Monthly Archives: September 2016

This Is What It Means To Be Included

Beautiful thoughts from Tim Fall.

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

“This is what it means to be included.”

The mother’s words jumped out at me from the radio.

Included.

Two year old Tatum Bakker had never been able to swing on a playground swing set until they visited Brooklyn’s Playground on their way through Pocatello, Idaho. It’s a playground designed for children who are physically able and for those who are less able to play on together, named for the little girl who started it all, Brooklyn Fisher.

Photo: http://brooklynsplayground.org/ Photo: http://brooklynsplayground.org/

Kids with conditions like spina bifida usually can’t take part in playground games and activities, kids like seven year old Brooklyn and two year old Tatum, but in Pocatello they can. As Tatum’s mother explained:

And I put Tatum in a swing and kind of sat back and absorbed it all, and looked up and saw an older child, maybe 10 or 12 – a little girl – in a…

View original post 675 more words

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

This Is What It Means To Be Included

“This is what it means to be included.” The mother’s words jumped out at me from the radio. Included. Two year old Tatum Bakker had never been able to swing on a playground swing set until they vis…

Source: This Is What It Means To Be Included

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How Fear Can Lead to a Denial of the Gospel

By Sam Powell

Since man fell in the Garden of Eden, we’ve been in trouble. We are a weak and foolish species without power to stand even for a moment.

We have all sorts of reasons to fear. We fear enemies, we fear pain, we fear loss of identity. But usually these are the wrong things. There is only one problem with all of mankind. Our sins have separated us from God.

But it is even worse than that. There are many who will freely confess that our sins have separated us from God, but they still believe that they can do something about that. We’ll just try harder. We’ll offer the right sacrifices. We’ll separate ourselves from bad influences.

But sin lies in the heart of men. It is so ugly, so ingrained, so deep in our hearts that there is and always has been only one solution. The Son of God suffered and died in our place. The problem is that we are all under the penalty of eternal death, and there isn’t a thing that we can do about it.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.1 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)1 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph 2:1 KJV)

This is the Gospel. We were dead in trespasses and sins, but God has made us alive in Christ. He died in our place, that we might be raised to a new life.

This shocks and stuns the natural man. It is repugnant to everything we hold dear. Our natural religion states that we have to DO something.

We as Christians confess that our salvation is the free gift of God, and that our righteousness can only ever be the imputed righteousness of Christ, but we still have the remnants of our flesh that cling to us. So often, I present the gospel. I speak of the glorious, free salvation that we have in Christ. And there are always those who will forever repeat, “But we still have to keep the law, though…right?”

How do you answer that? No. The gospel doesn’t make us lawless. The gospel establishes the law. The gospel is about a change of nature. The gospel is about the law written on the heart, not tables of stone. The gospel is about becoming new creatures, new trees, that no longer bear thorns and thistles, but fruit. Fruit of love and joy and peace and longsuffering.

Isn’t it beautiful and wonderful! Our salvation freely and perfectly provided for us in Christ.

And yet, there’s that critic again. “But we still have to keep the law, right? What will happen if we quit telling people what to do? Our kids will be out of control. Society will crumble. People will live just like animals. We aren’t lawless. Those gay fellows, and those gangsters and those Syrian refugees and those Moslems need to be told what to do. What we need is stronger laws!” These are the church leaders that monitor skirt lengths, talk about what to watch on TV, speak incessantly about man-made rules that can never ease the weight of sin. And we do it because we are afraid. And we are afraid because we don’t believe that the Holy Spirit can actually change a heart.

20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,1
21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.1 (Col 2:20-23 KJV)

Paul is saying that all of these things look very good and holy. They look like they have such a zeal for righteousness. But they are of no value in the subduing of the works of the flesh.

I would submit to you that the repeated question, “But the husband is still in charge, right?” is of the same caliber. It shows a total lack of the understanding of the dynamics of love, and is of no value to peace of the home. It also cannot be answered satisfactorily from the perspective of the gospel-driven home.

