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Five Facts in the Fall that Free Women (Genesis 3)

My first of three posts on Genesis showed how God's perfect design in creation frees women (1). It counters recent Complementarian views that God's original design limited women based on gender. My first post is consistent with the centuries-old position of the church: God's original design was gender equality. The traditional position is that because of the Fall, men will rule until God returns and restores equality.

This is Post 2 of three posts on Genesis, where I counter the traditional position that God intended men to rule until God returns. God did not tell both genders to have dominion in Genesis 2 and then change course in Genesis 3. God did not have to come up with a Plan B putting men temporarily in charge as a result of the Fall. The biblical account does not show that God wanted women in subservient roles. Perhaps God did not punish or curse women at all. Perhaps God wants us to reconcile and unite together.

Post 3 of 3 presents two fictional tales to dramatize the impact of a negative view of Genesis.

For simplicity, I refer to Adam and Eve as real people. Some Christians believe that Adam and Eve had to be real people (2) or the Fall didn't happen, sin didn't enter the world and there was no need for Jesus. They may say that accepting the authority of Scripture requires a literal reading. The historic church accepted the authority of Scripture whether truth was revealed through a historical account or an allegory or metaphor. God knew from the beginning that humans would be tempted to rule themselves instead of letting God rule. The story of Adam and Eve reveals the truth of the human instinct to disobey God, our need for Jesus, and God’s faithfulness. Whether you read Genesis literally or figuratively, this story influences beliefs about God’s character, human nature, the fall, sin, salvation, and gender roles.

1. Eve is Gullible, Not Guilty of Disobedience

"God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you muct not touch it, or you will die.'" "You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." (Genesis 3:3-6)

When the Serpent spoke, Adam was with Eve and took the fruit. Bruce C. E. Fleming points out that the Hebrew text in Genesis 3:1-5 shows plural pronouns, the Serpent addressing both of them (3). We do not know if Adam discussed eating the fruit with Eve, if he took the fruit in response to the Serpent's words or if he wanted to be wise or rule like God. The record indicates that Adam was not deceived by the Serpent's lies. Adam's mistake was intentional disobedience, putting his own rule above God's rule.

Eve is attacked

Eve was deceived by the Serpent's clever half-truth. While it was true they would not drop dead the moment they ate the fruit, eating it brought death in the form of human mortality. Having the knowledge of good and evil means the death of innocence and the birth of moral conscience.

Some interpreters look at the phrase 'be like God' (Genesis 3:5) to mean that Eve wanted God's ability to rule. That may come from interpreters who themselves would like to have God's ability to rule. However, the passage indicates Eve wanted God's wisdom. The Serpent tempts her with having God's knowledge of good and evil, being able to imitate her beloved Creator. The Bible calls believers to imitate Christ, to be Christlike (John 13:34, Ephesians 5:1, 1 Corinthians 11:1) Solomon is honoured for wanting God's wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:10-12). The Bible says wisdom is precious (Proverbs 3:15), protects you (Proverbs 4:6), lifts you up (Proverbs 4:8) and will benefit you (Proverbs 9:11-12). It is not evil of Eve to want to be like God or to want to gain wisdom. It was wrong to disobey God. Eve's mistake was believing the Serpent instead of God. She is gullible. She was attacked and defeated by Satan, the father of lies.

Adam and Eve with a fruit

2. Eve Admits the Truth and Aligns with God

After Adam and Eve ate, they knew good from evil, felt ashamed and hid. When God asked Adam where he was (Genesis 3:9), God did not ask Adam to respond for both of them, to be the spokesperson of the family. God gave each of them a chance to admit what they had done and be individually accountable.

Adam's response:

“The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12)

Eve's response:

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13).

Some say they are equally guilty since they both deny accountability, blaming someone else. But there is a difference. While Adam lied and blamed God, Eve identified the true cause.

Adam lies, accusing God of putting the woman there to give him the fruit (Genesis 3:12). God knows that is false. Adam is guilty of his own choice. God tells Adam, 'Cursed is the ground because of you' (Genesis 3:17). There will be sorrowful toil cultivating the now infertile soil, spiritual death and human death.

