What is the Woman’s Desire? -- By: Susan T. Foh

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 37:3 (Spring 1975)
Article: What is the Woman’s Desire?
Author: Susan T. Foh


What is the Woman’s Desire?

Susan T. Foh

The current issue of feminism in the church has provoked the reexamination of the scriptural passages that deal with the relationship of the man and the woman. A proper understanding of Gen 3:16 is crucial to this reconsideration of the Biblical view of the woman. In Gen 3:16 God pronounces judgment on the woman. Two areas of the woman’s life are specifically mentioned: childbearing and her relationship to her husband. The latter is the concern of this article; “yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16b, RSV).

A. Common Interpretations

The translation of תשוקה causes a large part of the difficulty in understanding Gen 3:16b. There are three typical interpretations. (1) תשוקה is frequently equated with sexual desire. The woman’s craving for her husband “will be so strong that to satisfy it she will be ready to face all the pains and sorrows of childbearing.”1 “…Thy desire shall be to thy husband—thou shalt not be able to shun great pain and peril for childbearing, for thy desire, thy appetite, shall be to thy husband…”2 The woman still desires marital intercourse though the result, conceiving and bearing children, brings pain. This interpretation closely links verse 16b with verse 16a (as does the RSV rendering of the waw as “yet,” which could be translated “and”), and so fits the immediate context.

(2) תשוקה is viewed as “the desire that makes her the willing

slave of man.”3 It is that “immense, clinging, psychological dependence on man.”4 Seeing no reason to limit the scope of “desire” to sexual appetite, Clarence J. Vos would not exclude from it the woman’s desire for the man’s protection.5 Keil and Delitzsch see “desire” as a morbid yearning; the woman “…was punished with a desire bordering upon disease (תשוקה from שוק to run, to have a violent craving for a thing)…”6

(3) ...

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