Gen 4:7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be e accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the f door. And unto thee [shall be] his g desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
(e) Both you and your sacrifice shall be acceptable to me.I really like this note for the explanation of the phrase "unto thee shall be his desire." Some translations stumble at this verse and replace the translation for the Hebrew Masculine pronoun as "its" instead of "his." With the tendency to interpret the antecedent of the pronoun as "sin" instead of "Abel". Defining and translating what the word "desire" here means affects another significant passage, Gen 3:16. The Hebrew word for desire is teshûqâh, and appears only the the following three verses: Gen 3:16, Gen 4:7, and Song 7:10.
(f) Sin will still torment your conscience.
(g) The dignity of the first born is given to Cain over Abel.
If the antecedent to the personal pronoun in Gen 4:7 is sin and as the modern translators and commentators explain it, "Cain, if you don't do what's right, then, sin is close by and desires to devour you up." And then with that understanding in hand they move over to Gen 3:16 and explain what happens there as GOD Placing a curse upon marriage. Such that the woman will always desire to rule over her husband. And thus marriage is under a specific curse with a specific need in the wife to rule, dominate and subjugate her husband. This passage is also used as an explanation for modern day Feminism - like a specific curse from the mouth of God.
But if the Geneva Note Makers have it right, the word "desire" in Gen 4:7 rather states "Cain if you don't do right, sin is close by - at the door. But if you do well -- then Abel will be as the second born and in proper relationship to you as the first born." So understanding teshuquah then meaning not a desire to devour, but the assuming of a role that is the proper submitting to someone else according to their God ordained role.
So then also, rather than cursing marriage, and placing into the heart of woman a desire to rule over and dominate her husband, we have instead God stating the roles between husband and wife. The husband as the head and the wife submitting to the husband in the Lord.
This post might catch you off guard, I've heard many sermons along the lines opposite of what the Geneva Note Makers ascribe here. I prefer the understanding they have taken over the idea that God has placed marriage under a specific curse. Calvin's commentary on both Gen 3:16 and Gen 4:7 and his treatment of the word desire, teshûqâh, is very helpful. Note: Neither the Strongs nor the Brown Driver Briggs Lexicon will prove helpful in supporting the Geneva Note on this verse. But I am reminded of what I have read Robert Dick Wilson write, that sometimes you must get beyond the Lexicon and not perpetuate the opinion of one Lexicographer from recent history. Besides that, I am confident, you can find Lexicons with this word defined precisely as we see used here in the Geneva Bible Notes. Though as I write this blog post too many years having transpired I cannot recall which ones support this view.
Please consider Calvin's Commentary on Gen 3:16 (click here for online version)
“Thy desire shall be unto thy husband,” is of the same force as if he had said that she should not be free and at her own command, but subject to the authority of her husband and dependent upon his will; or as if he had said, ‘Thou shalt desire nothing but what thy husband wishes.’ As it is declared afterwards, Unto thee shall be his desire, (Genesis 4:7.) Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her proper bounds, is forced back to her own position. She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude.
Also Calvin on Gen 4:7 click here for online version
And unto thee shall be his desire. Nearly all commentators refer this to sin, and think that, by this admonition, those depraved hosts are restrained which solicit and impel the mind of man. Therefore, according to their view, the meaning will be of this kind, ‘If sin rises against thee to subdue thee, why dost thou indulge it, and not rather labor to restrain and control it? For it is thy part to subdue and bring into obedience those affections in thy flesh which thou perceivest to be opposed to the will of God, and rebellious against him.’ But I suppose that Moses means something entirely different. I omit to notice that to the Hebrew word for sin is affixed the mark of the feminine gender, but that here two masculine relative pronouns are used. Certainly Moses does not treat particularly of the sin itself which was committed, but of the guilt which is contracted from it, and of the consequent condemnation. How, then, do these words suit, ‘Unto thee shall be his desire?’
There will, however be no need for long refutation when I shall produce the genuine meaning of the expression. It rather seems to be a reproof, by which God charges the impious man with ingratitude, because he held in contempt the honor of primogeniture. The greater are the divine benefits with which any one of us is adorned, the more does he betray his impiety unless he endeavors earnestly to serve the Author of grace to whom he is under obligation. When Abel was regarded as his brother’s inferior, he was, nevertheless, a diligent worshipper of God. But the firstborn worshipped God negligently and perfunctorily, though he had, by the Divine kindness, arrived at so high a dignity; and, therefore, God enlarges upon his sin, because he had not at least imitated his brother, whom he ought to have surpassed as far in piety as he did in the degree of honor. Moreover, this form of speech is common among the Hebrews, that the desire of the inferior should be towards him to whose will he is subject; thus Moses speaks of the woman, (Genesis 3:16,) that her desire should be to her husband. They, however, childishly trifle, who distort this passage to prove the freedom of the will; for if we grant that Cain was admonished of his duty in order that he might apply himself to the subjugation of sin, yet no inherent power of man is to be hence inferred; because it is certain that only by the grace of the Holy Spirit can the affections of the flesh be so mortified that they shall not prevail. Nor, truly, must we conclude, that as often as God commands anything we shall have strength to perform it, but rather we must hold fast the saying of Augustine, ‘Give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.’