Saturday, July 05, 2008

Yet Your Desire Will be for Your Husband

"To the woman He said, 'I will greatly multiply yourpain in childbirth. In pain you will bring forth children: Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Genesis 3:16

I have heard two interpretations of this from pastors in the last several months. The first was when I stopped and listened to a sermon on the radio from a Calvary Chapel show (I know -- not my usual thing, but it amazed me that as I was scanning that the pastor actually spent five minutes talking about how you can't come to faith unless the Holy Spirit draws you.) Basically, he interpreted this as once a guy and a girl get married, the man starts focusing on work, etc. and she starts wondering "why doesn't he pay more attention to me?"

The other pastor that addressed this text in a Bible class, put the emphasis on "he shall rule over you" and believed that "your desire shall be for your husband" was that woman will desire that power to rule, but in the end, it belongs to man.

This post that I have referred to before on the Concordian Sisters' blog has had me thinking on this for quite a while.

These aren't the first times that I have heard such interpretations of these verses, and the big issue that I see is that in an age of birth control and planned family size -- and subsequent separation of sex and reproduction, we fail to see how really truly powerful this proclamation is, and so we find ourselves reading other things into it rather than letting the text speak for itself.

In Genesis 2, God blessed Adam and Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply. Having children was something inherently human, even before The Fall. It was integrally part of who we were, and what our purpose was.

Think of what that meant. Having children was an unadulterated blessing. Nothing tainted it. There was no fear of childbirth... no pain, no death, no destruction of figure, no bodily deterioration. Nursing didn't hurt and wasn't complicated or tainted with carnal implications and cultural negativity. Babies inherently trusted and that trust was not in jeopardy from parents who would be tempted to put their own needs first. Exhaustion would not exist. Our children would be without sin and our marriages would be peaceful. Punishment and discipline would not be issues. Fear of harm coming to our children or spouses...death was not in the picture.

Now, look at what the fall into sin meant....Pain, possibility of death in childbirth, infections. Loss of figure, physical problems, c-sections, infertility, etc. Babies crying for hours at a time because of colic, exhaustion, isolation, depression; husbands that weren't supportive or worse yet, weren't there. Breastfeeding problems, formula feeding, the terrible twos -- the worse threes; adolescence. Bickering siblings, disobedience, punishment, frustration, harm, injury, handicaps; death.

Common sense would say that we should all go the route of Scarlett O'Hara who told Rhett Butler after Bonnie's birth that she was done with sex. But that was exactly the thing that was so inhuman about Scarlett O'Hara. To do so is displaying a blatant lack of trust in God and in marriage, which He created. Despite all of these things that wear us down, ranging from our own vanity (which has its roots in the knowledge that we are heading toward death, and we shouldn't be), to the exhaustion that children bring, to the fear and the grief that come along with them and forever taint whatever joy they bring...our desire is still for our husbands. We still want that love, that intimacy, that ultimate union that until this century, brings more children.

And with all of that, we have to put our trust in a man who is also a sinner, and even if he is a good man, he will hurt us. He will fall short. He will sometimes not understand our burden. And at times, we will hurt him, and hurt because we hurt him. We will fall short. And we will not understand the burden that he is under to care for us like Christ loved the church and gave His life for her, either.

It is a frightening thing being a woman under the curse of sin.

Whether one believes that contraception is good or is sinful or has not thoughts on it whatsoever... as a society, it has taken fertility and made it somewhat more foreign to the human experience, less natural, and has made verses like these a bit more alien to our experience...more unfathomable.

It definitely isn't about wanting a little more attention and an occasional date on Friday night, though it gets lonely when we are not valued and cherished. It isn't about craving power and headship -- though that is always there when sin is there.

Thankfully, God is faithful. Children, all children, are still a blessing from God, even with the sometimes terrifying, exhausting burden and chaos that they can also bring. When He provides the blessing, He also provides the means to care for it, to show more love than we ever knew could be there. More than we ever will, God knows what He is doing, and He gives us the means to bear it.


flacius1551 said...

Presumably it is also a fearful thing to be a man under the course of sin.

flacius1551 said...

sorry, curse of sin.

Thursday's Child said...

Excellent post.

Susan said...

About the word "desire" and reading things into the text: that word is a relatively unused word. It's only used three times in the Bible. Once it is Eve desiring her husband. In the next chapter it is when sin desires Cain. And last is from Solomon, where it says my beloved's desire is for me. The last use of the word seems to be a good & right desire; at least, I think so, but I may be misunderstanding something. The second is clearly a possessive and destructive desire, and since the first use of the word is in the curse, I'm more inclined to think that Moses was using the word that meant a desire to usurp and overpower.

It's hard when it's rare words that aren't made clear by the rest of Scripture. But neither do we want to confuse the issue with our modern understanding of the word, especially when other Hebrew/Greek words are translated with the same English word.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


In no way am I seeking to underestimate the curse that man is under as well.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


I don't know. It takes a better Greek scholar than me. I have to rely on Strongs in my E-Sword, or tell my husband to do a word study for me.

But it lists that the word for desire - tshuqah means "a stretching out after or a longing." That's pretty value neutral. It matters what the desire is and who is doing the desiring.

