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Searching for a
"Slacker Husbands & Bossy Wives"
I do not expect that the views set forth in this article will receive universal endorsement. The title itself will probably generate a negative reaction from some. I suppose if we were attempting to be politically correct, we would rather choose the subject, 'Abusive Husbands and Enabling Wives.' That kind of topic is popular these days and would receive general nods of approval. And although that subject is a definite problem that sadly exists all too often, I do not believe it is as common a problem as the one reflected in our title. And besides, I never have been prone to look for the politically correct path. Rather I try to identify and address views or practices that are contrary to the revealed will of God in the Scriptures, perhaps those issues that are points of greatest resistance in people's lives. Then I seek to expose the error and bring correction, bringing the whole matter into submission to the will of God. And so, as a pastor I attempt to 'cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ' (2 Cor. 10:5). I understand this to be a basic, biblical philosophy of rightly ministering the Word of God.
Therefore, I am addressing this problem because it is a common one and an important one. It is a matter that, if dealt with biblically, may bring God's blessing and peace into hearts and homes. And this is a problem that is common to us all. Now you might say to yourself, 'I am single. This is a subject that does not deal with me or mine.' But each of us has been or is part of a family in which the relationship between the husband and wife is lived out. Even if you are single or widowed, you have friends and family with whom you have contact or influence, therefore it would do you well to give attention to this subject. Now you may be married but you feel that you do not fit into either one of the two categories we are addressing. If that is the case, you are to be congratulated. Come see me and we will interview you for your secret of success that seems to have alluded the rest of us. But seriously, I do believe that this is a matter that touches us all. The fact is, since the Fall into sin by Adam and Eve, husbands have had this tendency to fail in their responsibility to lovingly lead their wives, and wives have had this tendency to resist the leadership of their husbands. Husbands tend to become slacker husbands; wives are prone to become bossy wives.
Now as we work through this matter you may think that I picking on you personally, but this is not the case. No, your spouse has not been talking to me about you. We are speaking of 'temptation that is common to man.' These are tendencies that we all have as males and females. Men tend to shirk their God-given role as protector and provider of their wives and children. Wives tend to resist submitting to the leadership of their husbands within the marriage relationship. Although God has made it clear in His Word that He has assigned us these roles, we chaff under the notion. In fact, I would offer four givens with respect to our response to God's will for us. Because of sin residing within us,
(1) Each of us is prone to resist the roles that God has ordained for us.
This is common to us all. We all, whether male or female, struggle to a degree with these temptations to reject authority, some more than others. We want to be our own gods. We have this sin nature within us that leads us to reject authority. We do not want anyone, whether it is a parent, a husband, a pastor or a church, to tell us what to do. This is a point of struggle that touches each of us daily to different degrees. It is my desire to address this matter so that we provide for you 'the way to escape, that you may be able to bear it' (1 Cor. 10:13).
We see in our Bibles that this problem with authority has existed since the beginning of biblical history. Let us look to the opening chapters of Genesis where we read of God setting forth our responsibilities and then let us consider the ensuing problems we face because of our rejection of them.
I. In the Beginning God Created a Man and Woman with Specific Roles
We read in the book of Genesis that God created a man to oversee His creation (1:27). God formed Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed life into him. God gave Adam dominion over the creation. He was to manage God's creation for God's glory and for his own good. Adam was to be God's servant in overseeing and caring for all that God had made.
There was, however, a deficiency on the part of man. Although everything about Adam was good, it was not good that he was alone (2:18). He was in need of a helper to assist him in his responsibilities. She would be like him in many respects; she would be taken from his own side. Eve was equally a person and was equal in worth to Adam. She, too, was made in the image of God. But she was different from Adam in significant ways (thankfully so). She had been given certain qualities that would strengthen and encourage Adam in doing God's will. Adam did not need another identical to himself in qualities and abilities. He needed one who would stand beside him and strengthen him in ways where he was deficient. The two of them together would make a team and they would be able together to fulfill the responsibilities that God had entrusted to Adam. Adam was to perform the responsibilities God had assigned to him; Eve would assist him in his task. He needed her. He could not do all he was called to do apart from her assistance. The point we might stress here is this: even before the entrance of sin God had established different roles for men and women. These different roles continue today. Men and women are different physically and emotionally. God made us this way so that we might compliment one another in fulfilling His will in our lives.
