Gen 3:16

Last week Saint Jonny asked me a Hebrew question about Genesis 3:16.

The ESV has: “…Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you…”. Apparently some Feminist scholars aruge that the verse can, and should be translated: “Your desire will be for your husband, and it [i.e. Eve’s desire] will rule over you.”

Unless there are some other issues of which I am not aware(?) then this is a very easy issue to solve. It is solved by the simple grammatical principle of agreement. That is “the condition of grammatical element sharing a corresponding inflectional category” (IBHS Glossary, p689).In simple terms, that means if a word (like an adjective or pronoun) is modifying or referring to another word (i.e. a noun) then the two will agree in things like gender (masculine, feminine) and number (singular, plural).

Some simple English examples (although English does always have explicit gender):

Bob (sing masc) is my friend, I met him (sing masc) three years ago.
My wife (sing fem) has two sisters (fem pl); they ([fem] pl) are still at school, but she (sing fem) is not.

The same things happen in Hebrew (and Greek) – only gender is much more explicit than in English.

In Hebrew Genesis 3:16 goes like this:

וְאֶל־אִישֵׁךְ תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ וְהוּא יִמְשָׁל־בָּךְ

The green word is a masculine word: man/husband.
The red word is a feminine word: desire.
The purple word is a masculine pronoun. Which means that it referrs back to אִישׁ not תְּשׁוּקָה.

The LXX has the same grammar: ἀποστροφη is feminine, ἀνδρα is masculine. Αὐτος is a masculine pronoun.

It is worth pointing out briefly, that if the Hebrew consonants of the pronoun were pointed differently, then the gender could be feminine. But given that both MT and LXX agree and BHS records no textual issue, this is unlikely.

So (with my initial disclaimer that there may be some issues that I am not aware of) it seems that the feminists are wrong and the traditional reading of Genesis 3:16 is correct:

“…Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you…”

One thought on “Gen 3:16

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