Having it be the curse that Eve will desire the power that her husband has over her doesn't fit with the context. God talks about how her pain will be increased and the Greek indicates that it is more than labor pains -- it is sorrow or toil.

KJV puts it like this:

I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception in sorrow though shalt bring forth children and they desire shall be to they husband and he shall rule over thee.

That's the translation ESword puts to the Strongs. I know that it can sometimes be more poetic than accurate, but it seems to match up in this.

There is as much of an error at focusing on either half of the sentence to the detriment of the other, but I do believe that how our fertility, our mother's hearts, our being a helpmeet is overlooked in how this works. To characterize the main brunt of it as a grab for power is overlooking A LOT. But at the same time, to deny that we do buckle under that rule or that we covet it is also an error.

Jeff said...

For what it's worth,

The Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) translates it as submission as in 'thy submission shall be for thy husband but he will rule over thee'.

Which is certainly not the word I would have chosen to translate it into- but the Jewish scribes who translated the Septuagint knew Hebrew better than us (and most people alive today I’d wager). Not that there aren’t several serious issues with the Septuagint, but It can often inform our work with the Hebrew.

Lexiconally, I don’t have much to add without checking some commentaries- but the general consensus I’ve heard from my Hebrew teachers is that there’s a sense of authority or office implied here. The desire is for the office of husband.

That may be informed by our current societal tendencies though (perhaps as a reaction against them). I don’t see anything in the text to support it, but Hebrew isn’t my strong suit ;)

Luther, in his Genesis commentary, does speak of the difference between what bearing a child would have been like before sin, and the reality of it now. He comments on how (even in the middle ages) people would choose not to have children because of how awful, and dangerous childbirth was. Also worth noting- reading Luther describing the symptoms of pregnancy is humorous.

He also speaks on how many of these terrible results of sin are actually for our good, or at least work toward our good. I couldn’t reproduce it well enough in brief- one should read it.

Luther ends with speaking of how the desire for the husband is for his office, being inclined to gain what was lost through sin- or at least grumble about it in their impatience (his words! I’m just a messenger :p). He then speaks of how this office the husband has isn’t really that great though, instead reaping all the hardships and toils of the next verses.

My two cents.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Thanks Jeff,

(BTW y'all, NOT my husband)Luther was my next step on that. My husband was mentioning how Luther was reknown for his commentary on Genesis, just this morning. I'm really eager to read it.

That tendency has always been there to avoid having children for many different reasons, and then the tendency to do everything you can to not be tied to those children as well....wet nurses, artificial feeding, nannies, child care, etc. (which ironically, increase fertility and created the very situation that Margaret Sanger took steps to deal with...women who were being wiped out physically and emotionally by having babies every year).

I do think that there is some interpretation of this through the screen of the feminist movement, but the feminist movement started for a reason. And the hallmark of the feminist movement is the rejection of all things feminine replaced by behaving like men.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

By the way, for clarification, I am not saying in any way that it is harder to be a woman under the curse than it is to be a man. I just think that it might be of some help in our relationships and support of each other if we actually try to understand what each other's burdens are.

I am also not making any broad pronouncements on the proper way to steward least, not here.

Anonymous said...

A womans deepest desire is to find a self confident, emotionally strong man who makes her feel safe, protected, loved, and who makes her want to totally abandon herself to him, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Forget career, car, etc if a woman can find such a man (husband) it satisfies her deepest desires.

Speaking about the coming ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT headed by the antichrist Daniel 11:37 tells us that "the Antichrist will show no regard....for the one desired by women..." That is The Antichrist will show no regard for husbands - Surely this is what we are seeing in the blatant misandry (that is hatred of men and boys) that we see in the media, government policies and laws etc today

Anonymous said...

The only way out of the curse is for women to never be with the man. No marriage and no children in essence since we should look to God for our validation. Become nuns -- celibate.

Susan said...

GOD was the one who said "children are a blessing from the Lord." God blessed the wedding at Cana. Jesus Himself quoted from Genesis about marriage being good (Mt 19).

Anonymous says that the only way out of the curse is for us to DO or NOT DO something.

The only way out from under the curse is Jesus' cross, His blood, His suffering the forgiveness of my sins.

Carrie said...


I've read the posts, the comments, the verse over and over and all the commentaries. In the end, like the Pastor's Wife, was saying it isn't that complicated when you look it. And actually there is truth in what Anonymous said.

Simply put, a woman desires most the love of a man, and to be with him, DESPITE the fact that she knows she will suffer during childbirth, and despite the fact that she knows he will dominate her, not always be so kind and considerate, he may even be selfish, and is some cases abusive. Yet and still, she will desire a man/husband. Just like anonymous said, the only around this is to be alone, which she will not want to do. The verse just isn't speaking of sexual desire...hormones take care of that. Both men and women will desire each other sexually because we're designed that way, curse or no curse. It goes beyond that into something my psychologically deeper. Basically saying, a woman may know being with a man may not be the best thing for me but I'm going to do it anyway. I particularly take note of the women who murder their children from a previous relationship to be with a man who doesn't want kids, etc. It's a strong desire to want a man and I think that's all the scripture was saying, fairly plainly.