The woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16 — let’s be consistent with the context and with actual life. (Pt 2 of 2)

Genesis 3:16 (ESV prior to August 2016) —

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire [Hebrew: teshuqah] shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Genesis 3:16 (ESV August 2016 onwards) —

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.”


Andrew A. Macintosh has done a thorough study of the word תְּשׁוּקָה (teshûqâ). He came to an interesting conclusion. In his 2016 article “The Meaning of Hebrew תשׁוקה,” (Journal of Semitic Studies 61 (2016): pp 365-387) he said (red emphasis added by me) —

In summary, I conclude that ‘desire’ is not a proper rendering of the Hebrew word תְּשׁוּקָה in the Hebrew Bible or in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Rather, on the evidence of comparative philology and of the ancient versions, ‘concern, preoccupation, (single-minded) devotion, focus’, appears to be more likely. (2016: p 385).

[End of Update]

Let us consider the context of the word desire (teshuquah) in Genesis 3:16

Sin has consequences. When Adam and Eve fell, God announced to them certain tragic consequences that would thenceforward make life difficult.

The announcements God made in Genesis 3 are often referred to as the Curse, but that is just shorthand. God cursed the snake and the ground, but in His announcements to Adam and Eve, He didn’t use the word ‘curse’. God’s announcements to Adam and Eve have the character of judicial sentences tempered with compassion, empathy and merciful grace.

The condemnations fall, but not like the blades of a guillotine. They retain a very personal tone and are shaped to fit the personal situation of each of the three guilty parties. (In The Beginning, Henri Blocher, p 179)

In interpreting God’s announcements, we need to take care that our interpretation doesn’t clash with the rest of Scripture. One way we can check if our interpretation is valid is to see whether it is consistent with

  1. the immediate context: Genesis 3
  2. the big picture:
    (a) what the Bible tells us about God’s character
    (b) what the Bible teaches elsewhere about relationships between men and women.

Furthermore, if our interpretation is not authenticated (found) in the big patterns in human history and culture, we need to pencil a big question mark on it. Scripture interprets Scripture (the world doesn’t interpret Scripture); but it is foolish to ignore general knowledge, common sense, and broad patterns in human experience. In fact, the book of Proverbs repeatedly points us to common sense and patterns in human experience!

Susan Foh’s interpretation (see part one of this series) asks us to imagine that when God told Eve in the garden, “Your desire will be for your husband and he shall rule over you”, the meaning of God’s statement only became certain years later, when somehow Eve either heard or read the words that God had spoken to Cain when Cain was nursing resentment against his brother.

Can you picture Eve hearing about how God had said to Cain “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it,” and thinking to herself —”Ah! Now I get it! When God told me that my desire would be for my husband, He was saying that I would desire to control my husband like sin desired to control Cain! Thank heavens that’s become clear; I’d been puzzling over it for years, since before Cain and Abel were even born.”

That is pretty far fetched, is it not? But in a theological climate where word studies, comparative textual analysis and the linguistic minutiae of grammar and syntax have often predominated in the halls of academia, it is not altogether surprising that such a far fetched theory was received pretty favourably. Especially when it conveniently helped the church put up a thorny hedge against ‘the evils of feminism’.

As one pastor has said, many or most conservative Christians have been so determined to avoid doctrinal heresy that they have slipped over the fence into ethical heresy. And in this instance, as is so often the case, the primary victims of the ethical heresy were women. So it didn’t matter much, eh?

Or if it did matter, the women kept quiet, swallowing their discomfort, suppressing their sense that something was not right, because they were walking on eggshells in order not to be seen to be usurping male authority. Catch 22.

My interpretation of Genesis 3:16

Woman would desire to be cherished by her husband.

Eve would want Adam’s forgiveness and abiding love, to comfort her in her shame for having made that grievous mistake about the forbidden fruit. And more broadly, women in general would yearn for loving husbands, for cherishing and protection from their men.

Woman would long for closeness and companionship with that one special man, a closeness which would have a sexual component but it wouldn’t be limited to just sexual desire.

The sexual aspect of the woman’s longing for her husband would be conducive to the ongoing procreation of the human race. It would help counteract the post-Fall potential for women to prefer to avoid sexual intercourse in order to avoid the pains of childbirth and the arduous work involved with childrearing in this fallen world. In this ‘judicial sentence,’ God was either accentuating and increasing the woman’s desire for her husband, or putting a firm retaining wall on the intensity of desire Eve had felt for Adam prior to the Fall. But whatever the case, it was part of God’s long-range plan of mercy for the race. God was going to ensure continued procreation of the race so that He could bring Himself to earth in the person of His Son the Redeemer, the seed who gave the sure promise of mercy for all humankind.

But rather than cherishing and comforting his wife, the husband would be inclined to rule harshly over her.

Adam ate the same fruit that Eve ate. He disobeyed God like she did. After they had sinned, they both felt shame, they both wanted to hide from God. Eve would surely have wanted Adam to forgive her for having offered him the fruit. She would have wanted his comfort in their shared state of shame and mortification for having sinned against God.

When God confronted them, they both confessed their sin. But their confessions took slightly different tones.

God confronted Adam first. When Adam confessed, he cast indirect aspersions on both God and Eve — “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”  Despite their shared newly-fallen nature and their shared mortification as fallen creatures, Adam’s reply to God didn’t show that he was feeling any empathy, compassion or loving-kindness towards Eve. Instead, Adam seems to have indulged in a bit of subtle blame-shifting, sliding some blame onto Eve and some onto God before rounding off with his own confession, “I ate.”

God then confronted Eve, who had just heard Adam’s reply to God. Eve didn’t covertly cast any aspersions on Adam (or on God) when she made her confession. If she had wanted to go that way, she could have said, “The rule you told Adam which he passed on to me, the serpent twisted, and I ate.” But she simply “the serpent deceived me, and I ate.” If she blame-shifted at all, it was only to the Serpent, and she seems to have taken responsibility for allowing herself to be deceived.¹

All this exactly fits with God’s declarative announcement to Eve. From now on, Eve’s desire for Adam’s empathy, compassion, forgiveness, and loving-kindness would often be sorely unrequited. Adam would tend to rule her, not love her. He would tend to resist taking full responsibility for his sins, and would tend to blame his wife or other people. Man would tend to treat woman unkindly. Man would be inclined to disregard woman, or to dominate and coercively control her. Husbands would tend to treat their wives distantly, harshly, as objects to be used rather than fellow-creatures and companions to be cared for.

And woman’s longing to bond with man, her longing for man’s love, companionship and protection, would mean she would be particularly vulnerable to man’s sinful tendency to mistreat her.

This is what we see all around the world

Male abuse and violence against women. Epidemic levels of male violence against women and girls. Men finding it easy to charm women into their net so they can abuse them. Men joining with other men in the oppression and silencing of women and children. In the broad arc of history we have only recently begun to acknowledge the extent of this abuse.

And yes; not all men oppress women.
And yes; sometimes women abuse men; and sometimes women abuse other women.

But you only have to look at the news to see how frequently males are the perpetrators and / or the beneficiaries of the oppression of women. Think not only of coercive control by married men over their wives, but also sex trafficking, pornography, men taking slave wives and child brides, men casting off women when they become ‘inconveniences’, family court orders that compel abused women to let abusive men have contact with or custody of their children, men trolling women on the internet, men offering seminars to teach other men how to con women into giving them sex, men keeping control of decision-making, dowry-related violence, ‘honor’ killings, foot-binding, stoning of rape victims, female genital mutilation, women and girls being denied education and liberty and human rights, especially in parts of the third world.

The gravitational pull woman feels towards her man can easily make her vulnerable to his mistreatment.

Woman’s longing for a loving, empathetic, caring bond with man as husband, man as partner, has contributed to her overlooking red flags of abuse. Why does an abused woman go back to her abuser? Could it be partly because ever since the Fall woman feels a gravitational pull towards her man? Could it be that woman desires the man of her dreams who will

  • have compassion on her weaknesses and failures
  • share his vulnerabilities with her so she can help and support him
  • help her in her reasonable needs
  • respect, and if need be, guide or moderate her yearnings
  • and honor and help her fulfil her good aspirations?

But rather than understanding and mitigating this post-Fall tendency of women — this gravitational pull woman feels towards her man which easily makes her vulnerable to his mistreatment — the complementarian church has made it far far worse with its legalism about female submission and its theory that women want to usurp their husbands.

This theory has maligned all women by default. It has given abusive men a justification to blame their wives. It has taught pastors and Elders to instruct abused women, “You need to be more submissive to your husband.”  It has taught Christians to pressure abused women to go back to their abusers. It has also mistrusted any woman who wants to debate doctrine or practice in the church. Those women are automatically suspect: as soon as they step out of the prescribed zone of what is deemed ‘permitted’ action for godly femaleness, it is assumed they could be ‘trying to usurp male authority’.

And of course, that prescribed zone can been variously defined, which keeps those who want to haggle over its boundaries very busy….and this keeps many women walking on eggshells in case they get deemed to be crossing the line.

New Testament precepts confirm this interpretation

Paul tells Christian husbands not be harsh with their wives, but to self-sacrificially love them, to honor them as fellow heirs of Christ, and to bear in mind that woman is a weaker vessel than man. Common experience shows that women are generally physically weaker and emotionally more tender than men. And those who are emotionally tender are easy to wound. Why would Paul repeatedly remind men of these things if men did not have a tendency to selfishly ignore the needs and feelings of their wives, to be too harsh with their wives, to dishonor their wives and treat them like work horses?

Susan Foh’s interpretation begs the question: If Genesis 3:16 implied that men must master their wives because wives would perennially desire to usurp their husbands’ leadership, why didn’t Paul exhort husbands to take care lest their wives usurp their authority? But Paul did the exact opposite: he repeatedly exhorted men not to be harsh with their wives and to self-sacrificially love their wives like Christ sacrificially loved the church.

