Sunday, June 28, 2009


The Curse: Your Desire Will be for Your Husband

I have been unable to shake a thought my spiritual parents shared with me this past weekend--that our confusion over gender roles has its roots in sin's curse, as described by God in Genesis 3:16:
To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
Perhaps this isn't hot off the news wire, but here's the part that's stuck with me ... I'd always wondered about the "desire will be for your husband" part. I had the vague sense that this language meant that the woman would be unable to shake an emotional dependency on the man, one which would lead her to bend to his subjugation ("he will rule over you").

But Pastor Allen and Miriam shared with me a different thought. It seems the language of "desire" in this instance is like that in Genesis 4:7b, where God warns Cain, "But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

The New Living Translation tries to capture this language, as it translates 3:16b: "And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you."

This translation captures more closely the power struggle that sin prompts between men and women. It's more than just dependency and subjugation, it is a struggle for control brought upon us by the curse of sin. The woman's desire will be frustrated by the man's physical strength, so she must resort to subtler manipulations to wrest control away. He then responds with his own sinful impulse to crush her resistance.

John Piper captures the problem this way:
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. As a rule men have more brute strength than women and so they can rape and abuse and threaten and sit around and snap their finger. It's fashionable to say those sorts of things today. But it's just as true that women are sinners. We are in God's image male and female; and we are depraved, male and female. Women may not have as much brute strength as men but she knows ways to subdue him. She can very often run circles around him with her words and where her words fail she knows the weakness of his lust. If you have any doubts about the power of sinful woman to control sinful man just reflect for a moment on the number one marketing force in the world — the female body. She can sell anything because she knows the universal weakness of man and how to control him with it. The exploitation of women by sinful men is conspicuous because it is often harsh and violent. But a moment's reflection will show you that the exploitation of men by sinful women is just as pervasive in our society.
It is into this power struggle that Paul's exhortation to men and women gains special significance:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
The wife must no longer seek to control but to submit ... the husband no longer to subjugate but to love sacrificially. It is truly counterintuitive to our sinful inclinations, and especially difficult and wonderful in its application.


  1. Some years ago, a member of our church gave me a tape by a minister, speaking on marriage. In it, the minister gave the opinion that this part of Genesis 3:16 taught us the reason why his wife tried to look nice for him, and so he counted it a good thing. I have a recollection of Miriam's reaction when I shared that with her. As for a much more orthodox take, but a bit different than Pastor Allen and Miriam's, I'll quote from Keil, who may be expressing the view the Jailer has held:

    "The punishment consisted in an enfeebling of nature, in consequence of sin, which disturbed the normal relation between body and soul. - The woman had also broken through her divinely appointed subordination to the man; she had not only emancipated herself from the man to listen to the serpent, but had led the man into sin. For that, she was punished with a desire bordering upon disease and with subjection to the man. 'And he shall rule over thee.' Created for the man, the woman was made subordinate to him from the very first; but the supremacy of the man was not intended to become a despotic rule, crushing the woman into a slave, which has been the rule in ancient and modern Heathenism, and even in Mahometanism also, - a rule which was first softened by the Gospel, and changed into a form more in harmony with the original relation, viz. that of a rule on the one hand, and subordination on the other, which have their roots in mutual esteem and love."

    1. Interesting...also interesting considering the on-going arguments & one currently in progress between myself & my husband. :-(

      Anita Fortner Jones

  2. The Genesis 1, 2 and 3 passages are, IMO, misread in many other ways. In creation, Adam and Eve had a mutually interactive and cooperative relationship. They could control themselves, their conceptions and were partners with God in improving the Garden. That is the only time humans were "normal".

    Genesis 3 shows some of the ways the Fallen Nature disrupts all humanity.

    To men:

    The earth is broken
    Thorns and thistles will grow
    You will work with "flared nostrils" of anger, competition, domination "not just a sweaty brow."
    You will have a compulsive desire to dominate your wife and other women. Sexual desire is part of the "Flared Nostril Competition" not just pleasure.

    To women:
    Your body is broken
    You cannot control conceptions
    You will bring forth and rear children in deep sorrow of mind, emotions and body
    You shall have a compulsive desire to control and dominate your husband despite his compulsive desire to dominate you.

