Eve Week 5: Childbirth and Patriarchy

Last week, Rachel looked at the moment Eve eats the fruit of the tree of knowledge and brings sin into the world. Her thoughts were fascinating, and I really encourage you to head over to her post right after you’ve read this one.

This week we’re looking at the curse.

Eve’s curse.

It’s a big one. Right there between the curse on the snake and the man, God says to Eve:

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

Genesis 3:16

 

 

 

 

Let’s break this down a bit. First of all, let’s focus on the first part of God’s statement.

Childbirth

God says to Eve, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.”

We talked about this in our Mummy Meditations group earlier this week. I asked out members to share their birth stories. Common themes emerged: not that the pain was so bad, but that the fear, the difficulty, the intervention, the exhaustion were just overwhelming. Then Rachel suggested putting ourselves in Eve’s shoes: pregnant, with God’s statement hanging over you. She must have been terrified – would she even have known how babies were born?

Think of that first birth. Alone apart from Adam, in the wilderness, knowing you had been cursed by God. Wow. It makes my fears pale in comparison.

But childbirth is still incredibly risky. It’s still one of the most dangerous things a woman in the developing world can do. The WHO estimates that 830 women die in childbirth every single day. So fear when you’re facing childbirth – and knowing that it will be painful – is completely understandable.

To get a bit personal, my first labour was LONG and exhausting. Yes, I was terrified. But I don’t really remember the pain itself.

My second labour was completely different. Yes, there was some pain… But it was pain with a purpose. Labour. It’s work. After giving birth, I ached all over – my shoulder, my back, I’d even given myself two black eyes from pushing so hard. But it was pain with a purpose.

Joanna at Mums. Kids. Jesus. has written a post about her experiences of Supernatural Childbirth which I found really interesting. The idea of a pain-free labour and birth will certainly be tempting for anyone who’s pregnant right now!

So pain in childbirth, I can cope with. I also found this article really interesting on evolution and childbirth. If you don’t subscribe to a creationist view, you might find it interesting too.

Desire

The second part of God’s statement concerns marriage: “Your desire will be for your husband.”

This word ‘desire’ is very much discussed in various commentaries. Most people seem to agree that it is a desire to dominate, rather than a good desire. The Hebrew word for ‘desire’ here is associated with sin.

So this is the break down of the equality we found when Adam and Eve were first created. Created to be equals, each others’ helper… Now, Eve wants to dominate.

But that’s not the most important thing. Now, her desire is for Adam – and not for God. Eve now looks to Adam for the provision and affirmation that only God can provide.

Not only that, but the next part says that, “He will rule over you.” Ah. Here we are. The patriarchy.

Patriarchy

The thing is, instead of this perfect, co-operative, interdependent, equal marriage, now the woman will want control. But the husband will also want control. They would both be fighting for the upper hand in the relationship.

But the man will have the rule. I really, really struggle with this. Many of the commentaries seem to really emphasise the woman’s subordination to men. We look back in history and we see that women were – and still are in many parts of the world – the property of their husband or father.

Can I really worship the God who makes women be the property of men?

Well, yes. I can. Because God intended women to be the equal of men. It was the sin of women and men that created the conflict within marriage.

I also can worship God because of Jesus. Jesus treated women as equals – look at how he treats Mary and Martha in Luke 10:34-42. Look at how he treats the woman at the well in John 4.

I can also worship God because of how He intends marriage to be, with the illustration of marriage as like the church and Christ – mutually sacrificial and mutually beneficial.

So yes, I can still worship God and call myself a feminist!

This has led me to pondering the future. As we move towards a more equal society, where women share more of the work (Adam’s part of the curse) and women are increasing seen as being equal to men, are we moving back towards God’s intended equality? Are we, in breaking away from the traditional roles of a male ‘provider’ and a female ‘servant’, actually moving towards Heaven here on Earth?

Next week

Big questions this week! Next week is our final week on Eve and we will be looking at Genesis 4:1: Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Rachel will be writing up our thoughts and I think it will be a really interesting one.

 

 

 

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