The assertion that males and females are inherently different from one another is resisted vehemently by some. For several decades there have been efforts within our society to say there is no essential difference between the sexes. We are told that the sexes only appear and act differently because of social conditioning while developing as children. If you could but change the environment, men and women would have the same traits. Consequently our society has been subject to the political action of social engineers who would shape our children's education to desensitize and extinguish differences. Recently I saw an interview of an author who has exposed one aspect of this political agenda. Her name is Christine Sommers and her book is America's War against Boys. I hope to obtain and read a copy.
And so we are being told that there are no differences between the sexes. But society at large has not recognized this to be the case. The popularity of the book, Men are from Mars and Women are From Venus by John Gray, suggests that society continues to recognize that there are essential differences in the psyche of the sexes. That is not to say that Gray's views are universally accepted. I read one who said 'at its very core it is a sexist, patronizing, male-centered invective which does little more than perpetuate long-held negative gender stereotypes.' I suspect that would also reflect the sentiment of some to this article. But this is to accept the testimony of a fallen world rather than the words of Holy Scripture. And it is sad to say that many even in the church have done so.
Whether or not we reject the world's assertions, the potential exists for great tension within every marriage, and sadly division often results. Even among 'Christians' this is the case. By the way, I read a statistic recently that the percentage of professing Christians who become divorced is now greater than among those who do not profess Christianity. (I do not know if this is factually correct.) Even Christians who would claim to live before God and reject the world's ways have had errant views creep into their thinking and have corrupted their understanding and willingness to do the will of God. Even in churches there are held extra-biblical ideas about these matters. As Christians we should always be trying to identify these patterns of thinking and remove them. As a gardener pulls weeds out by the roots so that his garden have full beauty, so we attempt to eradicate errant thinking so that our lives may display the beauty and harmony of God's will in our lives. As Christians we should desire that God's will would be done. This will result in peace and harmony and fulfillment and joy within our marriages.
And so, the fact is that God created males and females with different traits and He has established different roles for males and females. These were not designed by God to bring difficulty to His creatures, but rather He designed them to be different in order to bring mutual benefit to one another in a marriage relationship and to enable them to accomplish His will in their lives. Adam who was created first was in need of Eve to assist him in fulfilling God's will. He could not do it alone. The two could do together what either of them could not do alone.
Chief among Adam's responsibilities was to care for Eve. He saw to it that she was provided with the things for which she had needed. He was her loving provider and protector, lovingly leading her as they both sought to fulfill God's will. She in turn used her abilities to assist Adam. The two existed in this blessed state for a time of unknown duration. There was a loving cooperative relationship between the two of them. They worked side by side, Adam directing their work, Eve supporting him in whatever ways he was in need.
II. Adam and Eve's Fall into Sin and its Consequences for their Relationship
God the Creator had graciously given life to Adam and Eve and placed them in a perfect environment. He had provided them all necessary things to enjoy a blissful, beautiful existence. One prohibition was made by God. They were not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 3 we see the response of our first parents to their Creator who had been so good and gracious to them. Eve, being deceived by the serpent, led Adam to transgress God's commandment. Adam thereby incurred for himself and his posterity God's curse with all of its consequences.
It might appear to have been a trifle prohibition with an overreaction by God for man's eating of some forbidden fruit. But in the following chapters of Genesis man's sin is shown for what it was in reality: the entrance of monstrous evil with horrendous consequences for the human race and the world he inhabits. Pride, anger, hatred, and murder arise in one brother toward another (4:1-15). In chapters 5-11 we see that the increase of the world's population and the development of civilization did nothing to counter the effects of sin. The world soon becomes a dangerous, violent place, which incurred the wrath of God. Let us trace the steps of their fall.
We read in Genesis 3:1:'Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.' It would seem that no sooner were our first parents established in God's garden that they were at risk having paradise lost to them. The opening statement portends evil and danger, and the need they had for vigilance. But if they, in their purity before the entrance of sin, were vulnerable to deception were in need of watchfulness, how much more are we, this side of sin, insecure in our standing, we who have our senses seared and judgment impaired. The serpent was cleverer at deception than they were clever at discernment. They should have observed the serpent and strove to be wise so as not to become its prey (cf. Matt. 10:16). Nevertheless, in spite of the serpent's cleverness and their own naivet', things would have been okay had they maintained their obedience to God's Word. The evil one has no power over a man or woman who uses God's Word rightly and obeys it fully. Our Lord Himself demonstrated that for us in His wilderness temptation (cf. Matt. 4:1ff).