    As a Marriage Therapist I regularly teach this and show that Ephesians 5 is a way to work on the creation norm. I counsel couples to confess and repent to each other and stop trying to change/ dominate the other person and their children. Mutual submission to Christ and to each other is the Garden's ideal. It cannot be accomplished in a legalistic manner. It requires a supernatural intervention by the Holy Spirit. Should and ought teaching will fail to curb compulsions.

    Fallen nature is not God's ideal. It is not good for males to be compulsively competitive nor for females to be compulsively in manipulation.

    1. Can you speak more about the change & domination pieces?

  3. I’d like to start by saying I do enjoy your blog posts and they have assisted me in my current studies to expand on my understanding of Biblical text. This particular subject is challenging for me to identify with for several reasons, the most prominent being “gender equality” versus “moral order.” I’ve discussed this subject with a few others and when I ask the question of why God would place women below men in the moral order by instructing them to ‘submit’ or ‘become subject’ to their husbands I have received mixed answers.

    I understand that the basis of this particular post starts with the expulsion from the Garden and the curse that God laid individually on Adam and Eve. For her, the desire for her husband is followed by the indication of his rule over her. This can also be demonstrated in [Genesis 3:20-3:21] “The man named his wife Eve.” It can be interpreted that since he named all of the other creatures before her solidifying his authority over them this seals the deal on his authority over her as well. [Genesis 2:20]

    At this point my question still stands. Is the current moral order in place because somehow Eve was to pay for her willful participation in eating the forbidden fruit? If this is the case I’d like to offer a separate interpretation, one where there was equal participation:

    [Genesis 1.27] “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” If taken from that point of view, man and woman were created equally, blessed equally, and so have the option of choice in their actions. And even if we go with [2.24] “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Two beings, equally represented are given the power to choose their own life. When Eve was given the option of whether or not to eat the fruit, she chose to openly disobey God: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” [3.7] And Adam in turn did not question her actions or condemn her decision, but he chose to also eat the fruit. On this point I agree with Dr. Phyllis Trible:

    “It does not sustain the judgment that woman is weaker or more cunning or more sexual than man. Both have the same Creator, who explicitly uses the word "good" to introduce the creation of woman [2:18]. Both are equal in birth. There is complete rapport, physical, psychological, sociological, and theological, between them: bone of bone and flesh of flesh. If there be moral frailty in one, it is moral frailty in two. Further, they are equal in responsibility and in judgment, in shame and in guilt, in redemption and in grace. What the narrative says about the nature of woman it also says about the nature of man.”

    A link to this article can be found here:

    Any thoughts on this point would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Denora,
      Thank you for your thought-provoking questions. You are certainly not alone in them as many men and women struggle with these same ideas. I wrote a study a few years back called "The S-Word"--the "s-word" being "submission":) Because of that, Ray asked if I might respond to your questions, at least in part.

      Certainly, the Bible supports and teaches that all people, men and women alike, were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). There is no question as to the equality of personhood, dignity, mutual respect, harmony, and unified destiny intended for all of God's children, regardless of their gender. Your question, as you stated, is about this "gender equality" (Genesis 1:27) verses "moral order" (Genesis 3:16). I would agree with the first phraseology, but not necessarily with the second. Let me explain why and then tell you how I would biblically describe what you referred to as "moral order."

      I'll begin with an analogy I've borrowed from another writer. Suppose there is a pair of ballet dancers, a male and a female. Then suppose their coach tells them they are equally good dancers and will share equally in the applause of the crowd, and then this same coach sends them out onto stage to perform. If that's all the coach told them, they would not perform well. They wouldn't know the moves. They wouldn't know their individual parts, who falls and who catches, who spins and who holds. God established equality between His children at creation (Galatians 3:28), but He would never have left us without roles to play, roles that have nothing to do with importance or equality or punishment, but with His over-arching and all-encompassing love for us.

      These roles, however, were not established in Genesis 3 with the curse levied against either Adam or Eve but in Chapter 2, before the Fall. As a matter of fact, when both Jesus and Paul referred to the complementary roles of men and women, they referred to Genesis 2, not Genesis 3. This conclusion comes from the following observations.

      1. Man was created first. The first thing that Genesis 2 does is make it clear that man was created first (Genesis 2:7) and then after some intervening events woman was created (Genesis 2:21-22). God was establishing a "firstness" of responsibility in man, an order of roles so that the relationship would work.

