January 28, 2012

what exactly was Eve's curse – pain or sorrow?

This is a question I've been turning over in my mind. Last weekend I talked to a friend at church about it, and she mentioned that Genesis 3:16 NIV says "I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children." That would seem to sum it up, but I asked her whether she thought that specific sentence was for all women to come throughout human history or just her? We were befuddled together.

I decided to do some research, as I suspected that there was more to this curse than a painful childbirth. It just felt a little too simple. I mean, why is childbirth painful in the first place? Well, every contraction is the muscles moving the baby down through the birth canal – it's a top-to-bottom squeeze, if you will. So every contraction is one step closer to the birth. They're progressive.

Ironically, when women react fearfully toward - or tense up against - the pain & pressure, it can make the process take longer and can lead to interventions. In a normal situation, the key is to embrace it and not fight it so that the body can do what it was built to do. Epidurals can make that process easier by relaxing mom's muscles (and if they're used very early can also extend labor time), but so can various relaxation and focusing techniques.

Okay, enough background.

After the fall of Adam and Eve, God tells them what live is going to be like from that point on. What I find interesting about what he tells Eve is the difference between the KJV and NIV versions. The KJV says "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…" That sounds different from the term "pain" that NIV uses. Obviously, a closer study of the original Hebrew version is in order.

The interesting thing about Hebrew text is that it is layered. Each character often has more than one meaning, and in context can mean different things. This is very much unlike English which – except for all our duplicate words that can mean totally different things depending on pronunciation – are generally single-purpose and not multi-faceted.

All this is to say that I found a fascinating biblical study about just this subject which I found very revealing. In a two-part series, Jack Ke.lley of gracet.hru.faith asks and presents plausible answers to some key questions about this:

- Why would God command Adam and Eve to populate the world and then make childbirth so painful? Is that really His intention?
- Do the terms "increase" (NIV) and "multiply" (KJV) necessarily mean the same thing?
- What does the verse really mean and to whom does it apply?

What I like about Jack's study is his honest search for the truth. But now I'm at a stopping point, as his is the only one I've found so far. I'm not one to stop with one study and declare "ah-hah! I knew it!" My search is incomplete. But I'm fairly convinced that the NIV translation isn't providing the whole picture.

Anyone know of any resources that actually pay attention to this scripture? If so, please share!