The Seed as the Object of Eve’s “Desire” in Genesis 3:15–16 in Light of the Imago and Missio Dei

In light of the imago and missio Dei and using the tools of discourse analysis, this paper will develop a biblical theology of seed, suffering, and sorrow to propose an alternative understanding of Genesis 3:16 compared with traditional positions. God’s creation of humankind in His image informs the background of Genesis 3:15–16. Prior to the fall, God commissioned humans to be fruitful and cultivate the fruitfulness of the land as His representatives on earth. When Adam and Eve sinned, their commission did not change, but it became difficult and filled with sorrow.

Central to this argument is a fresh examination of the Hebrew word אִישׁ that builds on the exegetical work of David Klingler and Charles Baylis. Every major English translation of Genesis 3:16 renders אִישׁ as “husband.” This translation hampers exegetes from fully appreciating the narrative flow of Genesis and impedes intertextual connections. This paper will argue that אִישׁ should be translated as “man,” referring to the Serpent Crusher foretold in Genesis 3:15. Eve’s anticipation of God’s promised seed is apparent in Genesis 4:1 and 25, along with the suffering and sorrow that accompanies bearing God’s seed (Genesis 4:8–11).

This paper will trace the intertwined motifs of seed, suffering, and sorrow connected with the missio Dei from Genesis to Revelation. Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 contrast the two seeds and the two desires. Through conflict and turmoil, these two seeds are traced through the remainder of the book and throughout the biblical narrative. Eve’s desire to carry this promised seed is echoed in Hannah’s anguishing cry to God, asking for a “male seed” (1 Samuel 1:11). Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul, the conduit of the ultimate seed (Luke 2:35). 1 Timothy 2:14–15 further supports the view that while Eve was deceived, she was blessed to be part of God’s salvific solution. As the church continues the work of carrying the seed, Jesus warns that, like a mother in labor, she will experience suffering and sorrow (John 16:20–22).

Not only does the calling to be part of the missio Dei require suffering and sorrow, the coming seed Himself would also suffer. Expanding on the seed metaphor, Isaiah prophesied of the coming suffering servant, a “root” and a “tender shoot,” who would be a “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:2–3). In climactic fashion, Revelation 12 mirrors the scene described in Genesis 3:15–16, with a woman in labor, the deceiving serpent, and identifying Jesus as the ultimate ruler (Revelation 12:1–5, 9, 17).

Discourse analysis allows readers to make interpretive decisions about the proper translation of אִישׁ in light of the author’s narrative structure and purposes. A biblical theology of the missio Dei makes connections between this pericope and the whole canon of Scripture, from creation to the consummation. When properly understood, Genesis 3:16 reiterates the protoevangelion and the suffering and sorrow required to bring it to fulfillment.

6 thoughts on “The Seed as the Object of Eve’s “Desire” in Genesis 3:15–16 in Light of the Imago and Missio Dei”

  1. Allen, The Seed as the Object of Eve’s “Desire” in Genesis 3:15–
    I’m afraid that a lexeme is being made the mule for what should be a more complex understanding of Adam in redemptive history.

  2. There are some interesting BT
    There are some interesting BT connections here, but the direct connection of these major thematic trajectories to the linguistic assertion about Gen 3 seems tenuous.


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