Hierarchical complementarians have interpreted Ephesians 5 as God’s Rules for Gender Roles in Marriage, and they have heavily emphasized wives submit to your husbands. They see Ephesians 5:22, 24, and Col 3:18 as confirming their theory that woman has desired to usurp man’s authority ever since the Fall. But they have overlooked Paul’s main point in Ephesians 5:22-33.

Margaret Mowczko convincingly makes the case that Ephesians 5 is not about hierarchy or roles; instead it’s about unity, nurture, love, and respect. Here is her summation, from her article Paul’s Main Point in Ephesians 5:22-23.

I cannot see any implication of a gender hierarchy in the following statements, only unity, equality, affinity and love:

  • … husbands ought even to love their own wives as their own bodies …
  • … the two shall become one flesh …
  • … each individual among you [should] also love his own wife even as himself.

Because many Christians have missed Paul’s main point, they believe that Paul used marriage to illustrate the close relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church.  Actually, it is the other way round: The unity between Jesus Christ and his Church is a profound model for marriage. As followers of Jesus, both husbands and wives should be building unity, nurture, love, and respect in their marriages.

There is only one place in the NT where Christians are warned about not letting a woman take authority over a man (1 Tim 2:12) and the context is not about the marital relationships. If anything, it is addressing a particular situation in a local church (see here and here). And the other difficult passage, 1 Cor 14:34-35 (women should keep silent in the churches), was probably either given for a particular local cultural situation, or it is a scribal interpolation and not inspired scripture (see here).

So, can we infer anything from the resemblance between Gen 3:16 and Gen 4:7?

What about this?

….the mysterious word to Cain: ‘sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it’ (Gen 4:7). The end of that verse takes up the language of Gen. 3:16 exactly, where God described the wretched fate of woman after the Fall, under the tyrannical authority of her husband. God seems to invite Cain to treat sin as a hard dominating man treats his wife.
(Henri Blocher, In The Beginning, footnote 23, p 145)


As Margaret Mowczko argues, women turning towards their husbands, rather than having a desire to control them, fits better with what we see in the world at large.

Henri Blocher’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16 is one of the best I have encountered. Here is how he sums it up:

The destiny of woman as help-meet and companion will not cease to make itself felt. But, because of sin, this blessing too will turn into a caricature of itself. The man will abuse his status, take advantage of his position and exploit the desire that drives the woman towards him, turning it into the chains of slavery. He will dominate the woman who seeks his love. How can we contradict the precision of this description, if we consider the relationship between man and woman, both on a global scale and throughout history?

The sentence pronounced defines the logical ‘harvest’ of the offence, and it must not be confused with a precept. Male tyranny and the corruption of the harmony that existed between the sexes at creation are all part of the funeral procession. God says so, but He does not command that people should act in this way. On the contrary, throughout the Bible He summons us to combat the consequences of evil. It is possible, if not to suppress them, at least to mitigate them. (Blocher, ibid, p 182)

And here is the take-home message in less than 50 words:

After the Fall, woman would desire to be cherished by her husband; but rather than cherishing and comforting his wife, the husband would be inclined to rule harshly over her.

The gravitational pull woman feels towards her man can easily make her vulnerable to his mistreatment.


¹ To a female victim of domestic abuse, the type of confession Adam gave (confession-while-blaming-shifting) is very familiar: it is like the ‘admissions’ she has heard from her husband. The Fall seems to have instantly given man a deft hand in responsibility avoidance and plausible deniability.

Was Eve shocked by Adam’s response to God? Was she thrown off balance when she heard Adam putting the spotlight on her for giving him the fruit? Was she confused, taken aback? Was she put into a fog by Adam’s words? Did she later endlessly ruminate on how bad she’d been for giving him the fruit? Did that lead her onto on a mouse-wheel of self-doubt and self-blame — the kind which is characteristic of victims of abuse until they come out of the fog? Did she later come to realise how much Adam’s words had stung her? The Bible doesn’t tell us, so we can’t be sure. But it’s interesting to think about.

[April 17, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to April 17, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to April 17, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to April 17, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (April 17, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


Related items on this site

Part 1 of this two-part series

Since the Fall, men have been sinfully disposed to oppress women — but this doesn’t mean women must remain in abusive marriages.

The change of Genesis 3:16, ESS, the colonial code of relationship, and a call to bystanders

Contrary Women: Genesis 3:16b in the (now non-)Permanent ESV — by Matthew Lynch (a partial reblog)

Bruce Ware teaches that a wife’s lack of submission threatens her husband’s authority, and he responds to this threat by abusing her

Further reading from other sites on the interpretation of the woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16. Note: By giving the following list, I am not necessarily indicating that I agree with every conclusion or nuance in the authors’ interpretations. However, I believe these authors are worth considering as we all seek to understand Genesis 3:16 under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In The Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis, by Henri Blocher (Leicester and Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984) (no online version available)

Teshuqah: The Woman’s “Desire” in Genesis 3:16 — by Margaret Mowczko (Nov 7, 2015). Margaret’s blog is Marg Mowczko and you can also follow her work at Marg Mowczko on Facebook.

Things that undermine the complementarian position — by Wendy Alsup (Feb 18, 2012)
a short quote from this article:

It [Genesis 3:16b] says she has a desire (the word indicates a strong craving or longing) for her husband.  It’s straightforward, and women know exactly what I’m talking about.  Apart from Christ, we are predisposed to looking to men to fulfill in us things that only God Himself can fill.  We look to men for affirmation emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and for the most part, its [sic] only when they disappoint us that we push them aside and try to do it for ourselves independent of them.

A (Somewhat) Scholarly Analysis of Genesis 3:16 — by Wendy Alsup (April 13, 2012)
a short quote from the above article:

Authoritarian pastors unchecked by their peers and accountability structures who hold to Foh’s views have contributed to feminism in the church as much as anything.  Holding on to Foh’s views on Genesis 3:16 sets a tone of suspicion of women when we talk about gender issues in the church, and that tone is not helpful.

And a comment by a husband in the thread of the above article [boldface of the last paragraph added by me]:

Chris April 19, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Wendy, While I have no doubt that you are correct in your exegesis of the word for “desire,” I’m a little more foggy on your interpretation of it as a tendency toward idolatry. From a theological standpoint, it seems suspect to me to imagine God cursing woman with a temptation to sin. He is not the source of temptation, of course.

It seems more likely to me that the curse is the intensified pain of childbirth, but despite it, Eve still wants Adam (as Solomon wants his bride). That’s not a sin, it’s just a tough spot to be in (similar to Adam’s curse of the resistance of nature to his work).

I do want you to know that your explanation of the temptation to look to your husband as the ultimate “need-meeter,” seconded by so many of the commenters all across your blog, has really helped me understand the women in my life much better, including my own wife. You cleared up something that has baffled me throughout my 30-year marriage and my 30-year ministry. It came home to me when I read a comment that referred to it as “the gravitational pull of my husband.” I’ve seen that gravitational pull in action, and wondered what it was. I don’t know if it truly is a result of the Curse, but it sure sounds as if it’s a near-universal phenomenon.

Because you all have courageously exposed this to me, I have immediately and spontaneously felt a greater sympathy and gentleness for my wife. I have found myself re-interpreted women’s “control issues” (I didn’t blame it on Gen 3.16, but I “saw” it often nevertheless) as not being a desire for control at all — it’s opened my mind to other explanations and motivations. Bottom line, it has been liberating to me, as is always the case with the truth. It’s been edifying to my marriage and other friendships.

Problems with a New Reading of an Old Verse — by Wendy Alsup (Sept 17, 2012)

A New Wave of Complementarianism — by Wendy Alsup (April 16, 2013)
a quote from this article:

The view that a woman’s root problem is that she desires to control the men in her life is painful to hear, in part because it is confusing from our real-life experience. I know of no better word to describe it than dissonance – the simple inconsistency between this belief we’ve been taught and the reality of our experience and the experience of those around us leaves us uncomfortable, feeling that something isn’t sitting right and is unresolved. ….

(Note: in the comments thread of the above article, there is some discussion of whether Foh was the first to articulate her view or whether others before her had articulated it, or shades of it.)

Comment by Hannah Anderson from that thread:

Certainly, women can try to usurp authority and men can become passive, but those seem to be secondary sins that stem from original abuse of authority. To me, documentaries like Half the Sky prove that female dominance is not the prevailing issue — in cultures devoid of Judeo-Christian framework, you see the exact opposite. You see men routinely abusing their power and women and children suffering for it.

Toward a Better Reading: Reflections on the Permanent Changes to the Text of Genesis 3:16 in the ESV — by Wendy Alsup and Hannah Anderson (Sept 26, 2016)

Genesis 3:16 – Desiring and Ruling — by David T Lamb (Oct 8, 2013)

Genesis 3:16 The Pronouncement on Eve — by Les Galicinski. (April 2008) This article includes a helpful chart which sets out different theologians’ interpretations of Gen 3:16.

Here is a quote from the above article. Galicinski is dealing with Susan Foh’s belief that Genesis 3:16 should be interpreted by mapping Genesis 4:7 onto it.

 ….it is tempting to embrace a psychological lesson in this verse and use it to explain the tendency that women have to control their husbands. However, it is worth noting that to have one’s own way with one’s fellow is a general tendency that every human being has to some extent. We all want our own way. The desire to control others is not limited to women controlling men, but is a general consequence of sin in relationships. (p 9)

Womans’s desire for man: Genesis 3:6 reconsidered — by Irvin A Busenitz, 1986. The synopsis of his article says:

Lexical and etymological studies of the words of Gen 3:16b yield little help for interpreting the meaning of the woman’s desire for man. Contextual evidence, however, indicates that the woman’s desire for the man and his rule over her are not the punishment but the conditions in which the woman will suffer punishment. Although there are linguistic and thematic parallels
between Gen 3:16b and Gen 4:7, contextual differences and interpretive problems indicate that Gen 4:7 cannot be used to interpret the meaning of “desire” in Gen 3:16. The Song of Solomon 7:10 provides a better context for understanding the word. It may be concluded that, in spite of the Fall, the woman will have a longing for intimacy with man involving more than sexual intimacy.

Critique of CBMS’s Statement on Abuse — In this post (first published in 2010) I, that is Barbara Roberts, made some comments on Susan Foh’s interpretation of Gen. 3:16.

