“To the woman he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’”
Explanation and Commentary of Genesis 3:16
Eve disobeyed God when she listened to the half-truths and slick deceptions of the evil one. Nothing we do for evil is without consequences, and for the first man and woman, the reckoning was swift and specific. Because Adam and Eve were representative of the whole of humanity, their consequences would be our consequences. For as in Adam, all die (1 Cor 15:22). And all women must deal with pain in not only childbirth but child-raising. All women will also fall on the spectrum of having to face a variation of discontent with marriage. In some epochs, it meant abuse. In others, it meant frustration and envy.
But Jesus Christ has come to reverse the effects of the curse. As in Adam all die, but as in Christ, all shall live. The hard truth that Adam is representative and that is bad for his progeny, gives way by the same wonderful principle that Christ is the vicarious man, represented in his atoning death on the cross for sinners who will repent. Women who follow Christ will have to reckon with pain in childbirth until the return of Christ, whether by modern medicine, or agony, but they can be restored in marriage to a godly submission to their husbands, who hopefully are also regenerate and love and lead her like Christ leads the Church.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Genesis 3:16
#1 “To the woman he said,”
While the justice of God in Scripture often is handed down to the generations of those who he considers representatives—rulers, priests, husbands, fathers—God deals with each individual particularly when it comes to their own sin. He sees each one and rewards each one, but also holds each one accountable.
#2 “‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.”
This mostly concerns the actual act of giving birth. Just as any pain can be mitigated by medical procedures and medicine, labor pain can be virtually erased, and it should not be considered necessary for women to experience it. Jesus’ death on the cross is the punishment for our sin, especially for those who believe. There was never any atonement in the pain of labor.
#3 “Your desire will be for your husband,”
The grammatical structure makes it difficult to know exactly what is meant by this. It either means that the woman will desire her husband, longing for something from him that she cannot get, becoming bitter and depressed, or it means that she will desire his role. Either way, marital peace is in great jeopardy and can even be difficult for Christians.
#4 “and he will rule over you.”
Contrary to the misinterpretation by egalitarians, headship was not a product of the fall to be reversed by Christ’s finished work. Marital conflict, abuse, rebelliousness were the effects of the fall. Godly headship in marriage was part of the original creation. Men and women, husbands and wives, are equals in the sight of God, but each is assigned a different role. The husband is the head of his wife (1 Cor 11:3) just as Christ is the head of the Church, and God is the head of Christ. As there is no conflict between Christ and the Father, there can exist a redeemed marriage with no conflict between a man and his God-given helpmeet (Gen 2:18).
Bible Study on Genesis 3:16
Expert Overview of Genesis Ch. 1-11
Biblical Translations of Genesis 3:16
To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
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.”
To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.