Genesis 3:16
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
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(16) Unto the woman he said.—The woman is not cursed as the serpent was, but punished as next in guilt; and the retribution is twofold. First, God greatly multiplies “her sorrow and her conception,” that is, her sorrow generally, but especially in connection with pregnancy, when with anguish and peril of life she wins the joy of bringing a man into the world. But also “thy desire shall be to thy husband.” In the sin she had been the prime actor, and the man had yielded her too ready an obedience. Henceforward she was to live in subjection to him; yet not unhappy, because her inferiority was to be tempered by a natural longing for the married state and by love towards her master.—Among the heathen the punishment was made very bitter by the degradation to which woman was reduced; among the Jews the wife, though she never sank so low, was nevertheless purchased of her father, was liable to divorce at the husband’s will, and was treated as in all respects his inferior. In Christ the whole penalty, as St. Paul teaches, has been abrogated (Galatians 3:28), and the Christian woman is no more inferior to the man than is the Gentile to the Jew, or the bondman to the free.

Genesis 3:16. We have here the sentence passed on the woman: she is condemned to a state of sorrow and subjection: proper punishments of a sin in which she had gratified her pleasure and her pride. I will greatly multiply thy sorrow — In divers pains and infirmities peculiar to thy sex; and thy conception — Thou shalt have many, and those oft-times fruitless conceptions and abortive births. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children — With more pain than any other creatures undergo in bringing forth their young: a lasting and terrible proof this that human nature is in a fallen state! Thy desire shall be to thy husband — That is, as appears from Genesis 4:7, where the same phrase is used, Thy desires shall be referred or submitted to thy husband’s will and pleasure, to grant or deny them as he sees fit. She had eaten of the forbidden fruit, and thereby had committed a great sin, in compliance with her own desire, without asking her husband’s advice or consent, as in all reason she ought to have done in so weighty and doubtful a matter, and therefore she is thus punished. He shall rule over thee — Seeing for want of thy husband’s rule and guidance thou wast seduced, and didst abuse the power and influence I gave thee, by drawing thy husband into sin, thou shalt now be brought to a lower degree; and whereas thou wast made thy husband’s equal, thou shalt henceforward be his inferior, and he shall rule over thee — As thy lord and governor.

3:16-19 The woman, for her sin, is condemned to a state of sorrow, and of subjection; proper punishments of that sin, in which she had sought to gratify the desire of her eye, and of the flesh, and her pride. Sin brought sorrow into the world; that made the world a vale of tears. No wonder our sorrows are multiplied, when our sins are so. He shall rule over thee, is but God's command, Wives, be subject to your own husbands. If man had not sinned, he would always have ruled with wisdom and love; if the woman had not sinned, she would always have obeyed with humility and meekness. Adam laid the blame on his wife; but though it was her fault to persuade him to eat the forbidden fruit, it was his fault to hearken to her. Thus men's frivolous pleas will, in the day of God's judgment, be turned against them. God put marks of displeasure on Adam. 1. His habitation is cursed. God gave the earth to the children of men, to be a comfortable dwelling; but it is now cursed for man's sin. Yet Adam is not himself cursed, as the serpent was, but only the ground for his sake. 2. His employments and enjoyments are imbittered to him. Labour is our duty, which we must faithfully perform; it is part of man's sentence, which idleness daringly defies. Uneasiness and weariness with labour are our just punishment, which we must patiently submit to, since they are less than our iniquity deserves. Man's food shall become unpleasant to him. Yet man is not sentenced to eat dust as the serpent, only to eat the herb of the field. 3. His life also is but short; considering how full of trouble his days are, it is in favour to him that they are few. Yet death being dreadful to nature, even when life is unpleasant, that concludes the punishment. Sin brought death into the world: if Adam had not sinned, he had not died. He gave way to temptation, but the Saviour withstood it. And how admirably the satisfaction of our Lord Jesus, by his death and sufferings, answered the sentence passed on our first parents! Did travailing pains come with sin? We read of the travail of Christ's soul, Isa 53:11; and the pains of death he was held by, are so called, Ac 2:24. Did subjection came in with sin? Christ was made under the law, Ga 4:4. Did the curse come in with sin? Christ was made a curse for us, he died a cursed death, Ga 3:13. Did thorns come in with sin? He was crowned with thorns for us. Did sweat come in with sin? He sweat for us, as it had been great drops of blood. Did sorrow come in with sin? He was a man of sorrows; his soul was, in his agony, exceeding sorrowful. Did death come in with sin? He became obedient unto death. Thus is the plaster as wide as the wound. Blessed be God for his Son our Lord Jesus Christ.The sentence of the woman Genesis 3:16 consists of three parts: the former two regard her as a mother, the last as a wife. Sorrow is to be multiplied in her pregnancy, and is also to accompany the bearing of children. This sorrow seems to extend to all the mother's pains and anxieties concerning her offspring. With what solicitude she would long for a manifestation of right feeling toward the merciful God in her children, similar to what she had experienced in her own breast! What unutterable bitterness of spirit would she feel when the fruits of disobedience would discover themselves in her little ones, and in some of them, perhaps, gather strength from year to year!

