Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

Submission in Marriage - Part 3: "Genesis 3:16...Does the Punishment Fit The Crime?"

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 08 September 2006

"I will greatly increase your
pain in childbearing; in
pain you shall bring forth
children, yet your desire shall
be for your husband, and he
shall rule over you."
-Genesis 3:16
It's almost proverbial to say men don’t understand women. Even their own wives! When Mark and I were married, our vows included a few lines about Mark’s seeking to understand me. Pastor Larson chuckled as he said it. Mark grinned and there was quiet laughter amongst our guests. (This should have been an indication to me then!)
Throughout history, frankly, it’s true. Men do not understand women and women have been degraded. Men have used and abused women, treated them unkindly, unfaithfully, indifferently; have demonstrated little compassion, little sympathy; expecting much and giving back very little in the area of compassion, kindness, tenderness and sympathy. It was true even in Jewish society. Pharisees used to get up every morning and pray, “I thank God that I am not a Gentile or a woman.”

What happened? Last month we flashed-backed to paradise where men and women were created equally in God’s Image. We understood that as a “helper” a woman was in no way created as a secondary being -- since the word “helper” itself refers overwhelmingly in the Old Testament to God Himself! Again, what happened? Obviously there was trouble in paradise. Remember, it’s what happens in those first few scenes that is so terribly important to the rest of the story. So let’s revisit the Garden of Eden to know where things went so dreadfully wrong.
No matter how you read it, what version you read it from, or how you interpret it, Eve took the lead in sin. She acted independently when she ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She disregarded God’s authority and acted on her own behalf. And by taking control, she basically lost it permanently. She sought the delight of the forbidden fruit and lost all delight forever. She wanted to take control and instead lost it for good. And that’s not my interpretation. This is what’s being expressed in the last words of Genesis 3:16 where she receives punishment: “…your desire shall be for your husband.” Some have suggested that this means sexual desire. Well, that’s certainly not punishment. That kind of desire is something God gave before sin entered the picture. God was not cursing Eve by having her desire a physical relationship with her husband. She had always desired that in a perfectly loving way. It means something else. The Hebrew word “desire” as used here is teshuquh {tesh-oo-kaw’}. The only other occurrence of this word within the first five Books of the Bible is in Genesis 4:7. God is speaking to Cain here. He says, “…sin’s desire is for you.” What does that mean? It means sin wants to control you. Sin wants to dominate and overtake your life. But God also told Cain, “…you must rule over it.” It’s the very same expression. The woman desires to control the man and he rules over her. And the husband has the same need to control his wife that Cain had to control sin. I heard once that the imagery here is of a beast waiting to attack. And we know that Cain killed his brother Abel. So sadly, the word “desire” means something quite negative, something that reflects separation and alienation. It’s such an interesting word in its original Hebrew and its use is so specific in Scripture. Its root literally means “to seek control.” Genesis 3:16 could actually read, “…you shall seek control over your husband. You will desire to exert your will, but he shall rule over you.”
There is no reason at this point for men to be puffed up because they rule over women. All people and all the earth are under the curse of sin. Don’t forget: Genesis offers specific verses outlining Adam’s punishment too. The beauty (if that’s the right word) of God’s curse on humankind is that He touched and affected each sex differently and uniquely by limiting our ability to fulfill the role of “His Image.” Does that make sense? See, when God created woman in His Image, he uniquely designed her toward relationships. This includes her husband, her children, her friends, her co-workers etc... Women are social! (Duh!) But because of sin, God took away the complete realization of that. The basic problems faced by women throughout history have been pain in childbearing and relationships under the rule of men. And (TaDa!!) that’s precisely what God said in Genesis 3:16! Loneliness and emptiness in relationships are a woman’s lot in life. That last sentence has huge implications. Think about it. Depression and eating disorders are reflections of emptiness. Women outnumber men when it comes to suffering depression almost 4 to 1! Eating disorders are overwhelmingly a women’s malady. The ratio here is 15 to 1!

We will never know what it would have been like had Eve not eaten that apple. She took the lead. She convinced Adam to do it too. She usurped authority and took the place of leadership. And Adam (knowing full well that he was wrong) submitted to Eve and also usurped God’s authority! Did one of them sin greater? Probably not – they were both punished. Bottomline: Sin hits marriage really hard. It hits hard because both husbands and wives are sinners! The wife, because of her special curse, desires control. The husband, because of his special curse, seeks to crush and overpower her. And there’s the conflict. Is the answer really as simple as Biblical Submission? Next month: "New Testament – New Covenant – New Rules."

-- Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
(This article originally appeared in Windows - The monthly church-news & ministry newsletter of Crane Community Chapel.)

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