What does Genesis 3:16 mean?
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.
NKJV: To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Genesis 3:8–24 describes the consequences of man's rebellion against God. After falling to temptation, humans are ashamed and foolishly attempt to hide from God. When confronted with their sin, the man and woman confess, but also attempt to shift the blame to others. Adam even blames God. In response, God issues three individual ''curses'' which affect humanity to this day. Mankind can no longer stay in the ''very good'' garden, and is banished. Even so, God continues to provide for His creation.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 3 tells the story of paradise lost by the willfulness of human sin. Humanity was originally given every perfect thing they could need or want, and virtually no restrictions. Despite that, Adam and Eve needed only a bit of prompting from a talking serpent to disobey their good Creator. Immediately overcome by shame and quickly cursed by God, the painful story of human history begins with their exit from the Garden of Eden.
Chapter Context:
Genesis 2 ended with the last glimpse of a sinless world. Adam and Eve are perfect in themselves, in their purpose, and in their relationship as husband and wife. Chapter 3 tells the story of that paradise lost; the result of the first willful human sin. The consequences: immediate shame and lifelong separation from their home with God. Chapter 4 will describe the beginning of their lives together, the beginning of the painful story of human history.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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