Eve tells the truth, saying the Serpent attacked and deceived her. God knows that is true. The Serpent is guilty. God tells the Serpent it is cursed because it deceived Eve (Genesis 3:13-14). Theologian and author Katharine Bushnell puts it this way:

Adam made an evil choice. Adam advanced to the side of the serpent, in becoming a false accuser of God. But Eve, by her exposure of the character of Satan before his very face, created an enmity between herself and him. What followed was the natural outcome of Eve's better choice. God's Word to Women Lesson 9 (4)

Eve is on God's side, not the Serpent's. Ishshah's Story points out that when God puts enmity between Satan and women, the woman is aligned with God (5)

snake goes away
God separates Eve and the Serpent, with Eve on God's side

Many Christians teach that Eve aligned herself with Satan, tempted Adam, and caused the Fall. Complementarian Tim Challies (6) says Adam is held responsible because he is the head of the family, accountable for his subordinates and for his own and his wife's combined disobedience. This idea lends itself to ultimately blaming Eve for leading Adam to sin and believing women are unsuited for moral leadership.

However, the Bible says each man and woman will give an account of their own actions to God (Romans 14:12). Paul says it is through one man, Adam, that sin entered the world (Romans 5:12) and “as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Perhaps Paul holds Adam is responsible for the Fall because Adam blamed God and aligned with the Serpent while Eve did not. Perhaps Paul is simply using a literary technique to contrast the Fall through one man, Adam, and salvation through another man, Jesus. This literary technique can also be used to contrast the Fall through Eve and salvation through the child of Mary. Perhaps the Genesis story shows how as humans we tend to please ourselves instead of trying to please God. Maybe the point is to look at our own choices to either blame God or align with God.

Throughout history, aligning Eve with the Serpent-tempter or blaming Eve for the Fall has led to teaching that all women are more easily deceived, temptresses leading men astray. This has contributed to the objectification and subordination of women. The Old Testament tells many stories where men benefit from a woman's leading (Deborah, Abigail, Huldah). Jesus warned us about competing to be the greatest (Matthew 20:25-28, Luke 9:46-48, Luke 22:24-27). Paul said we are all equal and interdependent: "For although the first woman came from man, every other man was born from a woman, and everything comes from God” (1 Corinthians 11:11-12 NLT).

Since our views of the Genesis story impact how women are treated, it is useful to examine the guilt of Adam, Eve, and the Serpent-tempter. Have fun with this excerpt from my upcoming Interactive Study Guide to consider why we lay blame where we do.

interactive chart Adam and Eve
Who's to Blame for the Fall? Interactive chart

3. God Blesses Eve

Those who blame Eve for the Fall will attempt to prove her guilt by saying God punished or cursed Eve. Bruce C. E. Fleming points out that God didn’t curse Eve (or Adam) (7) Because the Serpent deceived Eve, God cursed the Serpent. Because Adam disobeyed, God cursed the soil.

"Nowhere in the Bible is it recorded that God cursed mankind or one half of mankind." - Session Five of She Shall Be Called Woman (8)
2 women
@a_creative_almanac image based on “Mary consoles Eve” by Sister Grace Remington

In fact, God blesses Eve with the prophecy God will crush Satan through a woman's offspring (Jesus):

"I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will crush your head and you will crush his heel. (Genesis 3:15 Evangelical Heritage Version)

The Serpent's seed (descendants) include anyone who uses lies and deceit to separate humans from God. Session Five of She Shall Be Called Woman ties this prophecy to when Jesus tells the religious leaders they are the seed (children) of the devil, the father of lies, and they desire to imitate him (John 8:38-44). In the same way, the spirit of the devil today deceives religious leaders and gatekeepers who put human limitations on women. When men are like Adam and choose to be like God, women must decide whether to turn toward men or toward God.

Eve's seed refers to Jesus, our Redeemer. God honours people in the Bible by promising to multiply their 'seed', meaning descendants or offspring. God tells Abraham that all nations will be blessed through Abraham's seed (Genesis 22:16-17-8). God blesses Isaac's seed (Genesis 26:4-5). Jacob's seed (Genesis 28:14), and David's seed (1 Chronicles 17:11-12). The word seed was not associated with either male or female. After Adam unfairly blames Eve, God blesses Eve's seed. When Leah is not loved by her husband, God blesses her seed (Genesis 29:31). Katharine Bushnell points out that God blesses Eve with promises about her seed.

