************ Sermon on Genesis 3:16 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 21, 2010
"The Curse on the Woman"
A friend of mine gave me a commentary to read in connection with my Genesis sermons. It certainly is different from all my other commentaries. Where we see sin, it sees development and independence. Where we see danger, it sees opportunity. Where we see expulsion, it sees civilization. Where we see complementary roles for the sexes, it sees sexism.
Though not from the commentary, I came across the following quote in my studies which, I think, illustrates the difference between the two mindsets:
"Eve's eating of the apple in the garden of Eden was the first free act of the human race. We ought to recognize that act. We ought to celebrate Eve. She began the process of freedom."Some act of freedom. One that enslaves. One that causes pain. One that creates tension between the sexes. One that leads to death. Why would anyone want to celebrate something like this?
( Reverend Patricia Budd Kepler, director of ministerial studies at Harvard Divinity School)
Last week we began our study of God's judgment upon sin by looking at the judgment upon the serpent/Satan. I said, then, that each of the judgments is a double judgment. As we look today at the judgment upon the woman and peek ahead to the judgment upon the man, it becomes clear that we can now say more than this. The first judgment, in each case, involves a life function. The serpent crawls on its belly and eats its food in the dust of the earth, the woman has pain in childbearing, and the man produces food through painful labor. The second judgment, in each case, involves a relationship in conflict. The serpent/devil is in conflict with the woman and her seed, the wife is in conflict with her husband, and the man is in conflict with the earth.
I The Woman and Childbearing
A Listen to the first part of God's judgment or sentence upon the woman:
(Gen 3:16) "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children."I want you to note that there is continuity as well as discontinuity with an original arrangement.
First, let's look at the continuity. Remember the command and blessing of Genesis 1:28? Man was told to be fruitful, to increase in number, to fill the earth. From this command and blessing we know that the woman would have brought forth children even if there had been no Fall. We therefore note that there is continuity with the original arrangement: the woman may continue to bear children; this continuity is a blessing. Children, indeed, are a blessing from the Lord. Which is why to be a joyful mother of children was the hope of every Old Testament woman (Gen 30:1; Ps 113:9).
B Second, we note there is also discontinuity. From now on the woman's childbearing will include greatly increased hardship and pain; this discontinuity is the painful sentence. A couple of people asked me about this last week. They were looking ahead in their Bible and wanted to know if "greatly increase" meant what they thought it meant – that even before the Fall into sin childbirth meant pain. And, if so, doesn't this mean the Garden was not as perfect a place as we always thought it was? And, doesn't this mean that life before the Fall was not as perfect as we always thought it was?
Our English Bibles are slightly misleading here. The Hebrew does not actually use the word "greatly" in the phrase "greatly increase." Rather, it uses the same word twice for emphasis. Furthermore, a more accurate translation for the two words is "numerous, numerous." So, the Hebrew is not implying or inferring that there was pain in childbearing prior to the Fall. What is in mind, instead, is that there is pain from this point on; furthermore, that this pain greatly increases over time.
Pain in childbearing. And more pain in childbearing. Pain that includes danger. That is the curse God placed upon the woman. At the moment in her life when a woman experiences her highest sense of fulfilment as a mother, she will experience pain. Today, doctors relieve and minimize the pain but the pain is still there. And the danger is still there. We see this pain, don't we, when Rachel died giving birth and named her son "Ben Oni" – which means "son of my trouble" (Gen 35:16-20). We see this pain when the daughter-in-law of Eli died giving birth and named the boy "Ichabod" – which means "the glory has departed from Israel" (1 Sam 4:19-21). I saw this pain when Ruth almost bled to death after giving birth to David.
C The pains are here said to be multiplied – that is, greatly increased. In this sin-filled and fallen world, the pains of childbearing include more than the birth pangs and danger of labor. As any pregnant woman can tell you, the pains usually start with the pregnancy already; many women experience morning sickness and other indispositions during pregnancy; some are violently sick for months and need complete bed-rest. Then there is the whole birthing process. Then there are the nursing toils and vexations after birth, including postpartum blues and sibling rivalry. This is followed by the pain only a mother bears as the child, time and again, hurts its mother and shows itself to be conceived and born in sin. And, if the child proves wicked and foolish, it is the mother who especially is heavy in heart. Along this line, how much hurt do you think Eve felt when Cain killed Abel?
So we see that sorrows and pains are multiplied and succeed one another. They pile on top of each other like bricks on a wall. But isn't this true for all the sorrows of this present life?
D Notice, this pain comes from God and the hand of God. It is His judgment against sin. It is His judgment against the eating of the forbidden fruit. It is His judgment that multiplies our sorrows. He does this to silence us, to humble us, and to lead us to repentance. The pain of childbirth is a constant reminder of the first mother's sin. Every birth and every child, then, becomes an opportunity to learn under the hand of God. Every birth and every child, then, becomes a call to repentance.
II The Woman and her Husband
A There is a judgment not only on life function but also on relationship. The Lord God said to the woman, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
My immediate reaction is to ask, "What kind of judgment is this?" Isn't this a good thing? Which husband wouldn't want a wife who desires her husband? Which wife wouldn't want a godly husband who acts as the spiritual head of the home? Again, isn't this a good thing? Or, does it mean something else?
B Let's break it down into its parts. First, let's look at the woman's desire for her husband. I want you to note that, once again, we see continuity and discontinuity with an original arrangement.