Do I mean by this that the husband has no authority? Of course not. I mean that the question becomes irrelevant in a home ruled by love, just as the questions concerning which laws you have to keep become completely irrelevant in a heart ruled by the gospel. The law in a gospel-ruled heart is kept out of love, not coercion. And service in a gospel-ruled home runs on the same principle. This is why Paul said that the husband is to LOVE the wife, as Christ loved the church, not rule over the wife as Moses ruled over Israel.

Before Christ came into the world, God gave Israel the perfect code of law. He enforced it Himself on tables of stone, thundering from Mt. Sinai. All Israel heard the voice of God from the top of the mountain.  And within days they were dancing around a golden calf.

“Righteousness never comes by the law.”

Ever. Can’t happen. Something far deeper, far greater, are far more miraculous must happen. We don’t need better enforcement. We need new hearts, which is precisely why Jesus came into the world.

We as Christians should know this. And yet we still catch ourselves thinking like the natural man. “We’ve got to do something or everything will get completely out of control.”

Fear is a powerful motive.

I have recently received a great deal of correspondence that bothers me. I have written over and over again that the headship of the husband means service in love, and Christ loved the church. And men all over everywhere went nuts.

The response was everything from polite and courteous, to vicious assaults on my character. But when you cut through it all, the question was always the same, “But men are still in charge, right?”

As I distilled and thought about the massive assault of words that came my way, I began to understand the fear. The idea is this. If men aren’t in charge, then the home will disintegrate, society will crumble, the women will take over, the kids will rebel, and the woman will become a manipulative, domineering shrew.

Some have gone so far as to say that the man must remain in charge (according to Gen. 3:16) to keep the woman from messing up creation again.

My response is this, “I thought that you married a Christian.” But that falls on ears as deaf as the ears of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. The natural religion is hard to get out of a heart.

Men, if you honestly believe that you must lay down the law to your wife in order to protect her from sin, then you do not understand the gospel. And further, you are as obdurate as the legalist repeating incessantly, “But you still have to keep the law, right?”

Did Christ die only for the man? Did he withhold the gift of the Spirit from the woman? Does righteousness come by grace to men, but by the law to women?

Is your wife incapable of growing in peace and joy and love apart from the decree of the man?

I actually received a comment from one man who said, “You say that the husband is responsible for the peace of the home, but how can he do it if you give him no authority?”

Peace to this deluded man only comes by a strong and firm hand of an authoritarian male. But Moses was the strongest leader there was. Gifted by God, backed by miracles and the staff of Jehovah. All Israel knew that he was God’s prophet. And their carcasses fell in the wilderness. If righteousness could have come by the law, then Christ died in vain.

Peace in the home comes only one way. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon us by the gospel of Jesus Christ. And don’t miss this next point, for eternal salvation is at stake:  The gospel never comes by the law. Never. The law only brings condemnation. The law can only make good slaves. A slave works either for hope of reward, or for fear of punishment. But a slave never works because he loves.

A son, on the other hand, works because he loves the father. The gospel takes us from being slaves, to being sons. The difference is everything.

Our wives are not slaves. They are not to be treated as those who will only serve if they are properly under authority of male leadership. They are to be treated, in Peter’s words, as “co-heirs” of eternal life. That is, they are also directly led by the Holy Spirit, firstborn sons of God and heirs according to the promise with no other mediator than Jesus Christ, son of Mary, and the eternal Son of God. Martha was busy with much worry and business. But Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. A patriarchalist would have rebuked Mary and told her to get to work. But Jesus praised Mary. She chose the better part. Love for Christ is everything, and take precedent even over the duties of the home!

To put this very practically: If a wife does what she does in the home because she is afraid of the wrath of the husband, or because she wants to earn a bit of quiet, or perhaps wants to gain a word of encouragement and love from her husband, then your home is a home of slavery, not a home of the gospel.

On the other hand, if the wife does what she does because she loves her husband and loves the Lord, and if she isn’t trying to earn her husband’s favor, because she knows she is loved and honored in the home already, then the home is a gospel centered home where Christ is preeminent. I don’t love my wife because of what she does. I love her for who she is, a child of God and an heir of eternal life. Her character shines through every pore and she brings peace and love wherever she goes. How she longs to be able to cook again – because she loves me and I love her. But she is physically incapable.

