Genesis 3:16 (ESV) — 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
The judgment of Eve is different in at least two ways from that of the Serpent and Adam.
(1) There is no “curse” language associated with Eve’s judgment.
- 3:14 – Serpent – “cursed are you”.
- 3:17 – Adam – “cursed is the ground because of you”.
(2) “There is no cause specified for her suffering” – Mathews.
- 3:14 – Serpent – “because you have done this [deceived Eve]”.
- 3:17 – Adam – “because you have listened” to Eve.
Speculation abounds as to why this is the case.
- Mathews suggests the following…
- The lack of “curse/because” language for the woman was due to the nature of her culpability.
- She was culpable through deception.
- This is “in contrast [to] the willful rebellion of the serpent and man”.
What might be some other reasons?
- According to Mathews, one might be due to the fact that, through childbirth, “Eve will play the critical role in liberating them from sin’s consequences”.
- Paul may be alluding to this in Galatians 4:4 – we will see it shortly.
Concerning the judgment of Eve, there is also some uncertainty.
“Quite clearly this verse, and the ones immediately following, teaches that sin has its consequences. It is less clear whether God describes or prescribes these consequences. In other words, are these negative consequences engineered directly by God, or is God simply informing the woman the way it is to be from this moment on?” – Victor Hamilton.
The described/prescribed consequences are:
- Multiply Pain in Childbearing – we will view this as prescribed.
- Desire for Husband – we will view this as described; fallout of the Fall.
- We will handle them one at a time.
Pain in Childbearing:
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.”
Regarding “pain” there is a parallel here to Adam’s judgment.
- Both share this same word, the Hebrew “issabon”.
- It obviously carries with it the idea of physical pain.
Question – do all women experience physical pain with childbirth?
- Science does tell us that labor pains are “one of the most severe pains”.
- And that nearly all women do experience labor pains.
- However, not all women do.
This observation along with a little digging hints that there is more going on here than physical pain.
- The HALOT lexicon tells us that “issabon” also carries with it the idea of “anxious toil”.
The LXX’s Greek translation picks up on this with its use of “lype”.
- This Greek word – in addition to physical pain – carries with it the idea of “pain of mind or spirit, grief, sorrow, affliction” – BDAG.
These insights seem to demonstrate that we are not merely dealing with physical pain (which given the Hebrew grammar may have existed already) – Heiser.
- The point…we are now dealing with worry, anxiety and mental anguish along with more pain.
But wait…there is more!
- The Hebrew word for “childbearing” (herone) means more than just labor.
- Unfortunately, most translations make this unclear – “childbearing” (ESV); “labor pains” (NET).
- However, the ASV tries to convey the full meaning of the Hebrew word “herone”.
- The ASV says, “I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy conception”.
So to understand the full meaning of “pain in childbearing” we need to consider:
- Physical Pain and Anxiety of childbearing.
- Physical Pain and Anxiety of conception.
John Walton plays it out as follows:
God is “referring to the anxiety that a woman will experience through the whole process from conception to birth. This includes anxiety about whether she will be able to conceive a child, anxiety that comes with all the physical discomfort of pregnancy, anxiety concerning the health of the child in the womb, and anxiety about whether she and the baby will survive the birth process” – Walton.
He suggests the following paraphrase:
- “I will greatly increase the anguish you will experience in the birth process, from the anxiety surrounding conception to the strenuous work of giving birth” – Walton.
This more robust understanding makes much more sense in an ANE Israelite context.
- Remember their main concerns – people, nation and land.
- And yet, outside of the garden, the obtaining of “people” becomes an painful and anxious uncertainty.
- One need only think of Abraham and Sara.
Looking Back – Looking Forward:
And lest we forget, this judgment impacts one of the very things Adam and Eve were to do as image bearers.
- Genesis 1:28a — 28a And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…”
- Fulfilling this duty was not to be saddled with such pain and uncertainty.
- The sting of sin brought this new relationship with our image bearing responsibilities.
- This new reality – sin staining our image bearing responsibilities – is felt in full force to this day.
But there is good news.
- God’s covenant faithfulness and plan for redemptive history is not thwarted by sin.
- Galatians 4:4 (ESV) — 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
- This “woman” is inclusive of Eve.
- As declared in Gen. 3, the Serpent Crusher was born from the seed of the woman.