It was the Word of God where the serpent would direct his subtle efforts. He attacked the man through the woman, by deceiving and leading her to stray from obedience to God's command. He first, broached the subject, 'Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?'' (3:1). In introducing the matter, the serpent would have Eve question the content of God's Word which had been given to them. It is a question of 'what.' It is important we know what the substance of God's Word is so we may have assurance and confidence when challenged or tempted in this fashion.
But underlying the question of what is the question, 'why.' Why would God forbid any and all? Would not all trees be available? Would God deny anything that you would desire? When the question of why God would forbid something is offered by some, it reveals the heart of a rebel looking for an excuse to violate God's command. Here the serpent would have Even question the value of God's Word. It was an effort to lead Eve to question the goodness of God to them.
Eve's response was a correct one (3:2f). She reveals her clear understanding of what God had told them.[i] Moreover, 'she intimates that they would be most ungrateful if, instead of being content with such affluence, they should desire more than was lawful.'[ii] God richly supplies us with all things lawful to enjoy (cf. 1 Tim. 6:17), it is ingratitude to God when we long for forbidden things. The serpent would lead them away from faith in God's goodness and wisdom in directing their lives. He would sever them from God's Word--the law that had been given to them to establish their boundaries.
But seeing that Eve knew what was the content of the Word, the tempter chose to deny the Word forthrightly. 'You surely shall not die!' (3:4). He attempted to show that the consequences of violating God's Word, which had been so clearly set forth, would not be realized. He anticipated the resistance to such a notion. If we will not die in violating this command, why would God have given this prohibition? 'For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil' (Gen. 3:5).
The serpent's ploy was successful. Having had her thinking adjusted to view matters in a different perspective, Eve 'saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was desirable to make wise, she took from its fruit and ate, and gave to her husband with her, and he ate' (3:6). After she received her education from the serpent, and having embraced its reasoning, Eve now viewed the fruit in a different way.[iii] Before, there was no desire for the tree, for a loving, all wise God who ruled over her had placed it off limits, and they had been content with that prohibition. But now, she was making the decisions of good and evil apart from God's will and her husband's will. Now, the fruit of the forbidden tree was desirable for her, and she would not deny herself, but would have it. Adam, too, with what seems to be no hesitation and no compunction to resist, joins in the feast. Eve gave the 'soul poison' to him, and he ate it down. Eve was as many, 'those that have themselves done ill are commonly willing to draw others to do the same' (Matthew Henry). When they both tasted the fruit, they both tasted death. Death passed upon all men through Adam's sin (cf. Rom. 5:12).
The serpent charged God with falsehood and unkindness, as One not worthy to be trusted and obeyed for He was forbidding something that would bring benefit to them. Our parents accepted that testimony and ate of the fruit. Eve was deceived. But Adam was the real culprit. He was a transgressor of God's Law. Adam's sin was an act of disobedience, which was born of unbelief. Adam and Eve refused to order their lives submitted to the word of their God, their Sovereign Creator. They would order their own existence and choose for themselves which course to take. They desired to determine for themselves what was true, good, and right. They would be gods to themselves.
The effects of sin began to show themselves immediately. Genesis 3:7-8, 'Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.'
They immediately became sinners in their entire being. The theological expression for this condition is that they had become totally depraved. This means that sin touched every aspect of their being. Their values and morals, their perceptions and assessments, their reasoning and conclusions, their responses and actions, their very character was adversely affected by their sin. I could not describe better what occurred than Arthur Pink:
No sooner had Adam revolted from his gracious Maker and Benefactor than the evil effects became apparent. His understanding, originally enlightened with heavenly wisdom, became darkened and overcast with crass ignorance. His heart, formerly fired with holy veneration toward his Creator and warm with love to Him, now became alienated and filled with enmity against Him. His will, which had been in subjection to his rightful Governor, had cast off the yoke of obedience. His whole moral constitution was wrecked, had become unhinged, perverse. In a word, the life of God had departed from his soul. His aversion for the supremely excellent One appeared in his flight from Him as soon as he heard His approach. His crass ignorance and stupidity were evinced by his vain attempt to conceal himself from the eyes of Omniscience. His pride was displayed in refusing to acknowledge his guilt; his ingratitude, when he indirectly upbraided God for giving him a wife.[iv]
In one sense their understanding was darkened, in another 'their eyes were opened'--opened to the fact that they had sinned. They knew instantly they had done wrong. 'They saw the happiness they had fallen from, and the misery they had fallen into.'[v] There was shame, remorse, fear, confusion, and loss of peace. But although they were aware of their sin, at the same time there was a loss of clear and true understanding, as Pink's comments above point out. Their consciences had condemned them. They knew in fact that they were guilty, but they did not know fully the degree of their guilt or the measure of consequence of their action for all time.
