He shall rule over you– Genesis 3:16

The only verse in the Bible that gives any indication that men should rule over women comes in Genesis 3:16. As a result of the Fall, Eve is told,

“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall (will) rule over you.”

For many years, well-meaning teachers used that verse  to persuade (read bludgeon) me into believing that I am to let my husband rule over me. He is to make all the decisions, I am to serve his vision, he is the important one and I am his helper.

It’s only been in more recent years that I’ve come to a different understanding. This is one of the things that has helped.

The word used for “he shall rule” is the simple future tense. It’s not a command. There’s no hint of “he should rule,” “he ought to rule,” “he must rule” over you. That would have been very simple to put in there.

Instead, he shall/will rule is a descriptive statement that has proven true through the pages of history. As we see from the story of the Garden, it was never God’s original intention. He desired for men and women to rule together.

31 thoughts on “He shall rule over you– Genesis 3:16”

  1. I have a question, Mrs. Dale: were any of the other ‘curses’ of the fall removed in this world yet? Such as a woman’s pain in childbearing, a man working to obtain food, or natural death?

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    1. None of them were removed. But if one believes they were God’s will, as Graeme says, you wouldn’t let a woman take painkillers during labor, nor would you allow the use of weedkillers or agricultural implements. The result of these curses will only be dealt with when we have new heavens and a new earth.

      However, these were physical curses. The relationship curses of the fall were that the relationship between God and mankind was broken and that between men and women was also broken. Jesus came to restore relationships. His death and resurrection were sufficient. He restored the relationship between God and mankind so we now have him dwelling inside us by his Holy Spirit, and I happen to believe he restored the relationship between men and women to its original, pre-fall status.

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  2. Here is the natural order in the Scripture (before the fall and the curse of it):

    Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. ~ Gen. 2:15

    And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” ~ Gen. 2:18

    And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
    ~ Gen. 2:21,22

    I will point out what I see to be operative words in these passages:

    – ‘..took the man…put him…to tend and keep..’
    – ‘…I will make him a helper…’
    – ‘…and He brought her to the man.’

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    1. Forrest,

      1. “were any of the other ‘curses’ of the fall removed in this world yet?” First and the short answer is, the text is poetic narrative and is therefore descriptive not prescriptive Second, even if it were prescriptive God has given humanity the intellectual means to invent medicine, technology, etc. to mitigate against the affects of “The Fall” and continues to redeem humanity’s understanding of women from property and economic pawns to image-bearing co-vice regents who deserve the dignity of their station. If the text were prescriptive, then males should work only by the sweat of their brow in a garden not behind a screen in an air-conditioned office or using power-tools in a garage.

      2. The “natural order” or sequence of events in the 2nd chapter of Genesis paints a beautiful picture for the original listening audience and for the reader today. It builds tension as any good story should. Man is put in the garden, God’s cosmic temple, to guard and keep it. A woman is created to bring to bear all her strengths and energies to guard and keep God’s cosmic temple alongside man.

      3. The overall tone of your comment sounds disrespectful, in my opinion. Particularly this, “some crafty explanation”. If you have a question, the respectful way to ask is directly without innuendo. Your accusation that her answer will be disingenuous reflects your question is not an honest attempt to learn or even hear a perspective you anticipate will deviate from your own. That said, can you please show me where the law is that says, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak”? I am curious to learn from you where this law is?

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      1. I do find Mrs. Dale to have a disingenuous heart in her explanation/understanding of the scriptures.

        The “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak” passage that you inquired about is in 1 Corinthians 14. in the Word and Law of God/Christ.

        Also, Genesis 3:16 is not ‘prescriptive’, as you put it, for in the same breath that God says “he shall rule over you” He also says “I will.”

        This denotes and reveals the will and doing of God given the circumstances.

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      2. 1. Then you presume to know what you cannot know.

        2. No, the 1 Cor 14 passage is referring to “as the law also says.” Where does the law saw. 1 Corinthians is not Torah; it is not establishing new law. Where is the law to which this passage is referring that says women are to remain silent and submissive?

        3. Who says, “I will” and “I will” what?

        4. What “denotes and reveals the will and doing of God”?

        5. “The Fall” turns humanity’s attention towards the creature, he towards her and she towards him, and away from the Creator. This thwarts God’s purposes for humanity to steward and guard God’s cosmic temple as an act of worship by orienting desires towards the creature (the other) rather than the Creator. That is not God’s will. It is not God’s will for female to have an inordinate desire towards her husband any more than it is God’s will for a husband to rule over his wife.

