She Shall Be Called Woman
Part One Session Six
Myth Seven: After the Fall God condemned all women (through Eve) to pain and suffering in childbirth.
Let’s now take a look at what God says to the woman in verse 16: "I will greatly multiply" (Heb. rabah here means to increase, to add to) "your sorrow (Heb. itstsabown) and your conception (Heb. hrn), in pain (Heb. etseb) you shall bring forth children....." (We will look at the second half of this verse in our next session).
Hebrew/Greek scholar Katherine Bushnell pointed out over 100 years ago that to translate hrn as “conception” two letters had to be added. Nearly all recent translations have abandoned conception as a translation because they know that the word for conception is spelled hrjwn as seen in Ruth 4:13 and in Hosea 9:1.
We have quoted here from the New King James version but let’s look at what some other popular versions say:
NIV: “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Amplified: “your grief and your suffering in pregnancy and the pangs of childbearing; with spasms of distress you will bring forth children.”
NLT: “You will bear children with intense pain and suffering.”
CEV. “You will suffer terribly when you give birth”
The one word translated variously into "grief, pangs, intense pain, and terrible suffering" here is the Hebrew itstsabown which can mean “pain, labour, hardship, sorrow or toil”. Please note the very same word is used toward Adam in verse 17 when God says “in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life....”. The word for "pain" in verse 16 comes from the same root word as itstsabown and primarily means "painful toil", i.e. hard work.
With this in mind one wonders why translators have chosen to translate this one word with such different connotations, according to whether it is relating to Eve or Adam. From many translations we are given the impression that Eve was to suffer terribly with grief, distress and intense pain, while Adam was simply to toil, or work, very hard. This looks like another case where men have brought their own biased mindsets against women when translating the scriptures, conveying the lie that it is God’s will for women to suffer as much as possible.
Katherine Bushnell, in her book God’s Word to Women actually translates the first half of verse 16 as follows: “A snare hath increased thy sorrow and thy sighing.” She takes this translation from the Septuagint, which is the oldest and many believe the most reliable Greek translation of the Old Testament. To say that a snare –satan’s deception -- has caught you and will result in increased sorrow and sighing holds true to both accurate translation and to 6,000 years of woman’s history.
So what is this passage really talking about? It's talking about the dominion of the flesh! God was saying that what was originally meant by God to come easily for mankind would now cost mankind in his/her flesh. Furthermore, God was not speaking condemnation. He was prophesying both to Adam and to Eve what would be the outcome of their fall from grace. God is not a God who punishes for punishment's sake - that is not His nature. Remember that before they sinned, both Adam and Eve were SPIRITUAL beings who walked in fellowship with their Creator. God was saying that because they had chosen to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would now know what it is to be creatures dominated by the carnal, sin nature - the flesh.
Childbirth was not designed by God to punish women. Quite the opposite, from the beginning childbirth was a blessing, because in Genesis 1:28 it says "Then God BLESSED THEM and said to them "Be fruitful and multiply......” Now God was telling both of them that childbirth, while remaining a blessing, would not come easily; it would be toil. While it is true that having a child is painful, the word translated "pain" means far more than physical pain. It connotes a deep grieving or sorrow of spirit and can also be translated sorrow, and probably should be in this case. “The root from which it is taken, along with its derivatives, signify physical, mental, and spiritual anguish ranging from sorrow to bitterness or despair, to feelings disgust, trouble, turmoil, indignation, even terror. It is used less of physical pain than of mental pain.”(1) Women have brought children into the world when they knew they could not provide for them, when they had no say in their lives or what would happen to them. Even in the best of times there is pain and sorrow in raising children. Note that the word is translated "sorrow" or "toil" when it relates to Adam in verse 17.
We see the same consequence was applied to Adam. Where he and Eve had been given authority to subdue the earth and have dominion over creation, the earth would now work against him rather than yield to him easily. It would produce food, but only through toil and labor and sweat. I hope we can understand from looking more closely at the meaning of these words that the consequence of their sin for both Adam and Eve were equal. In other words Eve was not PUNISHED with intense pain and suffering, while Adam simply got off lightly with hard work! Both of them were condemned to live life dominated by the flesh until the promised Seed would come at the appointed time to reverse the consequences. And NEITHER OF THEM WERE CURSED.
1. Katherine Bushnell, God's Word to Women (Eagle Lake, TX God's Word to Women, 2004) paragraph 30. God's Word to Women was first published under the title Women's Correspondence Bible Class; it first appeared under the present title in 1916. It was printed in 1930 and 1998 and was reprinted by the website ministry, God's Word to Women in 2004.
Questions and Discussion Points
1. What bias do you see in the translation of the Hebrew word itstsabown as it relates to men and women?
2. What is the importance of using aids like a Bible concordance or dictionary?
3. What does the scripture mean by the word “flesh?”
4. Who/what is the "Seed"?