In our discussions on Genesis there has been one puzzling question. If Adam alone sinned willfully and the woman fell into sin through deception, then why did God punish Eve so severely for her sin?
I would like to propose that we have misunderstood what happened when God dealt with Adam, the woman and the serpent. There are only two acts by God that deal with guilt and curses and not three as tradition has taught us. Let’s look carefully at the passage. First of all let’s look at how God dealt with the serpent:
Genesis 3:14 (NASB) The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;
God speaks of blame by saying “Because you have done this…” and the result of the blame to the serpent is a curse. It isn’t a guess that God cursed the serpent because the inspired text says “cursed are you…”
Adam is also blamed by God in a very similar way:
Genesis 3:17 (NASB) Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.
Notice again that God says “Because you have…” This is God’s blame and with the blame brings a curse. “Cursed is the ground because of you”. The “you” here is singular masculine and the ground was cursed because of only one man’s sin.
Did God also express blame towards the woman and did He curse anything on her behalf? Let’s have a look. The first mention of consequences for the future of the woman is in verse 15 and here God is speaking directly to the serpent:
Genesis 3:15 (NASB) And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
Colossians 2:15 (NASB) When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
So God’s first words about the future of the woman is God’s revealed will that places her on the right side of a spiritual conflict. There is no curse here in this verse at all. But what about the next direct words of God to the woman? Does the woman then suffer a special “punishment” from God? Let’s look at verse 16.
Genesis 3:16 (NKJV) To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”
We should be able to see something different in this verse. Look carefully and you will see no direct blame like the way that God spoke to both the serpent and the man. God never said to the woman “Because you have done this…” God also does not say that anything is cursed on her behalf. What God does say to the woman is different than how He talks to either the serpent or the man. Instead of the cycle of blame and curse, God reveals what will be His own actions and then He reveals two future actions of the woman and a prophetic word about what her life will be like living in union with the first rebellious sinner.
Let’s first examine God’s actions. God said “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception”. God said that He would greatly multiply two things. The first thing to be greatly multiplied is her “sorrow”. The Hebrew word that is translated “sorrow” means toil or hardship and it is the exact sameword that God used for the “toil” that Adam will experience with the cursed earth. God will greatly multiply the woman’s work for a reason. The next part of what God greatly multiplied explains why the woman’s work is greatly multiplied. God says that He will greatly multiply her conception. The Hebrew word is “heron” which means conception or pregnancy.
God will greatly increase her conception and with this greatly increased conception she will have greatly increased work. God never calls this greatly increased conception a curse but there is a physical result from the changing of her body. Wwith the change to her body, she will also experience a painful delivery. Also with her greatly increased conception, the woman will experience a greatly increased work load – much more than God had originally planned for her.
So if a greatly increased conception isn’t called a curse by God then what is the purpose for God to increase her conception? Let’s think this one through. When the woman had a body that was meant to live forever there was no need for her to be pregnant right away or have multiple pregnancies one right after another. After all she was designed to live forever so there lots of years to fill the earth. Have you ever wondered why the woman did not get pregnant in the garden? Some think erroneously that Adam and his wife did not consummate their marriage and because of this belief they look on the sexual union as something that is sinful because they believe the physical union only happened after the fall. However God’s words to the woman about the “greatly increased” conception gives us a much better understanding why she did not conceive in the garden. Her rate of conception before the fall was much different than after the fall when God greatly increased it. Just as God said, when the woman ate the fruit she started a process of dying and so the process of conception was changed by God so that the earth could be filled with people even though Adam and Eve would eventually die.
Rather than bringing what some have thought was a curse on the woman, God looked on humanity with compassion by greatly increasing the woman’s conception. The human race would not die out with what was the original conception design. Originally the woman was given freedom to fulfill her God-given function of ruling the world as her body was waiting for God’s time for conception. But a dying body changed everything. God stepped in and made a change to her body so that she would start to conceive right away. Now instead of having children spaced a great distance apart she would now have to bear a greatly increased work load on the home front. As the original design of the woman’s conception changed, Eve found herself with caring for child after child after child with no servants or nanny to help with the workload. It was a necessary consequence to God’s provision for maintaining the human race.
