Category Archives: Genesis 3

Some things Genesis 3 tells us about men and women

From the language of Genesis 3, I see that Adam was tasked with fulfilling a command. God held him personally responsible for that command being followed (3:11). Because of Adam’s disobedience, the earth was cursed (3:17); death came in for a time.

Adam accused Eve of giving him the forbidden fruit; God questions Eve about this act. She then confesses that she has eaten of the fruit as well.

Interestingly, God doesn’t tell Eve that her actions are a consequence of her behavior, as He does with the serpent and with Adam. He pronounces that there will now be suffering in childbirth and rivalry between women and men.

Even though I know it’s unpopular, I also see in Genesis 3 an image of the spheres in which God envisioned men and women carrying out their work. The fact that women are the ones to give birth places them at the heart of the family in a way that men will never be able to imitate. In the same way, men have a responsibility for provision which lies more heavily on their shoulders. I’m not criticizing women who work outside the home nor condemning men who stay home while their wives earn a living; I’m merely observing the way things were in the beginning.

All of this suggests a framework that existed before the fall, that was ruptured by Adam’s sin. What once was a harmonious relationship between men and women becomes a power struggle. That’s exactly what we see in the rest of the book of Genesis and much of the Bible.

Reversing the curse means taking away those contentious interactions. It’s a return to loving leadership on the part of men, recognizing that their wives are the ideal partners in their service to God.

Singular and plural in Genesis 3

One of the problems with studying the Bible in English is that most translations don’t differentiate between singular “you” and plural “you.” One place where that becomes very noticeable is Genesis 3. As we start looking at this chapter, I want to present the text (from the HCSB) with clarification as to who is being addressed in each verse. That’s a start to understanding this chapter. Reflect on this, then we’ll continue our discussion in the next post:


1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You (Eve and Adam) can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You (Eve and Adam) must not eat it or touch it, or you (Eve and Adam) will die.’”

4 “No! You (Eve and Adam) will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your (Eve and Adam) eyes will be opened and you (Eve and Adam) will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you (Adam)?”

10 And he said, “I heard You (God) in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”

11 Then He asked, “Who told you (Adam) that you (Adam) were naked? Did you (Adam) eat from the tree that I commanded you (Adam) not to eat from?”

12 Then the man replied, “The woman You (God) gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.”

13 So the Lord God asked the woman, “What is this you (Eve) have done?”

And the woman said, “It was the serpent. He deceived me, and I ate.”

14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent:

Because you (serpent) have done this,
you (serpent) are cursed more than any livestock
and more than any wild animal.
You (serpent) will move on your (serpent) belly
and eat dust all the days of your (serpent) life.
15 I will put hostility between you (serpent) and the woman,
and between your (serpent) seed and her seed.
He will strike your (serpent) head,
and you (serpent) will strike his heel.
16 He said to the woman:

I will intensify your (Eve) labor pains;
you (Eve) will bear children in anguish.
Your (Eve) desire will be for your (Eve) husband,
yet he will rule over you (Eve).
17 And He said to Adam, “Because you (Adam) listened to your (Adam) wife’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you (Adam), ‘Do not eat (singular verb) from it’:

The ground is cursed because of you (Adam).
You (Adam) will eat from it by means of painful labor
all the days of your (Adam) life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you (Adam),
and you (Adam) will eat the plants of the field.
19 You (Adam) will eat bread by the sweat of your brow
until you (Adam) return to the ground,
since you (Adam) were taken from it.
For you (Adam) are dust,
and you (Adam) will return to dust.”
20 Adam named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.

22 The Lord God said, “Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.
(Parenthetical statements added by Tim Archer)

Male leadership a consequence of The Fall? Where’s the biblical evidence?

So yesterday’s question was: “Can you think of a New Testament writer who described the current (in their day) state of male-female relations as being a result of The Curse?” I’d still like to hear from anyone who can think of an example. Because I can’t.

There are some references, though largely symbolic, to God’s words to the serpent:

“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17)
“He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:2)
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:18–19)

There are references to God’s words to Adam:

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:20–22)
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.” (Romans 5:12–14)
“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22)

The New Testament argues that the curse on the ground will be lifted. The punishment of death, that came through Adam’s sin, will be undone. (Will there be a lifting of the curse on the serpent? Maybe, if you take Isaiah 11:6-9 as a description of the fulfilled Kingdom)

What I don’t see is any reference to the creation story followed by an indication that the relationship between men and women should be changed because of it. Sin is said to have come in through one man, as is death. There’s nothing saying that male leadership, male headship, women’s submission, or anything related came about because of the Garden. In fact, I can’t think of any Old Testament passages that make such an argument, either. (Again, with the possible exception of Genesis 3:16, though I find that interpretation to be forced on the text rather than read out of it)

I think anyone wanting to make that argument should do so with caution and humility. At most you have a possible interpretation of one less-than-clear text on your side.

The woman desiring her husband in Genesis 3… it might not mean what I thought

01_Ge_03_04_RGAs I was doing some work on Genesis 1-3 for an upcoming Bible class, I ran across an interesting group of articles on Genesis 3:16. (Naturally I run across this right after posting an article on the same over at Wineskins)

Not that it should matter, but I’ll mention that these articles happened to be written by women. And they take an interesting view, one which emphasizes context (thereby hitting one of my hot buttons).

One is a journal article by Susan Foh titled “What Is The Woman’s Desire?
The second is an article by Claire Smith called “A Sidebar Called Desire.” I should point out that this one is linked to a countering view: “Problems With A New Reading Of An Old Verse,” by Wendy Alsup.

The view espoused by Foh and Smith concerns the use of the word desire in Genesis 3:16—

“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

These women note that the Hebrew word translated “desire” is used three times in the Old Testament: here, in Genesis 4, and in the Song of Solomon. In the Song of Solomon, it appears to refer to sexual desire. But in Genesis 4, it means something very different:

“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

I’ll confess, I’d never noticed the amazingly similar language between Genesis 4:7 and Genesis 3:16. Foh summarizes her study in this way:

Contrary to the usual interpretations of commentators, the desire of the woman in Genesis 3:16b does not make the wife (more) submissive to her husband so that he may rule over her. Her desire is to contend with him for leadership in their relationship. This desire is a result of and a just punishment for sin, but it is not God’s decretive will for the woman. Consequently, the man must actively seek to rule his wife.

I’m not completely ready to buy this, but the evidence from the text is powerful. I’m not looking for a debate about gender roles (nor will I participate in one), but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this interpretation of Genesis 3.

Image courtesy of Sweet Publishing