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Blog - 19th April 2023

Understanding Genesis 3:16 - Curse or Consequence?

Reading Time: 3 minutes
In this article
Blog - 19th April 2023

Understanding Genesis 3:16 - Curse or Consequence?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When we read through Genesis 3, we often assume that God is cursing Adam and Eve along with the serpent. But when we look closely, we can see that the word ‘curse’ is only used for the serpent. What God speaks over Adam and Eve aren’t curses but consequences for their actions.

The Woman's Desire

Let’s look specifically at what God says to the woman, because this verse is actually quite hard to translate. There is disagreement whether the woman's desire is meant for her husband or against (compare NIV and NKJV with ESV).

Why is this? The Hebrew word is almost always translated to, for, or towards. But when the context shows conflict, it can also be translated against. We can see this in the story of Cain and Abel where ‘Cain rose up against his brother’ (Genesis 4:8).

Those that read this as 'for' tend to build an argument that women need men. They are taken over by a need for men, be that emotionally, practically, or sexually. Therefore, the man gets to assume a position of authority over the woman.

My problem is why would this only apply to women? Men are just as often, if not more so, controlled by lust for women.

So instead let us look at the other way of translating this verse, that a woman’s desire is against her husband. This is God explaining the consequences of Eve’s sin, and it makes sense. Up until this point, Adam and Eve would have been in agreement on everything. Life was perfect.

But now they have brought sin into their relationship, disagreement is going to come up. There are going to be times when Eve’s desires are going to be opposed to Adam’s desires. So what happens in those moments? Adam's desires will overrule his wife.

That’s not saying that is how it should happen, just how it will happen. We only need to look to history to see this has been the case. Historically, men have been the ones to make the decisions.

Consequences of Sin

This passage is not about God cursing the woman with uncontrollable lust for her husband. Instead, it is a passage explaining what will happen now that sin and disagreement have entered their relationship.

As Christians, we know that sin has consequences. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they brought sin into the world. The consequences of their sin are still felt today. We all have a sin nature and we all struggle with sin. Sin affects our relationships, our families, and our communities.

We see the consequences of sin in Genesis 3:16. Eve’s relationship with Adam was forever changed. There would be times when their desires were opposed to each other. But Adam's desire would overrule his wife's. This is not how God intended it to be, but it is a consequence of sin.


In conclusion, we can see that Genesis 3:16 is not about God cursing women with a need for men. It is a passage explaining the consequences of sin. Sin affects our relationships and causes disagreement and conflict. But we can take heart in knowing that Jesus came to redeem us from our sin. Through faith in Him, we can have hope for our relationships and for the future.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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Author Bio

With a deep understanding of ancient religious texts, historical contexts, and original languages Bryn Joslin is a dedicated Christian author and teacher who is passionate about helping others understand the Bible better. He strives to cultivate God's presence in the world and curate His word for the benefit of all believers.

Bryn understands that expanding the kingdom of God involves bringing peace, love, and unity to every situation he encounters. He shares God's love and message in tangible ways to make a positive impact on those around him.

With an appreciation of the importance of daily Bible study, Bryn has dedicated himself to helping others develop a strong foundation in their faith. He believes that immersing oneself in the language, imagery, and themes of the Bible is crucial to understanding its meaning and message.