The promise of children is implicitly given in these two clauses. It came out also incidentally in the sentence of the serpent. What a wonderful conception is here presented to the minds of the primeval pair! Even to ourselves at this day the subject of race is involved in a great deal of mystery. We have already noticed the unity of the race in its head. But the personality and responsibility of individuals involve great and perplexing difficulties. The descent of a soul from a soul is a secret too deep for our comprehension. The first man was potentially the race, and, so long as he stands alone, actually the whole race for the time. His acts, then, are those not merely of the individual, but of the race. If a single angel were to fall, he falls alone. If the last of a race were to fall, he would in like manner involve no other in his descent. But if the first of a race falls, before he has any offspring, the race has fallen. The guilt, the depravity, the penalty, all belong to the race. This is a great mystery. But it seems to follow inevitably from the constitution of a race, and it has clear evidences of its truth both in the facts and the doctrines of the Bible.

When we come to view the sin of our first parents in this light, it is seen to entail tremendous consequences to every individual of the race. The single transgression has involved the guilt, the depravity, and the death, not only of Adam, but of that whole race which was in him, and thus has changed the whole character and condition of mankind throughout all time.

In the instructions going before and coming after are found the means of training up these children for God. The woman has learned that God is not only a righteous judge, but a forbearing and merciful Father. This was enough for her at present. It enabled her to enter upon the journey of life with some gleams of hope amidst the sorrows of the family. And in the experience of life it is amazing what a large proportion of the agreeable is mingled with the troubles of our fallen race. The forbearance and goodness of God ought in all reason and conscience to lead us back to a better feeling toward him.

The third part of her sentence refers to her husband - "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." This is evidently a piece of that retributive justice which meets us constantly in the administration of God. The woman had taken the lead in the transgression. In the fallen state, she is to be subject to the will of her husband. "Desire" does not refer to sexual desire in particular. Genesis 4:7. It means, in general, "turn," determination of the will. "The determination of thy will shall be yielded to thy husband, and, accordingly, he shall rule over thee." The second clause, according to the parallel structure of the sentence, is a climax or emphatic reiteration of the first, and therefore serves to determine its meaning. Under fallen man, woman has been more or less a slave. In fact, under the rule of selfishness, the weaker must serve the stronger. Only a spiritual resurrection will restore her to her true place, as the help-meet for man.

16. unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow—She was doomed as a wife and mother to suffer pain of body and distress of mind. From being the help meet of man and the partner of his affections [Ge 2:18, 23], her condition would henceforth be that of humble subjection. I will greatly multiply, or certainly, as the repetition of the same word implies.

And thy conception, in diverse pains and infirmities peculiar to thy sex; i.e. Thou shalt have many, and those ofttimes, false and fruitless conceptions, and abortive births; and whereas thou mightest commonly have had many children at one conception, as some few women yet have, now thou shalt ordinarily undergo all the troubles and pains of conception, breeding, and birth, for every child which thou hast. Or,

thy sorrows and thy conception, by a figure called hendiaduo, are put for thy sorrows in conception, or rather in child-bearing, which the Hebrew word here used signifies, Genesis 16:4, Jdg 13:3. Aristotle, in his Histor. Animal. 7, 9, observes, that women bring forth young with more pain than any other creatures.

Bring forth children, or bear, for the word notes all the pains and troubles which women have, both in the time of child-bearing, and in the act of bringing forth.

Sons, and daughters too, both being comprehended in the Hebrew word Sons, as Exodus 22:24 Psalm 128:6.

Thy desire shall be to thy husband; thy desires shall be referred or submitted to thy husband’s will and pleasure to grant or deny them, as he sees fit. Which sense is confirmed from Genesis 4:7, where the same phrase is used in the same sense. And this punishment was both very proper for her that committed so great an error, as the eating of the forbidden fruit was, in compliance with her own desire, without asking her husband’s advice or consent, as in all reason she should have done in so weighty and doubtful a matter; and very grievous to her, because women’s affections use to be vehement, and it is irksome to them to have them restrained or denied. Seeing, for want of thy husband’s rule and conduct, thou wast seduced by the serpent, and didst abuse that power I gave thee together with thy husband to draw him to sin, thou shalt now be brought down to a lower degree, for he shall rule thee; not with that sweet and gentle hand which he formerly used, as a guide and counsellor only, but by a higher and harder hand, as a lord and governor, to whom I have now given a greater power and authority over thee than he had before, (which through thy pride and corruption will be far more uneasy unto thee than his former empire was), and who will usurp a further power than I have given him, and will, by my permission, for thy punishment, rule thee many times with rigour, tyranny, and cruelty, which thou wilt groan under, but shalt not be able to deliver thyself from it. See 1 Corinthians 14:34 1 Timothy 2:11-12 1 Peter 3:6.

