Genesis 3:16

ESV To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
NIV To the woman he said, 'I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.'
NASB To the woman He said, 'I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you shall deliver children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.'
CSB He said to the woman: I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children with painful effort. Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.
NLT Then he said to the woman, 'I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you. '
KJV 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.

What does Genesis 3:16 mean?

In direct response to the serpent's deception and Adam's and Eve's disobedience, God pronounces curses on each of them, as well as on the generations to follow. Here, God turns to the woman who was deceived and willfully ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. His oracle or curse for her has to do with her relationships and family life. Having children may bring her great joy, but bearing and giving birth to them would require severe pain. More children would always bring more pain.

The marriage relationship would now be strained instead of simply being the source of love, comfort, and belonging the woman would desire. It's unclear exactly how the second part of the curse about husbands and wives should be read. Scholars have offered various interpretations of this subtle Hebrew phrasing. Most interpret this to mean that the woman would desire to be in control of her husband, but he would be the master. Others see this as implying that the woman's desire for her husband would be frustrated by his role as an authority in her life.

Male headship in the marriage relationship is not part of the curse and this idea is not implied here. On the contrary, God's response to this incident proves that Adam's role as leader and protector was intended before sin entered the world. The New Testament makes clear that God's design for human marriage, with husband as the self-sacrificing head, is meant to be a beautiful picture of Christ and the church. Paul even quotes Genesis 2:24 when he paints that picture in Ephesians 5:22–33.

Instead, it seems this curse involves conflict over the God-given marriage roles. Adam and Eve both failed to uphold God's intended pattern of spiritual leadership, and it caused the greatest disaster in history. This is especially felt in our individual lives as each spouse fails to live up to God's design for selfless love and respect between husbands and wives.
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