The experiences and responses of our parents to their sin are typical of all their children when they too sin--like father, like son. First, there is shame and a sense of guilt. 'They knew that they were naked.' This itself is a blessing of God in that sinners might be humbled so as to seek mercy and grace from Him whose Law they violated. Shame of conscience is designed by God to lead a sinner to repentance. It is a shame when sinners have so sinned that they no longer feel shame. This reveals a soul who is far from God. No shame is a sign of His wrath and impending judgment. It indicates that the conscience has been seared through repeated sin and a hardening of one's heart. One of the evidences of the Holy Spirit working salvation in a person is a sense of shame and remorse. 'Then shall you remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations' (Ezek. 36:31).
Second, we seek to cover our shame and hide our nakedness from God and one another. It is possible that Adam and Eve saw they were naked in that the former glory, which may have characterized their appearance, had departed from them. Given the nature of sin, we seek out many devices to avoid dealing with the matter. We will employ every effort to mask our sin using any and all manner of inadequate means, even sham coverings as fragile and temporary as fig leaves, in order to clothe our shame. We resort most frequently to wrap ourselves in coverings of morality, hypocrisy, religiosity, philanthropy, and the like. Guilty sinners have a large wardrobe of garments to cover every imaginable offense. But only that which God Himself God has provided in Christ is adequate to deal with our condition. When God approached, the weakness of their covering became obvious. All our sham coverings and lame excuses will be stripped away one day and what we are in reality will be judged by God. There can be no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we must render account (Heb. 4:13).
Nevertheless, we would just as soon face this later than sooner, so third, we attempt to run from God rather than face Him with our guilt. They heard God coming so they fled from His presence. Sinfulness cannot and will not dwell with holiness. Righteousness and unrighteousness cannot be yoked together in fellowship; they are unequal, unsuitable and incompatible partners (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14f). And then fourth, we ignorantly think that we can flee from Him and thereby avoid detection or consequences for our sin. Is it not foolish to think that we can go somewhere where God is not? That we can escape our sin and responsibility by fleeing from Him? But we feel we must flee, for fifth, we fear God's wrath due to our sin (but not enough to repent, but enough to try and run and hide from God). After God called for them, Adam voiced their concern. 'I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.' And then sixth, although we might be willing to confess the effects and pain sin brought to us, we are resistant to confess outright the sin itself. God must drag a confession from us.
All the while God was very gracious in His dealings with this fallen pair. He came to them in the cool of the day to commune, not in the day in the heat of passion, not at night when fear would have been compounded.[vi] He came walking, and calling. It was the approach of a friend, not an enemy. He gave them ample opportunity to confess and face their sin. 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?' (3:11). God knew what they had done, but He wanted to hear their confession. But this leads us to the a seventh response to sin: we avoid assuming full responsibility by shifting blame to another. 'The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate' (3:12). Here Adam reveals that he now loves himself supremely. He does not love his neighbor as himself for he blames Eve rather than assuming responsibility himself; it was her fault. Neither does he love the Lord his God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength, for he blames God for having given him the woman; it was God's fault.
But then Eve learns well from her husband, she blames the serpent (3:13). We think that the blame game serves us well when we have been discovered. It does not seem to appease God, however, for we see that He dealt with each one according to his/her works (3:14-19). Irresponsibility is a consequence of sin entering the world. Herein is an important point: Both Adam and Eve refused to take responsibility for themselves.
No sooner had Adam and Eve fallen into sin that the consequences were seen. Their relationship with God was ruined. Their relationship with one another was no better.
Their Relationship with God was destroyed. The effects of sin began to show themselves immediately. Genesis 3:7-8, 'Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.' Their relationship to God had been adversely affected by their sin. They fled from Him.