Genesis 3:16 and the ESV — by Dr Claude Mariottini (Oct 4 2016) An excerpt:

In a recent article, “The Meaning of Hebrew תשׁוקה,” Journal of Semitic Studies 61 (2016): 365-387, Andrew A. Macintosh did a thorough study of the word תְּשׁוּקָה (teshûqâ) and came to an interesting conclusion. ….

…. He wrote: “In summary, I conclude that ‘desire’ is not a proper rendering of the Hebrew word תְּשׁוּקָה in the Hebrew Bible or in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Rather, on the evidence of comparative philology and of the ancient versions, ‘concern, preoccupation, (single-minded) devotion, focus’, appears to be more likely” (2016: 385).

Quite Contrary — by Janie Cheaney (World Magazine. Post date: Jan 6, 2017. Issue date: Jan 21, 2017.)

74 thoughts on “The woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16 — let’s be consistent with the context and with actual life. (Pt 2 of 2)”

  1. Light bulbs went off here. I finally understand why I was treated so harshly by the former “church” I was in. Every time I went to the “church” and told them of the instances of repeated abuse, I was told to stop trying to control my husband. I said that I was not trying to control my husband but that I wanted my husband to love and cherish me. Well, they said, if you were more submissive to him then he wouldn’t be abusive. ????? By wanting him to love me I was trying to control him?! I maintain that all I ever wanted was his heart and love that I had when we first met and married many years ago. If i am to have a desire for a husband, only for him to turn around and treat me harshly…..then that makes me a fine target to be abused again in a future relationship or marriage. I’d rather be alone for the rest of my life then.

  2. This really is an amazing article. I do believe you have truly seen the true interpretation and meaning of this. Truly we can see this play out throughout history and even now that women do desire the love and care of a husband / man, willing to do anything for it, only to be mistreated time and again. May God continue to give us more revelation of these truths and show us how to share this truth to the entire world, but starting with the Church! Thank you. ❤

  3. I really appreciate the raising of this subject for review since this scripture is very triggering in light of how it’s been interpreted by my former church.

    Looking at the etymology has been affirming and deeply resonated with my own experiences as a woman whose sole goal was to be a godly wife and mother, pleasing the Lord and serving her family. As is often the case, the more submissive and accommodating I was, the worse the abuse became. I feel completely and totally betrayed by the advice of my pastor – essentially, “try harder” which translates to the message, “it must be you” or even more dangerous, “if you were more perfect, he wouldn’t be this way.” I’m sure a whole other article could be done on the profound effect that these harmful messages have when they come from those we believed loved us and have authority in our lives… but the message of this article seems to be so threatening that even bringing it up with my parents, has caused my Dad to attack the credibility of the author, bringing up charges that aren’t even true to discredit the validity of the argument before he can even look into etymology of the scripture discussed. Leaves me feeling victimized all over again.

    So sad that tradition is more important than the truth by the very person who taught me to seek Truth. It breaks my heart.

  4. You see the same theme in Eph 5 and 6 where husbands, fathers, and slave masters are exhorted by Paul to love, to give up threatening, to cease provoking. In other words, we must all live now as the new creations in Christ that we are, not like people still dead in sin. Thank you very much for these articles, Barbara. Well done.

  5. What makes me most annoyed at all this is the same folks who embraced Susan Foh’s translation will often refuse to listen to anything said by a woman—married or not, aged or young—and yet accept those very words if a man says them…and they’re particularly suspect of any words if it’s a “new” idea, presented by someone who hasn’t been dead for decades or centuries.

    They’re even outright snobbish about how they follow historic tenets from great men of the faith. And yet their justification for why they refuse to listen to women was, in fact, popularized by a woman in the past fifty years?

    Just when I think the hypocrisy can’t get any worse, it does. :-/

  6. Barbara, this is pure gold. It’s all very obvious isn’t it… women all over the world desire connection and love, often (really mostly) to their detriment. We have a world full of nations and cultures, ruled by men, that treat women with extreme harshness and degradation. But the Christian church continues to be force-fed the harmful teaching that men ruling over women is a good thing.

    1. Barbara wrote: “But you only have to look at the news to see how frequently males are the perpetrators and / or the beneficiaries of the oppression of women.”

      To add to your extensive list of abuses inflicted on women throughout history: Polygamy / harems, sacrificial killing of wives for husband’s funeral, chastity belts and coverings, massive female infanticide.

  7. Not only in my own personal experiences, but also with many women I know, the relational conflict has always been the women striving to NOT be controlled by the men in her life – not be the controller of them! But because of heretical indoctrination, women, including ‘previous’ self, conclude that we are the core problem and thus settle ourselves down to become that ethereally submissive wife, only to find of course an ever growing depression type tsunami growing within that is hard to identify or put a finger on. But we feel it’s un-peace and dis-ease.

    Good articles like this not only turn the lights on, but I’ve found a beginning of healing for my soul personally the more that Truth dispels the darkness. “The truth shall set you free”.

  8. Hi Everyone,
    It is unclear where to post a new comment or introduction so I am responding under this reply, sorry.

    I just really needed to share that in the past couple days I have confirmed with my own research that my dad has high functioning autism. I am middle aged, so glad I am figuring this out! He has classic symptoms and was very abusive to his daughters and my mom due to his tantrums when he got frustrated and anxious – often screaming, breaking things, repeating his favorite motto “___[redacted by Eds, to protect commenter’s ID]____” and his attachment to our vicious dog who bit me, my sister, neighbours, and friends, (all requiring stitches) but not doing anything about it because he connected with this animal way better than he could with people.

    He has a genius ability in a certain area [details redacted by Eds] for which he has been very successful- just so classic it blows my mind. Just needed to post this. Not sure who to share this with face to face so thank you for reading. Good luck to you all in taking good care of yourselves. Happy to read your stories and know so many people here on this sight are becoming aware and able to move towards a more loving life for themselves and their families.

    1. Hi Lighter and wiser
      I edited your comment slightly in order to protect your identity. Welcome to the blog!

      We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      You might like to know that autism does not (typo, sorry: I missed the NOT when I first published this comment and have now corrected it!) — autism does not cause a person to be abusive. If an abusive person has autism, they have two problems: abuse, and autism; and each problem needs its own treatment. If an abuser has another problem as well as abuse (e.g. autism, mental illness, alcoholism or drug addiction) then the other problem will tend to exacerbate the abuse and make the abuser more dangerous, but that other problem does not cause the abuse. I hope this makes sense.

      You can read more about that in Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? [Affiliate link] which we list under our Resources tab. And we have a couple posts about autism and Asperger’s — here is the tag:
      Autism / Asperger’s

  9. This is sort of how it was explained to me just recently: When a man turns from getting his meaning, value, fulfillment, etc. from God alone, he turns to the earth from which he was made, the works of his own hands, his job, to get all that, yet he gets thwarted all the time (thorns and thistles). That is why we have wars, too, men fighting for more ‘earth’, more ‘stuff’, more power and authority, etc. When a woman turns from getting her meaning, value, fulfillment, etc. from God, she turns to the man from whose side she was fashioned, for all that. In that, she gives the man her most precious possession, the freedom God gave her, and he then either runs or dominates. In a twisted sort of way, to a man of pride, it probably feels like he is being controlled.

    I have found in this second marriage, that when I turned my full attention to God and found my value and fulfillment in Him, things slowly started to change. For the worse at first, but when that didn’t seem to bother me (much), eventually it got better. I don’t think his whole heart is in it, but that is no longer a problem to me. I don’t “need” him anymore, so now he seems to feel free to appreciate me and move toward me.

    God doesn’t make us ‘obey’, why ever does the ‘church’ believe that any of us should dominate each other. If a woman preaches or teaches, she’s not ‘holding authority’, she’s just sharing what God put on her heart.

    Thank you for this. Funny how for so many years I tried to believe the stuff I was taught, and felt guilty that it never quite felt right, but now, it’s like a huge sigh of relief. This is what has been so missing for so long. I pray that we can communicate this to our children before it’s too late.

    1. Thank you, Sunflower, for the first paragraph that you wrote in your comment. Early in my marriage, I sought out a relationship with our Lord Jesus. My husband did not until a little later. We both turned to each other and to the Lord in sweet fellowship together, attending church and Bible studies together and raising our babies. Then stuff happened and my husband fell away from the church and any relationship with Jesus. He chose a relationship with alcohol over Jesus and his family. I clung on tightly to what we had before, and my husband resented me for doing so. I was angry that my husband didn’t want a relationship with Jesus, but I still wanted the same type of sweet marriage that we had early on, when we were together honoring the Lord in our walks. I begged and pleaded with him but he refused to be a part of it.

      He then became horribly abusive in any way, claimed he hated me for ruining his life and that I was trying to control him. During the day and into the evening he would go off to work and then down to the neighborhood bar, and in the evening he would come home and terrorize my life in a drunken rage. I finally divorced him last year. Now that I am not in his life daily, nor do I contact him….he now decides that he wants to reach out and have me be a part of his life? My life centers around the value and relationship that I have with my sweet Lord Jesus, and with my children. I don’t need nor want that man in my life anymore.

  10. I’ve observed that in many Christian book catalogs (such as Christian Book Distributors) books written by men are grouped together in categories such as “Prayer,” “Spirituality,” “Christian Living,” “Theology,” and so on. Only books written about manhood are labeled “For Men.” However, generally all books written by women are grouped under the “For Women” pages, no matter what their topic is. Why not group book topics together, whether written no matter what the gender of their author is? Although this might seem like a very minor issue, I see it as another way the church minimizes women, as if their books are less serious and more fluffy than books written by men, and appropriate only for women readers. I mean, what man is ever going to go to the “For Women” page to choose a book?

    1. This is why I do not buy women’s study Bibles. It seems the focus is how the woman’s focus should be on hospitality or submission or other strictly “feminine” type things, instead of learning the meat of God’s Word and being Bible scholars themselves.

