Some 10-15 years ago a ministry colleague excitedly shared with me that he had heard of a new take on the word ‘desire’ in respect to the pronouncement of God to the woman in the garden of Eden. Genesis 3:16b,”… and though your ‘desire’ will be for your husband, he will rule over you.” (NLT) Being of complementarian persuasion he was of the opinion that women should not be given opportunities to speak or lead in church. It followed that men (husbands) were to be the leaders at home. Naturally he believed that this is what the Scriptures teach and so, as an expository preacher, it was his obligation to proclaim authoritatively and correctly the word of God.
A part of his belief system was based on the assumption that women desired to usurp from men, this God-given authority. The proof texts for such an interpretation being verses like the Apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not let women teach men or have authority over them.” (NLT) Over the years this has been variously expounded to mean such things as a woman possibly using her feminine wiles to beguile men therefore she should not be placed in a position of authority, or be able to teach adult men.
So when my friend heard of this ‘new’ teaching (as it was back then) comparing the use of the word ‘desire’ in Genesis 3:16 with the very same Hebrew word in Genesis 4:7, where it related to God’s pronouncement of how it would be for Cain, he was ecstatic. Here the thought was of sin lurking at the door with a ‘desire’ to overpower Cain. The word (Hebrew – Teshuqa) carries with it a, sense of longing, eagerly desiring – no argument with that, but for my friend it was a fresh revelation proving that women have an inbuilt, intense desire to rule men. I have heard this particular interpretation often since then, sometimes in the most unlikely places, but I have never been convinced by it. In fact, a recent reading again of the actual texts, in various translations and paraphrases, only serves to confirm my suspicion of such conclusions.
Why couldn’t it simply mean that even though Eve (and through her, all women) would experience extreme pain in childbirth, she would still have an intense, inbuilt longing and desire to be sexually intimate with her husband? Such an interpretation doesn’t take anything away from the nuances of the Hebrew word and its comparative use in Genesis 4:7 concerning Cain. Or, if as some interpreters suggest, what if the ‘intense longing’ describes the woman’s desire to turn away from God and move toward her husband being in the place of God in her life? The last suggestion certainly creates an opportunity for the man to rule over, or become the master of the woman and gives rise to the inception of patriarchy evidenced in all ethnic and cultural groups since that time. Even the first suggestion puts men in a position of power. No matter which way you look at it, the discordant relationships between men and women are a result of the fall.
I’m interested in your thoughts.