It might not be apparent here, but it certainly becomes obvious soon in the Genesis account, that God and mankind were now enemies. God would continue to deal graciously with them because He is loving to His enemies. But full reconciliation between them would not be realized until the reconciliation was secured through Christ on the cross. A gulf was fixed that day between a holy God and His unholy sinful creatures that could only be bridged through the mediation of Christ. God would continue to come to them because He is a good and gracious God, but they were to exercise repentance and faith toward Him and purpose to order their lives according to His Word.
Their Relationship with One Another was destroyed. Rather than Adam loving and supporting his wife and assuming responsibility for her care, Adam denies his responsibility. He distances himself from her. He blames her for his failure. In seeking to justify himself before God he said, 'The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate' (3:12). Here Adam reveals that he now loves himself supremely. He does not love his neighbor as himself for he blames Eve rather than assuming responsibility himself; it was her fault. Neither does he love the Lord his God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength, for he blames God for having given him the woman; it was God's fault. It is clear that their fall into sin adversely effected Adam's attitude and behavior toward his wife. But then Eve learns well from her husband, she blames the serpent (3:13). We think that the blame game serves us well when we have been discovered. It does not seem to appease God, however, for we see that He dealt with each one according to his/her works (3:14-19). Irresponsibility is a consequence of sin entering the world.
III. Adam and Eve's Sin and their Respective Roles
God now begins to speak to the threesome. He first addresses the Serpent, then Eve, then He speaks to Adam.
God first addressed the Serpent (3:14,15)
God pronounced a curse upon the serpent. We do not have the time to deal with this in detail other than giving a few brief words. After cursing the serpent, God spoke regarding the seed the woman and the fact it would one day destroy satan, 'he will bruise you on the head' (3:15). For the first time in the text we see a clear indication of a spiritual personality having animated the serpent. The devil is called 'that old serpent' and he is referred to as having been 'a liar and murder from the beginning', a clear allusion to the serpent (Rev. 12:9; John 8:44). The serpent is cursed of God, but in God doing so, God gives indirectly a word of promise to His people: a time would come when a champion, a conqueror, who will be born of woman, would render a fatal blow to the serpent (devil), implying a recovery and restoration from the fall which he had caused that day. Here is the first word of redemption in the Bible, and the first, albeit 'obscure intimation' of a promised messiah.[vii] It is but a few words, but glorious in prospect. Right at the entrance of sin, its exit is declared.[viii]
God next addressed the Woman (3:16)
God told Eve that as a consequence of her sin a women would have difficulty in giving birth. God said to her, 'I will multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children' (3:16). As one who has witnessed first-hand the birth of three daughters, I can testify to the fulfillment of these words, and I think there are enough mothers around who would confirm my testimony. It is with hard labor that a mother gives birth, and it is through hard labor a child comes into the world where he faces more labor all his days.
In addition to difficulty with childbirth, women have difficulty with their husbands. 'Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you' (3:16). She would bear hardship in that she 'desires' her husband but is, nevertheless, placed in subordination to him.
The woman had also broken through her divinely appointed subordination to the man; she had not only emancipated herself from the man to listen to the serpent, but had led the man into sin. For that, she was punished with a desire bordering on disease, and with subjection to man. 'And he shall rule over thee.' Created for the man, the woman was made subordinate to him from the very first; but the supremacy of the man was not intended to become despotic rule, crushing the woman into a slave, which has been the rule in ancient and modern Heathenism, and even in Mahometanism also,--a rule which was first softened by the sin-destroying grace of the Gospel, and changed into a form more in harmony with the original relation, viz., that of a rule on the one hand, and subordination on the other, which have their roots in mutual esteem and love.[ix]
Since the Fall, it has been the case that the wife's desire has been for her husband. This was the manifestation of God's curse upon women. This is where the effects of sin are clearly seen in a woman, every woman. But what does this mean that the wife's desire is for her husband? Some argue that this 'desire' is the intense love that the woman has for her husband. But this cannot be the sense. Now a woman might respond, 'well I don't know, it seems that the greatest pain I have experienced in life is because I have loved a man foremost and as a result have been repeatedly and deeply hurt.' I would respond, 'No, it has not because you deeply loved a man above all things that you were hurt, but because you wanted above all things to be loved by a man that set you up for abuse and pain.' No, this cannot be the meaning of this idea of a wife's desire is for her husband. Remember that this is a part of God's curse upon sin. Loving one's husband is not a vice, but a goal. And it does not come naturally. Women need to be taught how to love their husbands rightly. As we read in Titus 2:3,4, 'Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children.'
