(Gen. 3:16) Does this passage sanction men ruling over women?

CLAIM: God tells Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). Did God really command that men should rule over their wives?

RESPONSE: No. This passage is descriptive—not prescriptive. It is a picture of the Curse apart from God—not a picture of God’s ideal picture of marriage. God’s ideal picture was lost at the Fall. While men and women were originally created to be equal (Gen. 1:26-27), the Curse brought terrible disunity between them. Sadly, this is a picture of marriage, as a result of the Curse. Men are supposed to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). However, apart from God, men often abuse and dominate their wives.

In addition, this passage teaches that both men and women will try to rule over one another. The Hebrew word (teshuqah) comes up later with the same grammatical construction in Genesis 4:7 (“sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”). Here, it is clear that the two parties are fighting to dominate and rule over one another. The same picture is portrayed in Genesis 3:16. In the absence of the sacrificial love of God, men and women will fight to control each other and manipulate each other—even in marriage.

For further reading, see our earlier article “Christianity and Women.”