One Word that Ruins a Woman’s Bible

Teshuqah and Desire for/toward/contrary to?

Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.

And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you.

your desire toward your man

thy desire shall be to thy husband

thy lustes shall pertayne vnto thy husbond

Calvin: she is cast into servitude

Matthew Poole (about 1685) says that the expressions that ‘thy desires shall be referred or submitted to thy husband’s will and pleasure to grant or deny them, as he sees fit.

Keil & Delitzsch (1866): ‘[The woman] was punished with a desire bordering upon disease

R.S. Candlish (1868): it denotes the dependence of affection or of helplessness on the one hand, and the assertion of authority and power on the other.’

James Murphy (Barnes’ Notes, 1873): ‘“Desire” does not refer to sexual desire in particular. (Gen. 4:7). It means, in general, turn, determination of the will. “The determination of thy will shall be yielded to thy husband, and accordingly he shall rule over thee.”

H.E. Ryle (1921, in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges) ‘Doubtless, there is a reference to the never ending romance of daily life, presented by the passionate attachment of a wife to her husband, however domineering, unsympathetic, or selfish he may be. But the primary reference will be to the condition of subservience which woman occupied, and still occupies, in the East; and to the position of man, as head of the family, and carrying the responsibility, as well as the authority, of “rule.”’

Kaiser (Hard Sayings of the Bible) thinks that the words translated ‘desire’ and ‘will rule’ have been the subject of ‘a most amazing translation history’. He asks,

‘Is it true that due to the Fall women naturally exhibit overpowering sexual desires for their husbands? And if this is so, did God simultaneously order husbands to exercise authority over their wives?’

According to Kaiser, in the ancient versions (including the LXX and the Vulgate) the word teshuqah, in all three instances in which it occurs in the OT, was usually translated, not as ‘desire’, but as ‘turning’.

For Kaiser, too, the literal meaning is, “You are turning away [from God!] to your husband, and [as a result] he will rule over you [take advantage of you].” In other words, ‘the sense of Genesis 3:16 is simply this: As a result of her sin, Eve would turn away from her sole dependence on God and turn now to her husband. The results would not at all be pleasant, warned God, as he announced this curse.

Then the Complementarians Come Along

THE current issue of feminism in the church has provoked the reexamination of the scriptural passages that deal with the relationship of the man and the woman.

Contrary to the usual interpretations of commentators, the desire of the woman in Genesis 3:16b does not make the wife (more) submissive to her husband so that he may rule over her. Her desire is to contend with him for leadership in their relationship.

The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women (Gen 3:1–7, 12, 16).

In the home, the husband’s loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife’s intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.

In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.

…the relational wholeness between the man and the woman had been ruptured by the curse. God said to the woman, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (3:16b, NIV). The word desire there does not mean romantic desire, as if God cursed the woman by making her need a man. Rather, the desire is a desire for mastery. This is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 4:7b (NIV): “Sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” That the meaning of desire in 3:16 is the same as the desire in 4:7 is clear form the obvious verbal parallel between the two verses:

3:16b Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you, w’el-ishek tishuqatek wehu ymshal-bak

4:7b It desires to have you, but you must rule over it, w’elek tsheqatu timshal-bo

Just as sin desired to have mastery over Cain, so the woman, tainted by sin, desires to have mastery over her husband. Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, God says to the man, you will get what you deserve, and she will try to master you (3:17)

In addition to the sloppy research and poor exegesis, Foh’s biggest weakness is the internal inconsistencies. She states that experience confirms her interpretation, that all women want to control their husbands. She says that “he shall rule over you” can’t be an indicative because not all husbands rule their wives.

While I’m not suggesting that wives don’t struggle with the application of appropriate submission, but in the history of the world, across centuries and countries and cultures, have men ruled over women or women over men? Foh sees no universality to husbands ruling wives, but she does think wives universally desire to usurp authority. This is contrary to the experience of most women.

Why Does this Matter?

The problem is we don’t need to change the meaning of Genesis 3:16 in order to teach a husband’s headship and a wife’s submission. There are plenty of New Testament passages that do so clearly. There are also several passages that teach the ordination of qualified male pastors and elders. Foh’s interpretation is completely unnecessary and extremely harmful.

One academic paper became a mantra became the Bible text itself. That, to me, is a disaster.

Why, therefore, may we not assume that the first couple before they sinned could have given a command to their genital organs for the purpose of procreation as they did to the other members that the soul is accustomed to move to perform various tasks without any trouble and without any craving for pleasure? For the almighty Creator, worthy of praise beyond all words, who is great even in the least of his works, has given to the bees the power of reproducing their young just as they produce wax and honey. Why, then, should it seem beyond belief that he made the bodies of the first human beings in such a way that, if they had not sinned and had not immediately thereupon contracted a disease that would bring death, they would move the members by which offspring are generated in the same way that one commands his feet when he walks, so that conception would take place without disordered passions and birth without pain? But as it is, by disobeying God’s command they deserved to experience in their members, where death now reigned, the movement of a law at war with the law of the mind. This is a movement that marriage regulates and continence controls and constrains, so that where punishment has followed sin, there correction may follow punishment.



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