To the woman he said,Genesis 3:16-21
“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.”
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
The choices we make in life, good or bad as they may be, inevitably have corresponding consequences. The choice to disregard or disobey the command of the eternal, holy, righteous Creator inevitably brings eternal, holy, righteous judgement. From a human perspective, we can often look at this episode and say that God’s judgement for eating a forbidden piece of fruit was severe. But it wasn’t just a simple piece of fruit. It was the consequential spiritual impact of eating the fruit that the Father was trying to protect us from.
We were not created to experience shame. We were not created to intimately experience the collision of good and evil in a simple bite. The fruit was not the problem. It was the choice. Without the choice, there would be no freewill and that would mean that our Creator was not a God of love, but rather a cosmic despotic puppet master playing games like a child. We would then in effect be robots programmed to do only that which we were told to do.
And because Adam and Eve disobeyed and intimately experienced the shame associated with the intimate experience of knowing the good (obedience) and the evil (disobedience), the fabric of creation was irrevocably damaged. Sin and shame had entered into the creative landscape, corrupting that which the Father had created so perfectly. And both the man and the woman had consequences, that would be passed on to every generations since.
For Eve, it would be the multiplication of pain in childbirth. Interestingly, it was not the introduction of pain to childbirth, but the multiplication of pain, which implies that pain would already exist. Pain, in and of itself, is not necessarily a consequence of the fall. In fact, pain is a gift of the Father. Neurologically speaking, pain is a signal that your brain sends to the rest of your body to tell you that change is required. If you burn your hand, the pain says “move your hand away from the fire.” If you feel pain in your heart, it means something in your behavior or life needs to change – either a relationship or there needs to be healing. Healing requires a catalyst, which implies a change in condition.
Just as calloused hands may not feel the pain of a pin prick, a calloused heart has been deadened to the influences of the world that cause us to experience pain and inspire change. As such, a calloused heart can become like a heart of stone – unfeeling, unbreakable, immovable. That is why God said “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 ESV) A heart of flesh feels the pain of the world and is moved to change.
And we see this manifested in Eve further as the pain also will produce a calloused heart and conflict between the woman and her husband. “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16) In Old Testament Hebrew, there are two different words for “rule”. There is “melech”, which is most often referencing a king or a governor. The word can be expressed as both a noun and a verb from the same root. The other word, which is used here, is “mashal”. It’s similar in that it expresses a sense of rulership or governorship; however, it emphasizes a more tyrannical expression of leadership, as opposed to a ruler/governor who exercises wisdom in leadership.
This verse is not giving Adam permission to be some sort of feudal lord over his wife. That would be contrary to God’s creative intent for marriage and the exact opposite is reflected in Ephesians 5:22-33, which gives far greater responsibility for marital harmony to the husband. Rather, God is explaining to Eve that because of her transgression, she has broken the relationship between her and her husband. The created unity between man and woman was now broken and there would now be conflict introduced into their relationship that up to this point had been otherwise harmonious, until the shame of sin entered into the picture.
And the God turns His attention to Adam. Since Adam chose to listen to the voice of his wife, instead of the command of God, the work that God had commanded him to do when He created him was now going to be harder. The ground would not simply produce food without obstacle. It had always required work, but now that sin and shame had entered creation, so too have thorns and thistles that will choke out the fruit. And it will be painful to remove the thorns and thistles in order to produce sustenance for himself and his wife. And if they were to eat, they would have to work for their food, even something as simple as bread. And ultimately, Adam will work himself into the grave.
The reality that we live in is that we have to work for our sustenance. We are not commanded anywhere in Scripture to live off the labor of others. We are commanded to provide for ourselves and for our families. But work produces stress and stress producing the effect of aging and increased pain. Unmanaged stress can lead to a variety of health concerns, most notably high blood pressure and heart conditions. God’s judgement for sin was death, but in His mercy He still allows us to live for time and experience the life that He created. However, as a natural consequence of the introduction of sin and shame into the created order, so comes the pain of work and stress that ultimately can lead to death.
Adam finally names his wife, Eve, which is literally translated as “life giver.” It is a term of endearment that seeks to acknowledge the highest honor of Eve’s position as “the mother of all living.” Throughout antiquity, motherhood was an honor that was reserved for women. It was never intended to be their only worth, but it was their unique gift. This is also likely why women would see barrenness as “disgrace” and “shame”, such as Sara and Rachel would describe themselves.
Men cannot naturally produce life on their own; neither can women. And it will always require the biological contribution of male and female together in order to produce life in the womb. But it has always been and always will be the honor of the woman to carry and nurture a child and bring life into the world. This is why the act of elective abortion is so heinous as it degrades the value of life and it devalues the worth of woman. Our culture today has so devalued motherhood and womanhood by saying that she must be like men in order to have value. That is not how God created us. He created men and women to have equal value, but to have different roles in the created order. If God created you as a man or as a woman, He did so because of His great love for you and because He sees you for the valuable creation that you are by His design.
In the end, with one more act of His divine mercy – God provides a sacrifice in order to cover their shame. The blood of innocent animals was shed to produce garments of animal skin to clothed Adam and Eve. The first shedding of innocent blood is not that of Cain upon Abel, but rather the shedding of the blood of animals to provide a sacrifice for Adam and Eve’s sin and shame. Even in the midst of His judgement, God provides mercy. Hebrews 9:22 reflects this “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
Grace is God providing for us that which we do not deserve. Mercy is God withholding from us that which we do deserve. By definition, both demand justice for what we deserve, but God chooses to take the penalty on Himself, through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ, thus crediting our account and counting us as righteous by His own blood. There is no more need for shame at the foot of the cross. His blood washes away our sin and cleanses us of our shame and all unrighteousness. “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
Walk in the light with the Father. Dive deep into the water of His forgiveness. Be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.