Did God Increase the Pain of Child-birth?
By Jonathan Mitchell

In the NIV we read an interpretation of the text of Gen. 3:16a that solidifies the traditional answer to the question that I raise in the title of this essay. If you read the KJV you will get a variation on this theme, but consider the words of the NIV:

"To the woman he said, 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children..."

So how did the Alexandrian Jews read their 3rd century BC copies of the Hebrew texts? Our best understanding of this is found in how they translated those texts into the common language of the empire, which a few hundred years later were, by the consensus of many of today's scholars, the Scriptures used by the early called-out communities, and the NT authors. This was what we call the Septuagint (LXX), the ancient Greek translation of the OT. Thus, how does the LXX translate God's decisions about Adam and Eve's disobedience of the goal that He had imparted into them? He had given clear instructions about the subject of their offense, in 2:17,

"Yet from the tree of the [situation] to know of beauty and of worthlessness by intimate experience (or: to experience insight concerning what is fine and ideal, as well as what is disadvantageous, harmful, unprofitable, painful and freighted with sorrow, bad conditions and wearisome labor) you folks are not to be eating from it. So (or: Yet; But) within whichever day you folks may at some point eat from it, in, to, with and by death you will be progressively dying away (or: off)." (LXX, JM)

Now let us read the Greek text where God lays out His decisions regarding "the woman" and Adam, in chapter 3:

17. Then to the woman He said, "While [you are] continuing in multiplying (or: increasing [1:28a, above]), I will continue multiplying (increasing) your griefs, sorrows and pains, as well as your laments, sighs and groans. You will keep on producing and bringing forth children - in the midst of, or in union with, trouble, affliction, sorrow, distress, grief and pain. Also, your return (or: turning-back) [is] oriented toward your man (or: your recourse [is] face-to-face with your husband), and he will continue functioning as your lord and master (be dominant in relation to you)."

18. Now to, for and with Adam, He said, "Because you listened to, and obeyed, your woman's voice, and then ate from the tree - concerning which I imparted the goal in you, and implanted the inner directive for the destiny, and the end in view, for you, 'Of or from this one only [you are] not at any point to eat from it' - [and] you ate [from it], fully qualified with and have the added characteristic of a negative desire, a wish against, along with a commensurate, down-oriented prayer [is] the land, the territory and the soil within, in union with, and among your actions, deeds, works, labors and occupations. Within the midst of, in union with and among griefs, sorrows and pains, as well as your laments, sighs and groans you will continue eating [from] it [i.e., the soil; or: from the fruit that you ingested], all the days of your life.

19. "Thorns and thistles [cf Heb. 6:8] it will continue causing to grow up to, for and with you, and you will habitually eat the herbage of the field.

20. "In union with (centered in the midst of) the sweat of your face, you will continue eating your bread, until the [situation or time for] you to return (turn back) into the soil (ground; earth) - from out of which you were seized, taken and received, because you continue existing being soil (dust; dirt; earth) and into the midst of soil (dust; dirt; earth) you will progressively go away (depart)." (LXX, JM)

First of all, the first clause of vs. 17 uses a durative, future finite verb, with a present participle (also durative, i.e., signifying continuous or habitual action) of the same verb. You see that I inserted a reference back to Gen. 1:28a, where the same verb is used in the first clause, speaking about humanity "multiplying." With this in mind (the general context), I inserted "[you are]" to help the English reader understand the probable antecedent to the participle. I suggest that God was speaking, first of all about humanity "continuing in multiplying/increasing," and therefore, speaking to her in a corporate, future, sense, He informs her that He "will continue multiplying (or: increasing)" something, as well.

But what was God going to multiply? Notice that the first thing He explains is that it would be her "griefs, sorrows and pains, as well as your laments, sights and groans." Now read, in vs. 18b, what He said about Adam's future situation: "Within the midst of, in union with and among griefs, sorrows and pains, as well as your laments, sighs and groans." Yes, it is the same word, used both concerning the woman's future, and Adam's.

Now back to the woman:

"You will keep on producing and bringing forth children - in the midst of, or in union with, trouble, affliction, sorrow, distress, grief and pain."

Notice that the "trouble, affliction, sorrow, distress, grief and pain" can be read as speaking to her situation, her environment, that she has "in union with" her people. Keep in mind that this text was written post-Exodus, and the author may have had in mind the people's affliction and distress in Egypt. In other words, she would bring forth children outside of the Garden, into the environment to which God was sending both her and Adam - and there humanity would experience all these things, as history and our own lives make plain to us.

We find the

"Jerusalem which is above" (Gal. 4:26)

giving birth to those in the new creation amidst persecutions (i.e., in times of trouble, affliction, sorrow, distress, grief and pain). Verses 17-20 speak to the human predicament, the plight of mankind in need of One to Rescue them.


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