THE BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MARRIAGE

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2004

STUDY FOUR: CURSE AND CONDEMNATION

The expressions of death and division that we looked at in the previous study are the automatic effects of our choice of disobedience in Genesis 3. There we, in Adam, opted for the impossibility of 'life' severed from God. There we, in that choice, in that reaching for independence, found that instead we obtained only a fractured, fragmented, fragile existence that God calls 'death' and in which we are separated, divided, alienated from ourselves, from others and from God. As we look around our world, as we look into the depths of our own souls, we find that this is all too horribly true.

But we come now to a second part of the sin factor that impacts us and our marriages in a tragic way. Here we encounter God's word of judgement in which he introduces changes to the very fabric of creation and to the relationships and responsibilities in which man exists. These changes, which are still with us, were not part of the original creation, not part of God's creative purpose for man. From this point on existence is not 'normal' – it is abnormal.

A. THE CURSE

In Genesis 1:28-29 God blessed Adam and Eve. This blessing spanned the significant areas of life:

  • The marriage relationship 1:28
  • Family 1:28
  • Our relationship to the rest of creation 1:28
  • Our physical sustenance 1:29

But now, in Genesis 3:14-19, every area of blessing is impacted by God's judgement on sin.

  • Food now becomes difficult to obtain [ 3:17-19]; survival becomes a heavy burden laid upon the man specifically, whereas in Genesis 1 the blessing of sustenance was a shared gift.
  • Dominion over the earth now becomes dangerous [ 3:15], and difficult [ 3:17-19].
  • The bearing and rearing of children becomes very painful [3:16a].
  • The marriage relationship changes to a relationship of domination and desire [3:16b]

Note : The purpose of these studies is not to study God's judgement, but it is necessary to make two comments here: [1] In each of these expressions of the curse, or of God's judgement on sin, we are reminded that we were created for dependence on God, and that only in him can we find strength and identity. Each of them drives us to acknowledge our weakness and vulnerability, and the impossibility of our surviving either physically or emotionally without God. Had God left us as sinners in a perfect world we would not be driven to seek him, we would have thought ourselves sufficient in ourselves to sustain ourselves and our futures. For this same reason God destroyed the tower of Babel [Genesis 11], and confused the languages. In our modern era, with its advances in technology and medicine, with secular man believing that he holds his destiny in his hands, we can see God still enforcing his curse, his judgement, as new threats to our existence arise as rapidly as old ones are eradicated. At every point of the curse, and in every age, we are reminded of both our rebellion against the word of God and our rejection of our identity as creatures dependent on God. [2] That God's judgement is, to a great extent, that he gives us exactly what we reached for [see Romans 1:18-32]. God's curse or judgement here in Genesis 3 is directly related to life cut off from him. We in Adam reached for independence from God; God, in his judgement, condemns us to the outworking of that independence.

A.1 The woman's suffering [3:16a]

Most Bible teachers agree that this judgement on the woman encompasses the whole realm of motherhood: physical suffering in pregnancy, physical stress and pain in childbirth, and emotional and mental pain in the raising of children. Some teachers mention that the Hebrew words also include reference to an increase in the number of children the woman will bear.

A.2 The man's suffering [ 3:17-19a]

The judgement on the man affects his 'work'. In the pre-sin world 'work' was neither stressful nor frustrating: it was part of God's blessing, consisting of easily obtained food and meaningful activity. Now, because of man's choice to rebel against God, God cursed the ground. This judgement upon the man resulted in 'painful toil'; physical nourishment is obtained only as a result of hard and frustrating labour. 'Nature', over which man and woman together were given dominion in the order of creation, now becomes a threat to survival. [Read also Genesis 4:12 where Cain's murder of his brother brought a further judgement affecting the productivity of the land.]