Was it a special honor to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David to be mentioned as in this stream of blessing which was to descend to humanity? Then it is well for us to remember that the source of this blessing, on the human side, is Eve, of whom God said, to Satan, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman; . . . her seed…shall bruise thy head." The promise honors Eve quite as much as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the honor could not have been conferred upon her but for the same reason as upon them,—namely, because of excellence found in her. God's Word to Women Lesson 11 (4)

4. God Gives Eve Insight v. 16a

When God speaks to Eve, he provides insight into the future, predicts new sorrow and toil, and explains that now that they know good and evil, they will struggle between following God or following the flesh.

What Sorrow and Toil?

Both women and men are to work together to cultivate the earth (Genesis 1:28), so the curse on the land affects both. Tim Mackie of the Bible Project (11) explains the Hebrew word 'itsabon' is never used for labour pains; it relates to field work for both men and women. It is incorrect that her toil relates to giving birth and his to cultivating the soil. There is a gender parallel with the same sorrow, labour and toil for both Adam and Eve.

The ancient Greek Septuagint (10) repeats the exact same word for the Serpent, the man and the woman. The Serpent will eat of the earth in sorrow, Eve will have multiplied sorrow and toil and Adam will have multiplied sorrow and toil (on the infertile earth).

God said to the Serpent... cursed are you... [in distress] of the earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life (Genesis 3:14)... to the woman he said, Multiplying, ... multiply your [distress] and your moanings. In [distress] you will bear children (Genesis 3:16a)... to Adam he said ... cursed is the earth among your work; in [distress] you will eat of it all the days of thy life (Genesis 3:17)

However, the Latin Vulgate translation (9) completed by Jerome in 405 AD, was accepted as the most authoritative version of the Bible across Europe for 1,000 years. The Latin Vulgate and the many English translations based on it abolish the idea that both Adam and Eve will have the same consequence of sorrow and toil in the fieldwork on the cursed and infertile soil. It gives the idea that men should toil/work in fieldwork while women should have pain/sorrow during pregnancy or delivery. These translations lean towards unavoidable pain/sorrow for the woman, making her vulnerable. In contrast, the man is given agency to do manageable labour and toil.

God said to the Serpent: and of the earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life (Genesis 3:14)... To the woman also he said: I will multiply thy [sorrows/troubles] and thy conceptions: in [sorrow/pain] shalt thou bring forth children (Genesis 3:16)... And to Adam he said: Because thou hast... cursed is the earth in thy work; with labour and toil shalt thout eat thereof all the days of they life." (Genesis 3:16a... 3:17, Latin Vulgate)

What is Multiplied?

By the early 1900s, a majority of translations of Genesis 3:16a said what was multiplied was the pain in labour, suffering in bearing children, wretchednesses, distress, and childbirth troubles. However, earlier translations, for over a millennia, say that what was multiplied was Eve's sorrow and toil (matching Adam's, as above), and her conception (fertility). The King James Version of 1611 said "Multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. The Darby version of 1890 says "Increase thy travail and thy pregnancy". Young's Literal Translation of 1898 says 'multiply thy [sorrow] and thy conception. Multiplying Eve's conception and fertility is a more logical follow-up to the way God blesses Eve's seed in verse 15, and it is also a more accurate translation. Tim Mackie of the Bible Project (11) explains that the Hebrew text uses the word for getting pregnant, not for giving birth. Mackie suggests the focus of this verse is the concern with being able to conceive. He connects it with women of the Old Testament concerned with human infertility while men were concerned with the land's infertility.

pregnant woman
God gives Eve insight; God is not the source of pain

It seems to me that both women and men are concerned with famines and cultivating infertile land. Around the world, women are doing fieldwork to feed their families. Likewise, Old Testament stories reveal that both women and men were concerned with having children and leaving a legacy. Abraham and Sarah were both concerned about infertility and both took it into their own hands to have children. It was Jacob's favouritism for Rachel and his hate for Leah that caused God to make Leah more fertile (Genesis 29:31). However, when Rachel asked Jacob for children, Jacob blamed Rachel for infertility and did not take any accountability himself (Genesis 30:1-2). Too often, women are unfairly blamed for causing infertility or accused of lacking faith, when the cause may be a physical ailment in either the man or the woman. God told blessed men and women with the potential to be fruitful when they unite as one flesh, and both men and women to work together to cultivate the earth (Genesis 1:28).

