Back in the garden and in Genesis 3, we see that there are two consequences of sin for the woman. First, God said to the woman and all women, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth your children.” Joy and pain ride along parallel tracks when it comes to children. You will have children, God promises the woman. Great joy! You will do so with multiplied pain. Great sorrow! The word used there and translated pain means “hard and toilsome labor, pain, trouble.” It can mean emotional toil as well.
The man is promised pain and trouble in producing food from the soil, and the woman is promised pain and trouble in giving birth, and pain that goes beyond the physical. We know that the woman most often more deeply feels the emotional pain that comes not just from having children, but from raising them as well. “Joy and woe are woven fine” as William Blake the poet said.
The second consequence of the woman’s sin is more complicated and easily misunderstood. It has to do with the relationship of marriage, which will be a struggle of joy and woe, woven fine. It’s always enlightening to hear what kids think about marriage. Carolyn, who’s 8, said, “My mother says to look for a man who is kind….That’s what I’ll do….I’ll find somebody who’s kinda’ tall and kinda’ handsome.” Anita, 9, was asked if it is better to marry or stay single. She said, “It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need somebody to clean up after them!” When Will, age 7, was asked what love ballad he might sing to his girl he said, “‘Hey, Baby, I Don’t like Girls but I’m Willing to Forget You Are One!'”
God says this to the woman: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” What does this mean? It does not mean that as a result of sin, man became the head of his wife. Paul makes it clear that was God’s design from creation. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” (1 Timothy 2:13) And in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul wrote, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” The result of sin was that the complementary roles of a husband and wife, given by God at creation, were deeply damaged, leading to inordinate desire and domineering rule. Or as Derek Kidner puts it, “To love and to cherish becomes to desire and to dominate.” The word for desire here, “your desire shall be for your husband” is only seen twice in Genesis. The other time is in chapter 4, when God says to Cain, “…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen. 4:7) In her sin, the woman’s desire was for her husband to eat the fruit and she invited him to do so, and as Allen Ross said, she did so “taking the lead rather than maintaining a partnership.” This idea is supported by verse 17 when God judges Adam, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree.” The word there can mean listen and follow, or it can simply mean, “to obey.” Because you obeyed your wife in violation of my commandment, Adam, this is what will happen…
The consequences of sin include a tendency for the woman to want to control and a tendency for the man to want to dominate. Derek Kidner writes, “The woman at her worst would be a nemesis to the man, and the man at his worst would dominate the woman.” The manipulator and the bully make for an ongoing struggle in the relationship God designed to be the most like Christ and the church. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Think of a man and woman dancing the waltz together. In ballroom dancing, the man leads, and the woman responds to his initiative, and it is a beautiful thing. Believe me, when my wife and I waltz together, she sometimes has to take the lead because I don’t know what I’m doing. But her desire is for me to learn so that I can lead. The good news in Christ is that there is hope for every marriage where both the man and the woman recognize their sinful tendencies and submit themselves to God and to each other. The good news is that in the church there can be great harmony and joy when men and women do the same, submitting themselves to the Lord of the church, and to one another.