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, but he shall rule over you.”
As I began my reading for this year, I once again tripped over certain passages that I don’t fully understand. Genesis 3:16 is one of them. And so I want to write out some of my thoughts on it, beginning a discussion which will probably primarily to myself for myself since no one reads these blogs anyways.
In Genesis 3 we have the curses laid out upon the serpent, the woman, and the man. Some of the curses point towards future fulfillment in Christ, and others are the natural state of the world after the fall. For example, the curse given to the serpent there is a section that talks about his head being bruised and the heel of the offspring of the woman being bruised, which gives us both a fulfillment in life as well as fulfillment in Christ where he crushes the serpent but gets bruised.
The curse to the woman, however, has two parts. It is the shorter of the two curses, and the first part I believe we all can understand. She will have pain giving birth. The second part is a little more difficult, but it perhaps is because of my blinders. As I read it, it seems to indicate that the woman will desire her husband, she will want him badly, and that the husband will rule over her.
I believe I have a difficult time with this is because in my context within Western civilization, the nature of what it means to be human, what it means to be a man and a woman, and what defines a husband and wife have all been redefined based off of secular humanism, which really is a form of materialism. And though I have been working hard to make sure my worldview is derived from the Word of God, much has still to be thrown out in my thinking because of my training within the secular humanistic philosophy of today.
To really pinpoint the difficulty, however, is that it seems the curse is really indicating that the man is going to rule his wife, to dominate her. That it will be some unjust authoritative dictatorship within the household. Yet, I don’t understand how her desire for her husband is a curse, unless I am missing how both are in connection. But I also think that as a Christian when I take this into account I see how I ought to work by the power of the Holy Spirit to not fall under this curse. Not to rule or dominate my wife in some domineering way, but to still be the head and leader of my family, my household, my wife. Because many other passages indicate that this is a must and that a married man cannot help but be a head.
Perhaps the curse really is that the woman will have an unhealthy/sinful desire for her husband, wanting him in a way that he cannot satisfy, and that the man will then either use this to dominate his wife or that her sinful desire for her husband will cause problems within the relationship and the social order of the home. And perhaps that can be seen both in homes where the woman is a doormat who lets everyone walk all over her, and in homes where a woman domineers the home because she desires her husband, but also desires him to be what she wants him to be, so instead of him ruling in a domineering way, he rules in a lazy way. She does everything, gets frustrated, and yells at him. And he ignores her, doesn’t understand her, and continues to rule the home by his laziness, causing her to do everything while he bumbles around like an idiot.
It would seem then my question about this passage is what is the fruit of that desire and what is the nature of that ruling? How are we to understand those two and then as a Christian how can I listen to this curse and choose not to fall under it? Or am I also doomed to live in it? Am I also doomed, as a man, to live under the curse of sweating and producing figs and thistles? If I cannot do anything about my curse how can I do something about her curse?
May God grant us wisdom as we listen to His word.