Thoughts on “the curse” in Genesis 3

In Genesis 3, we find God’s pronouncements as to the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin. The consequences for the serpent are announced first, for Eve second, and for Adam third.

Here are some general thoughts:

  • God speaks of enmity between the serpent and the woman. Interesting that Adam isn’t mentioned. Is that because of the previous interaction between the serpent and Eve? Should we think in terms of actual serpents or Satan himself? Or both?
  • There are messianic overtones to the statements about “the descendants,” especially as the part about wounding the heel and crushing the head are spoken in singular.
  • The first part of the pronouncement about the woman is limited in effect; that is, it only applies to women.
  • What God says about woman desiring man is extremely similar to what God says to Cain in Genesis 4:7. The two sentences are almost identical grammatically. That has to be taken into consideration when interpreting Genesis 3:16. Remember that there was no big number 4 in the Hebrew text; the proximity of the two texts demands that they be considered together.
  • There is no mention of “curse” in what God says about Eve. That is, the text doesn’t use the term “curse.”
  • In contrast, God says that the earth itself will be cursed because of Adam’s sin.
  • God only announces death for Adam, yet other biblical texts say that Adam’s sin brought death to all mankind.

What other thoughts occur to you when reading Genesis 3:14-19?

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on “the curse” in Genesis 3

  1. Nick Gill

    God curses neither Adam nor Eve directly. However, the consequence of death seems to derive from or be closely related to the curse on the ground. Adam and Eve were made from the ground — the ground was cursed with futility — “from the ground you came and so from the ground you shall return.”

    The curse is upon the rest of creation, but it has a real effect on humankind. Those effects – none of them – are for creation or humanity’s good.

    I agree that Gen 3:16 announces a struggle as a consequence of sin. She will desire to control him (just as sin desires to control Cain) but he will dominate her instead. My NET notes point to a 1975 article in Westminster Theological Journal: “What is the Woman’s Desire?” (WTJ 37, 1975, 376-383). The whole passage acts as a judgment oracle.

  2. Tim Archer Post author

    I find the Foh article, the one referenced by NET, to be quite helpful.

    (Mentioned that in one Facebook group and the moderator accused the NET of pandering to complementarians)

  3. Nick Gill

    Well, the note on the second half of Gen 3:16 is pretty solidly complementarian in its explanation of the “NT Ideal.”

  4. Nick Gill

    “The Hebrew verb mashal means “to rule over,” but in a way that emphasizes powerful control, domination, or mastery. This also is part of the baser human nature. The translation assumes the imperfect verb form has an objective/indicative sense here. Another option is to understand it as having a modal, desiderative nuance, “but he will want to dominate you.” In this case, the Lord simply announces the struggle without indicating who will emerge victorious. This passage is a judgment moracle. It announces that conflict between man and woman will become the norm in human society. It does not depict the NT ideal, where the husband sacrificially loves his wife, as Christ loved the church, and where the wife recognizes the husband’s loving leadership in the family and voluntarily submits to it. Sin produces a conflict or power struggle between the man and the woman, but in Christ man and woman call a truce and live harmoniously. (Eph 5:18-32)”

  5. Charles

    They strike me as a collection of “just so” stories. “Daddy, why do all of the animals except snakes have feet?” “And Daddy, why are we so afraid of snakes anyway?” “Daddy, why do the sheep just graze effortlessly on the grass and we have to plow this hard ground?” “Daddy why does it hurt so much for mama to have a baby?” Eat cetera, et cetera.

    Also, I have never heard a decent explanation why Adam and Eve didn’t die the very day they ate the fruit, as God promised.

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