From the Altar to Altogether Miserable

by - October 08, 2011

A close look at the curses in Genesis 3  gives us a glimpse into marital chemistry and how it goes awry.
To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”  -verse 16 (emphasis added)

A little later in the text, chapter 4, verse 7 to be specific,  we see the words desire and rule doing the tango again. Here’s what 4:7 says:
“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (emphasis added)

It appears to be in another context entirely because we’ve moved from the curses inflicted as a result of the first sin to the first murder by those rowdy boys of Adam and Eve.  See? There’s a lot of white space and a big bold number 4 in your bible to separate it all that keeps us from making the connection.
God is doing the talking in both passages. In the first it is a curse after the fact. In the second it’s a warning before the sinful deed is done. But both times God speaks, he uses two words: desire and rule/master. Both chapters use the same two Hebrew words. 
Desire:  tshuwqah  — desire, longing, craving of a) a man for a woman, b) a woman for a man, and c) a beast to devour.
Rule/master: mashal — to cause to rule, to exercise dominion over.
In the case of the curses in chapter 3, it means fallen humanity is now wired to sin. There is a whole new dynamic added to marriage that tempts husbands and wives to distort their roles: women will crave and long for and want to devour their husbands, who might dominate rather than lead. The curse doesn’t doom us to failure. Rather, it means marital bliss is going to take more care and caution than it would have before we had a sin nature.

In the case of temptation to sin in chapter 4, which interestingly enough also applies to a new temptation we just learned about in the curse, it is a warning that sin wants to devour us, but we must be dominant over the temptation. 

What we learn in chapter three is that a temptation is now present in marriage, one we will have to master. And if we look to the forewarnings God gives in chapter four, we know we can.
Cain failed despite God’s warning and His revealing the path to victory.  
Take Home:  What about you? Will you go the way of Cain and fail in your marriage, despite God’s warning and revealed path to victory?
Has looking at these Hebrew words shed new light on the temptations and easy pitfalls in marriage?
What might you begin to do differently to change directions and head down God’s planned path to marital happier ever after?

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  1. Dawn, thank you for this reminder and warning!


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