In Genesis 3:16, the ESV and NASB, (respectively) each convey very different meanings for this verse:

ESV (2016)

To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you."

NASB (1995)

To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you."

My question is over the word tĕshuwqah (תְּשׁוּקָה), and by implication, its root, shuwq (שׁוּק). I am curious to hear opinions about the meaning of this verse, considering the Hebrew. I have heard this is a judgment oracle, and everything conveyed in this verse is to be viewed as a curse or punishment.

I've also heard that the nominal sentence does not contain a verb, and so a future verb is supplied because the oracle suggests conflict in the future. Is this suggesting sexual desire of the woman for the man, a deferential submission to the man's authority, a prescient picture of marital conflict post-Fall, a desire of the woman to control the man (as the NLT and NET suggest), or something else?

It doesn't seem to make sense to me that, if this was a punishment, that Eve's desire would be a positive or constructive desire, especially since it is followed by the assertion that Adam will dominate Eve. In this sense, neither are positives, but a result of the fallen state of Adam and Eve suggested in the text.

  • 1
    Jews seem to read the text Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you (JPS Tanakh). The Septuagint translators used the word ἀποστροφή - apostrophe which relates to turning away. Perhaps what is unclear to the Masoretic Text translators is whether the woman is turning away from something and toward her husband, or turning away from her husband towards something else. The answers from the Masoretic Hebrew experts should be interesting
    – user33515
    Mar 25, 2017 at 1:53
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  • My initial reaction is that Eve's desire is both romantic and sexual and that this desire is an explanation for why Adam is able to rule over Eve and these two things - Eve's desire and Adam's rulership are linked. Basically this seems to be explaining domestic abuse and the historic sexism against women and providing an explanation as to why women are have put up with this for aeons. Mar 25, 2017 at 2:35
  • You are looking for an explanation of the Hebrew, but you might be interested in this commentary on the Septuagint reading. One ancient Christian understanding was that Eve's desire was to be as that of one for a master ("It is better that you be subject to him and fall under his lordship than that enjoying freedom and authority, you would be cast into the abyss").
    – user33515
    Mar 25, 2017 at 3:00

1 Answer 1


Fantastic question.

The answer really lies within the context of YHWH's subject here, childbirth.

Genesis 3:16 in the Westminster Leningrad Codex transliterates תְּשׁוּקָתֵ to 'impulse-of·you'.

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee

So the key here is childbirth, so what about it?

in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;

So what if I just don't have children?

and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband,

Desire, impulse, longing, for what? Children. So YHWH is saying childbirth will now be a greatly sorrowful thing for the woman and on top of it, the man has final authority over the woman's desire for children. If a woman simply says, I'll avoid the sorrow altogether by not having kids, guess what, thy desire shall be to thy husband.

  • Interesting approach. Does the Hebrew specify the preposition "to" as opposed to "for" or "against?"
    – M.R.
    Mar 25, 2017 at 20:28
  • @M.R., yes, from the Leningrad Codex it transliterates וְאֶל 'and·to'.
    – N.Ish
    Mar 25, 2017 at 21:05

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