The idea that a woman 'desires' her husband is not in the sense that she loves him intensely, but that she wants to control or master him. A wife, if not influenced by grace and the Word of God, does not want to be ruled by her husband; rather, she desires to rule over (or control) him. Let me give evidence for this meaning. Apart from this verse, the Hebrew word translated as 'desire' is used in two places in the Old Testament. It is used in Song of Solomon 7:10 in which the woman speaks of her beloved's intense love and longing for her. 'I am my beloved's. And his desire is for me.' If its usage in Genesis 3:16 is the same as there, then God is telling Eve that she will have an intense longing or desire for Adam. However, the context of Genesis 3 is God pronouncing His judgment upon Eve for her part in the Fall. The interpretation that makes this wife's love for her husband is more like a blessing than a curse. Further, it would have seemed to be more suited to conditions before than after the fall--an ideal in God's good creation rather than something having entered after they had sinned.
The other occurrence of the Hebrew word is in the same context of the early portion of Genesis. In Genesis 4:7 Cain is being warned about the danger of sinning due to his anger of having his sacrifice rejected. Sin is personified as a ravenous beast crouching at the door and it desires him, but Cain was to master it.[x] Just as sin wanted to master Cain, but Cain had been ordained to master or rule over it, so Eve would want to master her husband, but her husband was appointed to rule her. (By the way, my wife of 28 years can testify that this second interpretation certainly fits her experience, and I have found in 26 years of pastoring it seems her experience is quite universal.)
God has ordained that a husband is the head of his family and a man is no man of God if he lets his wife dominate him. She will desire to do so, but if he lets her, they both will be miserable. The man, who obeys his wife to do wrong rather than to obey God to do right, duplicates Adam's sin. The fall resulted in the wife not willingly submitting, and it resulted in the husband not lovingly leading--he wants to dominate, so does she. Behind every angry woman feminist I look for a jerk of a husband, father, or series of boyfriends, who tried to crush her through domination. Through his abuse and her rebellion and bitterness, she is an angry, unforgiving, living protest. But the main point I want to make is this: within the fallen heart of every female is the tendency and potential to be a bossy wife.
Nevertheless, God has made known His will to the woman: although your desire shall be to control your husband; nevertheless, he shall rule over you.' It is God's will that husbands are the heads of their households. Wives are to recognize this and live accordingly. This is God's will. It is due to sin that this is so offensive to wives. Husbands do not help the matter. It would seem the way they tend to treat their wives irresponsibly that they incite their wives to resist them and rebel against God. Since and because of the fall, men tend to become slacker husbands; wives tend toward becoming bossy wives.
God then addressed the Man (3:17-19)
After speaking to the serpent and then to the woman, God spoke to Adam. God spoke to the worst last. To Adam, God said,
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (3:17-19)
God's judgment on Adam and all his posterity had two aspects. First, the earth was cursed due to Adam's sin; that which he is to rule over resists him. Second, man would return to the earth from which he had come. Man would encounter difficulty throughout his life even unto death. God had warned them that if they transgressed by eating of that tree they would surely die. Here, God confirms His Word. 'Dust thou wert, to dust thou shalt return' has been recited at millions of funerals over millions of graves. Joshua one day said about his approaching death, 'I am going the way of all the earth' (Josh. 23:14). And so will each of us, unless the Lord returns first. We can thank Adam from whom we sprang. Let us consider more fully the nature of Adam's difficult life.
First, God determined that Adam's existence would be one of hardship. After the fall, the ground was no longer cooperative with man's efforts. Before, fruit sprung up naturally, afterward, only with difficulty. There was a resistance of the creation toward man. A kind of battle has been waged between mankind and the world since the Fall. It is as though the world itself felt revulsion from the presence of fallen man treading on its surface.