      2. The man was given the moral pattern (Genesis 2:16-17). There is no record of God giving this personally to Eve; as a matter of fact, she had not been created yet when God gave them to Adam. I believe the implication that Moses is making here is that Adam had been entrusted with this moral pattern and was therefore ultimately responsible for it being followed.

      3. The man was interrogated by God first. Even though Eve ate of the forbidden fruit first, it was Adam to whom God came first about the transgression (Genesis 3:9-11). God gave to man a primary responsibility for the moral pattern for life in the garden and therefore man had a primary responsibility for the failure to live by it.

      4. Satan attacks the woman first (Genesis 3:1). Why would he do that, especially if man was the decision-maker? Satan did not go to Eve because she was gullible or weak or lesser than the man. He drew the woman in first, making her the spokesperson and the moral guardian, because that is precisely what should not have happened.

      In light of these observations, I think a better phraseology instead of "moral order" would be "working order". We don't have a Father who doesn't tell us the moves to the dance, and I'm grateful for that:).

      I hope this helps!
      Dr. Deb

    2. Dr. Deb,

      Thanks for your insightful reply! I'll take this into consideration as I delve futher in my studies.


    3. Denora,

      As a Christian who ponders this subject from time to time, I read your comments with interest, and with rather close attention.

      First of all, I guess I wonder about your premise. As I understand it, it is that “gender equality” is incompatible with “moral order” because “moral order” requires that woman be dominated by man. (Is that a fair representation?) As evidence you cite the curse, where God clearly states that Adam (man) will rule over Eve (woman), and then there is the fact that Adam undertook (presumed?) to name Eve, just as he had named all the other creatures.

      And you wonder why. Why should Eve be made to pay for something which Adam did just as freely and willfully as she? You observe—and rightly so—the many ways in which Adam and Eve are equal, and your quote from Dr. Trible is apt. …”they are equal in responsibility and in judgment, in shame and in guilt….”

      My problem with your premise is the assumption that the history of humankind reflects what God originally intended, that in the moral order which God created and ordained, he divinely placed women below men and gave men the domination over them. I realize that is a common perception in our society, but it is a distortion of the facts as we find them in the biblical account. It actually reflects the curse, not the way it was in the Garden. Let me try to explain.

      As you mention, Adam and Eve were created equal in very important, fundamental ways. Both were created in God’s image. Both received the mandate to be fruitful and multiply, to explore the earth and subdue it. But there is a little fact in Genesis 2:20 that indicates a strategic difference—not in worth, not in intelligence, not in importance, not in capability, but in role and function. To Adam had been given the task of working the garden, taking care of it. But he had “no suitable helper,” and that is why God created Eve from Adam. In other words, Adam was created to be the “head,” to take the lead, and Eve was created to help him.

      Do we not see this everywhere? In dancing one person leads and the other follows; in sports one person is captain and the others follow his lead; in music the melody stands out while the other parts harmonize with it. Likewise, there was harmony in the Garden of Eden. Eve was not stifled. She had no sense of inferiority, no resentment about her role as helper, and there was no bullying or pulling rank on Adam’s part. Such things never entered their minds…until they brought it on themselves.

      It’s interesting that when the serpent came to spoil their bliss (and thus strike a blow at God), he approached the helper rather than the leader. That is not to suggest that Eve was weak or inferior or na├»ve and silly. For whatever reason, she was tricked, deceived. Adam was not deceived. He knew very well that he was defying God’s command. As you suggest, he didn’t even question or advise Eve. He could have said something like, “Eve, I don’t know what this snake is, but I do know that the God who made us told us not to eat of that tree. When he comes to walk with us this evening, I will ask him.” Instead, he unquestioningly followed her lead – a tragic reversal of their roles. (Yet God still honored Adam’s position when he came to confront them. As they hid together, it was to Adam that he called, “Where are you?”) ... (more) ...

    4. (cont'd) God had said that if they ate of the fruit, they would “surely die,” and they did. Immediately they knew that they had lost something irreplaceable. Walks with God in the cool of the day could be no more because they had aligned themselves with the serpent. They were still alive physically, but spiritually they were dead.

      So the punishment was announced. Instead of being helpful, women will want to manipulate, and men to double down on their leadership role. No more loving respect of women (their intuition, their capability, their intellect), just brute subjugation. Down through the ages this has been true, in varying degrees, in the home and in the board room.