The Latin Vulgate seems to have fortified teachings that God wanted women to feel pain in childbirth, or that God ordained women to suffer as punishment for Eve's actions. Theologians opposed any pain relief for women in labour or giving birth until 1853 when Queen Victoria accepted anesthesia for herself (12)

On the Eden Podcast, Bruce C. E. Fleming describes working in Africa with people who had been taught that God wants to punish women with pain in childbirth. They believed bringing more pain on a woman in labour would honour God. He clarifies that two items are multiplied: one is the sorrowful toil in the infertile fields as a result of Adam's disobedience and the other is the blessing of multiplied conception or fertility. He sees the meaning of the original language (13) this way:

"I will surely multiply your sorrowful toil in fieldwork and your conception. With effort you will bring forth children. (Genesis 3:16a)

It has nothing to do with pain or sorrow but with more toil/work. It has nothing to do with childbirth or delivery but with more fertility and conceiving. God is not ordaining pain or distress in bearing children, but giving insight that the new, mortal body, will mean a manageable effort/toil to give birth.

Who Multiplies the Sorrow and Toil?

Who causes more toil in fieldwork, more fertility/conceiving, and more effort/toil in childbirth? Ancient Hebrew is read right to left, lacks vowels and infers the subject by the tense of the verb, resulting in a lack of clarity on who is doing the multiplying. As seen above, many Bibles translate the same word as pain for women and work for men, and apply her pain to childbirth, not conception. When these are combined with inferring that God is the one who is acting, it looks like God intentionally causes pain:

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children (Genesis 3:16a NIV 2011)

Thinking that God multiplies sorrows and pain or wants women to experience sorrow and pain, leads to the false idea that God cursed or punished Eve or all women. How can you believe God is love if God causes pain? How can you honour a god who abuses you for his own pleasure? When women ask how to have faith in a God who enjoys inflicting pain, they may be told it is God's loving discipline. This answer lets men justify harming women in the name of training or discipline. They may be told that God's curse of pain for Eve is justified by her actions, justifying harming women because of their sin. But God cursed the Serpent -not Eve. God did not consider it just to curse Eve with pain; God cursed the Serpent.

Katharine Bushnell says:

The Bible nowhere uses such an expression as "the curse" regarding women. We get the teaching about the woman's "curse" wholly through tradition. Pain is invariably an outcry of God's natural law against abuse; and pain must be contrary to God's will. This is as true regarding the pain of childbirth as it is regarding any other sort of pain. God's Word to Women Lesson 14 (4).

Bushnell calls the idea that women must suffer because of Eve an attack on God's character of justice (14). God honours Eve and her seed in verse 15 and does not turn around and punish her or increase her pain in the next verse. Eve was the victim of Satan's attack and did not intentionally disobey. If women must suffer pain for being Eve's offspring, one must realize that men and women are both Eve's offspring and would have the same consequence. If women must suffer for being female offspring, one must realize that God made them to be female. Would God punish women for something that is not their own fault, punish them for being what God made them to be?

God Does Not Multiply Eve's Pain

Look again at "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children (Genesis 3:16 a KJV). Who is the cause, and what are they causing?

What the Bible reveals about God's character is that God loves us and works to bring reconciliation. It is not in God's nature to punish for punishment's sake (15). We know God is good bad fruit cannot come from a good vine. God does not inflict pain on women or men. God comforts and consoles us when we suffer. God explains to the woman the consequences of her actions.

Believing that God is both just and loving, Katharine Bushnell puts forward her translation in God's Word to Women Lesson 15 (4):

A lier-in-wait [snare/serpent] has increased your sorrow and your sighing. In sorrow [anguish/trouble] you shall bring for the children." (Genesis 3:16a)

Ishshah's Story explains (5) that Satan is initiating the action and causing increased sighing. Eve's sighing was increased - not her conception or her childbearing. The Hebrew word HRN is translated in the Greek Septuagint as "sighing". The Septuagint never uses the word HRN to mean conception; it uses the word HRJWN to mean conception.

