God’s Word to the Woman
Until this point God has spoken to the Serpent about the woman and her seed. He now turns to address her, pronouncing both blessing and curse.
The human line will continue through her childbearing. (Her motherhood literally saves humanity from extinction.)
As mentioned to the Serpent, her “seed” will also ultimately save humanity from sin and depravity, restoring eternal life within God’s will for humanity.
God’s promise to her relates to her role in God’s redemptive program.
The woman’s sorrow will be greatly increased, particularly in relation to her childbearing. Along with the joy of bringing children into the world will also come many frustrations and sorrows. This point is made quite clearly in the very next story in the Bible, that of Cain and Abel. Eve becomes the first woman to give birth to a murderer. Imagine how it must have broken her heart to be both his mother and the mother of his victim. One son murdered and the other the murderer! That certainly qualifies as a multiplication of sorrows!
The ongoing war between her seed and Satan’s seed does not end there. It will continue to rip Eve’s family apart until it is finally over at the end of the ages.
In addition to outright malice, many children now die of accidents, diseases or malnutrition. For a great majority of women throughout history, childbearing has brought its share of fear and sorrows.
The curse also brings marital discord. It is not easy to discern what is meant by her “desire” being toward her husband. Once again we may find a clue in the story of Cain and Abel.
In that story God warns Cain that sin desires to dominate him, but that he must rule over sin instead. The phrasing is eerily similar to that in God’s message to Eve.
This makes it unlikely that it means excessive dependence on the man. What it probably means is an excessive desire to possess or control him. While it is not necessarily required, the context strongly suggests that the man’s response of “ruling” over her involves excessive domination. Thus begins the battle of the sexes.
A woman in our fellowship pointed out during our discussion that, in her experience, women tend to try to take control when the man abdicates leadership. Several women in our group agreed with this observation, which suggests one of the mechanisms by which this “desire” for the man works.
This marital imbalance creates a chain reaction that reverberates through the ages in dysfunctional family life, unhappy marriages and the consequence of problem children. [Naturally not all families are equally (or even completely) dysfunctional, or society as we know it could not function.]
God’s Word to the Man
God’s word to Adam also introduces blessing and curse. He begins by explaining the reason for the curse. Adam 1) listened to his wife, with the result that 2) he ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree.
It is to be noted that all later biblical commentators, such as the Apostle Paul, suggest that Eve was deceived. Paul also notes that Adam was not deceived. He may have listened to his wife, but he obeyed the serpent. The man seems to have been with her during the serpent’s dialogue with her (Gen. 3:6).
I have heard many pastors make the glib remark that Adam should not have listened to his wife because he was responsible for leading Eve as her husband. Even Robertson states, “God pronounces a curse over the woman because of a situation that arose originally from her usurpation of her husband’s prerogative” (p. 104). He seems to believe that Eve has usurped his role as leader of the family. Nothing in the text to this point declares him to have a veto over her activity or a subservience to him in their role as joint-rulers over the creation except for the word “helper,” which God even uses for himself (Psalm 33:20; 70:5; 115:9-11; 128:4; 146:5).
Put another way, even God himself says that the man needs help. Why that should make the man feel superior is anybody’s guess.
God is not telling Adam that he failed to lead his wife. God is telling Adam that he sinned knowingly, by following her into something he knew was sin. They had been jointly set over the created order (Gen. 1:26-28). It was the prerogative of both of them to set the creatures in order under God’s will. It was their job to set the serpent straight, not to obey it.
The only problem with listening to his wife in this instance is that it led to him sinning, too.
Note that God introduces the curse with the phrase “Because of you…” The curse on the ground comes because of what the man did, not what the woman did. God is underlining the fact that blaming the woman does not wash with God. Adam was not deceived, yet he sinned.
The curse begins with a curse on the ground. The man and woman abused the fruit of the garden by eating the forbidden fruit. Mankind will now have to struggle with the soil for his own sustenance instead of freely eating from the trees of the garden.
The ground will become uncooperative to man’s efforts to bring it under control. It will sprout thorns and thistles, making agriculture difficult and yields uncertain.
Life will become a constant struggle to get enough food to eat, making the work of living much harder than simply gathering fruit from pre-existing trees.
The penalty of death, pronounced from disobedience to the Creation Covenant, is put into effect. It is not an immediate death, but rather one that happens after a period of difficult living.
God’s message: Life is hard. Then you die.
All of these things are accomplished by their exile from the Garden of Eden. They no longer have access to the Tree of Life. Their idyllic garden is replaced by a wilderness from which they must wrest a living. Their creation-purpose of having dominion over the earth becomes much more difficult.
Rather than being allowed to gradually extend the garden into the surrounding world, the humans must now start from a wilderness base and bring everything around them under their control.
The man and woman get to live a while before they have to die.
They will have enough to eat, even though they will have to work hard for it.
They will live long enough to have children and children’s children (and then some!).
Like Dr. Robertson, I see the main blessing within the pronouncement to the serpent about the One who will strike him on the head.
From this point on during the human exile from the Garden of Eden covenants with God will involve both blessings and curses, though in different forms and formulations.
It is hard for the modern reader to see the blessing that seems literally hidden within the curses to Adam and Eve. The main blessing seems to be that humanity will survive long enough for a saviour to arise to destroy our destroyer.
The whole story certainly sets up the rest of humanity’s pathetic attempts to overcome sin and death. It also certainly underscores our need for outside help to get out of the rut of increasing sin and universal death, hence our need for Jesus Christ, the Saviour.
When the series resumes in the new year, we will continue with the second phase of the Covenant of Redemption: Noah and the Covenant of Preservation.