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“Is Foh’s view of Gen. 3:16 still the correct view to hold or are the more modern interpretations of the verse better fitting? Is man’s ruling over woman a result of the fall, or the fact that woman was made from man as a help mate mean man’s ruling over is part of God’s original design. I hope this isn’t too much of a curve ball question!”

A friend of mine asked the question above. Foh’s interpretation of Gen. 3:16 in 1975 was a break with the traditional understanding of “Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you.” It seems that the majority view down through history was that the woman would desire her husband to an unhealthy extent, supplanting her desire for God with her desire for her husband. Since this sentence appears in the curse, whatever the desire is or how it manifests, it cannot be good or healthy. Foh looked at the only other two verses in the OT that used the same word for “desire,” which in Hebrew is teshokah: Gen. 4:7 and Song of Solomon 7:10. We may dispense with Song 7:10 because the supercharged sexual talk just before it all but guarantees a translation of the word to bring out this heated passion: “I am my beloved and his passion is for me.” The underlying meaning of the Hebrew word is “urge,” obviously denoting a certain “forcefulness” as illustrated in Song 7:10. This is not to say that the Beloved was domineering in his “urge,” but the potency of sexual desire with two willing partners (as in Song 7:10) is plainly an “inexorable drive.”

More important is the Septuagint’s (Greek OT) translation of the Hebrew term into Greek because obviously Hebrew scholars around 200 B. C., still speaking Hebrew and fluent in Greek, would know better than us — in most cases — what the meaning was. It is apostrofe, and roughly is the idea of turning aside, turning back, or turning against someone. I have to opt for a negative meaning for Gen. 3:16 since it is a curse, and so “turning against” fits nicely. Further, the same negative meaning fits the context of Gen. 4:7 as well, where God says that sin lies at Cain’s door. “It turns against you, but you must rule over it” (trans. mine from Greek).

Even if the Christian church has traditionally not understood Gen. 3:16 to have the meaning of “your desire (forceful urge) will be for/against your husband,” the earlier Hebrew translators and interpreters of the Septuagint’s Gen. 3:16 opted for a Greek term that, taken negatively, displays hostility and dominance. What cannot be missed is the contrastive and hostile aversion man has to woman and woman to man: “Her domineering urge will be against him, but he will rule over her” (Gen. 3:16, trans. mine from Hebrew). With this preface, I am ready to answer the above question.

What enters at the fall and is enforced by God’s curse is the manner of male and female relations. When God says that “he will rule over her,” the Hebrew term is the verbal form of king (Mashal), but it is neither of the terms God used in the original mandate to man and woman to “subdue” the earth and have “dominion over it” in Gen. 1:28. Something has changed; now woman wants to lead, taking the dominant role, and, it seems, that man is equally as hostile in return, reigning like a monarch over her. They have turned on one another. What was an original peace, that is, a co-rulership as both man and woman were given God’s command to subdue and have dominance (Gen. 1:28), has now become a perpetual vying for position. All this to say that Foh’s insights largely stand. The only nuance I am adding is the fact that man’s “ruling like a monarch,” which is to say, in an autocratic fashion, is the outcome of the fall and God’s spoken curse. Woman was created for man’s assistance, but there is little doubt, from a high view of God’s image in both man and woman alike in Gen. 1:27 – 28, that man and woman were to rule together, in harmony. There was a order to the rule, man then woman, but not a superiority or dominance just as there is an order to the Trinity, Father then Son, but not inequality among any of the Persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit.

For my questioner, if you have a specific contemporary interpretation of the text you’d like me to take a look at, post it on my wall, and I will revisit this topic again.

Dr. Scalise