The Legacy of Pain: An Analysis of Genesis 3:16a -- By: Lorraine Cleaves Anderson

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 20:2 (Spring 2006)
Article: The Legacy of Pain: An Analysis of Genesis 3:16a
Author: Lorraine Cleaves Anderson

The Legacy of Pain: An Analysis of Genesis 3:16a

Lorraine Cleaves Anderson

LORRAINE CLEAVES ANDERSON has been Senior Pastor of International Community Church (American Baptist) in Boston since 1998. Lorraine taught deaf-blind students for seven years before going to seminary, and she is bilingual with American Sign Language. She has been married to her husband Bob for twenty-eight years and her son, Luke, is a junior at The King’s College in the Empire State Building.


I consider myself a Biblical feminist who has both appreciated and benefited from the scholarship of the past twenty-five years regarding the role of women in ministry, society, and the home.

I sensed the call of God to ministry as a youngster at the age of eight, but due only to my gender, when I became a Christian as a teenager, I was consistently discouraged from such a “professional pursuit.” I could marry a minister or become a missionary, I was told, but never fulfill the niche of an ordained minister, as that slot in God’s design was reserved only for males. About fourteen years later, I discovered, much to my relief and joy, that scholarship abounded—responsible, exegetical research from those, like myself, who held to a high view of Scripture. And this scholarship refuted the age-old teaching of the subordination of women. I ingested it and immediately began my pursuit of seminary training in 1979. I have read little, if anything, however, about the first half of Genesis 3:16, about which I should like to suggest an expanded understanding in the article that follows.


To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16, NIV).

Much deliberation and controversy have been focused on the second half of the above verse, as attested by the myriad of titles and articles published in the recent two decades, not to mention those of past centuries from Augustine to Calvin to modern-day scholarship. Particularly challenging has been the troubling meaning of the phrase, “desire will be for your husband.” Even in researching this project, I discovered a rendering new to me, shedding further light on this curious verse. Yet, in all of my study, I have read only cursory comments on the first half of verse 16, as though its meaning were prosaic and superficial. Since Eve gave birth to Cain (Gen. 4:1) “with the help of the Lord,” pain in childbirth has remained an undisputed reality.

Labor pa...

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