In the midst of a very busy chapter that is Genesis 3 there is a curious verse which reads:
Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
What is this verse saying? It could be misread a number of different ways and begs all kinds of questions.
Firstly, it must be understood in its context, which is the Fall of mankind from a state of grace that makes up the entire chapter. If we rewind to the time before the Fall we see a picture of a marriage relationship very different from that of Gen 3:16 (NB: marriage was God’s only intended expression of an intimate relationship between a man and a woman; all other forms fall under the heading “sexual immorality or fornication”). In Gen 2:24 we read the definition of the intended marriage state between one man and one woman. This is the same verse that Jesus, and also Paul, later quote in the New Testament. It reads: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Before sin entered the world a marriage was designed to reflect God’s complementary design which pervades the opening chapter of Genesis, equality in essence (Gen 1:27) but complementarity in roles. The husband has special responsibility for lovingly leading, providing for and protecting his wife. The wife was to be to him a helper. Together they were to form a team.
Gen 3:16 describes how sin came to affect God’s design for marriage. Since the Fall wives are tempted to be insubordinate and disrespect their husband’s leadership (“desire for your husband”)—in fact they desire that role for themselves, and the husband is tempted to abuse his leadership for selfish gain (“rule over your”)—or even shirk it. This abuse of our intended roles lies at the heart of most marriage (and pseudo marriage) conflict. Wives seek to usurp a position not rightfully theirs and husbands grossly abuse, or fail to step into the role given them by God. Gen 3:16 lies at the heart of all marriage troubles. How ironic is it that men are actually looking for what society says is beneath women (submission and respect), and women are looking for exactly the opposite of what culture encourages men to be (macho vs. loving, kind and strong). God knows best!
In the New Testament we see pictures of what an ideal, restored, marriage relationship ought to look like. In Ephesians 5:22–33 and 1 Peter 2:13–17 we see words such as “submit” and “obey” used for the wife, while the husband is not to be domineering, but the loving servant leader (the weight in Ephesians at least heavily falls upon the husband and not the wife). In the Bible “submission” and “obedience” are usually put forward as virtues, ways in which we are to honour God’s will and order for His Creation. It is a call for relationships to return to the pre-Fall harmony God intended, and Gospel power to effect that change. Christians are called to submit to Christ, governments, one another, church elders, employers, wives to husbands, etc. Through the Gospel God desires to restore all things to their proper design. Such restorations affirm the glory and power of the Gospel, and adorn it with great beauty. May the Holy Spirit transform marriage relationships to this great end!
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.
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