      1. Good point, IAMB.

        Readers, if any of you have a women’s study Bible on your shelves, please let us know whether its study notes talk about the woman’s desire being the desire to usurp her husband’s authority.

  11. This is very interesting and good. I have heard a lot of teachings on this, most of them concerning the lordship of the man over the woman.

    After studying them myself, I have thought these passages meant that the woman’s desire would be to love her husband more than God and then place her husband in God’s position unwittingly. Because that is the curse, after we are saved and no longer under the curse, we would recognize this error over time and flee from it. It never gives the husband the right to rule over her, but because her temptation would be to love him more than God, he would certainly take advantage of that and rule over her.

    Thoughts, Barb or Jeff?

    1. IAMB, my interpretation in this post would imply that woman could veer so far as to idolize her relationship with her husband and put that relationship before her relationship with God. I don’t think I’d go so far as to say that the most typical outcome is that women will idolize their male partners, but idolizing the husband is certainly one of the possible outcomes.

      As for the man ruling over her, because Gen 3:16 says explicitly that “he will rule over you” I think God is telling Eve / woman that fallen man’s sinful tendency will be to rule over her, not so much because she turns to him or goes so far as to idolize him, but just because fallen man will now have that rule-over-woman thing in his sin nature.

      I’m reluctant to say that man’s sinful ruling over woman is simply and only because woman tends to sinfully idolize him. That puts too much blame on the woman.

      Woman’s turning to the man, that gravitational pull she feels towards her man, can certainly make her more vulnerable to his harsh rule, but it doesn’t cause his harsh rule.

      Make sense? I’m tired right now, so I can try to rephrase this if it’s not clear.

      1. I heard something along these lines when I was at that “church.” I was told that my wanting my husband to love me was considered idolatry. I was told that I loved my husband more than God. I did not. I just wanted him to love me as before and stop being abusive.

      2. I was told that my wanting my husband to love me was considered idolatry. I was told that I loved my husband more than God.

        I’ve heard that line MANY times. It’s another catch 22.

        If a single woman says she wants to be married, she is often told that she is making an idol of marriage and she should be finding all her satisfaction in her relationship with God. The same kind of thing might be said to a single man, but I’ve not heard it so much.

        If a married woman who is suffering abuse from her husband says she wants her husband to love her, she is told that the purpose of marriage is not happiness but holiness — character growth, learning to trust in God more, etc. And she may be told that she’s making an idol out of her husband’s love. But she simply wants his abuse to stop!

        She’s damned every which way.

      3. Yep, I agree. Makes perfect sense!

        Man’s desire for power and to rule has been since Gen 3. When they are given more power through wrongful teaching about headship / submission, it reinforces the curse-lived-lifestyle. Also because we are taught we are all still a bunch of sinners, they remain under the curse instead of becoming a new creation in Christ. Makes one wonder if you still are living under the curse, how can you be really saved? Paul says that the only thing that matters is that you are a new creation in Christ.

        Thank you Barb!

      4. If a single woman says she wants to be married, she is often told that she is making an idol of marriage and she should be finding all her satisfaction in her relationship with God. The same kind of thing might be said to a single man, but I’ve not heard it so much.

        And if a single woman says she doesn’t want to be married, she’s considered selfish and willful and childish.

  12. This message needs to be shouted from the rooftop!

    A “funny” thing to note as to how far false teaching on this subject goes in some churches: When I was the administrative assistant at my former church, I did the weekly bulletin. One Friday, I noticed the pastor had forgotten to choose a verse for the benediction. I asked him what verse he’d like and he told me to pick one, but then almost immediately seemed reluctant. The assistant pastor had overheard and came into the office to correct the situation – a woman could not pick out the benediction! …Wow, when I look back now I find this incredible.

    1. This message needs to be shouted from the rooftop!

      Yes, Please tweet it, FB it and share it as much as you can, readers. I tweeted it yesterday but am not all that clever at using Twitter. I need a Twitter expert to sit by my side for half an hour and coach me.

  13. Reading this makes you wonder if Susan Foh is aware of what the Bible describes as our desire in Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

    For God is working in you, giving you the DESIRE and the power to do what pleases him.

    How’s that for the Christian woman’s true desire?

  14. I want to say up front that I disagree with your stance on the Hebrew word teshuqah, and I am a Complementarian. As a result of the Fall, instead of serving one another as intended by God’s original design, each sex will engage in a power struggle. The husband will seek to rule over his wife in a dominating fashion, and she will try (in various ways) to control him. By nature the man will have the greater physical power, but the wife will not be without her own means to gain an advantage in this struggle.

    It isn’t just the internal evidence of Gen. 4 where God addresses Cain, but there’s also the evidence from the verse in Gen. 3. A parallel is being given. Each sex will do something negative to the other as a result of the Fall.

    The answer for both sexes is to return to God’s original design which is laid out in Ephesians 5. The husband is to engage in servant leadership, and his wife (as a full partner) is to follow that leadership in the help-meet position. For the wife this is not a position of inferiority or in any way infers blind following. I’ve heard the argument that if a wife puts herself in any position other than full equality then she is setting herself up for abuse, but there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary. Just because some have been abused under a faulty teaching of submission that does not mean that following the true Biblical position will lead to abuse. In fact if a husband is engaging in abuse then by the very act he is showing that he is NOT in compliance with Ephesians 5.

    And while we no doubt will disagree on this point, let me say that I do agree with the points you make on this blog regarding abuse and divorce. Be careful not to paint all complementarians with a broad brush. I have counseled women to get a divorce on the grounds of abuse, and I’d do so again in a heartbeat. It is my belief that domestic abuse is a major failing in evangelical churches today. Pastors are not taking a strong enough stand, and too many men (and sometimes women) feel as if they can safely get away with their abuse because they know the church will not allow divorce, and the wife (or husband) will be guilted into staying.

    1. It isn’t just the internal evidence of Gen. 4 where God addresses Cain, but there’s also the evidence from the verse in Gen. 3. A parallel is being given. Each sex will do something negative to the other as a result of the fall.

      Jason, let us leave aside Genesis 4, just for the moment. Can you please give evidence for your assertion that a parallel is being given in Genesis 3, and the parallel is that each sex will do something negative to the other as a result of the fall.

      I do not see that idea inherent in Genesis 3. So I’d like to know how you arrive at that conclusion without any consideration of Genesis 4.

    2. I’m also curious about the delineation of your argument. All arguments I’ve heard rely on assumptions that aren’t in the text or words that were added by the English translators and aren’t in the original text — text that makes perfect sense without the added words if you remove the also-added semicolon.

      Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children and thy desire to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:16, KJV, with added words and semicolon omitted)

      I examined this context on my blog some weeks ago, and even though I kept the translation of “desire” while looking at it, my examination and comparing Scripture with Scripture showed that the common interpretations I was familiar with from complementation circles required me to make too many assumptions for me to be comfortable with it, particularly since you can remove some of the assumptions and the text makes sense on its own.

      I’ve also yet to hear an argument for the complementarian position that doesn’t require one to ignore Ephesians 5:21, and I’ve been looking.

  15. Jason,

    Thank you for standing up for women in advising them that abuse is Biblical grounds for divorce—-we need more men in the church with that kind of wisdom. Your heart towards protecting women is greatly appreciated.

    We agree with you that there are many men of God who believe in Complementarianism without allowing it to be used to justify abuse. Please understand that this is not a Complementarian / Egalitarian debate but a historical understanding of how certain kinds of teaching in the church have opened the door to abuse towards women.

    The problem with the theory that Genesis 3:16 is saying that women have an innate desire to control men—-is that even though you personally would never use that against women—-there’s WAY TOO MANY other people in the church that would. We are dealing with two thousand years of blatant misogyny towards women in the church that is still affecting us today. Before we examine specific examples, let’s look at how Jesus reacted towards this.

    When Jesus walked the Earth, He dealt with this misogyny head on. Remember the story of Jesus healing the woman at the synagogue who had suffered for eighteen years? (Luke 13:10-17—ERV) The very fact that Jesus would even acknowledge someone sitting in the women only area of the synagogue spoke volumes to everyone in that culture. Jesus even broke cultural norms when He “laid His hands on her.” (That’s the heart of God, reaching out to us, not wanting any distance between us and God.) She was healed and instantly begins praising God. Think about that for a moment. Jesus allows her to speak in front of the Pharisees who believed from the Talmud that “it is a shame for woman to let her voice be heard among men.”

    Are the Pharisees happy for her? Nope. “The synagogue leader was angry because Jesus healed on the Sabbath day.” The moment this woman breaks free from eighteen years of suffering, the spirit of the Pharisee rises up to complain that it didn’t happen the way they thought it should!

    Jesus responds that shouldn’t this woman be healed because she is a “daughter of Abraham?” That’s a huge statement when everyone there knows that the Pharisees prided themselves on being sons of Abraham! Jesus is affirming the value of women.

    When Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood, He made the leader of the synagogue stand there and listen to the testimony of a woman (Luke 8:43-48). That was a huge validation of how much Jesus cared for women in a culture that refused to accept the women’s testimony in a court of law.

    Then there’s the time that the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11) Where was the man who had committed the sin with her? Why didn’t they want to stone the man who was just as guilty?

    That story is such a powerful example of Christ’s love towards us even “while we were yet sinners.” (Romans 5:8) Here’s Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, who has every right to cast the first stone, yet he chooses not to. When the Pharisees finally leave, Jesus turns to the woman and asks “Where are your accusers?”

    When she notices that none of those accusers are left, Jesus tells her “Neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more.” Instead of accusing her or putting her down, Jesus gives her the chance to repent and start over. That’s the heart of God towards you.

    The problem is that for too many years the church has been more interested in ACCUSING WOMEN than following the example of Christ who “is touched with the feeling of our infirmity” and “ever lives to make intercession for us.” (Hebrews 4:15 & 7:25)

    Jason, we appreciate your heart towards women in wanting to protect them from abuse. We understand that you are trying to think through what you’ve been taught, not trying to accuse women of anything.

    But for this doctrine to say that women are born with an innate desire to control men is a HURTFUL ACCUSATION!

