George C. Lubbers is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
At first hearing of these words from the lips of Jehovah to the woman who has so deeply fallen, having so grievously disobeyed God and her husband, we might receive the impression that they are the announcement of the death-knell to this helpmeet of Adam.
Listen to the text from the lips of Jehovah God.
The text reads: “. . . thy desire shall be to they husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16b).
Surely we cannot interpret these words as being, at face value, the placing of the sinner-woman under her husband as a punishment for her transgression of deceiving him, tempting him to disobey the “probationary” command of the Lord. Yes, it is a setting of the wife of Adam in her place. However, it is not a humbling her to perpetual bondage under a man, her husband! Thus Dr. Scofield would have it in his Notes: “The entrance of sin, which is disorder, makes necessary a headship, and is vested in man”. Now here we have two errors. The first is that the headship of Adam over his God-given wife was not rooted in creation, but in sin. This is tantamount to the error of teaching that government, too, was instituted by God for the sake of sin. Thus these advocates of this latter view interpret Genesis 9:5, 6. To be sure the headship of Adam over his wife is rooted in the fact that he was created first, and that she was taken from his rib, and thus became bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.
It deserves only passing notice that the words “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” is quite otherwise than the phrase in Genesis 29:14; Judges 9:2; II Samuel 5:1. In Genesis 29:14 Laban is recorded as having said to Jacob, “Surely thou art my bone and flesh.” Jacob could by no stretch of even the wildest imagination be in the same relationship to Laban, as was Eve to her husband, Adam, being created out of one of his ribs. Laban was the brother of Rebekah, and therefore was Jacob’s uncle. He was near of kin! Nothing more! And this same is true also of Abimelech, Gideon’s son by a concubine woman from Shechem. He was merely the kinsman of the Shechemites. In a rather exaggerated overstatement he pleads to be their ruler since he claims, “I am your bone and flesh.” Likewise also the sons of Israel, the former followers of King Saul, claim to have equal share in David’s house. They say, “Behold, we are thy bone and flesh.” They were kinsmen of David, nothing more. Neither they nor Abimelech were “bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh” in the unique since that a wife is such to her husband.
It is good Reformed tradition and teaching to relate this unique relationship only to the mystical body of Jesus Christ, the church. The Heidelberg Catechism in Question and Answer 76 teaches this altogether unique relationship in the well-known words: “so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding ‘Flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone’, and that we live and governed forever by one spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul.”
Hence, we must look in another direction for the proper interpretation of the God-ordained and instituted headship of Adam over his lawful wife. In so doing, we must not fantasize a headship of “men over every women.” For the text says to Eve that she shall be subject to her husband. Besides, she shall, in so doing, “desire her husband.” She shall not have this desire to any male of the human race. That would be adultery and fornication of the purest water and in the highest degree (Exodus 20:14, 17; Lev. 18:21). This would destroy the very fabric and holy relationship within the bond of marriage.
We hold, briefly stated, that Jehovah God is here in mercy placing Eve as a believing wife in the state and condition of being justified from her sins and guilt, sanctifying her unto her holy calling of being a Christian wife, a believing wife unto Adam, her believing husband, as they are now both under the blood of sprinkling, and clothed with the clothing of the sacrificial animal. The shame of their nakedness is removed (Rev. 3:18). She and Adam need no longer to hide from God. In the very distant future the real Lamb of God, the One Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, will remove their guilt and cleanse their conscience from sin to serve the living God (Heb. 9:9, 14; Heb. 10:2, 22; I Peter 3:21).
In this state of being reconciled with God Eve is addressed here. She is addressed within the climate of the Gospel of grace!
Here she will be subject to her husband. She shall be very willing in the day of God’s powerful grace upon her. She shall not be merely “subjected” to her husband. Such is the lot of the unbelieving women in the world. There the husbands are tyrants and they are rebels. Such do not marry in the Lord (I Cor. 7:29b). Nor do these ungodly women bring both children who are by elective grace in the Lord, in covenant mercies.
They are “subjected” under their husbands; slaves of sin they are; the freedom and glory of Christian marriage they do not see, for they cannot see the kingdom of heaven!