A lier-in-wait - not God - increased Eve's sorrowful toil and her sighing. The Hebrew consonants ARB mean snare, ambush, snare, or lier-in-wait. Ancient Hebrew did not have vowels and reads right to left, so it could read either:

  • HaRBeh AaRBeh, (without vowels HRB ARB) "Multiplying, I will multiply."

  • HiRBah AoReB, (without vowels HRB ARB) “a lier-in-wait has caused to multiply.”

God does not multiply Eve's sorrow; the Serpent lay in wait, ambushed her, caught her in a snare and increased her sorrow and sighing. God gives insight into the mental anguish she will have in bringing forth children.

To summarize Genesis 3:16a:

Traditional View


God punishes or curses Eve

God gives insight to Eve, explains consequences of actions

Eve will have increased sorrow and pain in childbirth; Adam will have increased toil in fieldwork

Both will have the same multiplied sorrow and toil in the fieldwork (both are responsible for subduing the earth).

God curses Eve with more labour pain in childbirth, Adam with more labour in fieldwork.

God cursed the ground, resulting in increased toil on the land for both; God cursed the snake, resulting in enmity between Satan and women, God blesses Eve with the promise that her seed will crush Satan.

God caused more sorrow and wretchedness for women in childbirth. God wants to increase her pain and not give her any relief from labour pangs. It's God's loving discipline to give her pain to teach her not to disobey.

Satan, the Serpent, the lier-in-wait, ambushed them and caused multiplied sorrowful toil in fieldwork and multiplied sighing (God blessed Eve's seed/fertility/descendants in v. 15)

God wants women to have sorrow and pain in bringing forth children

God gives insight that with the new mortal body, women will have increased effort/anguish/trouble bearing children

5. Eve's Desire is Good v. 16b

"... toward thy husband [is] thy desire, and he doth rule over thee." (Genesis 3:16b Young's Literal Translation, 1898)

If I were Eve, and my husband had just blamed me for something terrible, my greatest desire would be to reconcile, to make up after the fight. Maybe Eve accepted the blame even though Adam made his own choice. Maybe Eve apologized. Maybe Eve comforted Adam about their mistake or the loss of intimacy with their creator. Maybe Eve pleaded with God to allow her to reconcile with Adam. God can see Eve's desire to make peace and rebuild her intimacy with Adam, and God warns her that He can also see Adam's desire to rule over her. I take instruction for the word 'desire' from Eve's happiness when her desire is achieved; they reunite as one flesh and God has blessed her and her seed.

Adam knew Eve and she conceived and gave life to a man with the Lord's help (Genesis 4:1).

Bruce C. E. Fleming sees Eve's desire as a loving, good longing (13) for her husband. The word 'desire' is Eve's positive attitude toward her husband, just as the lover feels a positive attitude towards his lover in Song of Solomon feels towards his lover.

I am my beloved's, and his 'desire' is toward me." (Song of Solomon 7:10 KJV)

However, others may imagine that if they were Eve their greatest desire would be vengeance. The view that Eve's desire is negative leads to interpretations of desire as bad, lustful, lacking self-control and unleashing her selfishness to control her husband. In his book Tell Her Story, Nijay Gupta says we can take instruction for the meaning of 'desire' from when God warns Cain that desire is waiting to ambush him and he must control it. This comparison would align Eve with sin; she is the lier-in-wait ready to ambush and destroy the man.

"If you do not do well, sin is waiting to destroy you. Its desire is to rule over you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7 New Life Version)

Likening Eve's desire for her husband to the devil's desire to control Cain positions Eve as Adam's adversary, as sin is Cain's adversary. This interpretation assumes Eve has sinned and God has cursed her for it and Eve is continuing to sin, waiting to tempt and destroy her husband.

In 1975, Susan Foh wrote a landmark piece(16) starting from the premise that God authorized man for leadership and arguing that Eve had a sinful desire to usurp authority from men and rebel against male leadership. This female writer's teaching furthers the Complementarian case for keeping women in submission to men in authority and power.

