Pushback....

"Doesn't the bible teach that God cursed women by making them subject/subordinate to men?"


[Note: This is a simple summary of the detailed data in the syllabus. Refer there for sources/discussion. Updated: 01/02/97]
The main point here is that God's statements to Eve in Gen 3 are understood in a particular way:
To the woman he said,
"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you."
(Gen 3.16)
So, some have argued that part of Eve's punishment is that the man will "rule" over her--forever (or at least till the curse is lifted).

I personally don't think this is in view here, for the following reasons:

  1. This is actually not introduced with a 'curse' formula--only the ground and the serpent are stated as being 'cursed' (3.14,17).

  2. God's actions are limited to the first half of the verse--the discomfort in childbearing (e.g. physical, mental, emotional, or some combo of these)

  3. The 2nd half of the verse looks more like a prediction or observation as to how the future will unfold.

  4. The word for "your desire" and "rule" , and the exact set of prepositions and word order occur in Gen 4.7b: But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.". Cain will face a struggle for self-mastery with sin. The obvious import of the 4.7 passage is that sin desires to 'dominate' Cain, but that Cain must 'fight back'.

    The fact that the verbs for "rule" are the same tense and mood, make me wonder why commentators translate 3.16 as "will rule" and 4.7 as "must rule". I cannot find any comments in the literature about this, although 4.7 is the more accepted rendering ("must rule"=>"must attempt to rule") of the two.

    So, if these forms/structures are indeed identical, and if 4.7 is generally accepted as a "must try to rule" and "desire (to rule)", THEN Gen 3.16b becomes something like this:

    You will desire to rule over your husband;
    And (at the same time) he will struggle diligently to rule over you
    -- a perpetual power struggle...

    There is no indication that there is a 'winner' in this struggle, but history has shown us that all have been losers.

  5. The other piece of data that might suggest that God was making a prediction of 'male dominance' (historically) comes from anthropological research. Grenz/Kjesbo refer to the work of Peggy Reeves Sanday (WS:WIC:167):
    The anthropological research of Peggy Reeves Sanday indicates that in addition to biological sexual distinctions, the nature of the environment in which a society develops influences male and female roles. A hostile environment, she argues, readily leads to male domination, whereas relative equality between the sexes is most frequently found when the environment is beneficent. Indeed, in the biblical narrative, human sin results in both a hostile environment (a cursed ground) and male dominance.
    What this would mean for my understanding of this verse is that the struggle of 3.16b would result (early in history) in more male dominance--due to the harsher environment. [However, other studies indicate that in 'pioneering' environments, such as post-exilic Palestine, women's status IMPROVES--see WS:WBC:118]

What this would make Gen 3.16 say is that, as a result of the Fall, men-women relationships are problematic--each is tempted to dominate/manipulate the other, and, like a cursed ground, relationships will require more 'work' to see the original desired fruitfulness. In any event, the text is CERTAINLY not clear enough to build a case for "prescriptive, pervasive, and punitive subjection" as part of the Fall(!)...

So, I conclude that Gen 3.16b is NOT a 'curse on Eve', but rather a simple prediction of (1) definite power struggles between husbands and wives (not necessarily men and women--not in view here) and of (2) a POSSIBLE tendency in early history toward male dominance.


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