There is a group of men who have repeatedly asked me a question, and incessantly demanded an answer. The question is this: “What does wifely rebellion look like? Is it possible for a woman to rebel?”

Now that we understand what the gospel is, and what a gospel home looks like, the question can be answered. “Wifely rebellion” looks like any other creaturely rebellion: violation of the laws of God. A wife can commit adultery, murder, revile, lie, steal, cheat and take God’s name in vain just like a man, because she is also a creature under God and answerable to him.

But a man laying down the law won’t ever change that, anymore than Moses could change the hearts of Israel. Righteousness never comes by the law. Ever.

What she needs is what every other person under heaven needs: the gospel of Jesus Christ, who gave himself for me that I might be raised up to everlasting life and begin to walk as a new creature, in love.

An authoritarian can create an obedient slave. This is not, however, what a Christian marriage is. A Christian marriage is based upon faith working together with love.

15 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Whom Will You Serve?

From last year, but still pertinent.

My Only Comfort

8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
(Matt. 4:8-10)

When Jesus was born, the angels told Mary that God would give Him the kingdom of His father David.  Jesus came to do the will of His Father in Heaven and He knew that this will would lead Him to the cross.  Only by suffering the death of the cross would He inherit the kingdom through the resurrection from the dead.

The kingdoms of the world had been given into the hand of Satan as…

View original post 1,270 more words

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Headship is not Hierarchy

In my recent post, I made the statement that the phrase “he shall rule over you” was something new that came into the world because of the curse. I wrote, “There was no hint of hierarchy before the fall.” Since this has generated some consternation, and great concern that I might be turning liberal, I thought it wise to clarify a bit here.

To see clearly, perhaps Augustine’s division of the states of man might be helpful. If you recall, Augustine delineated four states of man, which were later repeated by Thomas Boston, neither one of them liberal.  First, before the fall, in his created state, man was able to sin and able to not sin. After the fall, unregenerate man was able to sin and not able to not sin. Regenerated man is able to sin and able to not sin. And glorified man is able to not sin and unable to sin.

Before the fall, before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve served God perfectly. They did not live for themselves; their desires were not to have power over each other, but they both lived as they were created – as one flesh, in perfect unbroken harmony. We can have no idea what this was like, since our state now is far different. If by “hierarchy” you mean that Adam ruled his wife and she submitted to his desires, I reject that. It has no basis in scripture.  If by hierarchy you mean an order of creation, that I happily accept, as Paul wrote

For Adam was first formed, then Eve. (1Ti 2:13 KJV)

This I wholeheartedly confess, believing the Bible to be the inerrant, infallible word of God. I am hesitant to try to apply this beyond how Paul applies this, however, since I have no idea what it looked like practically before the fall. I think it is reading to much into the text to say that this means that Adam ruled over his wife. Did Adam sit on the couch and say “Woman, beer me and shut those kids up!” I think not. He did not rule his wife. They both served God and one another perfectly, being without sin.  This is the only thing that I meant when I said, “There was no hint of hierarchy before the fall.”

After the fall is a world I can relate to. Men and women became idolaters and rebels. They were covenant breakers, serving themselves and their own lusts. The curse that came upon the relationship was that the desire of the woman would be “toward the man”, which I still interpret to mean that she would retain the longing for the one flesh relationship that she would be unable to have, because he would instead rule over her. This is different than before, and part of the curse, and not good.  She, in her unregenerate state, would respond to this rule in a variety of ways, depending on her personality. Despair, hopelessness, manipulation, domination – but it would be a life of slavery and degradation after the fall, which she would resist in various ways, because she would still be human. And she would still long for her husband.

I do not believe you can read anymore into the phrase, “to your husband, your desire”, than that. Nor do I believe you can read anymore into Genesis 4:7 than what is there, but I will address that in another post in another time. There is nothing in Genesis 3:16 that is prescriptive. It is simply a description of what life will be like now that men and women have sold themselves into the slavery of sin and death. They will now be governed by the rules of the kingdom of the devil, rather than the law of God. And this will be the case until the Seed of the Woman comes and crushes the head of the oppressor, which happened when Christ gave himself to the death of the cross.

