Gen 3:16 He said to the woman, I will greatly increase your sorrow and your conception; you shall bear sons in sorrow, and your desire shall be toward your husband; and he shall rule over you.
Gen 4:7 If you do well, is there not exaltation? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is toward you; but you should rule over it.
Son 7:10 I am my Beloved’s, and His desire is toward me.
These are the 3 examples of Hebrew teshuqah translated as desire in the Bible.
The ISV for Gen 3:16 does a literal translation this way:
To the-woman he-said to-increase I-am-increasing grief-of-you and-pregnancy-of-you you-shall-give-birth sons and-to man-of-you impulse-of-you and-he he-shall-rule in-you.
Showing the structure and putting it into better English
To the woman he said
“I will greatly increase your painful toil
and your pregnancies
You shall birth children in pain
You shall desire your husband
He shall rule over you.”
There are 5 things stated by God to the woman.
1. I will greatly increase your painful toil.
Gen 5:29 … and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”
Painful toil is the Hebrew itsabon. It is the painful toil associated with the curse on the land as a result of the sin of the man, see Gen 3:17, in this verse itsabon is translated as pain.
Gen 3:17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
God is telling the woman what a consequence of the man’s actions will be, her work/labor will be made difficult.
2. [I will greatly increase] your pregnancies.
This is a blessing.
Gen 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
From Gen 3:15 the woman knew she would have at least one child, fulfilling the command to be fruitful and multiply. Now she hears she will have multiple pregnancies.
3. You shall birth children in pain.
This is the expected result from multiple pregnancies, she will birth multiple children, not just one child. This again is a blessing from God, but the birth process itself is expected to be labor with pain.
4. You shall desire your husband.
This is yet another blessing and is an expectation in marriage. In order to fulfill her destiny of multiple children, she will desire her husband. More on this later.
5. He shall rule over you.
This is NOT a command to the man, as it is not said to the man. It is not a command to the woman, as it is not in the form of a command, such as “obey your husband.” What it is is a warning about what to expect from being married to the deliberate sinner that blamed her for his sin.
So we see that three of the five things God tells the woman are blessings and the other two are what to expect in the future as a result of the man’s past actions and future actions. The categories of the items God tells the woman in Gen 3:16 need not been seen as negatives or curses and they should not be influenced by the curses associated with the serpent’s actions and the man’s actions found before and after.
“Desire your husband”
Back to “desire your husband”. The Hebrew is teshuqah.
The literal of Son 7:10 is
I to-darling-of-me and-on-me impulse-of-him.
or I [am] my beloved’s and he desires me.
This is in the context of a relationship between the lovers in Song of Songs, which shows that the desire is God-given and good in this case.
What are we to make of the structural similarities between the two uses of teshuqah in Genesis 3:16 and 4:6.
You shall desire your husband and he shall rule over you.
Its [sin’s] desire is for you but you should rule over it.
The use of teshuqah/desire and mashal/rule in both is not a coincidence.
Gen 4:6b literal is: and-to-you impulse-of-him and-you you-are-ruling in-him.
Gen 3:16b literal is: and-to man-of-you impulse-of-you and-he he-shall-rule in-you.
There is a deliberate repetition of the structure. The verbs map to each other, teshuqah/desire and mashal/rule. Let’s try mapping the nouns, the man maps to Cain and the woman maps to (personified) sin? This will not do, the woman should NOT be mapped to sin, so something is wrong with that possible mapping.
My take is that these verses give a wrong way to rule and a right way to rule. We are to rule over ourselves, but a man is not to rule over a woman in marriage, that truly is one result of the fall in Gen 3. Just as we seek to reverse the effects of the fall and mitigate them when they cannot be totally reversed, so should we reject the idea of a husband ruling over his wife.
Note that the word mashal is the normal term for rule, it is not necessarily a harsh rule or a benevolent rule, it is a generic term for ruling without any necessary negative or positive connotations, those are provided by other contextual clues. In this case, it is an unauthorized usurpation.
submitted for “A Week of Mutuality: June 4-10, 2012”