Unto the woman he said,.... The woman receives her sentence next to the serpent, and before the man, because she was first and more deeply in the transgression, and was the means of drawing her husband into it.

I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, or "thy sorrow of thy conception" (a), or rather "of thy pregnancy" (b); since not pain but pleasure is perceived in conception, and besides is a blessing; but this takes in all griefs and sorrows, disorders and pains, from the time of conception or pregnancy, unto the birth; such as a nausea, a loathing of food, dizziness, pains in the head and teeth, faintings and swoonings, danger of miscarriage, and many distresses in such a case; besides the trouble of bearing such a burden, especially when it grows heavy: and when it is said, "I will greatly multiply", or "multiplying I will multiply" (c), it not only denotes the certainty of it, but the many and great sorrows endured, and the frequent repetitions of them, by often conceiving, bearing, and bringing forth:

in sorrow shall thou bring forth children, sons and daughters, with many severe pangs and sharp pains, which are so very acute, that great tribulations and afflictions are often in Scripture set forth by them: and it is remarked by naturalists (d), that women bring forth their young with more pain than any other creature:

and thy desire shall be to thy husband, which some understand of her desire to the use of the marriage bed, as Jarchi, and even notwithstanding her sorrows and pains in child bearing; but rather this is to be understood of her being solely at the will and pleasure of her husband; that whatever she desired should be referred to him, whether she should have her desire or not, or the thing she desired; it should be liable to be controlled by his will, which must determine it, and to which she must be subject, as follows:

and he shall rule over thee, with less kindness and gentleness, with more rigour and strictness: it looks as if before the transgression there was a greater equality between the man and the woman, or man did not exercise the authority over the woman he afterwards did, or the subjection of her to him was more pleasant and agreeable than now it would be; and this was her chastisement, because she did not ask advice of her husband about eating the fruit, but did it of herself, without his will and consent, and tempted him to do the same.

(a) "tuum dolorem etiam conceptus tui", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "tuum dolorem conceptus tui", Drusius, Noldius, p. 315. No. 1978. (b) "Praegnationis sive gestationis", Gataker. (c) "multiplicando multiplicabo", Pagninus, Montanus. (d) Aristotel. Hist. Animal. l. 7. c. 9.

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy {r} sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

(r) The Lord comforts Adam by the promise of the blessed seed, and also punishes the body for the sin which the soul should have been punished for; that the spirit having conceived hope of forgiveness might live by faith. 1Co 14:34.

16. I will greatly multiply] The sentence upon the woman deals with the two aspects of the married woman’s life, as wife and as mother. The story explains the pains of child-bearing as the penalty for the Fall. The possession of children is the Eastern woman’s strongest passion. The sentence upon the woman gratifies her desire, but crosses it with sorrow. The penalty brings also its blessing; and the blessing its discipline.

thy sorrow] Better, a Driver, “thy pain,” as the word, elsewhere used only in vv. 17, 29, is evidently not restricted to mental distress.

thy conception] Lat. conceptus tuos. But LXX τὸν στεναγμόν σου = “thy groaning,” according to a reading which differs by a very slight change in two Hebrew letters. This is preferred by some commentators, who represent that in the Israelite world a numerous family was regarded as a sign of God’s blessing, and not in the light of a penalty. But the change is needless. The sentence both upon the man and upon the woman is not so much punitive as disciplinary. The woman’s vocation to motherhood was her highest privilege and most intense happiness. The pains and disabilities of child-bearing, which darken the mystery of many a woman’s life, are declared to be the reminder that pain is part of God’s ordinance in the world, and that, in the human race, suffering enters largely into the shadow of sin.

in sorrow] viz. “in pain” as above.

thy desire, &c.] LXX ἡ ἀποστροφή σου, i.e. “thy turning or inclination,” with a very slight change of one letter in the Hebrew. But, again, there is no need to alter the reading. The two clauses present the antithesis of woman’s love and man’s lordship. Doubtless, there is a reference to the never ending romance of daily life, presented by the passionate attachment of a wife to her husband, however domineering, unsympathetic, or selfish he may be. But the primary reference will be to the condition of subservience which woman occupied, and still occupies, in the East; and to the position of man, as head of the family, and carrying the responsibility, as well as the authority, of “rule.”