Christ came to take away the curse, he delivered us from the bondage of sin and the power of the devil. This means that we no longer are to live by the rules of the kingdom of the devil. This is what Ephesians 5 is all about. The wife, instead of seeking her own things and her own desires, is to submit to her husband, as described here.

11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. (Pro 31:11-12 KJV)

She is not to chafe against him, work against him, or seek his harm, but to do him good. Remember that Christ’s work is to restore what we lost. The goal of marriage is the one flesh relationship, rather than the antagonistic and abusive relationship that characterized the kingdom of the devil. It isn’t about who makes the coffee, changes the diapers, or does the dishes. It’s about love and peace.

Paul also has in mind the marriage of believers. He is not at all talking about marriage to a wolf, who seeks to destroy and devour. He is talking about believers, united in faith to Jesus Christ, where there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism (chapter 4). The church is to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of love, and this is to be pictured most prominently in the home.

The husband’s job is not to rule over his wife, enforce the rules, or be the commander and king at home in his castle, for it is not his castle. The home belongs to Christ. He is not to usurp Christ’s role as the king of kings, but he is to emulate Christ in only one way, according to the text. He is to love her.

This fits beautifully with Jesus’ definition of authority in John 13:

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;
3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
(Joh 13:1-5 KJV)

We cannot claim the smallest amount of authority that Jesus has. All authority has been given into his hands. And yet, he took the lowest place and washed his disciples’ feet. Wow.

Then look what he says,

12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. (Joh 13:12-15 KJV)

So in answer to the question, “Do I believe that the husband has authority in the home?” My answer is “Yes. Certainly. There is no way around it. He is to wash his wife’s feet, serve her, do good to her, love her – even, as Paul says, give himself for her.

This is far different than the curse of Genesis 3:16. It turns it on its head. Instead of either the man or the woman serving themselves, their lusts, their goals and desires, both are to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and the husband is to take the lead in taking the lowest place in the home. That’s not me saying this. That’s Jesus Christ.

It is the husband ultimately responsible for the peace of the home. It is the husband that God will hold accountable for what has been entrusted to him. But he does not rule the home by power and control. He governs his home by service and love. You can see a woman controlled by power. She is downcast and the light is gone in her eyes. And you can see a woman who is loved by her husband. She is alive, fully human, confident, and joyfully doing whatever work God has called her to with spirit and life. Why do so many who claim the name of Christ believe that women are to be controlled by entitlement and power?

The husband isn’t the boss, the commander, the chief, the king. All of that belongs to Christ. Rather, the husband is the head, and she is the body. He is to nourish, cherish and love her as his body, because she is his body. That’s the point. To ask the question, “But isn’t he still in charge?” is to miss the point entirely. Do you think that she will turn into a harpy if you neglect to command her for a day? Whom did you marry? Is she not also an heir of eternal life and a firstborn son of God in Jesus Christ?

So for you husbands insisting that you are the head of your home, take it seriously. Go home, cook dinner, draw her a bath, do the dishes, put the kids to bed. Ask her what she is thinking. Talk about her dreams and fears. Assume she also is led by the Holy Spirit and trying to serve her Lord with a pure heart. Do all the modern equivalents of washing the feet.  This is what Jesus is talking about.

Remember that we are bought with a price, the precious blood of the lamb, and do not belong to ourselves. Husbands don’t belong to themselves, and wives don’t belong to themselves. All belong to Christ, and the husband is to take the lead in service and love.

Yes, I believe that the husband is the head of the home. But not like the president is head of the country. But like Jesus is the head of the church – flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. And he washes our feet, and took the lowest place. This is our example.

As for man in the glorified state, there will be no more sin. The last will be first and the first last. Those who served on earth will be served in heaven. Those who were served on earth will serve in heaven. The kingdom of heaven throws all that we think we know about power and authority on its head.

It’s time we took that seriously.