The all-male team of translators for the English Standard Version (ESV) released in 2016 seemed to incorporate Susan Foh's teaching in their dramatic new version of the verse:

"Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16b ESV)

The ESV changed normal conjunction from 'and' to 'but', positioning Eve as Adam's adversary. As we have seen above, the Bible aligns Eve with God, placing Eve as an adversary to the Serpent. The text does not position Eve and Adam as adversaries. In addition, the ESV translated that preposition as 'contrary to' (17), incorporating the interpretation of Eve as the devil, desiring to control Adam. It is almost opposite from the meaning of previous translations which consistently showed the preposition as 'for' or 'towards' (your desire will be for your husband; your turning will be towards your husband).

To understand the word translated as 'desire', we examine the original Hebrew language (18):

"And unto your husband your 'teshuqa' [will be] and he will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16b)

Katharine Bushnell saw that the false translation of the word 'teshuqa' was a keystone of the doctrine subordinating woman to man. Interpreting Paul's letters through a perverted sense of Genesis 3:16 caused men to be immoral and cruelly oppress and degrade women. For this reason, she published a chart in 1921 tracing how Bible interpreters have changed the meaning of the word 'teshuqa'. You can see her chart here (19).

The chart shows the word 'teshuqa' was translated in Song of Solomon, as a positive action, with the husband 'turning toward' or 'longing' for his lover. Then in the 1500s, the husband has a lust for his lover, a negative action. Early translations of the word 'teshuqa' in Genesis 4:7, showed sin 'longing', or 'eager' to rule over Cain if Cain does not rule over it. About 200 AD some translations showed sin having an 'impulse', 'appetite', or 'lust' for Cain. In Genesis 3:16, 'teshuqa' was translated as Eve 'turning' or 'longing' for her husband until about 200 AD when some translations say Eve had a 'lust' for her husband or lust for power over her husband.

The influential Latin Vulgate translation (9) portrays Eve as having submission, with no agency to turn, lust, or long for her husband.

"And thou shalt be under thy husband's power, and he shall have dominion over thee." (Genesis 3:16b, Latin Vulgate)

Complementarians take it to be God's prescription that women long for power and God prevents them from having it by placing women under men's power. Like the Latin Vulgate, the ESV "turns women and men into contrarians by divine design"(20). This belief allows men not only to rule but also to rule harshly and to discipline women for showing independence. The 2nd-century Christian theologian Tertullian said, women are 'the devil's gateway' (21). It became the dominant view that Eve was a tempter, wanting to seduce, control or dominate men, women are not fully in the image of God, and God commanded men to rule.

Theologian Marg Mowczko opposes the ESV translation of 'teshuqa'. She quotes evidence from the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon (BDB) that 'teshuqa' may mean a 'longing' of a woman for a man (Genesis 3:16), a 'longing' of a man for a woman (Song of Solomon 7:10), or a longing of sin personified to devour Cain (Genesis 4:7). The word 'teshuqa' may mean 'turning to', 'longing', 'desiring', 'attracted to', or 'running after' but the evidence shows it does not mean 'desire to control' (22).

Men's Rule is God's Insight to Eve, not Instruction to Adam

We have seen that God blames and curses the Serpent for ambushing Eve and causing her to fall. God blesses Eve with a prophecy about her seed and then gives Eve insight that the knowledge of good and evil means human struggles and tells her that Adam wants to rule. God does not curse Eve and God does not prescribe, instruct, command, or sanction men ruling over women; he is not even addressing men!

The term 'shall' is an imperative term and is understood as a command in English. Ishshah's Story points out that the Hebrew word may not be imperative (5). It could be translated as 'will', simply telling the future, not being imperative. She Shall Be Called Woman (23) explains that God is prophesying or predicting to Eve about the consequences of her turning away from God and toward her husband, either placing him between herself and God or choosing him rather than God. Katharine Bushnell's Lesson 16 notes that God is prophesying or warning Eve, not stating an imperative. "All the stress of teaching woman’s supposed obligations to man is in the “shall be,” which is supplied by the translators" (4)

God not only reveals that if Eve follows Adam, Adam will rule over her, but also that Adam is no longer obeying God's rule. Bruce Fleming suggests that God is warning Eve that Adam is rebelliously ruling (11) over himself and will also rule over her. Katharine Bushnell's translation incorporates the idea that if Eve inclines toward Adam, she would be turning away from God (24)

“Thou art turning away to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee,” (Genesis 3:16b)

God Expelled Adam from Eden, Not Eve

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side[e] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24, NIV)
she helps hiim up the stairs
Eve's turning towards Adam is good; she is his help in time of trouble

Both Adam and Eve had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, but it appears that Adam had not repented, did not let God rule him, and struggled with sin. Since Adam knows good and evil, God protects him from eating the Tree of Life and being forever tormented.