Discuss the negative effects these judgements of God have on the marriage relationship

The physical traumas of pregnancies

 

 

The pain of childbirth

 

 

 

The mental and emotional stresses of raising a family

 

The fact that the 'work' necessary for survival is now painful and difficult

 

The fact that 'work' is now filled with frustration

 

Personal assessment: In your marriage relationship, do you take account of the impact of this judgement of God on your marriage partner, and do you relate to these difficulties with compassion and understanding as one who is also under this judgement of God? In what ways can you change to be more compassionate and understanding when your partner suffers from these judgements?

A.3 The entry of danger and death [ 3:15-19]

The fragility and vulnerability which automatically entered the human soul when we rejected God also entered our physical existence. The physical world, over which we were given dominion in God's word of blessing, now, by God's word of judgement, becomes threatening to us and our survival.

  • As rebel humans we stand threatened with the possibility of death in child-bearing.
  • As rebel humans we stand threatened with the possibility of death in our daily work.
  • As rebel humans we stand threatened with the possibility of death from our environment.
  • As rebel humans we know that we are dying – that death inevitably comes.

Thus we do not live only with fear in relationship with God and others, we live also with the fear of death – our own death and the death of those we love. [See Hebrews 2:15]

Discuss the role that death and the fear of death plays in the marriage relationship. [For example, how much of a wife's 'nagging', or how much of the husband's anger or his absorption in his work, is connected with the fear of suffering and death?] Discuss also how an understanding of this should affect the way we respond when our partner's attitude expresses this fear of suffering, danger and death.

A.4 Dominion and desire [3:16b]

Under this heading we come to the aspect of God's judgement or curse which impacts the marriage relationship directly. Here in this judgement the equality, unity and mutual interdependence which existed between man and woman in the original creation is changed. It is not removed – but it is changed. This change is defined in God's judgement on the woman:

Your desire will be for your husband, and He will rule over.

We need to recognize that these words are not a command either to the wife or to the husband . They are a statement of how life corrupted by sin and under the judgement of God will be.

Your desire will be for your husband. At first it seems strange that this should be God's judgement or curse, for surely a wife's desire should be for her husband. But there is something about this 'desire' that makes it abnormal – part of the sin-cursed life, part of the life that God did not create us for. We need to thoughtfully consider just what it is so that we can recognize it as part of God's judgement, and not confuse it with the ideal marriage relationship of the original creation. The Hebrew word refers to a strong, intense desire, a violent craving, a stretching out towards. Perhaps we will never know exactly what it means for none of us have experienced the perfect, unmarred marriage relationship of Genesis 1 and 2. We can, however, identify five different, but related, expressions of this 'desire':

  • A sustained and indefinable awareness that 'something is missing' in the relationship, that there is an unreachable quality, a desirable component of the relationship that the wife desires the husband to supply, but he doesn't, indeed he cannot. [It is God alone who can supply what is now missing.]
  • A primary focus of life on the desire to please the husband, which conflicts (sometimes terribly) with, or over-rides, the wife's personal desires, and which has replaced the order of creation where, while the woman was created to complement the man, her primary identity, significance and role was to be God's image bearer. [Read 1 Corinthians 7:34]
  • Related to this, is a destructive desire for the husband's reputation and standing, which pulls the wife into a personal loss of identity when the husband's reputation is under fire.
  • An almost magnetic attraction to the husband, to the extent that abused women repeatedly return to their abusive husbands (including de facto husbands or 'boy-friends'), with the twisted belief that his abuse is an expression of the strength of his 'love'. [See note on 'Masochism' in separate 'Definitions' handout.]
  • She is thwarted in fulfilling her desires because they are now under the rule and authority of her husband.

[ See Additional Note #6]

And he will rule over you. Here we must remember three facts:

  • That this is not the order of creation . This is life in the abnormal world of Genesis 3 onwards. As such it is something very different from the leadership and responsibility innately possessed by Adam by virtue of his prior creation. [The responsibility of leadership was not mentioned in Gen 1 and 2.]
  • It is not God's command to the husband: it is God's judgement on the wife . It is God's curse on the wife. In this world now dominated by sin and inhabited by sinners, God ordained a system of authority: that, in the marriage, the husband is in authority over his wife.
  • That this 'rule' is not the same as the 'dominion' or 'rule' which Adam and Eve were given over the rest of creation in Genesis 1;26,28. The word translated 'dominion' or 'rule' over creation means 'to tread down' or 'to subjugate'. The word translated 'rule' in Genesis 3:16 simply means to rule or reign over, that is, to be in authority over, without the connotation of superiority, dominance, oppression or tyranny.