Not so with the liberated Eve. The truth of the Gospel has set her at liberty once more, free within the bonds of marriage in the Lord. Thou shalt be subject to thy husband, Glorious, willing bondage, which set her free!
Yes, here we see the hope of heaven realized in her life. She is a picture of the pure bride of Christ, reverencing her husband. Yes, all her desire is to her husband principally, and she will sing in ever increasing joy, not the erotic love songs of the wicked women, but she will learn by grace to sing the songs of those who call their husbands, “lord.” Of this Eve, mother of the living, the reborn and converted wife of Adam it may be said that she learned to bear children in faith, love, holiness, and sobriety. She learned to smile through her tears in hope of heaven. Thus she must have sung in the hope of the Protevangel, triumphing in the blood of the sacrifice upon the altar. She is no longer a naked, fearful and guilty sinner, but she is clothed in the raiment of the sacrificed Lamb who was slain from before the foundation of the World (I Peter 1:18-20). She obeys her husband in love. Adam’s rule and Eve’s obedience are in perfect harmony in the covenant of reconciliation with God.
It is well to have these texts clearly before our mind’s eye.
We will quote the pertinent similar words from the mouth of Jehovah God. These words were spoken a number of years apart. The first text is spoken to Eve in Paradise, after the fall, and the second is addressed to Cain, standing by the altar in the church, outside of the garden of Eden.
The text to Eve reads as follows: “and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16).
The text addressed by the Lord to Cain reads: “And to thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Gen. 4:7).
What we are going to say about the idea here of the words “desire” and “rule” is not new, a matter of my invention. It is ever good to learn that others, men of repute as interpreters of the Word, too, have read the Scriptures as I do.
Turning to the Dutch Statenvertaling, we notice that those worthies, living in the days of the Synod of Dordt, make the following annotation on Gen. 4:7: “It is thus to be understood of Abel, Cain’s brother, as if God said to him (Cain): you have no reason to be wrathful toward Abel, because he is willing and satisfied that you as the firstborn remain exalted above him.”
On Gen. 3:16 the same Statenvertaling has a note which reads, interpreting the phrase “desire to thy husband” as follows: “that is, you shall be held to be joined with desire to the will of your husband, to seek protection under him, to be ruled by his (beleid) protective discretional judgment. I Cor. 14:34; I Tim. 2:11, 12; Titus 2:5.”
Let us pause here for just a moment to reflect.
It is quite obvious that “desire, longing” does not mean merely sexual desire, sexual attraction. There are those, reading only Gen. 3:16, who affirm that this text refers to Adam’s masculinity over his wife. Now clearly such is not the denotation of the term “teshuqah” in the Hebrew text. In certain contexts the term may have such connotation. However in Gen. 4:7 the thought of sexual attraction of Abel, the righteous man, toward his blood brother, Cain, is unthinkable, distastefully repulsive. It appears that the usage of the term “desire” in the Bible must be interpreted as is done by our Reformed fathers!
Is also quite evident that the Reformed fathers conceived of the message of Jehovah to Eve on a higher and more holy level; it refers, even in the case of Eve, the wife of Adam, to her entire life: body, mind, soul, spirit. Basically it was spiritual desire to be obedient to God in obedience to her husband. It was, as we wrote earlier, the longing of new obedience by the blood and Spirit of Christ. The sexual submission was the wife’s by virtue of her being created Adam’s help meet. She was to be a help meet over against him. She was one flesh with him, bone of his-bones, flesh of his flesh.
When the fathers, who annotated the Dutch text refer to this, they refer to the conduct of Christian wives in the Church. They are to be silent, know their place, not talk out of turn as did Eve in the transgression (I Tim. 2:11, 12; I Cor. 14:34). Paul gives a beautiful description of the Christian wife’s “desire” to her husband in Titus 2:5: “to be sober minded, chaste, workers at home, being in subjection to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
Yes, there was ever in Eve, as in every believing wife, what the Bible calls “flesh”, sinful Adamic nature. There is ever the flesh in which there dwells no good thing. But in the sanctification of the Spirit and the sprinkling with blood, Christian wives, yes also Christian women are raised to the higher level of being the King’s daughters.
Such are the King’s daughters, all glorious within.
Yes, their clothing is of wrought gold.