Sin, An Alien Among Us

Photo by Mika Brandt on Unsplash

Have you ever noticed all the personification in the Bible? Personification is a literary device authors use to give human traits to inhuman things. Sin is an interesting example. It’s viewed in several passages almost like a force or a master. Especially Paul treats it like a human being that can act and react. But sin is an action, a thought, and attitude.

Throughout the Bible, one interesting personification is that of sin. Sin is viewed in several passages almost like a force or a master. It is spoken of as if it were a human being that could act and react. But sin is not a person or even a spirit. It is an action, a thought, an attitude that does not glorify God or obey His divinely ordained principles.

Genesis begins using personification with sin. Cain is unhappy with God’s rejection of his sacrifices while Abel enjoys God’s favor. Cain lets sin grasp him and boss him around. In Genesis 4:6-7, Cain’s countenance falls when God rejects his sacrifice. God says that sin is crouching at the door.

Sin can’t crouch. It certainly can’t rule a person, as God says it will rule over him, with the same phrase used earlier when Eve wants to rule over Adam (Genesis 3:16).

Sin is crouching like a tiger, waiting to strike. It waits for its opportunity to catch Cain off guard. It’s hunting its prey. These are only things living creatures can do.

Scripture also personifies death. It’s almost as if God’s adversaries include Satan, his minions, sin, and death. Jesus defeats all of these enemies through his death and resurrection. Paul writes that God has won the victory through Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Paul will say in Romans 6 that sin and death can reign in our mortal bodies. They are masters that rule over the human race because of Adam’s disobedience. Sin and death work together (Romans 6:9). Sin reigns in people’s hearts under the influence of spiritual death. These two abstract ideas are given personal attributes.

We would expect personification to be used by the poets of the Bible. But we find it used in deep theological discussion by Paul and Genesis. It’s a favorite device in wisdom literature. Proverbs describes Lady Wisdom as desirable and beautiful. Lady Folly is described as a prostitute and vulgar woman. These are abstract principles, not people.

Many people seek folly, more accustomed to her whiles. Lady wisdom comes at a premium. Wisdom is hard to find and more precious than riches or anything else because it produces those things. Poetic and wisdom literature often take it of personification.

Even the prophets are full of vivid imagery and personification. The art of personification to show nature and functions can impress and student of literature.

In the New Testament, James, the wisdom teacher, also uses personification. He outlines the way sin creeps into our lives (James 1:13-15). It tempts, entices, and lures us. Enticing and boring are hunting terms for entrapping and snaring us. Temptation and desire work against us.

Personification is ineffective literary toll in the hands of master storytellers and poets throughout Scripture. And master theologians like Paul and James use it also. They cause us to think more deeply about these abstract forces. Is sin a power or force? Is death a person or a force? Please Wisdom a woman or perfectly represented in Christ? They teach us about Christ, Enjoy the literary devices of Scripture without neglecting the lessons they teach us. They bring richness to our thoughts and studies in the Scriptures. Let us thank Jesus that he has dealt with all of them for us. He has been victorious and we have victory over them through obedience to him.

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