      But that was not how God created it. That was not his “moral order.” We have Adam and Eve to thank for it. As the head of the human race, Adam represented all of humanity through all of time when he chose to defy God. That sin was imputed to all of us. We all inherit his sinful nature, and we all are subject to the curse. Men and women vie for authority, the earth grows weeds and thorns, there are earthquakes and hurricanes. That’s the “moral order” we live in.

      The wonderful thing is that God has not abandoned us. He sent a second Adam, one who obeyed God despite sharp temptations not to. He fulfilled all of God’s law, without a mistake.
      But he was punished as though he had broken it all. Why? Because God is love. He would not be just (which he is) if he did not exact due punishment (death) for the sin of mankind, so in his love he provided his own perfect son to be the substitute for those who would believe in him. I am referring, of course, to Jesus, the God-Man, who submitted to death on the cross for their sake.

      We can know that God accepted the sacrifice because he raised Jesus from the dead. Now, just as the first Adam’s sin was imputed to all of his descendants, so the second Adam’s death and righteous life is imputed to those who trust him. They become new people with new desires, new priorities, new behavior, a life which conforms more and more to the character of Jesus. They recognize the tension between their former nature, inherited from Adam, and their new nature, given by Jesus, but the new nature inevitably becomes stronger and dominant. The curse is ameliorated in their homes because husbands learn to love their wives sacrificially, and wives learn to respect their husbands.

      What about outside the home and the church? Should Christian women ever be in a position of authority? Should we have a woman president? I don’t have any problem with it. It’s the Christian home that models Jesus’ relationship to the church, not the state or the corporation.

      My apologies for being rather long-winded! It’s a big subject, but well worth your efforts.

    5. Oh dear... "IN THE SPIRIT WE ARE EQUAL" is a wonderful book written by Dr.Sue Hyatt. It address all of these issues. Her website is GODS WORD FOR WOMEN. Her call is to free women from these oppressions and entanglements so that they may be ready an dable to yield to the call of the Holy Spirit and to utilize his gifts with full assurance and freedom.
      God created "SEXES" NOT "GENDERS". These two words are not interchangable any more than race and ethnicity are. They mean different things. Sex is biological, gender is cultural. Basic sociology. Jesus never taught gender roles. God never instructed us to occupy gender roles. It is the same spirit that gifts me, empowers me and enables me that enables any man. I live my life through Christ who lives in me. Is the spirit of Christ "lesser than" in me? Is the Spirit of the living God lesser than in me? Is God now a respector of persons in determining his impartation of gifts?
      IT IS FINISHED pretty well sums up this whole business about paying for our sin, moral debt and the like. God sent his Son to take care of all of that. His righteousness is imparted to me. Eve sinned. Adam sinned. Jesus paid the debt for both. God chose a woman to birth his plan of salvation... ironic huh/ He could have done it a thousand other ways... why go through the birthing process and use the seed of a woman with no human man involved? May be he was delivering a message ...
      Jesus commissioned the very first apostle- A woman named Mary- and sent her to the brethern. Seems he violated the law of his time, the culture of his time and the legalism that states that women dont teach men...
      Finally- WHERE in the SCRIPTURE does it say that the man is the priest of his family? WE are all equal members of the Royal Priesthood of believers. There is but ONE MEDIATOR between mankind and God . My husband is not my mediator, my righteousness or the one who advocates for me before God's throne.
      JOel Chapter 2 and many other scriptures from the prophetic books speak of the end times in which women will be raised up in spiritual ministry. how are we cripppling the body and the work of the Holy Spirit with these incorrect teachings regarding the position and service of women within the Body of Christ?
      I am free from the curse of sin and from the law. Christ did that. I am empowered and indwelt with the Spirit of the Living God. I am the daughter of the King of Kings. Sinner is not my name nor my inheritance. Deborah resided in law over a nation. Esther was a Queen. Women have always been a vital part of God's kingdom and of Jesus' ministry as well as in the workings of the new testament church.
      My thoughts are not rebellious or those of a "jezebel" . Many many wonderful women who walked before me gave their lives for this freedom of which I speak. Quaker women, Anabaptist women, Pentecosal women... all Godly women who chose to be the bride of Christ and to submit to his teaching rather than to the legalistic constructions on a manmade religion. Consider the story of Mary and Martha the two sisters. Martha was busy doing what good Jewish women do when Jesus came to visit. She performed her "cultural gender role". Did Jesus praise her? Did he rebuke Mary and tell her to go help? NOPE. He praised Mary for " choosing the better way". Mary forsook her appointed duty to do what no woman in her time would have done- she dared to sit at the feet of a rabbi and ask him to teach her. I too choose the better way.

