Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Genesis 3:17-19
When Eve sinned, she was cursed. Adam was to work hard, sweat and toil. Eve was to have painful childbirth, desire to please her husband, and be ruled over by him. Isn’t that what the bible says?
Well… Not exactly.
I don’t believe God was laying down a punishment; I believe he was explaining to His children what natural consequences they will now face because of their choices.
I tell my child not to touch a hot stove, or she will be burned. She doesn’t believe me. That mean mama, always trying to ruin her fun! Why, I’m probably just trying to control her. She must be missing out on something wonderful.
She touches the stove.
She gets burned.
She yells in pain, and runs to hide behind the couch. When I find her, she feels so ashamed she won’t meet my eyes. She is crying softly from the pain of the burn.
I pull her into my arms and assess the size of the blister already forming.
“Mama, it hurts so much.” She cries.
“Yes baby, I know it hurts. You didn’t listen, and touched the hot stove. It’s going to hurt for a long time now, sweetheart. You won’t be able to use this hand for a few days. We will have to keep medicine and a bandaid on it, and keep it very clean. You won’t be able to play in the sandbox until it’s better.”
Did I curse or punish her? During this conversation, was I telling her that because of her disobedience, I would cause her to suffer pain? That I would cause her to be unable to use this hand? That I would cause her to feel sad for all the things she would miss out on while healing?
Did I want her to suffer a burn?
Explaining a natural consequence is not the same as setting a punishment.
Do we believe in a merciful and loving, and just Father? If he is truly a God who would never give His child a snake when they ask for a fish, why do we believe He would curse us?
This conversation in Genesis isn’t a curse. It is a loving Father scooping His children in His arms, and explaining what will happen next.
He tells them that yes, it hurts, and it will hurt for a long time.
He tells Eve that childbirth will be more difficult, that her desire will be for her husband, and that she will be ruled over by him. This isn’t God’s will! This is a physical manifestation of our loss of identity and relationship with God. It’s us suffering our burn. But the suffering is NOT part of God’s will. (which is kinda the whole point of redemption.)
Why does a cat have an easier time giving birth than a human woman? Interestingly, the more we learn about hormones, and the intricate dance of natural childbirth, the more we learn it’s about fear. In healthy, uncomplicated births, the more fear a woman feels the more pain she feels. The stress hormones wage war with the birth hormones. Her body is receiving hormonal signals to both clamp down and flee, and also to open and relax. This inner battle increases pain, can lengthen or stall labor, and can cause complications. (not medical advice. Just my experience as a homebirth mom of 4, and from my own reading.)
A cat doesn’t fight her own body. If she doesn’t feel safe, she won’t labor. She will hide in a dark closet where she feels protected, and her body can do what it is supposed to do. The cat hasn’t lost her identity and relationship through sin. She knows what she is.
After the Fall, there was fear in the world. The woman lost the wholeness of truth in her relationship with God, and her identity in Him. Part of the consequence of this would be stress hormones. Her pain would naturally be increased. Not because a Loving God wanted her to suffer, but because the burn hurts.
Did you know this verse has historically been used by the church to intentionally increase the pain of women in childbirth? In some places women in childbirth were forbidden to be helped by anyone, except shepherds. In many places women would be executed by the church for taking herbs to assist birth, or relieve the pain. In 1591 a woman in Scotland is recorded as having been burned at the stake for requesting a pain-reducing medicine during a difficult birth. Thus angering God who wanted to see her suffer. (because apparently God prefers orphaned children to seeing a woman’s pain eased.)
In ultra conservative churches it is still often seen as a moral failing for women to accept pain medication or interventions during birth. (I’m all about personal choice. I chose no medications, but if someone else chooses elective c-section, more power to you!)
Interestingly I’ve never heard of a man being burned at the stake for using an iron blade on his plough, instead of stone. Or inventing the wheel. Or breeding crops to be more productive. Or anything else that could be seen as “circumventing the punishment of God.” that he sweat and toil. Seems that line of thinking was reserved only for women.
This was not a command that the woman was to fix her husband as the end-all-be-all object of her desire. This was a natural result of her loss of identity in God, and solid relationship with Him. She now lived in a world where insecurity existed. And security was one of her greatest needs. She forgot that God was the true source of safety, and began looking to her husband for it. This need for security would drive her to in essence make a sort of mini deity out of her husband, in an effort to feel safe.
This is not the will of God. It is a result of broken relationship and identity. A result of sin.
God did not curse Eve to be forever “ruled over” by her husband. He was explaining how the power dynamic would deteriorate due to loss of true identity and relationship.
Just as the woman would be inclined to put her husband on a pedestal to fulfill her own desires for safety, the man would be inclined to power over the woman for his own desires of
Both were now trying to get something from the other. Marriage was no longer naturally relational. Now both spouses would have to fight their own desires to keep marriage from being transactional. Usually they would fail. And the man would rule over the woman.
God was not saying this was a good thing!
Let’s imagine my daughter’s older brother witnessed the burn. Let’s imagine he heard me explaining the healing process.
He then sees her watching cartoons, not visibly hurting. He walks up to her. He pokes her burn. When she cries he says “Mom says that’s what you get for touching the stove!”
2 days later, he notices the wound is healing. He grabs her hand and reinjures it. “Mom says that’s what you get for touching the stove!”
She begins to feel better and starts using her hand again. He loudly proclaims she is forbidden to use that hand! “Mom says that’s what you get for touching the stove!”
Jesus came to heal the world. To redeem it.
We can’t preach His redemption, while also insisting on clinging to this misunderstood “curse.” God became man and died on a cross to bring us healing… But we use Him to justify keeping Eve wounded.