Another look at Genesis 3:16


One of the problems we all have when reading familiar scripture is not really paying attention to what the well known verses say.  I’d like to challenge you to read carefully Genesis 3:11-16 along with me.  For ease of understanding we’ll break it into relevant sections.

Genesis 3:11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” 12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” NKJV

Starting when God comes to the garden after Adam and the woman had eaten from the forbidden tree, He questions each participant starting with Adam.  Who does Adam blame?  Read carefully! That’s right, primarily he blames God for giving him the woman.  Note that he doesn’t say a word about Satan’s part in this fiasco.

13 And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Most teaching says that she blamed the serpent, thus making both man and woman guilty of putting the blame elsewhere.  However, had you ever noticed that her statement is made with Satan right there to hear her?  Notice that God confirms that her words about being deceived are true:

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. 

God continues,

And I will put enmity between you and the woman And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Gen 3:15

The enmity of Satan has been hard on women – consider it.  Also consider that if there is enmity between Satan and the woman, she is on God’s side.  Pagan religions teach that woman is aligned with evil.  True Christianity does not!

The last half of verse fifteen is the first Messianic prophecy.  We know that the “Seed of the woman” refers to the Lord Jesus Christ.  God promises that the Messiah will come through woman.  What a promise! Is it logical that God would then “curse” the woman with His next words? 

In Genesis 3:16, the Lord gives a prophetic word on what is going to happen, not what He commands to happen.  There is a tremendous difference, and it is a critical distinction.  Translators and theologians have made it seem that conception is a curse and that God intended for man to rule over woman.  Is that true?  Let’s take a look.

Gen 3: 16  To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”  KJV

The translation of five words or phrases shown in bold in this verse should be questioned.  Let’s start with the phrase, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow .  .  .”

Hebrew and Greek scholar Katharine Bushnell, author of God’s Word to Women,[1] holds that the first section should be translated “a snare has increased your sorrow . . .”

(In the explanation below, Upper Case represents the original Hebrew letterLower Case represents vowel signs, which are a relatively recent invention added to make the language easier to read.  Remember, if you read the original Hebrew, there are no vowel signs and it is read backwards. )

Bushnell gets “snare” from the Hebrew word ARB translated “ambush” and  “liers in wait” or “in ambush” fourteen times in Joshua and Judges.

The difference between the two translations given below is only in the vowel signs. Originally they both would read HRB ARB.

HaRBeh, AaRBeh, “multiplying I will multiply,” which is usually translated as I will greatly multiply your sorrow


HiRBah AoReB, “has-caused-to multiply a lying-in-wait.” Remember that “lier-in-wait” can also be translated “an ambush or snare”[2].  So this phrase can be translated “a snare has increased your sorrow,” or it could read, “A lier-in-wait (the serpent) has increased your sorrow.”

Regardless it does not say that God is planning to greatly multiply her sorrow.  It is falling for a snare set by Satan that has put her in this place.

Then, we are told that God also plans to multiply her “conception.”

To translate the Hebrew word HRN as “conception” two letters had to be added.  The word for conception is spelled HRJWN. We don’t know for sure what the word “HRN” is, but it is not conception.  “Conception” is spelled correctly in Ruth 4:13 and in Hosea 9:1.  The Septuagint[3] translates HRN as “sighing”.

“A snare hath increased your sorrow and your sighing” is a probable translation of the first section of Genesis 3:16.

In pain you shall bring forth children.”

While it is true that having a child is painful, the word translated “pain” means far more than physical pain.  It connotes a deep grieving or sorrow of spirit and can also be translated sorrow, and probably should be in this case.  “The root from which it is taken, along with its derivatives, signify physical, mental, and spiritual anguish ranging from sorrow to bitterness or despair, to feeling disgust, trouble, turmoil, indignation, even terror.  It is used less of physical pain than of mental pain.”

Women have brought children into the world when they knew they could not provide for them, when they had no say in their lives or what would happen to them.  Even in the best of times there is pain and sorrow in raising children.  Note that the word is translated “sorrow” or “toil” when it relates to Adam in verse 17. 

Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”

“Shall” is an imperative–a command word in English.  The word in Hebrew is “will,” which simply tells of the future, in this case the consequences of an action.  Many recent translations have changed shall to will, but the damage done by considering this verse a command cannot be measured.

The word desire (teshuqa in Hebrew) should be translated turning—women will turn to or reach out to their husbands instead of the Lord and when they do he will rule over them.[4]

Why so many translation errors on one verse? The source is probably a rabbinic teaching that God pronounced ten curses on Eve (something that Scripture does not teach).

These are the Ten Curses of Eve

1 ‘Greatly multiply’ followed by words having to do with ministration;
2. ‘thy sorrow’ in rearing children;
3. ‘thy conception’;
4. ‘in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children’;
5. ‘thy desire shall be unto thy husband’; [followed by profanity leaving doubt of the rabbinical interpretation of “desire”];
6. ‘He shall rule over thee’ [more profanity] ;
7. she is wrapped up like a mourner, i.e.
8. dares not appear in public with her head uncovered;
9. is restricted to one husband, while he may have many wives;
10. and is confined to the house as to a prison.”

The incorrect translation and interpretation of this verse has brought negative consequences that are still being felt today.  Genesis 3:16 is referenced in the margins of many translations to support the doctrine that men are to rule over women.  Amazing, since Genesis 1 & 2 do not say that, and Jesus opposed the traditional treatment of women throughout His ministry.   Even today His teaching on equality and mutual submission is often ignored.  God grant that the days of believing a lie are coming to an end.


[1] Bushnell, Katharine. God’s Word to Women. Eagle Lake: GWTW, 2005.

[2] See Strong’s Concordance and Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon for confirmation of snare as a translation–available on the

[3] Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek done in Alexandria Egypt by 70 Jewish scholars two or three centuries before Christ.

[4] To look at the chart developed by Bushnell to show how the translation of teshuqa changed over the centuries.  The chart includes the Ten Curses of Eve.!teshqua-chart/c1lg8

One comment

  1. Keep teaching and replacing the lie with truth, Pat. Thank you! I join with you in asking that ‘God grant that the days of believing a lie are coming to an end.’ Amen.


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