Why did God punish women with pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16)?Question: "Why did God punish women with pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16)?"
Answer: A woman’s pain in childbirth is part of the suffering brought into the world through sin. As a direct result of the original sin, Adam, Eve, and the serpent were all cursed in one way or another. Genesis 3:16 lists one of the judgments for Eve’s sin as pain in childbirth: “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.”
It appears that, even before the fall, there would have been some pain in childbirth. God says, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth” (ESV), using a Hebrew word meaning “to increase.” The pain of childbirth would be more than before. The pain was amplified.
The pain in childbirth that Eve and all her daughters would experience involved more than the actual delivery of the baby. The phrase “painful labor” indicates that the whole process of childbirth, from conception to delivery, would include much difficulty.
This judgment from God was meant to be one that every childbearing woman would experience. Pain in childbirth was placed on Eve and on every future mother. This pain serves as a universal reminder of God’s judgment for the sin Adam and Eve brought into the world.
Of course, Adam did not experience the pain of childbirth. His judgment included a curse on the ground for his sake (Genesis 3:17–19). In the Garden of Eden, food was plentiful without laborious farming. But after his sin Adam spent the rest of his life working to provide food for himself and his family. While Eve’s judgment took place during the times she carried and delivered children, Adam experienced his judgment every day for the rest of his life.
Interestingly, this judgment passage is immediately followed by Genesis 3:20: “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” Despite God’s judgment of painful and difficult childbearing, God gave His blessing to Adam and Eve in the form of children. Even in judgment, there is mercy. Eve took on the role of mother of all living; in the pain of childbirth, she would also receive a blessing.
A further blessing, even in the face of the pain of childbirth, is found in the condemnation of the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This is a messianic prophecy, but it is also contains an immediate focus: Eve will have children who will be in conflict with the serpent (Satan). This conflict between Satan and humanity has been ongoing ever since, and it began with Adam and Eve and their offspring (Genesis 4).
Certainly, Genesis 3 does not provide every detail regarding why Eve was judged with increased pain in childbirth. However, we know that this judgment impacted the rest of Eve’s life and serves as an ongoing reminder of the far-reaching consequences of sin.
Recommended Resource: Genesis - NIV Application Commentary by John Walton
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Questions about Genesis
Why did God punish women with pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16)?