God has come to meet with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they have been caught in their sin and their guilt and shame is exposed. Instead of taking responsibility they look for ways to blame each other and the serpent. God does not allow them to use the blame game to get off the hook. Instead he holds each one of them responsible for their actions.
Read Genesis 3:14-19
God starts with the serpent, it’s judgement is first that it must crawl on the ground in the dust. This may reflect either that the creature in question had been winged or a lizard like creature with feet. It may however point to the greater judgement of Satan, the one behind the serpent being cast down to earth. The serpent is now cursed. There is enmity between his offspring and the woman’s offspring. This is the first prophecy about Christ in Scripture (v14-15).
The woman’s judgement relates to her role in subduing and filling creation. She will experience pain in childbirth. The verse also seems to suggest struggle between husband and wife which would echo the struggle between serpent and humanity. The pattern here of desire for mirroring mastery over is repeated in Genesis 4 where God warns Cain of sins desire for him but urges him to master sin.
There has been much debate over this verse with some seeing it as evidence for male headship in marriage and consider the wife’s desire here as a positive as she seeks to love him. Others point to the links with the serpent’s judgement with the warning to Cain and suggest that it indicates post fall power struggles within marriage. The ESV over interprets here with its description of the woman’s “desire” being contrary to her husbands. There isn’t any basis for this translation choice in the text and when followed in 4:7 makes even less sense.
I would be cautious about extrapolating too much at this stage and perhaps we would do well to see both narratives at play in most marriages. At its best a human marriage is genuinely complementary with mutual submission within the context of the husband’s headship indicating provision and protection. At its worst, a relationship can descend into a battle for control (v16).
Note that unlike the serpent, the man and woman are not themselves described as cursed, although they clearly fall under the consequences of curse. The man’s sin causes the ground to be cursed. If the woman’s role in filling creation will be hampered by her judgement, then the man’s responsibility to subdue and to provide will be hampered too. The land will no longer be willingly compliant, his work will require hard toil and sweat.
Death has come. Man will no longer live for ever but will return to dust. In the judgement we see how the penalty that God warned about comes to pass. Adam will one day face physical death, now he lives in a decaying and dying world. There are other aspects of the death penalty to come in later verses. WE may well also observe that whilst the serpent targets the woman and throughout the ages Eve has been blamed again and again, here in the passage, more attention is given by God to Adam’s responsibility (v17-19).
It is important for us to pause and to recognise the serious consequences of sin. Whenever wee look around us and see futility, suffering and decay, we are reminded that this is part of the just penalty that we are all under. This should cause us to be even more thankful to God that he has sent the serpent crusher to deal with the curse.