the sentence is here neglected; (2) a different meaning is assigned to the words here and in Genesis 3:16,, (3) the connection between the sentence thus explained and what goes before is not clear; (4) the lesson taught is not obvious; and (5) the assurance given is not fulfilled. On these grounds we cannot adopt this explanation.
The above address of the Lord to Cain, expressed here perhaps only in its substance, is fraught with the most powerful motives that can bear on the mind of man. It holds out acceptance to the wrong-doer, if he will come with a broken heart and a corresponding expression of repentance before God, in the full faith that he can and will secure the ends of justice so that he can have mercy on the penitent. At the same time it points out, with all clearness and faithfulness to a soul yet unpractised in the depths of iniquity, the insidious nature of sin, the proneness of a selfish heart to sin with a high hand, the tendency of one sinful temper, if persisted in, to engender a growing habit of aggravated crime which ends in the everlasting destruction of the soul. Nothing more than this can be done by argument or reason for the warning of a wrong-doer. From the mouth of the Almighty these words must have come with all the evidence and force they were capable of receiving.
on Genesis 4 :6