- And because of the Fall, was born under the law.
Given the proximity of Christmas to this lesson, we should say the following:
- Jesus’ birth is the ultimate demonstration that God’s grace overcame the death and judgment that came with the Fall.
- The seed of Eve and Abraham’s promised offspring was always a certainty in spite of God’s judgment.
Desire for Husband:
“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
There used to be big debate about the meaning of this passage.
- But it appears that consensus (at least from my readings) is settling around one particular meaning.
- This meaning centers around the use of the same language in Genesis 4:7
Genesis 4:7 (ESV) — 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
- This text is fairly clear.
- Sin is cast as an opponent to Cain.
- Sin is said to have a desire for Cain.
- And its desire is to rule over, control or have mastery over him.
- Cain’s dilemma in 4:7 is that he must gain control (“rule”) over the “desire” of sin, i.e., its power against him” – Heiser.
Bringing this to our text, we can now see how it plays out.
- Eve is “sin” and Adam is “Cain”.
- As a result of the Fall, Eve will desire to have rule, control or mastery over Adam.
- However, the very opposite will be the norm – Adam (man) will have control of Eve (woman).
- If this is true, “then Eve’s curse is a desire to control her husband. Sin has damaged the relationship between husband and wife. As a result, the two will compete for dominance instead of sharing authority in harmony as originally intended” – Heiser.
So this fallout of judgment upon Eve is a corruption of the original intention of pre-Fall marriage.
- Instead of a heart desirous of harmony and peace, the heart now seeks dominance.
We need to be aware of something incredibly important.
- This aspect of God’s judgment is not an endorsement of this type of relationship between Adam and Eve or man and woman.
“It is a distortion of the passage to find in it justification for male tyranny” – Mathews.
- To take the passage this way fails to understand the passage.
- It also misapplies the “dominion” or idea of “ruling over” from Genesis 1.
- Adam and Eve were to exercise “dominion” together over creation.
- It was not something they were to exercise over each other.
- Genesis 1:28 (ESV) — 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
If a Christian marriage operates in this fashion – it is not a Biblically grounded marriage.
- Neither an egalitarian or complementarian view of marriage operates this way.
What is a complementarian view of marriage:
- “Complementarity means that the music of our relationships should not be merely the sound of singing in unison. It should be the integrated sound of soprano and bass, alto and tenor” – John Piper.
- Husband and wife are in fact different and bear God’s image in the context of marriage in different ways.
- Each excels in his/her strength.
- Neither should try to sing all the parts.
As we said in a previous lesson:
“Scripture doesn’t give a lot of detail as to how God’s design for man and woman is to be worked out, so a traditional division of labor (women in the kitchen, changing diapers; men at work letting women do all household chores) doesn’t square with the biblical design…There is flexibility within the basic framework, and each couple has unique circumstances in which to work out God’s design and plan for them personally, both leader and partner. The biblical pattern is loving, self-sacrificial complementarity where the couple partners in conscious pursuit of God’s mission. Marriage is part of God’s larger purpose of reuniting all of humanity under one head, the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10)” – Andreas Kostenberger.
He goes on to say:
“Succinctly put, the overarching model that many have implicitly understood in recent years has been male leadership and female submission…we believe that this approach may unduly constrain the woman’s role and contribution in marriage and the church. We might rather categorize the biblical teaching in these terms: male leadership and female partnership.”
I would say a more literal Genesis 1 & 2 way to put his term would be…
- “male image-bearer” and “female image-bearer helper”
Notice that in this language there is no room for domination, mastery or rule of one spouse over the other.
- And no reading of Paul’s “head over” or “authority over” language can be understood this way either.
- God’s judgment of Eve at this point is “a description of the curse. It is a description of misery, not a model for marriage” – Piper.
- I repeat…it is not a model for marriage.
- It describes what is wrong with marriage, not what is right with marriage.
“So the essence of corrupted maleness is the self-aggrandizing effort to subdue and control and exploit women for its own private desires. And the essence of corrupted femaleness is the self-aggrandizing effort to subdue and control and exploit men for its own private desires. And the difference is found mainly in the different weaknesses that we can exploit in one another” – John Piper.
- This effect of the Fall requires that we examine ourselves as husbands.
- How do we try and exploit our wives?
- How do we seek to exploit their weaknesses to our benefit?