83 Comments

Filed under Marriage

Odds and ends

I only just recently heard that Genesis 3:16 is being used to justify domestic abuse. The thinking is: “She was trying to dominate me, so I had to rule over her.” I have a hard time fathoming the Satanic influence of this line of reasoning.Bad exegesis ALWAYS has bad consequences. Here are some things that I have learned in the last 24 hours:

1. If you are a pastor, you are responsible for what you teach. Quit simply following the experts, dig out your old Hebrew tools, and look at what the words actually say, rather than what an expert says that an expert says. God will hold YOU accountable. Prayerfully exegete your own texts.

2. Pastors, our business is in words. God has entrusted to us the most sacred obligation – the use of words to build his kingdom. It is your duty to learn how words work and use them in a way befitting our Great King, the Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ. We are held accountable by God for how we use our words. If you do not have a rudimentary knowledge of linguistics, I would strongly recommend two books by Moises Silva Biblical Words and their Meanings; and God, Language and Scripture. Order and read the second one first.

3.  Some ideas are so entrenched that they can’t be blasted out with any kind of reasoning.

4. “This must be right because celebrity pastor … says so” is horrible hermeneutics. Even John Calvin was wrong at times.

5.  Something is desperately wrong with the state of the church when the phrase, “Your desire shall be toward your husband, but he shall rule over you” is interpreted to mean, “If my wife tries to manipulate me, I have the right to smack her down.”

6.  The last thing that I learned is that all of that talk about the “others” coming to persecute us – the state, the gay lobby, the feminists (gasp) – is wrong. Persecution comes out of the house of God. It wasn’t Rome that Jesus warned his disciples of. It was the synagogue. When I hear the stories of what the powerful celebrity preachers do to those who question them, I become agitated and sad and angry. And it makes me feel helpless.

To every faithful pastor – don’t be intimidated by their threats; do your own exegesis; don’t be mesmerized by their “expert exegesis”. It really isn’t that good.

Don’t be afraid to speak what God speaks in his word, no matter what the world of the mega-conference says.

17 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Genesis 3:16

…And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee (Gen 3:16 KJV)

The publishers of the ESV recently announced that they have changed their translation of Genesis 3:16 to this:

…Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.

I believe this translation to be in error. In this brief post, I shall attempt to explain my reasons.

First, a confession. At one point not too long ago in the past, I also succumbed to the same faulty reasoning. In the paper “Promoting a Biblical Sexual Morality”, of which I was the primary author, I wrote the following:

Second, the curse was on her relationship with her husband. “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16). Her intense longing would be directed towards her husband. The preposition translated “to” primarily indicates motion towards or into. Metaphorically it is used for “against”. Her longing, instead of a covenantal opening herself completely to the love of her husband, would now be directed towards domineering, manipulating, and refusing to be truly loved. (Reformed Church in the United States: Promoting a Biblical Sexual Morality. 2013, page 41)

In this paragraph, I referenced Tremper Longman’s book on the Song of Songs (page 65). Longman, in turn,  referenced an article by Susan Foh, entitled “What is the woman’s desire” (WTJ 37 (1974-75) 376-83.

This article by Foh seems to have influenced quite a lot of thinking (including mine). And now its influence is felt even in the ESV translation of Genesis 3:16. The question is this: is this proper exegesis?

I have to admit that the section that I wrote is somewhat embarrassing. To say that the curse upon the woman involves her domineering, manipulating and refusing to truly be loved by her husband seems a bit much  to read into one preposition.

This exegesis makes much of the similarity between Genesis 3:16 and Genesis 4:7. In Genesis 4:7, we read that God, speaking to Cain of sin, says,

And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. (Gen 4:7 KJV)

The connection is then made that sin seeks to have dominion over a man. Since the words and the grammar are identical to 3:16, the meaning of 3:16 is that the woman also seeks to have dominion over the man.

But both texts simply speak of “desire”. Why is the desire of the woman assumed to be the same as the desire of sin? This was an uncomfortable niggling that I buried deeply until I recently dug it up and thought about it.

My embarrassing admission is that I wanted to make an assumption, and I manipulated the grammar to do so.

