Desire” in Gen 3:16: Perspective from Ethiopic Literature

“Desire” in Gen 3:16: Perspective from Ethiopic Literature

This paper looks at the matrimonial implication of the term “desire” in the Ethiopic reception of Gen 3:16. It deals with the biblical texts translated by the Catholic Mission, YeEthipia Liqawint, Mahibre Hawariat and Abba Rukh. Besides, it engages with the traces of Gen 3:16 in the Genesis, Jubilees and Aksimaros Andǝmta commentaries (the traditional commentary in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) and the Këbra Nagast and Masahafa Täklil (selected Ethiopic literature that receives Gen 3:1).
The biblical translation of the Catholic Mission, YeEthipia Liqawint, Mahibre Hawariat; the Genesis, Jubilees, Aksimaros Andǝmta commentaries and Këbra Nagast follow the LXX use of ἀποστροφή or “return;” and states that the woman returns to her husband. These Ethiopic documents use the Gǝʿǝz ምግባእ or mǝgba’ for the Greek ἀποστροφή. Mǝgba’ connotes “an entry,” “a returning place”, or “a place for coming back.”
Moreover, these documents incorporate the phrase “after you give birth” or “ወወሊደኪ” that creates consecutiveness between the woman’s pain and return to the husband. Thereupon, the above corpora imply that after the delivery in agony, she returns to the man. The Gǝʿǝz ምግባእ, on the one hand, prefigures the walk of the wife towards the husband. On the other hand, it connotes the husband’s position of a safe place. Unlike the above writings, the translation of Abba Rukh follows the MT use of תשוקה or “desire.” This implies that the woman gives birth in pain and desires her husband.
The Ethiopic literature does not explicitly discuss the reason for her return. Yet, distinctively, the Genesis Andǝmta, in its’ Amharic Comment of Gen 3:16, discusses the return of the faith community to God. They return to receive grace and glory from God. The parallelism between the return of the woman and the return of the faith community suggests that the woman returns to her husband to gain positive reimbursement. One of the meanings of “ምግባእ,” “a place of return”, substantiates the above proposition.
John Chrysostom’s writing follows the LXX use of “return.” Accordingly, he presents the husband as a place of refuge for the wife. In line with this use, VanderKam, in his translation of the book of Jubilees, translates the verse as follows: “I will indeed multiply your sadness and your pain. Bear Children in sadness. Your place of refuge will be with your husband; he will rule over you.” Using the term “refuge” supports the proposal that Gen 3:16 describes the husband as a “safe place” for the wife. In general, the matrimonial implication of the Ethiopic reception of Gen 3:16 shows variation in its implication of the woman’s return/desire towards the husband. Most of them use the Gǝʿǝz ምግባእ. With this use, they imply that in the marital union, the woman faces great agony of birth-giving. Afterwards, she comes to her husband, who is her comfort place.

5 thoughts on “Desire” in Gen 3:16: Perspective from Ethiopic Literature”

  1. Should be considered for a
    Should be considered for a different section–only of minimal interest to those in our society and narrative studies group. Probably a better fit for an SBL section.

    Reply
  2. kidist Bahru Gemeda
    Yes, I agree that this is not a good fit for our section, but could perhaps fit in another section (yet SBL has more relevant sections for this paper). . . on Ethiopic, etc.

    Reply

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