3:16 – The Rest of the Story – God Reveals His Plan 1: Genesis

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan (Current location of study)
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response

“To the woman he said, “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.” – Genesis 3:16

This is the first study in the second part of this series on the 3:16 verses in the Bible. We’ve been looking at what the Bible says about the human condition as seen in Ecclesiastes, Habakkuk, Nahum, Revelation, and Romans. This week’s 3:16 verse is from Genesis. While the verse itself is bad news and part of the larger curse God uttered as a result of Adam and Eve’s choice to rebel (sin), the curse itself holds within its framework a clue to what God has in mind to rescue mankind from the curse. This rescue is foreshadowed here and is elaborated on several times throughout Genesis, and finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.

Adam and Eve had been placed in the garden of Eden by God in a perfect, sinless state. They were not inherently immortal, but were reliant on God’s provision (the Tree of Life) to continue their lives indefinitely. However, God had placed a single restriction on them – that they could eat of any tree in the Garden EXCEPT the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He said “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. (Genesis 2:17)” It was this command that Satan focused on to deceive Eve (and Adam) and tempted them to challenge God. First, he encouraged Eve in her misquoting of God claiming that God directed them not to touch the tree (thus adding to God’s directive and making it seem more restrictive). He purposely misquoted God (“You shall not eat of any tree in the garden“) and also essentially called God a liar by saying “you will not surely die. (Genesis 3:1-4)”

I encourage you to read the rest of the story. Eve and Adam chose to eat the forbidden fruit in defiance of God and thus introduced sin and rebellion into His perfect creation. God responded with the following set of curses (Genesis 3:14-19).

14 The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,
“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.”

17 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;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 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.

I’m not going to do an exhaustive analysis of these curses except to point out a few things. First, don’t presume that God’s curse in any way reflects a mistake on His part. Many times we associate curses with frustration over things not going the way we want. It’s not that God wanted Adam and Eve to rebel, but their rebellion did not catch Him off guard or surprise Him. The apostle John wrote (1 John 3:8), “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus’ coming was God’s plan from the beginning, as a result of Satan’s original rebellion. That rebellion didn’t even surprise God, but it gave Him the opportunity to demonstrate His glory and righteousness to all of creation through the creation of humanity and then their redemption through Jesus.

Second, God tied his curse to each of the four parties involved in the original sin – Satan, Eve, Adam, and nature. The common theme that flows throughout the curse is that each of these parties will exist at odds with the others until God sets all things right in the end.

Third, the revelation of God’s plan begins with the statement in 3:15 which links the curse on the serpent (Satan) to the coming curse on the woman (Eve). God says, regarding the “enmity” that will exist between Satan’s offspring and Eve’s offspring, “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Note the singular male pronouns “he” and “his” used to identify Eve’s offspring. This is a definite foreshadowing of a male individual in the future. Regarding Satan’s offspring, consider Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Also note that, while Satan’s offspring are referred to in the curse, it is Satan himself who will be specifically at odds with Eve’s future male individual offspring.

God further reveals His redemptive plan throughout the rest of the book of Genesis in the promises made to the Jewish patriarch’s, as shown below (with my choice of phrases to bold):

  • to Abraham – “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:2-3)”
  • to Isaac – “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. (Genesis 26:3-5)”
  • to Jacob – “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 35:11-12)”

The entire earth would benefit from the offspring of these patriarchs, who are themselves, of course, offspring of Adam and Eve, as are we all. But let’s return to the curse on Eve and examine this week’s 3:16 passage.

“To the woman he said, “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.” – Genesis 3:16

While God had uttered a promise of hope in the previous verse about Eve’s future offspring crushing the head of Satan, Eve is quickly reminded that it is because of her actions and choice to rebel that these tensions would exist. And from the outset, things would not be easy. The blessings of childbirth would remain, but they would now be accompanied by increased pain. I think that this statement doesn’t mean that pain did not exist with childbirth previously (of course Eve had not had children yet). I think it says what it means – that pain would be increased. This includes not only physical pain, but emotional and mental anguish associated with children will come as well, as quickly evidenced by the murder of her secondborn (Abel) by her firstborn (Cain). And, not only would she be at odds with her own body because of bearing children, she would also be at odds with her husband.

Note, though, that in this curse there is still the element of hope. To illustrate, let me reference the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans (7:7-12)

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Paul was articulating that the purpose of the Mosaic law was not to enable us to be righteous, but to demonstrate to us how unrighteous we are and how much we need salvation. The link that I see with this passage on God’s curse on Eve is that the curse serves as a “law” – the law of sin – that will be a continual reminder to her (and Adam and all of us) that things are not right and we need God’s deliverance. The promised offspring will ultimately bring that deliverance, but until that occurs, sin serves as a constant reminder to us that God is not finished with us yet and His deliverer will ultimately triumph over evil. Jesus did that when he died on the cross and rose from the grave afterwards. It’s something that was finished then, but also is still being finished until that day when He returns to Earth to deliver the final judgment on and destruction of sin!

Next week we’ll look at the 3:16 verse from Job. I hope to see you then!

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