  4. Denora,

    Thank you for your comment. I appreciate that you've taken the time to think this through. However, I don't think we're quite in sync about the terms of the debate.

    1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 are among the more difficult passages to read in the context of our 21st century social economy. To be sure, there is historical context there, as even very orthodox theologians tend to agree that hair and head coverings are not necessarily a timeless Biblical principle. On the other hand, in terms of the basic issue of leadership and submission the Apostle Paul refers to the Order of Creation as well as the Fall of Man to justify his assertions. These certainly are timeless references.

    Having said that, I don't think the Bible holds the woman to be more morally responsible for the Fall than the man. In fact, Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 do not even mention Eve's participation in the event. It is Adam who bears the ultimate responsibility:

    "... sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin ..."
    "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive."

    In the end, I come back to the fundamental idea that God made man and woman of equal worth, both as image-bearers of the Father. Yet in His wisdom he also gave man the leadership role, to lead and to serve the woman, laying down his life for her as Christ laid His life down for the church.

    Grace to you.

    1. Phew! I was happy 2 have read all of the posts so that by the time I arrived @ this reply, things made more sense. Fruitful fodder! :-)


  5. Interestingly enough, my husband keeps referring to this dance analogy!

    Anita Fortner Jones

  6. Anita (Blog Frog) - you might also find Dr Deb's post on this topic worth reading!

    Nice to hear from you! :)

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Interesting interpretation of the passage explaining Eve's curse to desire her husband, and to be ruled by him.

    Remember, though, that God's curse was intended as PUNISHMENT for the sin(s).

    The Bible clearly states WHY Eve saw the fruit as uniquely "desirable to eat" (and notice the SAME root word, "desire"): for gaining WISDOM. In the Bible, the quest for attaining wisdom is considered admirable, since the idea is that God is the source of wisdom, and grants it as a GIFT to mortals. EG a young King Solomon was asked by God in a dream what he desired most, and Solomon answered, "wisdom". Hence God gave Solomon an extra dollop, since Solomon was patient, and didn't just take it without permission (as Adam and Eve did).

    BTW, note that the Genesis account says that the fruit actually DID grant wisdom to them: "their eyes were opened", and it was only AFTER gaining wisdom that they realized that what they had done was a bad thing (and the implication is that Eve and Adam did NOT possess wisdom BEFORE eating, since they saw it as desirable to GAIN wisdom; we don't long for that what we already POSSESS. That raises a question about God's justice, with God blaming fools (those lacking in wisdom) for doing what fools do: act foolishly. What else would you expect a foolish person to do, but act rashly, without considering consequences?)

    The Bible clearly states that Eve and Adam ate the fruit, as they wanted to possess the WISDOM of God, and God admits that they had in fact "become like God" (possessed the wisdom of a God). In other words, the tree was aptly named, and it worked exactly as the serpent and God himself said it would, granting them wisdom.

    So when the curse is given, instead of Eve's originally being desirous of WISDOM, she is told that NO, from now on your curse is to be ruled over by your husband, to be submissive to him, as he's calling the shots. So while she got wisdom, she got it at the cost of being an equal to Adam: that's punishment enough, isn't it? Anyone who's been in a power structure where you cannot change the direction understands the frustration of powerlessness.

    The Paulian beliefs of women not being able to teach in the early Christian congregation confirm the misogynist attitude prevalent in the Bible, OT and NT; Paul knew EXACTLY what the message was and had been, as a Jew.



    According to Christian theology, Jesus' death atoned for the sin of perfect Adam, where perfect man is covered by another perfect sacrifice.

    But what exactly atones for Eve's disobedience? Shouldn't Jesus have been accompanied by a perfect immaculately-conceived twin sister, who died alongside him on HER cross? Or do we see more misogyny in the Bible, as if the sin of the original woman doesn't count, or is covered by Jesus as a "two-fer"?

  9. I think it means her desire will be for her husband (and possibly children) above God. I know most of my friends struggle to not put their husband and children above their love for God.


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