(Gen 1:28a) God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
Sex and bearing children aren’t a curse but a part of the blessed existence God designed for us at the beginning. Indeed, the scriptures repeatedly speak of children as blessings.
(Psa 127:4-5) Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
(Psa 128:2-4) You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD.
(Job 42:12-13) The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters.
(Gen 2:18) The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
The only thing declared “not good” in the creation was man without a wife.
“Helper” does not imply inferiority or subordination. Rather, the word is used elsewhere of God being Israel’s helper. In English, “helper” generally implies a subordinate role, but it’s just not true in Hebrew. But it does tell us that a wife has duties to her husband, not to oppose him but to support him.
(Gen 2:23-24) The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
The Edenic marriage is a unity of two souls, bone of bone and flesh of flesh. “One flesh” refers not only to sexual union but a unity of hearts.
(Eph 5:31-33) “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Paul’s point is that the unity of husband and wife requires the husband to love the wife as much as he loves himself, indeed, in parallel with Christ’s marriage to the church, to be willing to die for her.
This is not about rank but about united hearts. Paul is exegeting Genesis 2, not laying down the law to wives.
Intimacy with God
(Gen 2:25) The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
This passage seems a bit odd, coming where it does right after a discussion of marriage. After all, even the ancients were willing to be naked with their spouses! The verse immediately precedes the account of sin entering the Garden, however, and sets up —
(Gen 3:8-10) Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
In a world without sin, man felt no shame in the presence of God, but once sin entered the world, man felt the need to hide his nakedness from God. It’s really rather silly to think we can impress God with clothes. He made us naked. We have no secrets from God.
But sin makes us lie to ourselves, pretending that we can fool God into not noticing our shamefulness. We can’t. And so one essential step toward our redemption is getting comfortable being open and transparent before our Maker. It’s only when we stop lying to God about who we are that we can stop lying to ourselves and so truly enjoy God’s grace and be returned to the relationship God always wanted to have with us.
(Gen 3:16a) To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.”
Childbearing was designed to be a blessing, but sin turned childbearing into a painful and dangerous thing. It wasn’t until the 20th Century that deaths in childbirth became uncommon and that we learned to safely control the pain.
Indeed, the recent advances made in the safety and pain of childbirth have to be seen as historic, redemptive work. The bearing of children is much greater blessing when conception no longer threatens the mother’s life.
Strife in marriage
(Gen 3:16b) “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Sexual desire was part of the Edenic order. The Curse isn’t sexual desire. Rather, “desire” next appears in the text at —
(Gen 4:7) If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
This is the desire for possession or dominion. The Curse is strife in marriage, the destruction of the unity God designed us to enjoy.
It is therefore a great mistake to argue, as so many do, that Gen 3:16 teaches husbands to rule their wives. This is a curse that is God’s enemy. Why would we give aid and comfort to an enemy of God? I mean, it’s just remarkably bad exegesis to figure that we should rule our wives because this is what sin brought into the world!
(Gen 3:17-19a) To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground … .”
The need to work the ground to produce food is part of the created order. The Curse made agriculture vastly more difficult. Work would be hard and frustrating rather than the sheer joy work was meant to be.
(Gen 3:19b) “… since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
(Gen 3:22) And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
Finally, we see that death is punishment for sin. Immortality is a gift only for those without sin.
Separation from God
(Gen 3:23-24) So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
The tree of life — immortality — is forfeited when we give up intimacy with God.