Are wives cursed with wanting to rule over their husbands?

It is commonly taught that much of the conflict in marriage is because of the curse on the woman in Genesis 3:16. The English Standard Version, for example, even translates the Hebrew word in a way to communicate God cursing the wife with a desire to oppose her husband in contrast to her husband’s rule.

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.”

Genesis 3:16 (ESV) emphasis added

But God does not curse us with sin. Indeed He cannot (James 1:13-14). It might be true that there are women who oppose their husbands and dominate their husbands in various ungodly ways, but that is not because of the curse on women in Genesis 3.

Instead, the desire mentioned in Genesis 3:16 is at worst morally neutral. In these early days of mankind’s existence the first man and woman where commanded to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth and also to work hard (Gen 1:28). Because of their sin, God added a level of difficulty to the circumstances in which they would have to obey, but He did not add a level of impossibility to their obedience. Instead, the man would work, but there would be resistance from nature and sweat involved. Likewise the woman would bear children, but there would be pain involved. The desire mentioned is more of a redeeming element that a curse. With increased pain in childbearing, the woman might be tempted never to be with a man, and yet, God affirms that she would still find great delight in a husband. She will therefore have a desire for her husband and this will be met by a reciprocating role from her husband over her.

The curse on the woman is one of circumstantial pain in childbearing, not one of sinful domination over her husband.

On a more technical note, some do use a similar usage of desire in Genesis 4:7 which is clearly a negative desire to assert that Genesis 4:16 must also be negative. Just because the use with Cain and Temptation is negative, does not mean the use with God and Eve must be negative. Besides, a very clear positive use of a similar phrase is found in Song of Solomon 7:10 which affirms that the words themselves do not imply a negative of positive interpretation, and therefore a neutral translation is all the three cases of this phrase in the OT would be perfectly appropriate.

To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”

Genesis 3:16 (ESV modified) emphasis added
Are wives cursed with wanting to rule over their husbands?
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