    Does the Bible say that God put enmity between men and women? Of course not!
    Genesis 3:15 clearly states that God put enmity between the woman and the serpent!

    The Bible teaches us that there is a struggle for power that we face everyday—BOTH men and women struggle with our sinful, carnal nature. (Romans 7-8 & Galatians 5:16-24) “The carnal mind is ENMITY against God for it is not subject to the law of God.” (Romans 8:7) That’s where you find the true enmity and the true struggle that we face. Not women against men but us wrestling with our flesh. Thus following Christ requires us to “crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.” (Galatians 5:24)

    The sinful nature wants to do evil which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants….these two forces are CONSTANTLY FIGHTING each other…. (Galatians 5:17 NLT)

    Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

    The Apostle Paul had been taught by the best rabbinical schools where they liked to pray this prayer: “Thank God for not making me a Gentile, a slave or a woman.” The Apostle Paul directly attacked misogyny head on by turning that saying upside down when he wrote “There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).

    This idea that women naturally desire to control men comes from hundreds of years of major church leaders accusing women of having more of a sinful nature than men.

    Tertullian (160-225) believed that women “are the devil’s gateway.”

    St. Ambrose (339-397) believed that women were NOT made in the image of God.

    Jerome (343-420) whose Bible translation influenced church fathers for a thousand years until the printing press was built — believed that “woman is the root of all evil.”

    Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) “Woman is defective and misbegotten….the image of God is found in man and not in woman.”

    Martin Luther (1483-1546) “Take women from their housewifery and they are good for nothing…..Woman must neither begin nor complete anything without man. Where he is, there she must bend before him as before a master whom she shall fear and to whom she shall be subject and obedient.”

    John Knox (1505-1572) “Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man.”

    Jesus Christ “No one can serve two masters.” (Matthew 6:24)

    So Jesus called the followers together. He said, “You know that the rulers of the non-Jewish people love to show their power over the people. And their important leaders love to use all their authority over the people. But it should not be that way with you. Whoever wants to be your leader must be your servant.” Matthew 20:25-26 (ERV)

    My point is that here at ACFJ, we seek to follow the example of Christ who respected women and confronted the church tradition that was hurting them.

    Now Jason, if you’re still having second thoughts about the meaning of “Teshuqah” here’s something to consider.

    I agree with Barbara that regardless of whether it means “desire” or “turning” or whatever—where is the evidence that it means women desiring control over men? That’s just not in the Bible.

    Look at the history of how “Teshuqah” has been translated in the Bible
    Septuagint…..(285 B.C.) “turning”
    Syriac Peshitto…..(100 A.D.) “will turn”
    Aquilla’s Greek…..(140 A.D.) “alliance”
    Old Latin…..(200 A.D.) “turning”
    Sahidic…..(300 A.D.) “turning”
    Bohairic…..(350 A.D.) “turning
    Aethiopic…..(500 A.D.) “turning”

    Geneva Bible (1599)

    Thy desire shall be subject to thine husband and he shall rule over thee.

    KJV (1611) ”Desire”

    Even the Geneva Bible seems to agree with Barbara’s point on this!

    1. Yes there is a hateful culture and attitude and belief about women in this world. Women and children are sexualized and talked about negatively everywhere. You can’t miss it!
      Also I can say without a doubt that I had NO desire to control or dominate or abuse my XH whatsoever. NONE.

      And the women who confide in me about the abuse in their home NEVER show this desire for control or power either. NEVER. They pour themselves in books to be better moms and wives and they slowly and completely ignore their instincts about all things in life and home. Why? Because they MUST to survive living with an abuser. They live with a hateful husbands who treat them as objects / as non-persons in their marriage. This is wrong and this hate toward women is largely not fought against in our world. I’ve seen it with XH for the entire time I’ve known him – now that I am free, have heard the truth and the many testimonies that are exactly like mine and now that I can see clearly. I’ve seen it with my own eyes in the court room- Judges chumming up with abusers and their lawyers. It was like a college reunion in there. I’ve seen pastors down play women’s cries for help. I’ve heard a pastor call a victim “a child” because she cried out for help and told the truth. He called her testimony “ranting.”

      Today submission is talked about often in the church – woman wear it as a badge- a reminder to do more and be less- men proudly wear their wives as a trophy in public and at home they make it known she is not to be treated as a person. Extended Families ignore abuse and pretend it never happened. They equalize the blame. The abusive man gets away with what he does. The woman is viscously shamed and blamed. The children grow up trained to do this. It’s happening. It’s real. It’s against God. It’s evil.

      That’s the point, is it not?

      1. Wow Free, in a nut shell you have described my experience in all of this, as I’m sure many others relate.
        May God continue to shed truth against this evil in which we daily battle.

  16. I appreciate the courteous responses even though we may disagree on some issues. I’ve read other forums which tend to be egalitarian, and they can be downright hostile to anyone with a complementarian position.

    If it’s ok, I’ll do separate posts on the issues that have been raised. First I’ll address my assertion on Genesis 3:16. When I said that I see internal evidence in that section of Scripture what I meant was that the consequences of the Fall are being laid out by God, and each consequence is a negative. It’s something bad in place of what was good. I’m not saying that this alone is a compelling argument, but I believe that along with how teshuqah is used in Genesis 4 that this gives even more weight to translate the word in Genesis 3:16 in the same way as Genesis 4. There is no argument about what the word means in Genesis 4, and if you’re going to say that the word has a different meaning in the only other occurrence in that book and by that author, then I think there would have to be weighty contextual evidence to suggest that. There isn’t.

    In the septuagint the word can be literally translated turn away from. The Greek word starts with the preposition apo which means away from. I think it would be helpful if we could find the Greek word in other classical Greek works to see how it is used. I don’t think that Greek word is used anywhere in the New Testament.

  17. Misti mentioned Ephesians 5:21 which I thinks deserves a separate treatment. As a complementarian I don’t see any reason to ignore this verse. It is simply setting forth a principle that as Christians we should defer to one another. Jesus taught the apostles that leadership was about serving and not about dominating.

    In 1 Peter 5:1-4 Peter is talking about Elders and how they should conduct themselves. Then here is what he says in the following verse:

    1 Peter 5:5 NKJV

    (5) Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

    Because Peter inserts this verse following his instructions to elders should we assume that there should not be any kind of functioning authority within the Christian community? I don’t think so. The purpose of the verse is not to nullify the authority of elders, but it is a re-emphasis of the common principle of serving one another in love.

    Paul says it like this:

    Philippians 2:3 NKJV

    (3) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

    Ephesians 5:21 is simply echoing this same sentiment. It is not there to cancel out what follows in Ephesians 5 with regards to roles in marriage.

  18. And if you’ll indulge me for one more post, I’d like to respond to the larger issue of how this all fits in with the subject of abuse and divorce. It’s very unfortunate that Genesis 3:16 would be used to paint a picture that women are inferior or somehow responsible for the abuse they might receive in marriage. There’s nothing in the complementarian understanding of Genesis 3:16 that gives any weight to those positions. If my perspective on that verse is correct, then all it means is that men and women are equally engaged in a power struggle as a result of the fall. Men will tend to be more domineering and women will have a tendency toward control. This is a result of sin. I wish my only fault was that I was selfish and tried to get my way in relationships. If that was the only sins I struggled with then I’d be quite happy. A woman is no more sinful in this area (or any other) than a man. It is ridiculous to suggest that a woman deserves abuse or to be treated differently when she is simply manifesting a sin tendency that is ever bit as present within men.

    It should also be pointed that whether you refer to control or domination, these are basically flip-sides of the same coin. They are both sinful tendencies to try and get our way at the expense of someone else. Men can be quite controlling, and women are capable of be domineering.

    Throughout history men have always had more power, and they’ve used a variety of different arguments to justify the use of that power over women. Just because they latched on to certain arguments from the Bible, doesn’t mean we have to throw out those particular passages or seek to interpret them in a way that doesn’t fit the text. Slave owners twisted the verses dealing with servants and employers to justify slavery. They were wrong, and many Christians in the Abolitionist movement pointed out how they were misusing Scripture. The answer is to use Scripture correctly and understand it correctly.

    Barbara asked me a question with regards to something I posted on this thread: R.C. Sproul on Biblical Grounds for Divorce – Another Aaaaargh! and I’ll reply there and give a few other thoughts on divorce in general.

    1. Jason, with all that you are asserting you seem to be overlooking an important issue regarding the curse. The curse (whatever it is, or was) has been broken when one becomes a new creation in Christ. With someone who has a true conversion experience, the Holy Spirit resides within them, and is now working through them.

      Now with someone who is bent on controlling their spouse through covert abuse, they can go through “the motions of appearing to receive Christ into their heart,” without ever doing it. This is an evil and selfish deliberate act on their part to maintain a “false converted appearance”, to garner influence and support from christianity and christian counselors in the event that their true converted spouce may seek help.

      Do you see how this hidden evil is working against Gods people? This has nothing to do with the original curse, when someone is truly born again and becomes a new creation in Christ.

  19. [In italics and square brackets are notes inserted by Barb Roberts, prior to publishing this comment. Jason, please don’t be offended; in my comment to follow, I will be explaining why I inserted these notes.]

    Becoming a new creation does not eliminate the effects of the curse. [Trigger warning for the following sentence:] We still have a sinful nature after conversion. Becoming a new creation gives us a greater power to overcome our sinfulness when we surrender to the Spirit instead of the flesh.

    One of the effects of abuse of any kind is that it tends to cause us to close off to any criticism of ourselves because our negatives have been used against us as excuses to do us harm. But being honest about our sinfulness [sins] is what drives us to the Throne of Grace where we can find help to overcome it.

    Everyone in a relationship is going to exhibit some kind of negative tendencies. No one starts the Christian life being completely sanctified. It’s a life-long process that will still be very much incomplete up to the point when we die. Being able to be honest with ourselves about our sin is what promotes growth. But when someone has used our weaknesses and imperfections against us as an excuse for abuse then we think that if we admit anything at all about that particular weakness then we are agreeing with our abuser that we were indeed at fault. So we [might] vigorously deny any weakness in that area as a self-defense mechanism.

