Reconsidering the Universal Plight of Women: An Exegesis of Genesis 3:16

Through an exegetical study of Genesis 3:16 and a survey of the literature pertaining thereto, this paper will provide an informed interpretation of the text to prove that, as a result of the fall, God’s curse on the woman is found, not in childbirth or a power struggle between her and her husband, but in her relationships, both with her children and her husband. This study is of importance to the field of theological anthropology since Genesis 3:16b has long been appealed to, first, as a basis for the origins of a woman’s pain in childbirth as can be seen in the majority of English translations and the influential work of scholars like C. John Collins, Derek Kidner, and John H. Sailhamer. Secondly, Genesis 3:16c has widely been interpreted as detailing the origins of a power struggle between men and women with ramifications for, not only societal institutions in general, but also for more sacred institutions such as the family and the local church. This view has been popularized by the work of Susan T. Foh and subsequently found in the commentary of scholars such as Victor P. Hamilton, Tremper Longman, Kenneth H. Matthews, and Bruce K. Waltke. However, are these interpretations of the text correct or have these interpretations been misleading? Taking into consideration the lexical evidence, this paper argues that Genesis 3:16b has less to do with the traditional notion of labor pains and more to do with the emotional grief and anguish that has come to surround the entirety of producing children. Regarding Genesis 3:16c, this paper considers the rare biblical usage of תשוקה by taking into account the recent work of James Condren and Susan Brayford and the extrabiblical usage of תשוקה as well as its contrast to משל. Through this study, it can be seen that the post-fall relationship between the woman and the man has less to do with power struggles and more to do with a woman’s desire to find emotional support and fulfilment in her husband even while he responds to her with a harsh and domineering spirit.

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