Katharine Bushnell notes in Lesson 12 that nowhere does the text say that God expelled Eve from the Garden of Eden. She suggests that after being deceived, Eve reconciled with God and God blessed her. Since those washed by God have the right to the Tree of Life (Revelations 22:14), Eve already has eternal life and does not need to be protected from eating of the Tree of Life. The text indicates that Eve turned away from God and instead inclined towards Adam and followed him out of Eden. Eve knew God's warning that Adam would subjugate her, but she obeyed God's call to be Adam's 'ezer', to be his ally and companion in his struggles, to point him back to God.

Five Facts in the Fall that Free Women:

  1. Eve is gullible, not guilty of disobedience She was attacked and defeated by Satan, the father of lies.

  2. Eve admits the truth and aligns with God; God does not curse or blame Eve. Adam lies and blames Eve and God; God curses the ground with infertility because of Adam.

  3. God Blesses Eve and her seed; she will have multiplied conception/fertility and her seed (Jesus) will crush Satan.

  4. God gives insight to Eve, describing the consequences of the Fall: the multiplied sorrowful toil for both Adam and Eve on the cursed ground, the blessing of multiplied conception, and the effort it will take to bring forth children with the now mortal body. Eve's sorrow is multiplied by the ambush/snare of the lier-in-wait, the Serpent.

  5. Eve's desire is good, a longing for and a turning towards her husband. Adam rejected God's rule so to protect Adam from eternal torment, God expels Adam from Eden. God warns her that if she turns to Adam, away from God, Adam will dominate her. God does not address men or condone men ruling women. Knowing this, Eve follows Adam anyway, obeying God's call to be Adam's 'ezer', ally, support, and companion.

God created humans as equals and then used Satan to demonstrate the human tendency to rule ourselves. God gave humans the freedom to know good and evil, even though this knowledge would give birth to our struggle to obey the spirit or the flesh. Knowing all this, God designed a way for humans to reconcile and return to God.


  1. Five Facts in Creation that Free Women (Genesis 1-2), Elaine Kelly Author,

  2. Adam and Eve really existed, and why that matters, Subby Szterszky,

  3. The Book of Eden, Genesis 2–3: God Didn’t Curse Eve (or Adam) or Limit Woman in Any Way, by Bruce C. E. Fleming

  4. God's Word to Women, by Katharine Bushnell, 2016 edition, is available on Amazon. God's Word to Women 100 lessons from the book:

  5. Another look at Genesis 3:16, Ishshah's Story,

  6. Tim Challies

  7. Bruce C. E. Fleming

  8. She Shall Be Called Woman (session five)

  9. Latin Vulgate

  10. Study Light Interlinear Study Bible (Greek)

  11. Does God Punish Women with Pain in Childbirth?, Bible Project

  12. George Skowronski, Victoria’s secret: chloroform and the acceptability of analgesia for birth, O & G Magazine

  13. Bruce C. E. Fleming

  14. God's Word to Women,

  15. She Shall Be Called Woman (session six)

  16. What is the woman’s desire? How Susan Foh’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16 fed steroids to abusers. (Pt 1 of 2), Barbara Roberts, 2016,

  17. Why this theologian is warning about changes being made to Bible language, Billy Hallowell, 2016,

  18. Study Light Interlinear Study Bible (Hebrew)

  19. God's Word to Women, Katharine Bushnell,

  20. The New Stealth Translation: ESV, Scot McKnight, 2016,

  21. Women: “The Devil’s Gateway?”, Jon Huckins, 2018,

  22. Teshuqah: The Woman’s “Desire” in Genesis 3:16, Marg Mowczko, 2015,

  23. She Shall Be Called Woman (Session Seven)

  24. Teshuqa and the meaning of Genesis 3:16, Charis, 2008,

Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is empowering women with Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:

  • Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold, Book 1

  • The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role

  • Because She Was Called: from Broken to Bold, Book 2, A Novel of the Early Church, imagines Mary Magdalene's trip to testify before the emperor


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