Gen. 3:16 To the woman He said, "I will certainly multiply your pain and your conception; in pain you will bear sons. And into your husband (is) your longing, but he himself will rule over you. (URLV)
So, God finally gets to the main culprits in the story, which turn out not to be the serpent/Satan, but the woman and man. Surprised? Well, these first humans are the only ones in Creation that were made in God's image, and bearing God's image is a pretty serious matter . .. serious enough to pronounce a consequence for disobedience that will affect the whole human race down through the ages, even to the present time.And appropriately, the consequences are tailored to hit both woman and man in their most basic and unique responsibility. For the woman that is child-bearing, plain and simple. And before anyone responds with any cries (or thoughts) of "sexism," let's be honest and admit that giving birth is the one thing a woman can do that a man can't. There's really no way around that fact, that God-given ability. Under normal circumstances, this is great and joyful gift. But, of course, these are no longer "normal" circumstances.
So, for the woman, God' judgment directly affects the woman's experience in childbearing, in a couple ways. The first statement is that God will "certainly multiply your pain and conception." Hmmm . . "pain AND conception." Now there are scholars that believe this simply means "pain during conception," and is just one thing. However, conception isn't the place where pain hits a woman the most while carrying a baby. Rather, it is it is the actual act of childbearing, of "labor" where the greatest pain comes. And God emphasizes this by saying "in pain you will bear sons." The best conclusion here is that two things will be multiplied: 1) pain, which is self-explanatory, and 2) conception, which must mean the woman will conceive a whole bunch more in her sinful state. Well, it's not rocket science to say that this means multiplied pain as well, not to mention lots of "wear and tear" on the woman's body, and sometimes death. (Our main subject here is death, remember?) So, the bottom line is that the woman's most unique and basic physical ability will always be really, really painful, and probably dangerous to her health.
Now the second half of the verse regarding the woman's "desire" for her husband has generated a couple different interpretations: 1) this is sexual/emotional desire, which is fine, but the husband's response is less than gentle: He will "rule" her; he will "dominate" her. 2) there is another explanation that works better: the woman's desire is to usurp her husbands position as head of the household, but the husband, being bigger and stronger, defeats that desire by dominating her with violence if necessary.
There is grammatical evidence for this 2nd explanation in Gen 4:6 which has a very close sentence structure: "sin is lying down by the door, and into you is its desire, but you yourself must rule over it." This is God telling Cain about the danger of giving into sin, picturing sin as a snake which "desires" to have Cain, but warning Cain he must "rule over" sin instead. In Hebrew the construction is exactly the same as the Gen 3:16b, with "desire" and "rule" in the same contrasting positions. So, woman will desire to usurp man's headship (which she did once already with the fruit), but the man's strong domination will prevent this.
Taken together, this combination of consequences in Gen. 3:16 pictures a very frustrating and difficult life for women, especially as her life is connected to her husband and her childbearing. Being a wife and mother was meant by God in Creation to be utterly joyful and fulfilling, and most women will admit that this is still the case, but the sin of Eve has brought the pain right in the midst of the joy.
Pain in the midst of joy, and joy in the midst of pain. Get it? Starting to see the utterly destructive impact of sin in real life?
Well, that's the point, isn't it?
Well, that's the point, isn't it?
Later in Christ,