Do you remembered what happened when God gave away the first bride and performed the first wedding ceremony? The man sees the woman for the first time and responds in poetry:
(Gen 2:23) The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man."The creation of woman causes the man to sing. And, we can safely assume that the woman responded in a similar fashion. So, there is continuity with an original arrangement. Before and after the Fall, the woman desires the man; and, the man desires the woman.
The word used here for "desire" is used only three times in the Old Testament. It is used to describe the desire of the lover for the beloved in the Song of Solomon (Songs 7:10). That is the continuity part. It is also used to describe the desire of sin to master Cain like a lion crouching to jump on its prey (Gen 4:7). That describes the discontinuity part. The desire of the woman for her husband is like the desire of sin that lies poised, ready, to leap at Cain. Suddenly desire becomes a jealous lover. A manipulative lover. A controlling lover. A lover who schemes and bargains to get her own way instead of submitting to her husband in love. The holy desire given by God becomes perverted after the Fall.
"To love and to cherish" becomes "To desire and to manipulate." This is what happens because of the woman's sin. Sadly, this is the womanhood embraced by today's feminism.
C Second, let's look at the husband's rule over his wife. I want you to note that, once again, we see continuity and discontinuity with an original arrangement.
What have I been saying about the husband-wife relationship as we looked at the creation of woman and the fall into sin? I've been saying the husband is the head of the wife. I've been saying it is a creation mandate; it is something built into the very fabric of human society. It is not something that existed only after the Fall into sin. The man is the spiritual head of the woman for two reasons. Because he was made first. Because he names the woman. Adam held a position of priority, authority, and leadership with respect to the woman. So after the Fall there is continuity with what existed before the Fall. Our text tells us the husband continues to rule the wife. Here is the first time the Bible specifically states that the husband will rule over the wife.
What happened in the Fall? The man abdicated his spiritual leadership. He should have said "NO" to sin and Satan. He should have stopped and corrected his wife. He was there but he did and said nothing. As I have mentioned in previous messages, many husbands today act the same way as Adam – they still don't say "NO" to their wives. They still don't act as spiritual leaders.
As for the woman, in the Fall she sinfully took over the leadership that belonged to the man. The woman decided that
(Gen 3:6) ... the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, [so] she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.Did you catch that last part? She took and ate. But not the man – he did not take and eat; rather, he was given and he ate. It was the woman who gave it to him. She decided. She gave. She acted. She sinned. There are many women today who, like Eve, wrongly take over the leadership of the home and marriage. They set the spiritual direction instead of submitting to their husband. In fact, they contest and struggle against their husband's rule. And the husband remains silent and cowed.
Our text affirms Adam's priority and authority after he had submitted to the woman's disobedient lead. Our text affirms Adam's priority and authority after the woman took the disobedient lead. This is the continuity part. Do you hear what I am saying: the rule of a husband is not God's penalty for falling into sin. This rule existed both before and after the Fall. It is to be seen as one of God's blessings upon the human race.
The word for "rule" is neutral. It can be positive or it can be negative; it can be benevolent or malevolent; it can be kind or it can be cruel. We can be sure that Adam's rule before the Fall was benevolent and loving in nature.
Because of the Fall, in a sin-filled world, a husband's rule often tends to be sinful and oppressive. This is where the discontinuity comes to play. This is where a husband's rule is the woman's penalty for falling into sin. Many times today the man's leadership is a sinful kind of domineering.
Think of how Abraham misused his headship by giving his wife, Sarah, over to Pharaoh and to Abimelech (Gen 12, 20). Think of how Lot misused his headship by parking his tent next to Sodom – with fatal consequences for himself and his family.
Think of a husband who regularly beats his wife. I have seen it far too often. The police see it all the time. In fact, it is almost the most dangerous situation for the police – to respond to what they call a domestic dispute. Quite often an enraged husband attacks the police with a gun or a knife or a baseball bat. As for the wife, she is so scared and so pathetic and so brain-washed and so beaten down that she often takes the husband's side.
Think, also, of a husband who heaps constant abuse on his wife – emotional, spiritual, psychological, verbal, financial. Over the years I have had woman after woman in my office who have suffered these kinds of abuse. Husbands who care only about themselves. Husbands who act like brutes. Husbands who don't have a clue about their wives. Husbands who have no interest in meeting their wife's needs.
"To love and to cherish" becomes "To desire and to dominate." Sadly, this is the manhood embraced by too many within today's world.
Isn't all of this so sad? Pain with childbirth. Broken relationships. What started off so beautifully has become so distorted all because of sin.
But, you know, it doesn't have to be this way! In fact, if you are a Christian it shouldn't be this way.
What does Jesus do? Why did Jesus come? Jesus redeems marriage. And, Jesus takes away the effects of the Fall. He, after all, is the One Who crushes the serpent's head. Listen carefully to the result in Ephesians 5:
(Ephesians 5:22-24) Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (23) For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. (24) Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
(Ephesians 5:25-30) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (26) to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (27) and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (28) In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (29) After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- (30) for we are members of his body.
Do you see the difference Christ makes, or should make, in the life of His children? In the redemptive process the sinful distortion is taken away. A wife's desire for her husband is still there but she submits instead of manipulates. A husband's rule over his wife is still there but, in Christ, it has been purified and sanctified.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be in Christ: husband and wife serving each other and loving each other.
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