It was of course from the soil that he was taken (Gen. 2:7), and so with its gifts the soil is the motherly basis of his whole life. But this relationship has been broken, resulting in estrangement which is expressed in a silent combat between him and the soil.[xi]
Adam would no longer bear fruit to God without much difficulty; the earth will no longer bear fruit to man apart from toil. Adam rebelled against God, whose rule He had been under; the earth would rebel against him, which had once been under His rule. Adam had been made the ruler of the world. When he fell, that which was under him fell. God's curse upon women due to sin would be that their husbands would rule over them. God's curse upon the man was that in whatever he sought to accomplish, he would be faced with difficulty, trouble, and resistance.
Second, just as the ground was no longer co-operative with Adam after the fall, neither would be his wife. He has the responsibility to be her authority; but her tendency is to resist and resent that authority. He has the responsibility to lead her, but her desire would be to control him. There would not be willing compliance, but rather an ever-present tendency for resistance. This is very troubling and discouraging for husbands. Oh yes, she would 'desire' to have her husband lead her, as long as it is in a manner that she wants to be lead. But when he wants to go in a direction that differs from her, then tension and resistance result. A battle often ensues, for there is not a natural willingness on her part to comply. And so, what does she do? A number of reactions are possible to her:
(1) She may nag him into compliance to her will.
And so, what does he do? He also has a number of options:
(1) He may demand that she comply with his will.
The solution for this miserable state of existence is as follows: First, each one must identify and reaffirm his or her own responsibilities before God. Second, each must humble himself/herself and confess his/her own failure to fulfil those responsibilities both to God and to one another. Third, then each must resolve through God's enabling grace to do the will of God regardless of whether or not the other is doing his/her part.
But herein the problem arises: Sin abides and sways the heart. And so what happens? The tendency to respond as sinners kicks in, just as when Adam and Eve first sinned in the garden:
(1) First, there is shame and a sense of guilt for failure.
IV. How are We then to live?
One can look down through biblical history and see that husbands have failed their wives. Husbands tend to act out of selfishness even at the expense of their wives. You remember Abraham. Although he was a godly man, he accepted out of selfish concern placing his wife Sarah in a very difficult situation. Genesis 20:2 reads, 'And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.' Nevertheless, God preserved Sarah. We read in verse 3 that God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, 'Behold, thou are but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife.'
Abraham's son, Isaac, followed his father's example and acted the same way toward his wife, Rebecca. Rather than preserve the moral purity and safety of his wife, Isaac placed Rebecca in a very vulnerable situation. After they went to dwell in Gerar, 'the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She [is] my sister: for he feared to say, 'She is my wife; lest,' said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebecca'; because she [was] fair to look upon.' (Gen. 26:7). God spared Rebecca through her difficult experience just as He had spared Sarah before her.
Wives too, may be shown to have troubled their own households by taking matters into their own hands as they resisted or rebelled against their husbands. Proverbs 19:13, 'the contentions of a wife [are] a continual dropping.' Proverbs 27:15, 'A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.' Proverbs 14:1, describes what happens when a wife takes matters into her own hands: 'Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.'
What are we to do? We are to purpose to understand what God's will is and we are to purpose through grace to humble ourselves and do His will. And it is quite clear in the Word of God what that will is.
What are Husbands to do?
Husbands are to humble themselves and purpose by God's grace to do the will of God. This involves first, that a husband denies himself of his own pleasures and assumes his responsibility to lovingly lead his wife. We read the command in Ephesians 5:25, 'Husbands, love your wives.' Second, a husband is to be patient with his wife to the point of patiently enduring her insensitivity or resistance to him. The Lord Jesus Himself provides and example. Husbands are to love their wives 'even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.' He must not use coercion or force to impose his will. He is to lead her, not drive her. He is to be loving and patient toward his wife even when she resists or refuses to yield to him. Colossians 3:19, 'Husbands, love [your] wives, and be not bitter against them.' Third, a husband is to seek to lead his wife to become holy and pure. As Christ with His church, the husband should seek to 'sanctify and cleanse' his wife 'with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself' a glorious church (bride), not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Fourth, a husband is to listen to his wife's counsel, for she is designed by God to be his helpmate. But ultimately the responsibility rests upon him. God has ordained that the husband determines the direction for his family.
What are wives to do?
Likewise wives are also to humble themselves and purpose by God's grace to do the will of God. First, a wife is to submit to the leadership of her husband, obeying him and seeking to do his will. Ephesians 5:22, 'Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.' Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing:' Take note, the Scriptures say 'in every thing.' Of course this does not mean that she is to sin if her husband would have her do so. We read in Colossians 3:18, 'Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.' But aside from what is sinful, she is to obey her husband in all areas. To fail in this is to rebel against God and may even result in the word of God being blasphemed. We read in Titus 2:5 that a wife is to be 'discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.'
