From Genesis 3:16 to Dinah – Man’s Desire to Rule Over Woman

The Biblical narrative, from Genesis 3:16 to Dinah, shows that the fall of humankind introduced a power dynamic into the man-woman relationship.

It is our job to war against the effects of the fall. The power men feel they can wield over women is one such effect. The Church must stand against the subjugation of women because in so doing we push back against the Fall of Humanity with the power of the Kingdom. The Church has a duty. We must see sexual harassment and abuse as what it is — a direct manifestation of the fall. It is evil. Christian men must ever be on guard against this evil. In our presence, Christian women should feel safe, empowered to speak out, and stand as equals with men.

 

An Introductory Note

Today I will examine the Fall of Humankind and one of its characteristics: the subjugation of women to men. It is important that no one read this article and respond with a “well I guess this is just what it means to be a fallen man” attitude. The effects of the fall are not to be embraced, but warred against.


Last week I wrote an article responding to the myriad of sexual harassment and assault allegations that have rocked the entertainment and political worlds. As others have pointed out, the these sins are not the result of runaway lust but of power and control.

Where did this power dynamic come from? Why do men believe they have the power to treat women as objects for pleasure rather than as equals? How did this happen? The answer takes us all the way back to the beginning.

The Fall of Man and Woman’s Relationship

God created man and woman and put them in the garden where they would have dominion or rule over the creation. A covenant was made; the man and the woman (as they are called in Genesis 3) would steward the creation and commune with their Creator. As they went about this task they were to avoid a certain tree — the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil — caring for it but not partaking of its fruit. If they rebelled against their Creator by eating of that fruit, the man and the woman would pay for their rebellion with death.

One day, a serpent came into the garden and convinced the woman that the forbidden fruit was “good for food,” “a delight to the eyes,” and “was to be desired to make one wise.” She ate of the fruit and then gave it to her husband who also ate. Together, the man and the woman broke the covenant God had made with them and the curse of death was unleashed into the Created order.

The sin of the first humans tore at the very fabric of creation and its consequences have been felt and lived out from generation to generation. In response to that sin, God cursed the serpent, the woman, and then the man.

One aspect of this curse that is often missed is the way that the fall perverted the relationship between the woman and the man.

In Genesis 3:16b we read, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (ESV, 2011)*

We need to be sure we get the interpretation right. What is the curse? Is it that her desire is for her husband? Or that her husband will rule over her?

In order to interpret rightly we need to read this portion of the curse within the context of the curse as a whole.

The curse the woman and man receive bears a specific characteristic: a good thing has an evil “fall-effect” attached to it. Here’s what that looks like:

Childbearing is good. The curse attaches a fall-effect; childbirth is now accompanied by “multiplied pain.”

Work is good. The curse attaches a fall-effect; the ground is now cursed and the work will be hard and break down the body.

Being created out of dust is good. The curse attaches a fall-effect; the man and the woman will now return to the dust in death.

The pattern is clear. The curse takes something good that was created by God and attaches an evil fall-effect that accompanies the good.**

Our interpretation of v. 16b must follow this pattern. It is good for a woman to desire her husband. The curse attaches a fall-effect; the husband will respond to that desire with sinful rule.

To put it another way, the fall of humankind introduced a power dynamic into the husband-wife relationship that did not exist before the fall. The desire of a husband to rule over his wife is a perversion of the original intent of marriage.

From Genesis 3:16 to Dinah

If Genesis 3:16 is all we had, we could be led to believe that this power dynamic is restricted to the institution of marriage. However, later in the book of Genesis we see this power dynamic was not only introduced into the relationship between husband and wife but has marred the dynamic between men and women. Now men seek to rule over women.

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