Twenty Indian church planters crammed into our small apartment. Heat poured in from the blistering sun and body sweat created quite the aroma. Though hot, the fifteen male church planters and the five female church planters engaged in the teaching with eager energy. We had been asked to host the training in our home and teach the sessions on male/female relationships.

After some time of teaching, suddenly Chad asked the church planters a question. “When is it okay to beat your wife?” I was shocked by his question, but even more shocked that without hesitation the church planters quickly shared 10 reasons when abuse was appropriate. I realized where Chad was going and asked, “When is it okay for a wife to beat her husband?” They all chuckled with discomfort and then shared three reasons.

Without skipping a beat, “Absolutely!” Chad responded, “These are all legitimate answers to beat your spouse… IF you want to live in the FALLEN family. Of course with that comes sin, disease, strife, and death.” (More teaching followed to clear up this domestic violence conversation, but I will share our responses to them in Part 3.)

Genesis 3 details the most tragic narrative in the Bible – choices and actions that destroyed the perfect harmony God intended and left the world fragmented. Abuse of all forms, depression, sickness, natural disasters, death and more resulted from the first rebellious act in the Garden of Eden.

While Genesis 1-2, we saw the shared blessings, honor, and unity of the man and woman. But what reverberates through the Genesis 3 narrative is the shame and broken relationship between the man and woman. When God called out, the man answered with five “I” statements indicating his broken relationship with the woman. He then blamed both God and the woman, “The woman you gave to be with me, she gave me…” (Gen. 3:12). And the woman blamed the serpent. No longer would the man and woman live as interdependent people reflecting the community of the Trinity; now they would live independently in a broken world.

With regard to verses 14-19, most scholars agree that Genesis 3 is descriptive rather than prescriptive. That is, God describes the way things are going to be, rather than the way that God desires things to be in the world.

In this post, I want to deal with two verses predominately that require me to explain two Hebrew words. For brevity in this blog, I will shorten and simplify. In my doctorate research, I went into much more detail.

  1. t’suqah – Your “desire” will be for your husband. Sadly, I have seen some popular authors and speakers describe this desire as a good thing. Friends, please listen. Remember the context of Genesis 3 is tragedy. The Fall, as highlighted in Genesis 3, speaks of the devastation of God’s ideal perfection. The author of Genesis 3 details the brokenness that occurs because of the Fall. The words recorded in Genesis 3 are not sweet words to seek to follow. Rather these words serve as warnings that we can praise Jesus because he gives us the power to defeat the ill effects of the Fall through his crucifixion and resurrection!The Hebrew word for desire is t’suqah. It means turning and implies that women, because of the Fall, will have a tendency to turn away from God and place their dependence on men.So why do our English versions use the word desire? In their writings Church Fathers like Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origin, Jerome, and Philo understood that it meant turning. The Latin rendering of the word was conversion and the Greek was apostrophe (“to turn from”) all connoting a turning from one object and toward another object. The translation of the word changed to desire when an Italian Dominican monk named Pagnino translated the Hebrew Bible in 1528 and used the word desire. Since that time, every English version has used desire except for Wycliffe’s 1380 English version and the Douay Bible of 1609 (Hard Sayings of the Bible, Kaiser et al, 1996, p. 98).Many of you may know women who adjust their moral standards or life direction because of a deep longing to have a boyfriend of husband. I have spoken to so many women who shared with me, “I used to want to serve God in this way, but then I met X.” Though they lovingly accept their lives and “bloom where they are planted,” there is that twinge of an unspoken thought they communicate, “Have I turned from God’s best for me?”
  2. mashal – He will “rule” over you. The Hebrew word mashal is used in Gen. 3:16 and means rule and connotes dominion. Interestingly, in Genesis 1:28 God commissions both male and female to share dominion on the earth, but not dominion of one over the other. Of course, with the Fall in Genesis 3 something has fundamentally changed. Now with a distorted view of dominion, men may struggle with a tendency to wrestle for control and keep authority away from women. The dominion of male over female can take an extreme form, like the Taliban, or it can come across as “soft patriarchy,” gently shepherding those in their charge. Either way, here in Genesis at the Fall we find the source, the origin, the genesis of patriarchy.

So the church planters were right. If a person chooses to live the values of Genesis 3, then abuse is legitimate because it fits with our nature. Even if the dominion does not include abuse, it still fits with our natural tendencies to abandon a God we cannot see and, instead, trust and follow someone we can see. It fits with our nature to rank ourselves by anything external to prove our right to dominate another person.

No longer focused and sharing, but turned and dominating, every person now struggles with the natural tendencies that lead to horrendous brokenness.


Join the Conversation: Do you find it is easy to turn away from God to trust something or someone you can see? Do you find yourself with a desire to dominate others (as a woman or as a man)? How can we as God’s people follow him only and not use external features to prove we have rights?