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Divine Discipline or Unfair Treatment?

Divine Discipline or Unfair Treatment?

Examining God's Response to Eve's Transgression and Its Modern-Day Relevance


Stephanie Delger

Podcast Host

Mom Guilt Podcast

Published On:

Is God Too Harsh? 

Genesis 3:16

“To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” 


What do morning sickness, fighting with your husband, and labor pain have in common? They are all a result of the fall. 


What’s more, they are all painful things that women face. When I read this verse, I do wonder momentarily, is God being mean to women? This seems harsh. Is this fair? This is one of those hard passages for women. So let’s look carefully at the text and try to understand what God is saying. 


Sin has consequences. Adam and Eve sinned, and now the world is fallen (broken). Eve questioned God’s goodness and believed the lie that she should be in charge rather than God. Then, rather than help her husband follow God’s commands, she led him into sin. 


Eve would see the devastating impact sin would have on all her relationships. Eve was now alienated from God her creator and told that pain would infiltrate her relationships with her husband and children. 


Pain In Childbearing

God tells Eve, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” Women know this to be true. Nausea, headaches, body aches, ligament pain, back pain, swelling, and many other ailments start even before it’s time to deliver our babies. 


The greatest pain most women feel, happens during the many hours of childbirth. But the pain doesn’t stop in the delivery room for a mother. The postpartum contractions bring pain as her body tries to bring its internal organs back to their pre-pregnancy size. Women have post-operative pain with episiotomies or c-sections. The statement “in pain you shall bring forth children” rings true. 


The word pain in this verse, can be translated as “painful toil.” {1} When God tells Eve that childbirth will be painful, He is referring to both physical and emotional pain.


Death, miscarriage, and infertility are now a part of our lives as women. Sometimes we yearn to hold a baby in our arms that God has taken or never given in the first place. This is a result of sin entering into the world. 


I have cried out to God in moments of intense pain, “Don’t you care God?” “How can you be good if you just let this happen?” The answer is yes. Yes, God is good and yes, God cares. In fact, God cares more than you or I ever could. This was never part of God’s good design. God grieves the consequences of sin more than you or I ever could. This is because He is the only being who sees the full extent of sin’s consequences and the pain it inflicts. In our moments of anguish, we must remember that pain and suffering are a result of the fall. 


In these moments, rather than being angry at God, we have the opportunity to draw near to Him. We have the chance to grieve with God over the devastating consequences that sin has brought into the world. 


Pain In Marriage

God goes on to tell Eve, “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” Not only will childbirth be painful, the relationship babies come from, will be painful as well. Eve’s marriage will be impacted by the consequences of sin. 


God’s beautiful design for marriage will become distorted. Adam’s role of headship wouldn’t always feel like a blessing to Eve. Eve’s desires would no longer be pure and good.


The word “desire” here is very much like the word “desire” we read about in the next chapter of the Bible. [2] In Genesis 4:7, God warns Cain, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” This desire Eve would have for her husband, would not be a healthy desire. 


Eve would be tempted towards two extremes. On one hand, she would try to fight Adam for the leadership role in marriage. Eve would struggle to submit to Adam’s authority, which God had placed her under. On the other hand, she would have too much desire for her husband. Eve would be tempted to place her desire for Adam above her desire for the Lord. God should be first in our life, but now Eve would be tempted to place Adam in the role reserved only for God. Eve and every wife after her, is left to fight these temptations. We struggle to follow the Lord and the design that He created for marriage. 


God’s Grace

I want to circle back to our original question, “Is God being fair to Eve?”

I believe the answer is actually... no.

If God was being fair, he would have given the just punishment of death to both Adam and Eve as soon as they sinned. Eve would never have lived to hear the consequences of her sin. God warned Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit, they would die.


Rather than being fair, God chose to show them grace. God lets them live. And not only does God let them live, He promises to save them. God, before talking to Eve, tells Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)


Eve heard the painful consequences of her sin with this promise ringing in her ears. Eve was shown that sin leads to pain. These two things are forever connected, but God promised that He would send a savior. God would send someone, a descendent of Eve, who would take the painful punishment that we deserve. This descendent would experience the pain that sin deserves and come out victorious. 


This is exactly what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. In the gospels, the writers tell us that Jesus refused wine mixed with myrrh on his way to be crucified. In the ancient world, wine was mixed with myrrh to numb or dull the senses. It was customary for those being crucified to drink this myrrh/wine so that they wouldn’t experience the full force of pain. Yet, we see that Jesus denies this drink. 


Jesus knew that in order to take our place on the cross, he needed to feel every ounce of the judgment that our sin deserves. He needed to feel the pain that sin inflicts. Jesus felt every strike of the nails, every sting of the thorns placed around his head, every sliver of wood piercing his already mutilated back. He felt this pain so that you and I wouldn’t have to. Jesus experienced both the physical pain and the spiritual pain that sin deserves on the cross. 


When we feel pain, rather than questioning if God is loving, we can remember all He has done for us. God is our loving savior who cares for us. There is a day coming when we will no longer feel the pain of sin. Someday, we will see Jesus. We will see the scars covering his body. We will see the proof that He took our place and bore our punishment. We will fall down at the feet of our Savior, forever singing praises of his goodness and grace.


  1. Hughes, R. K. (2012). Paradise Lost: Curse and Judgement. In Genesis: Beginning and blessing (pp. 88). essay, Crossway.  

  2. Hughes, R. K. (2012). Paradise Lost: Curse and Judgement. In Genesis: Beginning and blessing (pp. 88). essay, Crossway

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