From Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood
Chapter 3–Male and Female Equality and Male Headship, by Ray Ortland, Jr (p. 108-109)
God’s decree is two-fold. First, as a mother, the woman will suffer in relation to her children. She will still be able to bear children. This is God’s mercy providing the means by which He will carry out His death sentence on the Serpent. But now the woman will suffer in childbirth. This is God’s severity for her sin. The new element in her experience, then, is not childbirth but the pain of childbirth.
Second, as a wife, the woman will suffer in relation to her husband. The exact content of her marital suffering could be defined in either of two ways. Either she will suffer conflict with her husband, or she will suffer domination by him. The form and logic of Genesis 4:7b bear a most striking resemblance to our passage. (*here the author lays out the Hebrew of Genesis 3:16b and 4:7b, footnoting the work of Susan T. Foh’s article “What is a Woman’s Desire?”, in which he states he is indebted to her perceptive study.)
4:7 reads, “Sin’s desire is for you, but you must master it.” To paraphrase and amplify the sense: “Sin has a desire, Cain. It wants to control you. But you must not allow sin to have its way with you. You must rule over it.”
How does this parallel statement illuminate the interpretation of 3:16? Most importantly, it clarifies the meaning of the woman’s “desire”. Just as sin’s desire is to have its way with Cain, God gives the woman up to a desire to have her way with her husband. Because she usurped his headship in the tempatation, God hands her over to the misery of competition with her rightful head. This is justice, a measure-for-measure response to her sin. (here the author footnotes Romans 1:18-32)
The ambiguous element in the equation is the interpretation of the words translated in the NIV, “and he will rule over you”. We could draw one of two conclusions. First, God may be saying, “You will have a desire, Eve. You will want to control your husband. But he must not allow you to have your way with him. He must rule over you. ”
If this is the sense, then God is requiring the man to act as the head God made him to be, rather than knuckle under to ungodly pressure from his wife. Accordingly, 3:16b should be rendered: “Your desire will be for your husband, but he must rule over you.” In this case, we would take “rule” as the exercise of godly headship. the interpretation matches the reasoning in 4:7 more nearly, but another view is possible.
Second, God may be saying, “You will have a desire, Eve. You will want to control your husband. But he will not allow you to have your way with him. He will rule over you.” If this is the true sense, then, in giving the woman up to her insubordinate desire, God is penalizing her with domination by her husband. Accordingly, 3:16b should be rendered: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” The word “rule” would now be construed as the exercise of ungodly domination. As the woman competes with the man, the man, for his part, always holds the trump card of male domination to “put her in her place”.
But however 3:16 should be interpreted, nothing can change the fact that God created male headship as one aspect of our pre-fall perfection. Therefore, while many women today need release from male domination, the liberating alternative is not female rivalry or autonomy but male headship wedded to female help. (*here the author footnotes Ephesians 5, calling it “the prescription for God-glorifying human fulfillment”) Christian redemption does not redefine creation; it restores creation, so that wives learn godly submission and husbands learn godly headship.
I don’t suppose that part of the woman’s suffering would be that man will now be more inclined to want to cleave to his male headship instead of cleaving to her.
Let the longing of Eve continue.