It seems to me that using Genesis 4:7 to interpret Genesis 3:16 is rather sketchy exegesis. It would be similar to saying that God spoke against Baasha (1 Kings 16:12 – the preposition is ‘el) and God spoke unto Moses (Ex. 3:14 – the preposition is the same) therefore, God was against Moses just as he was against Baasha. It’s really bad exegesis. It seems to me that the meaning of the phrases must be determined in the context.

The fact is “sin” and women are not the same thing, and their desires are not the same thing. I wonder why we make the assumption that women’s desires are always for domination and manipulation even when the text doesn’t say so. Simply saying “Sin desires to manipulate and dominate and since the same preposition is used this applies to the woman as well” simply will not cut it. That’s not how language works.

The phrase in question is the one translated “and your desire shall be toward your husband.”

The second part, “And he shall rule over you” isn’t in dispute. Those words are simple and bear only one translation. The connecting copulative “and” is attached to a redundant personal pronoun “he” which indicates a disjunctive phrase. In other words, the second phrase is set in contrast to the first – BUT he shall rule over you.

So what does the first phrase mean? Looking at the words, it begins with a prepositional phrase introduced by the copulative vav (and). The prepositional phrase is simply two words: the preposition ‘el and the word for man, or husband, with the pronoun “your”.  After this prepositional phrase is the noun “your longing”. There is no verb. The complete phrase is this “And to your husband, your longing; but he shall rule over you.”

The question is whether the preposition ‘el ever has the meaning “contrary to”, as the ESV revision committee, following the lead of Susan Foh, claims.

The simple answer is no. If you wish to do a very technical study, you may look at Bruce Waltke and M. O’Conner, Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns) 1990. 11.2.2. A helpful summary of that massive work is the work by Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi (A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003). Hebrew prepositions generally have a primary spatial meaning, with metaphorical secondary meaning. The primary spatial meaning is terminative (to, unto, towards).

I know, very technical. Let me break it down. The preposition ‘el means to, unto, or towards. It is a preposition indicating the termination of movement. That is its primary meaning. If I leave my office and walk to my house, I would use the preposition ‘el. Towards. Most commonly, it is used with the verb “to say” to indicate to whom the words are said. In the phrase, “And God said unto Moses”, the preposition ‘el would be used. God designed his words to terminate in the ears of Moses. I hope this makes sense.

In the lexicon by Brown, Driver and Briggs (somewhat archaic and disputed by modern scholarship) they indicate that “against” is a valid translation, and give many quotations, primarily by the prophet Ezekiel. For example,

Son of man, set thy face against Gog (Eze 38:2 KJV)

I would assume that since ‘el here has the translation “against”, the ESV revisers took that as their cue to translate it “contrary to” in Genesis 3:16. But in Ezekiel, the meaning of “to, or towards” is still latent in the word “against”. When a man’s face is “set” towards someone, hostility can certainly be assumed from the context, without changing the meaning of the preposition.

Even Brown, Driver and Briggs add this caveat to the translation “against”:

Where the motion or direction implied appears from the context to be of a hostile character, ‘el = “against”

No such hostility is expressed or implied in Genesis 3:16.

In another standard reference, The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, by Laird Harris, Gleason Archer, and Bruce Waltke, we read

Finally, the preposition can also mean “against,” although motion toward is evident, as in Gen 4:8, where Cain “rose up against Abel.” Here °el no doubt retains something of the original sense of both physical and mental motion toward. J.B.S.

In none of these statements by the universally recognized resources can the word ‘el be made to mean “contrary to”. There is no enmity stated or implied. There is no hostility inherent in the context.

The most widely recognized lexicon does not even admit the metaphorical use of “against” (Koehler-Baumgartner, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament “HALOT”).

To summarize this rather complicated  survey, the basic meaning of the word is to, or towards. Sometimes, if the context and the verb used are hostile, “against” would be a proper meaning. But this does not mean that we can pick and choose whatever meaning we want. “Contrary to”, in the context of Genesis 3:16 or 4:7, cannot be justified. Only if we make the assumption that the word “longing” indicates hostility can we make this phrase mean “against her husband”.