God's word of judgement here put in place an order of authority for life as a sinner. Yet, in the hands of sinners, this order of authority has itself become corrupted, and right around the world we find in marriages, including Christian marriages, not the authority that God's judgement instated in Genesis 3:16, but a sinful assumption and enforcement of that other kind of rule that God commanded as appropriate for non-human creatures, not for those he created in his image endowing them with value, dignity, equality and unity.

Discuss with your marriage partner the evidence of this dominion and desire in your marriage.  

Try to help each other to understand how you, as a wife, personally experience this incompleteness and frustration of strong, unfulfilled yearning for that unidentifiable 'something missing'; and how you, as a husband, feel inadequate to meet this need.  Try to help each other understand how you, as a husband, feel the burden and responsibility of this position of authority, and are tempted to turn it into male superiority and despotic oppression; and how you, as a wife, feel threatened and insignificant by this authority, and are tempted to rebel against it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Record your mutual commitments to a less demanding, more understanding, attitude.

B. THE CONDEMNATION

Genesis 3:22-24 records the ultimate condemnation: separation from the tree of life, exclusion from eternal life. This is, in effect, exclusion from the presence of God. From Genesis 3 onwards we are banned, barred, exiled, outlawed from the presence of God.

Write out and discuss these phrases from verses expressing this fundamental and ultimate prohibition:

Exodus 19:21

 

 

Exodus 25:22

With 26:33

 

 

Exodus 33:20

 

 

Psalm 24:3,4

 

 

 

Isaiah 6:5

 

 

Isaiah 59:2

 

 

Ephesians 4:18

 

 

What does this mean for the marriage relationship? Without the Redemption Factor at which we will be looking later studies, every human being, including me and my marriage partner, and the human race as a whole, will, because of this condemnation to separation from God:

  • Spend our lives on this earth cut off from the One who gives meaning and purpose to our lives.
  • Spend our lives on this earth with a destructive hopelessness.
  • Degenerate into further expressions of sinfulness, degradation and despair [Read Romans 1:18-32 and Ephesians 4:17-19].
  • Fear the future, where death hangs as an inescapable threat [Hebrews 2:15], and
  • Fear the final judgement of God, against whom we rebelled.

In reaching for independence from God in Genesis 3 we have got what we reached for. But, instead of the life of glory we thought we were grasping, we find that we have nothing but dust and ashes in our hands. Satan's lie, Satan's deception, was complete.

In every marriage there are two people who are condemned to this separation from God: to this degradation and despair, to this alienation from their real identity and this destructive, degrading, despairing bondage to sin and fear and guilt.

The surprising thing is not that marriages break down, but that any stay together at all. Life separated from God, life in the perceived absence of God, is an impossible life. We cannot, in this state of separation from God, live the complete, perfect human life. We cannot, in this state of separation from God, be to each other what the order of creation ordained we should be.

But ...

C. ANTICIPATIONS OF HOPE

We will be looking shortly at a massive factor that has the potential to undo the death and division, and the curse and the condemnation of Genesis 3. Even here, right in the midst of Genesis 3, is the anticipation of this redemption factor.

Write out these verses which anticipate a great redemptive act of God

Genesis 3:15b

 

 

Genesis 3:21

 

 

HOMEWORK TASK: As you live with your marriage partner this week:
  1. Look for opportunities to demonstrate understanding and compassion when you see him/her struggling with the results of the sin factor.
  2. Recognize aspects of your own life and attitudes that are the result of the sin factor.
  3. If you are a Christian, ask the Lord to enable you to bring these results of the sin factor under the power and covering of the Redemption factor.