This post is outside the normal sequence, but as I was asked this in one of the comment, I decided it was important enough to turn it into a post.
The question was about Gen 3:16. Does it really mean that women should be controlled by their men, as many man have used this verse to justify their behaviour. How does the Hebrew Bible describe the female role? Below is my answer.
This question is extremely relevant today as it was then, as many use this verse in order to justify suppression of women. The verse says:
וְאֶל-אִישֵׁךְ, תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ, וְהוּא, יִמְשָׁל–בָּךְ
and you will desire your man, and he will rule over you
So does it mean that this is God’s will and that it is justified that men rule over women?
Not so fast!
Like other places in the Bible, this verse can be read in many ways. Some read it as a command or a punishment: “You will be ruled by your man”.
Another way or reading it is as an observation of a situation or telling us the future. Similar to a sentence like: “your cities will have slums and will be polluted” By this interpretation, God does not command, does not tell us His will, he just tells and knows what is going to happen.
You can even take it s a warning. That is: “I am going to tell you what is going to happen in the future, so that you can use your free will to change it and make it better.”
The text is consistent with these three interpretations.
When God commands, it is written in plain language. Like in Gen 2:17
וּמֵעֵץ, הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע—לֹא תֹאכַל, מִמֶּנּוּ
from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat from it
So why is it ambiguous here? Why doesn’t the Bible tell us what it want us to do, and leaves place for so much interpretation?
My conviction is that ambiguities in the Bible serve a crucial purpose. When we look into ourselves and make our choices it tells us what type of people we are.
- Are we the people that take a warning as a command and make things worse?
- Are we those who take it as an observation or prediction and, knowing that it is bad, do nothing about it?
- Are we those who take the warning and use their free will to make things better?
There is nothing spiritual about following a command. There is nothing moral about doing things to avoid punishment. Ambiguity in the Bible is where our spiritual growth begins. If forces us to meditate, delve into ourselves, understand better, and discover what type of people we really are. It also tells us what type of people we can be if we keep reading the Bible in earnest.