The word “longing” only appears three times in all known Hebrew literature. In Genesis 3:16, Genesis 4:7, and Song of Songs 7:10:

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me. (Sol 7:10 KJV)

In the Song of Songs, the preposition is ‘al, rather than ‘el. Formerly, I made much of this, but I was mistaken. the two prepositions have overlapping semantic fields and are used interchangeably, much like the English “to” and “towards”. The difference is not great enough to warrant new doctrines.

The word “longing” in all  three passages admits the same meaning: a great desire, a longing. It isn’t the same word as “covetousness”, and it isn’t the same word as “wanting something”. It is a rare word and “longing” is a good translation of it. I would be hesitant to go any deeper than that; that isn’t how language works.

So the simple reading of the text is this: “To your husband your longing”. In English, we would have to supply the verb “will be”. To your husband will be your longing. In other words, “your longing will terminate on your husband”, or, “your longing will be to your husband”.

So what does it mean? What is the longing of the woman? In the context, God is pronouncing the curse upon creation, the serpent, the man and the woman. He has already promised that one would come who would crush the head of the serpent (3:15), and he now moves on to the consequences of Eve’s sin.

How would she have heard those words? Let’s take it with the second part of the phrase, “But he shall rule over thee”, which is set in contrast to the first phrase. It’s a disjunctive clause. The word “rule” (mashal) can be good rule, benevolent rule, tyrannical rule or any other kind of rule. It’s a common word. It means to have dominion over. It is something that was not there in the relationship before the fall. It is something new. If it were there before the fall, then the curse on the woman would be that everything would be the same, which is ludicrous. The context implies that this is something new. The serpent will crawl on its belly; the ground will bring thistles, and your husband will rule over you.

Before, Adam and Eve were one flesh. There is no hint of hierarchy in the garden. (I explain this more fully here). It is beyond the scope of this article to go into the meaning of “help meet”, but suffice it to say that hierarchy, authority and submission are not inherent in the Hebrew word ‘ezer (help). It is the name most often given to God, Israel’s help.

Instead, the relationship of the man and the woman was a relationship of unity and love. They were one flesh, committed, loving, fleeing all others, cleaving to one another.

I believe in that context, 3:16 can only mean one thing. Eve will still long for that. Her longing will terminate on her husband. She will long for that which was lost in Eden. But instead, her husband will rule over her.

The one flesh relationship would be a broken and corrupted remnant of what it was supposed to be.

This fits the context, does no violence to the grammar, and opens up wonderful insights into the marriage relationship.

Remember that God had promised already to crush the head of the serpent. The curse would one day be overcome. This was foretold in the Song of Songs:

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me. (Sol 7:10 KJV)

The Song is a picture of redeemed relationship. One that could not happen apart from the gospel of Christ. His longing to her and her longing to him are mutual. Instead of him ruling over her, he desires her. When the word is only used three times, it cannot be an accident that Solomon is referring to the curse on the woman and looking forward to the time when that is taken away.

Paul, in Ephesians 5 speaks of the same thing. Love your wife. Don’t rule over her.

Since we live in a cursed world and all are tainted by sin, the desire of the wife towards her husband can and does easily become an idolatrous desire. The husband can never give to the wife what only Christ can give.

But as Redeemed creatures, we can certainly live as pictures of the life-giving water of Christ. So the husband is not to be worshiped as Christ, nor is he a mediator between God and his wife. But he can imitate Christ in one area: Love. The marriage is to be a picture of what was lost in the fall. The problem with the woman under the curse is not that she manipulates and dominates. It’s that she longs for what was lost and that longing is to her husband.

How Leah longed for a husband! How Rachel longed for a husband! Look at the harems of David and Solomon, and these were God’s people! How much worse would it have been in Persia or Assyria! Look at Elkanah, Hannah and Penninah; Look at what happened to Esther.

The woman longs for the one flesh relationship that she was created to have. But men have ruled over her. Does she turn to manipulation and resistance? Perhaps. Every human resists domination and subjugation. But this is not what 3:16 says.

Now that Christ has come, we as men are called, not to rule over our wives (whether benevolently or not) but to love our wives, and thus reflect to the world the love of our great savior, who gave himself for us.

See my follow-up post here.

104 Comments

Filed under Marriage