    But I think we have to learn that we can admit sinful tendencies while still affirming that we were not responsible for the abuse. If a person wants to do someone harm they can always find an imperfection in another person to blame it on. Abuse is wrong no matter how imperfect you are.

    1. Hi Jason, I inserted those notes in square brackets because I wanted to minimise the likelihood that our readers here might be triggered (hurt) by your wording. At this blog, we prioritise the voices and viewpoints of victim/survivors of abuse. I’m sure you can understand and appreciate that. 🙂

      We believe that it is incorrect to say that a regenerate Christian ‘has a sin nature’. The Bible talks about how everyone is born with a sin nature, but if a person becomes born again / regenerate / in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit / made a new creation in Christ (there are many interchangeable terms), that person no longer has a sin nature. After regeneration, every Christian still has the flesh and the struggle against the flesh goes on until we die; and as we progress in sanctification we learn to resist the flesh, but we are never 100% successful. So you can see that quite a lot of what you said in your comment above, we agree with. But I hope to persuade you to see that there were nuances in your language which were neither accurate (scripturally speaking) nor helpful.

      There is a difference between ‘the flesh’ (what the Christian still has), and ‘the sin nature’ (what the unregenerate has and is in bondage or slavery to).

      Christians do sin — and they then feel contrition, confess and repent, with full resolve and effort after new obedience.

      But while Christians do sin, we believe it is incorrect to talk about the Christian’s sinfulness (sinFULness) as that implies that the Christian has the sin nature.

      We believe that because this difference has not been sufficiently explained in Christendom, Christian victims of abuse have often suffered mislabelling, denigration, and false blame.

      I am confident that you didn’t mean to say anything that might hurt victims, so I’m not wanting you to take this as a harsh attack on what you said. I’m only saying this to you in the hope that you will consider what I’m saying — and hopefully become more aware of how to articulate these things in the future, so that what you say is less likely to hurt or trigger victims.

      The vast majority of our readers here are victims / survivors of abuse. When we have reported our abuser’s conduct to other Christians, we have OFTEN been told, “You’re a sinner too!” … “You need to examine yourself; your sins are just as bad as his.” … “When you point a finger at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at yourself.” So you can see, Jason, how we are vigilant in how language is used on this blog, so that salt is not poured, even inadvertently, on the wounds of the victims.

      We probably need to write a post which focuses precisely on the difference between the unbeliever’s sin nature, and regenerate person’s struggle with the flesh. — a post which uses the scalpel of scripture to show the differences between those two things.

      But here are some of our already-published posts which might give you food for thought about the difference between the sin nature and the flesh. And I know I’m giving you a lot of links, and you’re probably a busy man, so don’t feel pressured – I’m just giving them in case you are interested. My enthusiasm in giving you more reading is because we have so few men who are willing to engage with us on this blog in theological discussion. 🙂

      The Law wrongly used only promotes sin, including abuse.

      What is a Christian? And why this question is vital in exposing abuse

      Why an Abuser cannot be a Christian — the argument restated

      Total Depravity of the Saints?

      Are all sins equally bad? Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?

      1. Well said Barbara. Thank you.

        Yes a post on the difference between sinners and born again believers is in order please.

        You said-

        Christians do sin — and they then feel contrition, confess and repent, with full resolve and effort after new obedience.

        Yes. I agree. This IS the difference. Yet somehow I was the “fake one” because this is how I needed and wanted so desperately to live. Yet XH and others in the church weren’t living that way so they’d (subtley / passively / manipulatively) call me on being ‘legalistic’ and ‘unrepentant’ and ‘not giving the grace of Jesus’ to the abusers because “no one is perfect.” I was the scapegoat for all of them because they needed one. The dynamic of evil abuse always needs one to continue. They’d use God’s Word to back themselves up. Oh how happy they were with themselves. I can see their faces in our meetings. So proud. Interestingly I never mentioned perfection. In my distress I cried out for help from wicked ABUSE and they literally laughed and shook their heads “no”. Evil snakes. Hissing “God is a God of miracles and restoration.” Hiss hiss. Shaking their head in contempt and the women glaring at me with disgust.

        This is exactly what XH and others from his church (and a few other churches too in fact) tried to make me agree with / charge me with:

        “Wait patiently on The Lord (for the abuser) to let go of wicked false teachings and to stop following his flesh, I don’t have to obey it’s my choice – Jesus died on the cross – I’m not a sinner anymore – it doesn’t matter what I do – I’m covered – He paid it all – He saves – not me, don’t be his Holy Spirit (don’t confront sin and stand firm about anything), yield to him. It’s the enemy’s fault, satan wants to destroy this godly family and take your children, we’re all abusers, God’s grace covers every sin, we’re all sinners, it’s not possible to not sin, I sin all the time, id sin in front of Jesus, forgive (forget it) and move on – Jesus forgave all your wicked sins – forgive the abusers little sins – it’s the least you could do – don’t “condemn” him, show some grace, don’t judge others, who are you to judge anyone, we’re filthy wretched sinners, but for the grace of God, etc.”

        Oh please — these are the ones who ought to be silenced and one day they will be forever silenced from our ears that is. May The Lord continue to do that with the truth and His justice. For now as they speak their wicked words we MUST tend to the sheep, nurture and bring in close and protect them. The wolves scatter when the truth is spoken and upheld in everything. Like rats into hiding places when a beam of sunlight exposes them. They run and find someone else in secret to gnaw at.

        I feel like we here are the voices crying in the wilderness. Crying- Stop the sin and turn around at once! The Lord is near and you liars and (abusers) are not even near His kingdom. There is Hell to pay and unless you TURN (repent) that is your punishment. I will NEVER have to see you in your self-glory and evil again. For eternity. I am protected now and I will be protected from all evil for eternity in heaven. What a Home! What a treasure! Now I see why the man sold all he had for the field and placed his treasure there. Is that how the parable went? Anyway, that’s me now that I have the truth! I’m free! I have the treasure! My safe forever Home! Protected forever. Yes! And I walk boldly now knowing this.

        Praise God for His RIGHTeousness and justice. In Him is NO SIN. What pure relief. It is good to follow Him. And in doing what is right (not excusing what is wrong for any reason no matter how hurtful the result may be like losing family members and a church even) I live in full confidence and integrity and dignity now. I have healthy (respectful) people in my life. I AM NOT ASHAMED.

        Is it hurtful and discouraging to see such injustice here on earth — yes, VERY. It’s DISGUSTING AND PUTRID. The wicked people see my confidence and they see my strength and they HATE it – I know it IS FROM MY FATHER and I know HE KNOWS MY NAME. I obey Him because it is RIGHT to do so. This is how I KNOW I’m His! This is how I KNOW I’m born again. Thank you.

  20. I read a few of those links, and it appears that we don’t have any real disagreement on substance. I have always heard “sin nature”, “flesh”, and “old man” used synonomously, but you do have a valid point that while “old man” (Romans 6) and “flesh” (Galatians 5 and other passages) are referred to in the Bible, “sin nature” is not. From my perspective, since “sin nature” has been used historically to refer to basically the same thing then I feel ok using it, but I do appreciate your informing me how that phrase can be taken by abuse victims.

    I find it very troubling that Pastors, counselors, or anyone would basically use the “moral equivalency” argument between abusers and their victims. There’s most definitely a difference in the level of sin. A wife may exhibit any number of weaknesses or sins, but none of that is an excuse to be abused, and abuse is certainly much greater than anything the wife did that the abuser claims to have set them off.

    My only caution to you and your readers would be to not allow the fact that your sins were used against you as a reason not to deal with those sins. I have taught on Romans 7, and it’s my belief that the Apostle Paul’s ability to be so open about his struggles with sin, is what enabled him to reach a level of sanctification that we can probably only dream about. Satan would love for us to close off certain areas and not deal with them because someone used those weaknesses and sins as an excuse to hurt us. All of our sins have been atoned for and forgiven, but we receive grace and healing from those sins when we’re able to bring them to the Throne of Grace.

    1. I am fine with everything you said here, Jason, including your caution.

      It will be interesting to see if any of our other readers have responses to what you’ve said.

      Thank you for engaging in this discussion with such courtesy and sensitivity. 🙂

      1. Like Jeff is always pointing out–we can’t miss the big picture. We get caught up in ripping apart scripture to prove how much we know / how smart we are, and we forget that it’s all about God and his love for us and all these forewarnings are to keep up from getting caught up in battles about genealogy or who is Jesus’s favorite etc. Don’t miss the heart of the Lord for his children and don’t forget that many will be lovers of self in the end times with great sounding arguments.

        This website has a history of speaking the truth and you and Jeff have put your real names on it — you have not hidden. […] “Great arguments” don’t really matter without the love. Many of us have lived our entire lives with people like this and all we got was defeated and abused. […]

        My only caution to you and your readers would be to not allow the fact that your sins were used against you as a reason not to deal with those sins.

        [It seems to me that] this person [appears to] want to keep our sins in front of us as a constant reminder — this is an abuser’s tactic. Guilt-inducing is a powerful tool used against those who are capable of feeling it and much of our PTSD comes from tactics like this. This person says that they are only pointing this out to us so that we can reach the highest level of intimacy with God — but it seems instead like a way to keep us burdened down with our old sins. This person is sideling up to you, APPEARING to agree with you on some points but then stating they have issues with others. This is a common tactic of the evil one too. [To me, this commenter seems to be] a person who comes across as one who wants to be “right,” one who acts like they are “logical” and yet is missing any of the true elements of one who truly belongs to the Lord — namely love and understanding of the true effects of abuse and evil on victims of abusers.

      2. There is too much emphasis on legalism and not enough realization that we are dealing with rank wickedness against the righteous in relationships.
        In that situation there is no place for second guessing the target’s motive for setting boundaries, or the target defending themself against abuse.

        It is not helpful to mix “an appearance of concern” for the abused victim with an emphasis for the abused person to see themself as a sinner too during the agonizing ordeal. This is wrong timing of sin application.
        The target is in self-defence mode, not sin mode.

