“In pain you will bear children.” Eve had broken God’s command for the sake of her earthly enjoyment and as a consequence she now would have sorrows and pains in her pregnancy and childbirth. God had always intended that women would give birth, but now there is an unexpected consequence added because of Eve’s sin. In Eve and in all women we see that the sin nature in the body not only gives people a predisposition to sin, but weakens and sickens the physical body as well. In a sense the single word “pain” is an understatement because the pain and danger associated with childbirth threatens both the life of the child and the life of the mother herself. There is a sad but important lesson we learn from Eve, that disobeying God for momentary earthly pleasure can result in long-term unpleasant consequences, and not just for the one who sinned, but for others as well.
“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” God had created Eve to be a helper and mate for Adam, and His desire was that the two of them would work together and build a life, family, and society. But now, due to the sin of Eve and then Adam, the relationship between them was changed and perverted. Here in Genesis 3:16, God told Eve about the consequences of her sin and how the sin nature she had acquired by following Satan (the Serpent) instead of obeying Him would show up in life. God described the consequences of Eve’s sin in two parts: the woman would have an unnatural desire for her man, and he would rule over her (in both Hebrew and Greek, the word “husband” is just one of the words for “man”).
Although the Hebrew word translated “desire” can mean a simple desire, it can also mean a craving or longing, which is its meaning in this context since the outworking of a woman’s sin nature would be an unnatural desire. C. F. Keil writes: “she was punished with a desire bordering upon disease (from תְּשׁוּקָה שׁוּק to run, to have a violent craving for a thing)” (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, emphasis the author’s). Certainly there are exceptions, but in general women have a strong desire to have a man in their life in spite of the fact that throughout most of history that meant being domineered and often mistreated (but also for most of history the woman did not have a choice about marriage). Also, especially until very recently women also needed men in their lives because life was labor intensive and dangerous, and it was important for a woman to have men in her life who could deal with much of the heavy work and who also could protect the family. Men desire women also, but due to a generally different mindset and their greater size and strength, they are less susceptible to abuse.
The second part of the consequence to women due to Eve’s sin was being ruled by the men in her life. Throughout history men have generally ruled over women because they are bigger and stronger and also because many women spent most of their youthful years pregnant or nursing or caring for children. The fact that many men harshly domineered their wives was not a consequence intended by God or brought about by Him, but rather was a consequence of the sin nature in men showing up in their dominating women due to their greater size and strength.
The consequences for sin that Adam and Eve received were not the design or desire of God, who warned them not to sin, nor were they proscriptive, they were descriptive. That is, what God told Adam and Eve were not commands about how to live but were descriptions of what would happen in life. For example, Eve was not commanded to desire her husband and let him rule her; instead, God gave her a description of how things would be in the now fallen world. Those descriptions let Adam and Eve know what would happen as the sin nature outworked itself in them. Similarly, Adam was not commanded to work hard in order to eat, he was told that as a consequence of his sin he would have to work hard to eat.
Interestingly, the consequences that both Adam and Eve received as a result of their sin related in some way to the sin itself. Eve sought pleasure in eating the forbidden fruit, but got pain as a result. Also, she led Adam into sin, and as a consequence she would now have an unnatural desire for her husband who would lead and rule over her, often harshly. Adam ate of the fruit he was forbidden to eat instead of the fruit he could freely eat, and now, because of his sin, eating would not be easy, but it would require hard work to produce food for himself and the family.
Thankfully, one day the Fallen World and sinful humankind will be redeemed by Jesus Christ, who will restore the earth to its Edenic state and restore humankind to mental and physical wholeness. [For more on the coming kingdom of Christ on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].
“multiply, yes, multiply.” This is the figure of speech polyptoton. It can be also translated as “greatly multiply” or something similar. The figure catches our attention and brings emphasis to the text. [For more on polyptoton and the way it is translated, see commentary on Gen. 2:16, “eat, yes, eat”].