Genesis 3:16 reads, “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.” Before we take a closer look at this verse where God tells the woman the consequences of her sin, it should be noted that quite a few interpretations have been given and commentators are divided on its meaning. The first part is clear, for we know that as a result of the woman’s sin she would experience pain in childbearing. It’s the latter half of the verse that has students of Scripture “scratching their heads.”

We will approach this verse by asking two questions: “What is meant by her desire?” and “What is meant by his rule?” The word “desire” is the Hebrew word teshuqah, which appears only two other times in Scripture. The first reference is Genesis 4:7 which says, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (NASB). God is speaking to Cain in this verse and the thought seems to be that “sin had a desire to rule over Cain, but Cain needs to rule over it.” The second passage is Song of Solomon 7:10 which reads, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” Here the “desire” is one for intimacy. Many have thought that this is the meaning in Genesis 3:16; that as a result of the Fall Eve would have a sexual desire for her husband. But a desire for intimacy doesn’t seem like a consequence of sin, but rather a GOOD DESIRE from God and one that would allow Adam and Eve to obey the command given in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Others believe the meaning in Genesis 4:7 sheds light on our verse and that just as sin desired to rule over Cain, so Eve would now have a desire to rule over Adam. That is a BAD DESIRE and is indeed a consequence of the sin that came in through the Fall. This “desire” would run contrary to God’s order, for Genesis 2:18 tells us that God created the woman to be a help mate for Adam, and Genesis 1:28 teaches us she was to share in the dominion that God had given to Adam, not to dominate him.

This desire on the part of Eve to rule over her husband would result in a “power struggle” between them, for God declared to her that “he shall rule over thee.” The word “rule” means “power or dominion.” Adam’s rule over her could be referring to the place God has given to the husband to be the “leader” in the home, where he would lovingly care for his wife and seek to meet her every need. Or, it could be speaking of him exercising an unhealthy leadership role where he lords it over his wife. In either case there would be conflict in the marriage relationship because of sin.

Thank God that the story doesn’t end there, for 1 Timothy 1:15 declares that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” When a husband and wife have received the Lord Jesus as their Savior they have a new DESIRE to please God and to fulfill the roles He has for them in their marriage. By the grace of God wives can obey the command in Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” And that same grace will enable husbands to heed the instruction of Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” The woman no longer needs to be dominated by sin which causes her to rebel against her husband and his God-given authority, and the man can resist the urge to lord it over his wife whom God has given to him to love and cherish.  (184.6)  (DO)