Genesis 3:16 says:

To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.

If God "multiplied" the woman's sorrow (pain), does this necessarily imply that she suffered from sorrow before the multiplication took place?

5 Answers 5


Those of us trained in mathematics tend to interpret words like "multiply" as if a mathematical problem was being stated. However, making an argument of this sort on the basis of the word רָבָה, to cause to increase, would be a stretch. Remember that even the root meaning of the English word multiply is to make many. Given the context, the emphasis on this verse is that she has plunged herself into sorrow when she was in bliss before, not she had pain and now it would be increased.

On the other hand, it is notable that the line between pain and a strong pleasure is not distinct. For example, I enjoy a level of spiciness in my food that many people would consider painful; but there are others to whom the level of spice which I can tolerate does not seem painful at all. It is purely in the realm of speculation to try to pin down exactly what type of sensory experiences there might have been prelapsarian. A weak pain may be a pleasure, where a multiplied pain is agony.

The deciding issue is really the context. She has passed over from a state of beatitude into one that is accursed. Regardless of the exact meaning of pain, sorrow clearly would not exist in a world pronounced so profoundly good (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). The point of the narrative is to show that the blame for the sorrows of the human race rests squarely on its own shoulders.

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    The man and woman were supposed to be fruitful and multiply. This does not mean they had children previously.
    – Bob Jones
    May 28, 2012 at 23:08
  • The Hebrew word in Ge 3:16 is not a word at all, it is two words: ארבה הארבה . Dropping the prefixes you see the repetition of רבה. This repetition in SP always means it is referring to the spirit and the flesh. Grief עצב is also repeated. There will be an increase in suffering in flesh and spirit.
    – Bob Jones
    Jul 24, 2018 at 14:43
  • Also 'the man of you' for which she will have a desire may not have been her husband, Adam. They did not have Seth for a very long time. But it may have been prophetically speaking of the Christ-type child she expected (Ge 4.1) who was 'coincidentally' the second Adam where אדם is used for 'man'. She literally said "I have gotten an Adam form the Lord."
    – Bob Jones
    Jul 24, 2018 at 14:53
  • @BobJones, the word to Adam and Eve were not be fruitful and multiply children but to be fruitful and multiply. There need not be, previously, children for Adam and Eve to multiply, but you did need, previously, humans in order to multiply humans.
    – Austin
    Jan 22, 2022 at 19:56

(Assuming a literal interpretation): the Hebrew is actually, "Ha-ReBah" (pardon the transliteration, I don't have the right font on this machine), which I believe also translates to "increase". The same root is translated "increase" in Gen. 7:17 referring to the raising of waters in the flood:

The flood continued forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased ("Yi-ReBu"), and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. (RSV)

If you take the meaning to mean, "increase", then, since going from 0 to 1 is necessarily an increase, it does not need to have the implication that there was pain before the fall.


Though some translations of that verse might make it seem like childbirth was painful even before the Fall but that God only intensified her pains afterwards, Eve's punishment in Gen. 3:16: הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה (harbāh ’arbeh), “Multiplying I will multiply,” means that her sorrows began at that moment out of nothing (ex nihilo), not that He intensified already-existing sorrows. This interpretation is consistent with Gen. 1:22 ("Increase and multiply"), which uses the same Hebrew word, translated in English as "increase" or "multiply".

"Increase" or "multiply" in English can mean either "to intensify something already-existing" or "to create something out of nothing".


It may be noteworthy (in addition) that neurophysiologically one highly aggravating factor to pain is anxiety. The very same verse names two compensatory strategies to ameliorate the future fears and insecurities (for the woman: desiring / for the man: ruling).

Pain they may have experienced before, but probably never to the point of threat.


No, God made a prefect world, that was good, very good ! The Garden of Eden was paradise ! I believe it's been compare to what heaven may be like. Now in heaven there will be no tears , no pain, no suffering . I believe the Garden of Eden was like that until the fall ! Adam and Eve blew , probably just like anyone of us would have blow it. You after Adam and Eve disobeyed God , pain ,suffering and death entered our world. People see the verse "I'll increase your pain" they think pain was already there . No ! After the fall , pain started, childbirth became painful, but so was death ! Childbirth is painful for a little while , now u want to increase your pain lose that child like when Eve lost Abel. U see childbirth is beautiful the pain is worth it. Increase your pain, death !Someday we will see a prefect world again, no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering, because Jesus himself will wipe away our tears in a perfect world called heaven, Amen

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