Secondly, a wife is to recognize and respect her husband's position as the head of the marriage and family. Ephesians 5:23 'For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.' It is important that a wife distinguish between the position of her husband and the person of her husband. She is to obey her husband because of the position and responsibility that God has given him, irrespective of whether he rises to a level of competence in that position. He has that position irrespective of whether he is a Christian or not. Husbands are the heads of their wives.
Thirdly, a wife must believe that God is sovereign and that He controls the decisions and directs the steps of her husband. The wife must believe that God will overrule even the poor decisions of her husband and thereby He will lead her through her husband. She must have confidence in God Who is guiding her in His providence. If she in faith believes this biblical truth, then she can be content in the Lord regardless of what her husband does. She knows that even on those occasions when her husband makes foolish and selfish decisions that will adversely effect their lives, she is assured that through it all God will accomplish His purposes for His glory and her ultimate good.
Fourthly, a wife must learn to appeal to her husband when she disagrees with his decision. When we speak of a wife submitting to her husband we are not suggesting silence on her part when she perceives things are not going as she thinks they should. No, she has a responsibility to make known her opinion, but to do so in a godly, humble, and biblical manner. What then is it for a wife to appeal to her husband? It occurs when the wife politely and in a spirit of meekness attempts to lay out her case to her husband as to what she perceives to be the will of God. She expresses to him in meekness and with respect toward him her assessment and her advise. But, and this is important, she conveys to her husband that she will abide by his decision. Ultimately, right or wrong, it is his judgment call. God has made him responsible for his wife and his children.
In conclusion let us affirm that the will of God in marital relations is clearly written in His Word. If one affirms that Scriptures are the authoritative Word of God, then they are to be our rule for life, regardless of whether its prescriptions are in accord with present day thought or our personal preferences born out of fallen hearts. May our Lord help us to order our lives according to His will. May He enable us by His grace to enjoy His full blessing within our families.
[i] Granted, God did not say 'or touch' in his original prohibition (cf. 2:17), and dying was not the penalty for touching, but Eve was right in the sense they had no business fondling that which was forbidden to them to eat. Stay clear of the place of temptation all together. Some tempt the devil to tempt them by toying with forbidden things.
[ii] John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses called Genesis, trans. John King (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), p. 149.
[iii] Granted, God did not say 'or touch' in his original prohibition (cf. 2:17), and dying was not the penalty for touching, but Eve was right in the sense they had no business fondling that which was forbidden to them to eat. Stay clear of the place of temptation all together. Some tempt the devil to tempt them by toying with forbidden things.
[iv] Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings from the Scriptures: Man's Total depravity (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), p. 59.
[v] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Fleming H. Revell Company, n.d.), p. 26.
[vii] E. W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1970), p. 13.
[viii] The expression, 'seed of the woman' may be best understood not to be a reference to a single individual, hence Jesus Christ, rather, it is speaks of collective humanity; although humanity will suffer affliction and pain--'you shall bruise him on the heal'; nevertheless, ultimately humanity, which springs from the woman, will encounter victory over the serpent (cf. Rom. 16:20). C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes: vol. 1, The Pentateuch (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1978), p. 101. However, down through sacred history the 'seed' ceases to be identified with all humanity through physical decent, but through God's narrowing selection a spiritual seed emerges which eventually culminates in Jesus Christ. In this way He may be regarded as the 'seed of the woman.' Ibid., p.101. Consider the narrowing of the seed to Seth, then Shem, the Abram, then Isaac, then Jacob, ending in Jesus of Nazareth who vanquished Satan winning deliverance for the nations who believe on him. Who is the 'seed of the serpent?' I take it to be those that align themselves with the serpent and do his bidding (cf. John 8:44; 1 John 3:8).
[ix] Ibid., p.103.
[x] It should also be recognized that the conjunction translated in the clause 'and he shall rule over you' in 3:16 is the same word translated as the adversative in 4:7: 'but you must master it.' Thus, if it is translated as an adversative in 3:16 it may read, 'And your desire will be for your husband, but (or nevertheless) he shall rule over you.'
[xi] Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1962), p. 159.