ongoing frustration

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.

Sigh.

Let the longing of Eve continue.

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7 thoughts on “ongoing frustration

  1. You have my attention. And my curiosity.

    I took your first post to be in agreement, and reading this post am not so sure. But there does seem to be a lot on “interpreting the interpretation” going on. And I have a question which will not go away (and I hope is received with the same affection and curiosity it is asked) …

    Doesn’t love as shown by Jesus make this debate/topic/ism wholly redundant?

    • Hi Paul!

      I am in agreement with “Wives, submit to your husband’s.” What I am not in agreement with, and where I think I am going with all this, is that I do NOT agree AT ALL that the Bible is saying Eve will want to control her husband. This belief about Eve, however, is what the entire complementarian theology is based on. In the end, because they fundamentally misdiagnose Eve, the ideas they put forth can never truly obtain true and deep reconciliation and the oneness the man and woman at one time shared. In other words, what God actually wants for us and what Christ came to give back to us.

      Still thinking this through all this…

    • Now I’m hoping I did not come across too strongly with my capital letters!

      Also, can you clarify what you mean by the love of Jesus making it redundant? I think I’m following but not quite sure.

      • “Now I’m hoping I did not come across too strongly with my capital letters!

        Also, can you clarify what you mean by the love of Jesus making it redundant? I think I’m following but not quite sure.”

        NO YOU DIDN’T!! 🙂 🙂

        Honestly? I find the whole topic of “who is surrendering to who” absolutely missing the point. Maybe in the OT days of rules and sub-clauses and sub-clauses of sub-clauses … But today – after Jesus walked and talked, healed and appealed … ?

        I see no difference in roles or rights. Each is sacred.

        Yes a woman gives birth. But apart from that? In Jesus day he was surrounded by monetary support – a lot of that provided by women. So just on that one example how does the “who surrenders to who” fit? And as for the “spiritual head of the home” argument … ? I have yet to read a single word where Jesus differentiates between anyone – other than by their inhumanity or their ingratitude or their absence of humility and love one for another – the absence of “sacred”.

        So to even be having this debate today and with such seeming passion … I am surprised and saddened.

        (hopefully still a pebble)

      • Always a pebble!

        It’s extra interesting to hear your thoughts being that you come from across the ocean, so you have a totally different perspective. I forget sometimes that there is a world/church that exists outside of the United States! I’m actually frustrated with the whole debate as well, precisely because, like you said, it’s missing the point, and ultimately, creates a division that I don’t think is supposed to be there anymore.
        It becomes too much about authority and not genuine Christian love.

      • Thank you.

        “It becomes too much about authority and not genuine Christian love.”

        I used to put “unconditional” in front of love. Not any more. Seems to me that love is love. I take my lead from One who never prefixed love with anything. 🙂

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