Curse of Eve: Part Two (Chris Marley)
This article continues a series on the examination of the Bride of Christ that started with Introducing the Princess Bride and most recently the Curse of Eve: Part One which dealt with the childbearing aspect of Eve’s curse in Genesis 3:16.
The second major section of the curse is about Eve’s relationship to her husband. The first phrase is that her desire shall be for her husband. At first blush, this does not seem like much of a curse, and might even be a blessing. Denying the claims of Augustine and others that intimate desire is intrinsically fallen, this should be a good thing. The curse, however, is not about the wife having love and desire directed toward her husband. This is about insurrection and conflict.
The original Hebrew text is extremely concise. What the King James Version takes 8 words to say, Hebrew uses three. Given the statement which comes afterward about the husband’s dominant role, and the placement of this statement in curse, the fullness comes into view. Eve’s desire/urge/craving will be against her husband (a valid translation), or to put it another way, her desire will be against her husband’s role as the head of the household. Up until the fall, subjection and authority were not points of contention. Now that Adam and Eve are sinners, authority and subjection become issues. Adam no longer is the perfect husband, and Eve is no longer the perfect wife. There will be struggles for power, and, in turn, abuses of power attained. This is not just the narrative of male domination and the rise of feminism in response, but the history of the church as well.
Israel, the national incarnation of the church as covenant community, would ever have desire for/ against her husband. She would fall prey to the appeal of false gods that can be ruled, gods subject to her authority by way of sacrifices. Moving forward in time, the Roman church would claim absolute authority in certain realms (i.e. Papal ex cathedra decrees) and the ability to absolve sin, which is reserved for Christ alone. In the modern church, it is no great challenge to find dictator/pastors claiming to have legislative authority. Individually, Christians ever struggle with idolatry of self, desiring to have authority (and receive worship) that is not rightfully theirs. The desire of the bride, in this fallen world, is often for her husband in all the wrong ways.
The other side of this coin is that the husband will rule over Eve, the bride. Again, the weight of the curse is not immediately apparent, and the echoes of this reverberate throughout Redemptive History. On the immediate level, this is descriptive of the struggle Eve and her daughters had and do have with foolish and oppressive husbands. For the Bride of Christ, however, it means that because of her sin, she will be ruled over and chastised.
Much ink has been spilled over the contrast between how God related to national Israel and his relationship to the church, and the covenants of grace and works, but I certainly do not presume to resolve it in a sidebar. What is clear, though, is the relationship was more exacting and less gracious in many ways (though not all), as God worked in the Mosaic Economy after the exodus up until Christ’s coming. Paul says that this law, referring to the covenant God made with Israel through Moses, was added on account of sin (Gal 3:19). This means it was designed to show punishment for sin, reward for righteousness, man’s inability to fulfill God’s law, and the need for intercession and sacrifice for man to be saved. It’s not far from what we would call “tough love.” With Christ’s coming, this would change, and the relationship would be less delineated in temporal things, especially the sacrificial law.
Hosea 2:16 is a balance text to Genesis 3:16, showing how a portion of Eve’s curse (in its church-ward aspect) will be undone. Hosea records God’s declaration that the relationship will change from one type of husband to another. Before Christ, the relationship will be that of master/husband, literally Baali or my Baal. After, God in Christ will be known as husband, literally Ishi. This emphasis is unclear until the incarnation is manifested, namely the humanity and immanence of the husband coming.
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this second half of the curse, as it applies to the bride of Christ, is that the words of the curse forever apply, but the “sting” of the curse is taken away in Christ. The desire of the church triumphant will be for and toward her husband, but not against him. Christ will rule over the saints in glory, but we will no longer struggle against it. In that day, when we are unable to sin, when every tear has been wiped away, we will be able to say, “Subjection, where is your sting?”
Chris J. Marley is the Senior Pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona. He holds an M. Div. from Westminster Seminary California (2009).