One other thing happened when God changed the woman’s body. As a result of the change in her conception, her body would give birth in pain. The dramatic shift in her conception would result in a change that would now bring pain, but it also brought a positive prophetic word. God’s inspired words to the woman should be carefully followed to see the positive. God said “yet”. It is a little word, but highly important. After God said He would change her conception, and after this change was prophesied to bring pain, “yet” God says, you will still desire your husband. The word “desire” can also mean a turning toward, so that the woman would turn towards her husband even though she would experience pain as a result of their union.
Genesis 3:16 (NASB) To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”
Unfortunately the NASB doesn’t reveal that the two words rendered as “pain” in verse 16 are different words. The first word is the exact same word for “toil” as in verse 17. Yet the NASB does keep the Hebrew word for “yet” and attaches it appropriately to the woman’s desire for the man. The Hebrew term is a coordinating conjunction and it connects together the woman’s pain with her desire for her husband. God in His infinite wisdom in speaking with the woman tells her that even though she will experience an increased work because He will increase her conception in order to bring about more babies in a shorter period of time, even though she will experience pain in bearing these children, she will still desire her husband in spite of the pain that having his children will cause her.
The next link in the passage is the action of the man that will happen in spite of her desire for him. In spite of her desire and attention for him, he will rule over her. The exact same word that is translated as “yet” in the NASB is in the text just before “he will rule”. “Yet” he will do this. The NCV renders this as “but”.
Genesis 3:16 (NCV)”...but he will rule over you.”
So the woman will be having increased conception with multiple pregnancies and by that a much increased work load. The change that God makes to her body will result in her experiencing pain in childbirth yet she will still desire her husband even though there is pain attached to their union, but his reaction to her is to rule over or dominate her.
So God’s will in this passage is a compassionate act to preserve humanity because of the death process that has entered the world. Through all of this stress and strain that will come from the increased pregnancies and the increased workload, the woman will still come to the man and desire to be with him. None of this is God’s curse on the woman or the man and none of this is a punishment to the woman.
The last thing to consider is whether the man’s rule over the woman is a curse on her. God specifically gives His prophecy regarding the future actions of the man and it is worded in the actions of the man’s will only. He will rule over you. Absent is God’s permission for one ruler to make himself an independent ruler and subject to himself his co-ruler.
The word for rule means to have dominion over. So while God gave the man and the woman dominion over the animals, the actions of the man’s sin nature cause him to usurp her rulership and place it in his hands alone. She is no longer an equal ruler in his eyes. She is one to be dominated and controlled like any of the animals under his rule.
Let’s think this one through. If it was God’s will for the man to move out of his place as equal ruler into sole rulership with power to subdue the woman and put her under his rule, then why didn’t God tell this to the man? God gave the man no permission for an additional rule nor did He tell the woman that He had made Adam her ruler. God simply said what will be, not what must be.
There is one last thing that we need to pay attention to in the Genesis account. It is the fact that only the earth and the animals were cursed. The man and the woman were not cursed. They were still in the image of God and they had been marred by the process of death, but they were not cursed.
Did God curse the earth on the man’s behalf but leave no curse on him while placing a curse on his deceived wife? No, this is not like our just and righteous God. Genesis 3:16 has been a source of much confusion because we have not paid close enough attention to the exact words that God inspired. Check it out for yourself. You will see that the first word translated in many Bibles as “pain” for the woman is the exact same word that is translated as “toil” for the man in verse 17. You will also find that although many English versions use the word “pain” twice in the passage, the qoesa are not the exact same Hebrew words. Not only are the Hebrew words different, but the context of hard work, or toil, is the context just as is used for Adam’s work. Her toil was greatly increased because her conception was greatly increased. We have accepted for too long that a deceived woman was the only human to be cursed when God never said it. Rather than placing a curse on the woman, God gave a promise that the Messiah would come through her seed. Was God planning to bring the Messiah through a cursed woman?
God Himself has released women to fulfill their destiny in Christ by gifting them and calling them into service. Their place is beside their brothers in Christ fighting the enemy together, speaking forth the gospel and using their spiritual gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ. I would like to end this article with a challenge to our complementarian brothers. Will you fight your sisters in Christ wanting a place of dominion for yourself or will you walk with us as joint heirs in Christ?