        The wicked against the righteous is NOT an appropriate setting for sin-leveling or trying to redirect focus on any minute splinters of sin on the abuse target. (Unless you are an abuser’s ally, of course.)
        This is a ridiculous suggestion in the face of what the target is dealing with.
        Let’s deal with the “LOG of ABUSE FIRST”, and help deliver the target safely from that holocaust, because the abused person cannot be judged on what no one else sees going on behind closed doors.

        And if I had listened to this type of talk instead of following my convictions from God’s Holy Spirit, and plan of protection for myself, I would not be free today.

        [comment text slightly altered by Barb Roberts and made gender neutral. Hope you don’t mind, SFT.]

      3. Victims often have way too much emphasis on their “sins”. Which are not sins but may be resisting abuse, actual mistakes, poor choices, etc. The focus is often off of the abusers real sin and placed in the victim’s non sinful but deemed unacceptable behavior by the abuser yet it’s called sin and treated with contempt. I for one am sure that victims think way too much and too critically about their “sin” which is not sin and in that start to think everything they do is sinful. This IS the aim of the abuser. When you are born again the Holy Spirit convicts you and when sin is revealed it IS dealt with and hated and then right way is obeyed. I have no doubt about that. It like the sealed conscience you had while unsaved is now operating rightly again when your born again. And now because of the Holy Spirit in you – you now follow what is right.

        Talking about a victim’s own sin should not be lumped in with a talk about the abuser’s sin. Separate issues entirely and to combine both thoughts puts equal blame on the victim. It should therefore not be spoken of together. Ever.

        In a court of law you wouldn’t talk about what the victim did wrong her in life when convicting the criminal. You focus on the facts. A defense lawyer for the guilty party would focus on discrediting the victim. Likewise in God’s court every one is accountable alone. I imagine He won’t be addressing the abuser’s wicked ways and pointing to the victim’s personal sin at the same time. Separate issues. I believe this is the reason why the abusers chooses born again Christians to manipulate and blame and abuse. I believe they use this as a way to say “look at her she won’t take accountability for any of her sin!” When all he’s doing is NOT admitting his wicked sin and using her “sin” as a diversion.

        Victims do NOT do this. They cry out for justice but they are NOT hiding their own sin. Born again survivors don’t live actively sinful lives. NOT possible if one is born again.

      4. Yes, Paul talks about his sin. He HATES it. Likewise all his real sisters and brothers do the same. The abuser does not hate his sin. He continues IN it. Separate issues. And guess what? Now that I’m free from the abuser(s) I don’t have a problem knowing right fim wrong and gladly doing right. Not one bit. However, with them in my life I was tormented for even wanting to do so. See the difference here?

        Also I believe you Cannot have a healthy and right conscience without the Holy Spirit. We are first born this way. I see it in young children. This is why we TRAIN them to know right from wrong and to do right. They have a conscience and so they know right from wrong but they are not born again so they excuse it, lie, and manipulate. They are slaves to sin until born again but no less accountable. How else do you train a child up in The Lord? They must know right from wrong to know who God is and rightly hear the Gospel, Right?

        Abusers are the same however those who have heard the gospel and rejected an twisted are in danger of Hell. Furthermore all people will be held accountable because we all know God exists and that there is evil and good. Those not in Christ will be without excuse. Those safe in Christ (born again) are accountable for their words and deeds also. We are NOT slaves to sin and must be separate from those who are. And we are separate in stand for the truth.

        But to speak of victims sin together with abuser’s sin against them is in appropriate. Intended or not by commenters here, this is what the abuser does.

        You wouldn’t point at a child who was just hit by another and punish him for hitting back, would you? The right thing would be to first comfort the child who was hit, acknowledge the wrong done to him and validate his accurate as very appropriate feelings about the injustice that was done. Then you seek out the one who hit him and give the appropriate and effective punishment. Then you may help remind the child who hit back (defended himself) that hitting not healthy and help him to think of healthier ways to deal with abuse and wrongs being done by others to them. For example, not playing with friends that are rude and friends that won’t “be sorry” for there mean actions against you, choosing respectful friends and not compromising your own safety for the sake of having a playmate for the moment.

        But for all purposes – if you’re being attacked- you scream for help, hit back in defense to leave and run. In an emergency you do whatever it takes to protect yourself and leave. You don’t focus on the child’s “sin” who was harmed. It will be further reinforced to him that hitting others is wrong because it happened to him and he knows justice was served. His own sin (be it greed, lying, stealing, selfishness, abuse of others, etc etc) will come out and will be addressed by a parent who loves him when it happens. A parent who loves him will hold him accountable for his sin. Isnt this right?

        In short, no one deserves abuse no matter what. However, Retaliation and resistance to abuse are different subjects so we must be very clear about that here also.

        Yes I believe this is a picture of what justice looks like when speaking of relationships. Thank you.

  21. Hi Barbara,

    As you know I submitted my responses earlier in the day, and it was several hours later that they posted. I’m not complaining because I understand that you as a moderator need to make sure that what gets published is in agreement with your policies here. But as you know, a couple of replies and criticisms came out in the time in-between, and it gave me more time to think about whether or not I actually wanted that much personal information out in public and especially after taking the hits I did here. If possible I’d like to request to have my last two posts (before this one) removed, and this post can serve as my answer to all the criticism.

    Originally I posted some very personal information regarding my past as part of an answer to the criticism I received. The information was meant to let people know that I understand this subject much more than you can know. Never once have I said anything that would give someone an indication that I think an abuse victim should be pointed to their own sin in a way that gives license to an abuser. I also believe that when a person comes out of abuse what they need more than anything is strong messages of grace and love. As healing progresses and the Holy Spirit strengthens your understanding that none of your weaknesses or sins was the cause of your abuse, then it’s easier to deal with our own shortcomings and see them in the light of God’s grace rather than as an excuse for someone else to hurt us.

    I feel like my posts were courteous and straight-forward, and I don’t understand some of the responses that I would term as down-right hostile. Apparently I’m either trying to build myself some kind of platform, or I’m “appearing” to agree with certain things as a part of a devious agenda to further some kind of other plan (maybe I’m actually after world-domination, and this blog is just the first step?), or I’m “evil”, or my talk of Paul’s example of being honest about his sinfulness is really just a backdoor way of siding with abusers and blaming the victim, or maybe it’s all of the above? Barbara said that a lot of men didn’t come around and engage in theological discussion. After enduring the accusations that I have, I certainly don’t have a desire to engage in further discussion.

    I’ll keep calling things as I see them whether it’s here or some place else. I truly believe abuse is a Biblical ground for divorce, and I’ll keep fighting for evangelical churches and pastors to confront the issue of domestic violence head-on. I do believe it’s a mistake to blame CORRECT complementarian teaching as a culprit, and it’s important to recognize that a correct understanding of Ephesians 5 prevents abuse and doesn’t cause it.

    I think it’s best that I bow out of the discussion and the blog and wish you well.

  22. Everyone, firstly, please forgive me if I have made any errors of judgement with moderating this thread.

    Jason Jones has asked me to remove two of his comments, so I have done so.

    In those two comments, which are now removed (they are in a holding place at the back of the blog) Jason gave an account of his own experiences of being a victim of domestic abuse from his (now ex) wife. His account rang true to both me and Jeff Crippen. That is why we published those two comments. As all our regular readers here will be aware, we support all victims of abuse, no matter what their gender.

    It seems to me that this has all gone a bit pear shaped. I do not want to attribute blame or point a finger at anyone, other than myself for perhaps having published people’s comments without being mindful enough of all the possible outcomes.

    I have gone back into the various comments that our readers have made in response to Jason’s comments, and have edited out some things in those comments and added a few things here or there in square brackets. I did this because, since I now understand that Jason has suffered domestic abuse, I wanted to take a bit of the sting out of some of what others had said to him.

    I ask you all to be understanding of me, and not react too much to what I’ve done, if you can. I know that it can be triggering to feel your words edited out, but it is also triggering for a victim / survivor to be told they used the same tactics as abusers use. We — all of us survivors, of whatever gender — know how triggering it is to be told that WE are the abusers.

    So, everyone, if you’re still reading this, let’s take a few deep breaths and see what we can learn from this.

    In no particular order of priority, these are the things that come to my mind:

    Jason did not write about his personal experience of suffering domestic abuse in his first few comments. So none of us knew he was a fellow survivor. In one of his (now hidden) comments, he wrote:

    I’m a survivor of both domestic and church abuse. I don’t think I’ve ever said that out loud, and this may have been the first time I’ve ever written it.

    Since it was the first time he had ever ‘come out’ about the abuse he suffered, we cannot blame him for not telling us earlier….we all know how hard it is to say “I have been abused”. And that first time disclosure is really fraught with risk: if the responses others give to that first disclosure are negative or critical, then the survivor can shut down for many more months or years.

    In regards to the comments that some of our readers made in response to Jason’s earlier comments, the ones where he had not disclosed that he is a survivor of abuse, I think that there may have been a range of things going on. Triggered responses, perhaps some assumptions, but not necessarily assumptions that were all that unreasonable given that Jason hadn’t disclosed his personal story and some of his language sounded so similar to the victim-blaming or advice-giving that has often been salt in the wound for us as abuse victims and survivors.

    Jason, if you are willing to keep engaging with us, all I would suggest is that from now on you try to speak personally (using I, me) rather than for other victims. As you probably know, when someone has been abused, their abuser has frequently defined reality for them. By “defining reality” I mean that the abuser tells the victim what the victim feels, how the victim thinks, and how the victim should feel and think and behave. When any of us at this blog start using that kind of language, others will quite likely be hurt by it.

    We encourage all readers here to speak about their own experiences, and if they want to make a generalised statement, to use qualifiers, like “maybe … some … most … sometimes … perhaps… often but not necessarily always .. possibly…” etc.

    Here is a simple example:
    Rather than saying:
    “When you disclose the abuse to your pastor and he disbelieves you, you are lost for words”
    it’s better to say:
    “When you disclose the abuse to your pastor and he disbelieves you, you might feel lost for words.”