This is emphasized in the Latin sub viri potestate eris.

Verse 16. - Unto the woman he said. Passing judgment on her first who had sinned first, but cursing neither her nor her husband, as "being candidates for restoration" (Tertullian). The sentence pronounced on Eve was twofold. I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. A hendiadys for "the sorrow of thy conception" (Gesenius, Bush), though this is not necessary. The womanly and wifely sorrow of Eve was to be intensified, and in particular the pains of parturition were to be multiplied (cf. Jeremiah 31:8). The second idea is more fully explained in the next clause. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. Literally, sons, daughters being included. The pains of childbirth are in Scripture emblematic of the severest anguish both of body and mind (cf. Psalm 48:7; Micah 4:9, 10; 1 Thessalonians 5:3; John 16:21; Revelation 12:2). The gospel gives a special promise to mothers (1 Timothy 2:15). "By bringing forth is also meant bringing up after the birth, as in Genesis 50:23" (Ainsworth). And thy desire shall be to thy husband. תְּשׁוּקָה, from שׁוּק to run, to have a vehement longing for a thing, may have the same meaning here as in Song of Solomon 7:10 (Dathe, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, Keil, Bohlen, Kalisch, Alford); but is better taken as expressive of deferential submissiveness, as in Genesis 4:7 (Luther, Calvin, Le Clerc, Lunge, Macdonald, Speaker's 'Commentary'.) Following the LXX. (ἀποστροφή), Murphy explains it as meaning, "The determination of thy will shall be yielded to thy husband." According to the analogy of the two previous clauses, the precise import of this is expressed in the next, though by many it is regarded as a distinct item in the curse (Kalisch, Alford, Clarke, Wordsworth). And he shall rule over thee. Not merely a prophecy of woman's subjection, but an investiture of man with supremacy over the woman; or rather a confirmation and perpetuation of that authority which had been assigned to the man at the creation. Woman had been given him as an helpmeet (Genesis 2:18), and her relation to the man from the first was constituted one of dependence. It was the reversal of this Divinely-established order that had led to the fall (Genesis 3:17). Henceforth, therefore, woman was to be relegated to, and fixed in, her proper sphere of subordination. On account of her subjection to man's authority a wife is described as the possessed or subjected one of a lord (Genesis 20:3; Deuteronomy 20:22), and a husband as the lord of a woman (Exodus 21:3). Among the Hebrews the condition of the female sex was one of distinct subordination, though not of oppression, and certainly not of slavery, as it too often has been in heathen and Mohammedan countries. Christianity, while placing woman on the same platform with man as regards the blessings of the gospel (Galatians 3:28), explicitly inculcates her subordination to the man in the relationship of marriage (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1) Genesis 3:16It was not till the prospect of victory had been presented, that a sentence of punishment was pronounced upon both the man and the woman on account of their sin. The woman, who had broken the divine command for the sake of earthly enjoyment, was punished in consequence with the sorrows and pains of pregnancy and childbirth. "I will greatly multiply (הרבּה is the inf. abs. for הרבּה, which had become an adverb: vid., Ewald, 240c, as in Genesis 16:10 and Genesis 22:17) thy sorrow and thy pregnancy: in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." As the increase of conceptions, regarded as the fulfilment of the blessing to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28), could be no punishment, והרנך must be understood as in apposition to עצּבונך thy sorrow (i.e., the sorrows peculiar to a woman's life), and indeed (or more especially) thy pregnancy (i.e., the sorrows attendant upon that condition). The sentence is not rendered more lucid by the assumption of a hendiadys. "That the woman should bear children was the original will of God; but it was a punishment that henceforth she was to bear them in sorrow, i.e., with pains which threatened her own life as well as that of the child" (Delitzsch). The punishment consisted in an enfeebling of nature, in consequence of sin, which disturbed the normal relation between body and soul. - The woman had also broken through her divinely appointed subordination to the man; she had not only emancipated herself from the man to listen to the serpent, but had led the man into sin. For that, she was punished with a desire bordering upon disease (תּשׁוּקה from שׁוּק to run, to have a violent craving for a thing), and with subjection to the man. "And he shall rule over thee." Created for the man, the woman was made subordinate to him from the very first; but the supremacy of the man was not intended to become a despotic rule, crushing the woman into a slave, which has been the rule in ancient and modern Heathenism, and even in Mahometanism also-a rule which was first softened by the sin-destroying grace of the Gospel, and changed into a form more in harmony with the original relation, viz., that of a rule on the one hand, and subordination on the other, which have their roots in mutual esteem and love.
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