Bible Question:

What is sin? Not the doctrine or its effect or its consequences, but what is it? Is it alive? The Bible personifies it, saying that sin crouches, desires, looks for opportunities, deceives, and so on.

Bible Answer:

What is sin like? Genesis 4:7 seems to imply that sin is like a lion that is crouching and about to pounce on its prey—you! So, what does “sin is crouching at the door” mean? This article explains the meaning of Genesis 4:7 and then explains why sin is described as a lion crouching at the door.

Sin Is Crouching at the Door

Sin Is Crouching at the Door

In Genesis 4, Cain murdered his brother Abel. But before he does that, God warns him in verse 4 that he has an internal battle with sin. Cain may not have realized that he was in an internal fight. Here is God’s warning in Genesis 4:7,

If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:7 (NASB)

The Hebrew word for crouching is rabbas. The word appears multiple times in the Old Testament. In Genesis 49:9 the word is used to refer to a lion crouching. We must notice that the context in this verse reveals the word for desire in Genesis 4:7 refers to a lust for control. Notice Cain was told that he “must master it.” There was a struggle within Cain to murder or not to murder his brother Abel. Sin wanted control. Sin wanted to murder Abel.

Explanation of Crouching at the Door

Romans 6:6 tells us that non-Christians or unbelievers are slaves of sin. But verse 7-8 says that is not true for Christians or believers. They have been freed from slavery to sin. Unbelievers are still slaves to sin,  but believers have been freed. Romans 6:18, 20 says that believers in Christ were slaves to sin, but have been freed from sin. In Romans 7:14-24 the apostle Paul describes the battle with sin. Even though it has lost control of believers, it still tries to regain control and sometimes it wins. In Romans 8:12-13, we are told that believers must “put to death the deeds of  the body.” That is, sin is pictured as something that is alive within us.

Genesis 4:7 gives us the same picture. Sin is personified as if it were a lion crouched to attack. Sin is pictured as if it were alive. James 1:14 says that we are tempted to sin by our own lusts or desires. That is, within us there is a desire to please ourselves and not God. Then verse 15 says that when we finally yield to our lusts, we sin. That is a good description of the process of how we sin. Because we are born sinners (Psalms 51:5; Romans 5:19), we have a great passion to please ourselves. That craving or lust wants to be satisfied. It is usually in rebellion against God. In that sense sin is like a lion crouched to pounce and be satisfied.


Sin is not a power or something living within us. Sin is the result of us pleasing our internal passions. 1 John 2:16-17 reveals that we have internal passions that very strongly crave to be satisfied. Our internal passions strongly seek satisfaction in three areas:the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:16-17 (NASB)

The personification of sin summarizes our internal craving to please the flesh, and not God.

Suggested Links:

What is the biblical definition of sin? — 1 John 3:4
What is sin and its consequences?