    Or rephrase it so it only speaks about yourself, and does not infer anything about the experiences other survivors might have:
    “When I disclosed the abuse to my pastor he disbelieved me, and I was lost for words.”

    And rather than saying:
    “You have to be willing to be transparent about your own sins”
    it’s better to say:
    “Sometimes, in some circumstances, you might need to be willing to be transparent about your own sins.” (And you might want to add: “And sometimes, when you are talking to abusers and their allies, it’s unwise to be transparent about your own sins, because they will only take your disclosures and shape them into grenades to throw back at you.”

    Or alternatively, you might decide to personalise it by saying:
    “In my own journey, after I had left the abuser and been in recovery for some years, I found myself becoming more aware of my own sins and becoming more transparent about them to God, and when that happened, my healing progressed even more.”

    I hope this makes sense, and that if anyone has been wounded or triggered by this thread, we can let the balm of our Lord’s understanding and love heal the wounds.

      1. I think from my perspective I really don’t want to be treated any differently because of my past. If someone has something to say that is direct and hard-hitting then I’m ok with that, just as long as it is addressing the issue and not jumping to conclusions about my motives. I don’t consider myself to be a victim. That was a long time ago. I’ve gone through a lot of healing, and I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to walk on eggshells around me.

        I only have a small amount of free time so I wouldn’t be able to be a consistent contributor no matter what. I will give a few comments in response to Barbara’s post below, and maybe post here and there, but I would certainly be limited in my participation.

  23. I wouldn’t have a problem reading a private email, but as far as public posting, I’d like to just leave without hearing any other nefarious motives being ascribed to me. Accusations from complete strangers really shouldn’t have an effect, but they do.

  24. I’ve just added this to the end of the post:

    Womans’s desire for man: Genesis 3:6 reconsidered [Internet Archive link], by Irvin A Busenitz, 1986. The synopsis of his article says:

    Lexical and etymological studies of the words of Gen 3:16b yield little help for interpreting the meaning of the woman’s desire for man. Contextual evidence, however, indicates that the woman’s desire for the man and his rule over her are not the punishment but the conditions in which the woman will suffer punishment. Although there are linguistic and thematic parallels between Gen 3:16b and Gen 4:7, contextual differences and interpretive problems indicate that Gen 4:7 cannot be used to interpret the meaning of “desire” in Gen 3:16. The Song of Solomon 7:10 provides a better context for understanding the word. It may be concluded that, in spite of the Fall, the woman will have a longing for intimacy with man involving more than sexual intimacy.

    Critique of CBMS’s Statement on Abuse — on this post (first published in 2010) I made some comments on Susan Foh’s interpretation of Gen. 3:16.

  25. I just discovered this post: Connecting genesis 3 and 4 through the most obscure verse [Internet Archive link] by Martin Shields.

    The post doesn’t address the woman’s desire in Genesis 3:6, but it has a very interesting suggestion about the meaning of Genesis 4:7. Here is a quote from the post:

    Of particular interest, however, in the light of Genesis 4, is this reference to the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent [Gen 3:15]. And that’s because when we reach chapter 4 we actually meet the woman’s seed, her firstborn, Cain. Furthermore, based on Akkadian cognates, many scholars believe that Gen 4:7 makes reference to a demon (רבץ‎) depicted by God as lying in wait for Cain. Could this be a “seed of the serpent” anticipated in Gen 3:15?

    If this is the case, then the first murder is tied closely back to the events of chapter 3. Gen 3:16 spoke of the consequences of disobedience and the same words in Gen 4:7 speak about the consequences of sin. Genesis 3 anticipated a struggle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, and here is the first skirmish. And just as it went the serpent’s way in Genesis 3, here again the seed of the serpent triumphs and the outcome anticipated by Gen 3:15 fails to eventuate.

    Cain fails to heed God’s warning, he fails to strike the serpent’s head. That would have to wait for another…

  26. […] Barbara Roberts, our Australian friend whom we met several years ago when she came to the states and who blogs over at A Cry for Justice along with Jeff Crippen, has written an outstanding article entitled — What is the woman's desire?  How Susan Foh's interpretation of Genesis 3:16 fed steroids to abusers.  It really is a must read!  You can access it here — Part 1  Part 2 […]

  27. On Thurs., April 28, 1757 John Wesley made the following entry in his diary:

    I talked with one who, by the advice of his Pastor, had, very calmly and deliberately, beat his wife with a large stick, till she was black and blue, almost from head to foot. And he insisted, it was his duty so to do, because she was surly and ill-natured; and that he was full of faith all the time he was doing it, and had been so ever since.

    John Wesley, vol. 2 of The Complete Works of John Wesley, 7 vols. (Albany, OR: AGES Software, 1997), 450.

  28. JUST OUT: Genesis 3:16 and the ESV [Internet Archive link] by Dr Claude Mariottini, Oct 4 2016. This article is VERY IMPORTANT. Here is an excerpt:

    In a recent article, “The Meaning of Hebrew תשׁוקה,” Journal of Semitic Studies 61 (2016):365-387, Andrew A. Macintosh did a thorough study of the word תְּשׁוּקָה (teshûqâ) and came to an interesting conclusion. …

    He wrote: “In summary, I conclude that ‘desire’ is not a proper rendering of the Hebrew word תְּשׁוּקָה in the Hebrew Bible or in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Rather, on the evidence of comparative philology and of the ancient versions, ‘concern, preoccupation, (single-minded) devotion, focus’, appears to be more likely” (2016:385).

    (boldface added by Barb)

  29. I’m wondering why everyone keeps trying to compare Genesis 3 and 4. Why not just compare the two ‘curses’. Does being cursed with thorns and thistles mean that that’s just the way it is? I believe that God was saying, “Because of sin, a man’s greatest battle will be against thorns and thistles.” And a woman’s greatest battle will be against being ruled by men. Men don’t say, “Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to harvest thorns and thistles.” Neither should women say, “Oh well, I guess I’m just always going to have to obey men.” These two things are the big attacks of the devil, that we need to resist by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Notice that every people group that follows the God of the Bible, starts making inventions to lighten the load of sweat work. In the same way we need to stop lording it over each other as the Gentiles do. (Someone said that, right? As well as ‘call no man master’? – funny I almost never hear those scriptures when the argument of ‘submission’ comes up.)

    I hear, “Well someone has to be the boss.” Really? Traditionally the Mennonites had plural ministry because they knew that power in the hands of one (man) was dangerous. Same with the US government, with its checks and balances. Same with why God said, “You want a king? No you don’t. Trust me. He will take advantage of you.” Whatever is wrong with both spouses being partners, mutually respectful, and waiting for the Holy Spirit to bring them to agreement before making decisions? What better checks and balances can there be?

    1. I absolutely love what you said in your first paragraph, Sunflower!

      And you asked why everyone keeps trying to compare Genesis 3 and 4. There are two reasons: one is legitimate, and the other is, in my opinion, nefarious and wicked.

      The legitimate reason to compare them is that there are similarities in the Hebrew words used in Gen 3:16b and Gen 4:7. The nefarious reason is that those who want to retain male privilege have jumped on that similarity and claimed that it means women have a sin bias to usurp men’s authority, just like satan was crouching in wait like an animal wanting to tempt Cain to murder his brother.

      1. The nefarious reason is that those who want to retain male privilege have jumped on that similarity and claimed that it means women have a sin bias to usurp men’s authority…

        It would be interesting if those that believe this would provide Scriptural examples of women doing this. Surely God would provide these examples. On the other hand, there are many examples that demonstrate women’s romantic desire.

  30. I believe you are completely accurate in your assessment that the desire spoken of in Gen 3:16 is neutral, turning towards, not attempting to control a man as misinterpreted by Susan Foh. Recently, the ESV changed from the standard translation to “your desire shall be contrary to your husband”. Sadly, these misinterpretations and mistranslations will only escalate attacks on equality from Patriarchal denominations.

    Like you, I interpreted Gen 3:16 to be, not a curse, but warning of men’s inclination to rule over women. I was recently reviewing the Hebrew text to see if I could see anything new, and I noticed that the Hebrew word אִישֵׁךְ֙ translated as husband is not common. It is created from two words אֶל + אִישׁ, the first part meaning God / god, and the second part meaning adult male human being. Today, this word is also translated as ‘bully’. I wonder if God is warning women against desiring men who feel they are superior, whether due to physical or financial strength, who use this power to rule others. In practice, I do believe it is safer for a woman to marry a gentle-man, not a domineering one.

    The Patriarchy movements refuse to recognize the inconsistencies between Paul’s teachings and the Pastoral Epistles and 1 Cor 14:34 & 35 and continue to subject their members to church structures that violate Jesus’s command for equality among His disciples in Matthew 23: 8 & 10. Perhaps the fact that I’m being told to “be quiet” more and more is evidence that these movements are growing. While this might make it easy for the male leadership in these churches to silence and rule over their female members, by breaking Christ’s command for equality, they are not abiding in Him or His commandments, thus deny themselves the gifts of the Holy Spirit and risk being thrown into the fire and burned at judgment (John 15:6).

    1. Hi Kate, just to be on the safe side I changed your screen name to simply Kate.

      Thanks for your comment. I will ask Ps Sam Powell if he would like to comment on what you said about that Hebrew word. Sam has taught Hebrew as seminary level.

      And welcome to the blog. 🙂 We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page.

      1. Just a couple of comments on el-ishka, it is a common error with Hebrew students to confuse the preposition ‘el with the noun ‘el. Both have similar spellings, but different uses. In Genesis 3:16, it is a preposition that means “to” or “towards”, not a noun that means “God”. The noun in the phrase is ‘ish, which means the male of the species. With the attached “ka” (your – feminine singular) it means “your man” or “your husband”.
        So the whole phrase is “to your husband”. It is a fairly common phrase and standard usage.
        There is a temptation to look for hidden secrets in the text, but here there aren’t any. It is pretty straightforward – which is why the new ESV bugs me. It changes a pretty simply preposition to something else.
        In responding to it, we should be careful not to make the same error the other way.
        Further comments on this verse can be found here:
        Genesis 3:16 [Internet Archive link]

        Hope this helps!

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