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      3. God said “I will” in Gen. 3:16 – revealing what He would do as a result of the fall, for a purpose. Without the inward Spirit of God and now in some level of an independent existence, mankind needs a natural order to function smoothly. We can say “but I have the Spirit now, I have been born again,” – good – but do you perfectly walk in the Spirit at all times? For this reason there is still the need of hierarchy in natural relationships.

        As far as God is concerned, my wife and I are equal – and in terms or worth and value as people we are also equal. But in terms of position and authority, we are not. That is the word of God and it is very clear. God has ordained man to be the head (authority) of woman.

        Also, are you implying that Paul was wrong or that the bible is imperfect?

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      4. 1. I see now the “I will” to which you are referring. “I will” added by translators for ease in reading does not indicate it is God’s will. Again, this is a poetic narrative to explain the origins for ancient Israel post exodus, not an instruction manual for marital relationships. Genesis is an attempt to understand Israel’s position in the world and God’s calling of them as a chosen people. To read and apply it as an instruction manual for Western American marriages, or even ancient marriages, is to disregard the genre and authorial intent.

        2. We need hierarchy because relationships are messier than hierarchy. It’s easier to tell somebody what to do than to relate to them. Hierarchy is easier. –paraphrase of Wm Paul Young

        3. In post-modern America and other parts of the West, women have legal equality and social equality, unless they are from certain subcultures i.e. Christian and Mormon fundamentalism. Women with legal and social equality are free to make a choice to confer on their husbands authority and assume a subordinate rank in the relationship; however, I deny that hierarchy is inherently godly or Christ-like or that the bible teaches hierarchy in marriage is mandated. Ephesians teaches the paterfamilias of the Greco-Roman culture was to agape his wife, not exercise authority.

        4. I am asking you to show me a reference to the law being referred to in 1 Cor 14 that says a woman is to remain silent and submissive. Where is this law? Lastly, there is at least one other alternative than the two you suggest.

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      5. I take “the law” that Paul refers to as the counsel of God. The whole of God’s instruction and teaching to mankind. The order of God as seen in His word and His Son.

        Also, in Ephesians Paul commands wives to be subject to their husbands in everything just as the church is subject to Christ…

        I do not deny that I am to love my wife dearly and with a practical and sacrificial love – but that does not take away from the fact that for orders sake I am in authority and ultimately accountable to God for the household and it’s functioning. She is accountable to obey God in His commandment to her, part of that being loving submission to me, her head (in a natural sense).

        Peter also points back to Sarah as an example of godly submission when commanding believing wives to submit to their husbands. He even points out how Sarah humbly and respectfully called Abraham ‘lord’ – as a good thing, not somehow evil.

        The point is that it is clear in the Law, Prophets, Gospels, Apostles and nature that man is the head of woman and that she is to submit to him as such.

        I do not say this as an insecure misogynist, but as a Christian. It is an important issue for more than a couple reasons, not the least of them that the relationship between husband and wife is used by God to reveal divine truth concerning Christ and the church and if we warp what a godly marriage looks like a faulty view of our relationship to our Master will likely soon follow…

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      6. A couple of comments, some referring to your earlier posts too:
        In the later part of Gen 3:16 the two “shalls” (‘in you shall’ and ‘your desire shall’) should be “will”. It is not imperative but prophetic of what was going to happen because of the Fall. How many Christans prevent their wives from having pain relief in child birth so that “God’s will” is not circumvented?
        You quote Eph 5:22, (which relates to wives submitting to the loving of their husbands), but seem to overlook Eph 5:21, to submit to one another. How do you submit to your wife?
        Into the word ‘head’ many read “authority”, not its meaning here, but it is rather, source or fountain head.

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      7. 1. You taking the law as such is subjective. If Paul is forbidding women speaking then he contradicts himself.

        2. Yes, Ephesians is addressing 1st century paterfamilias and his property the latter which was culturally and legally subject, even subordinated to the former. This is not an injunction for all times and places but a Christo-centric ethic to the Aristotelian household codes. That Paul even addresses the underlings and makes no mention of the paterfamilias responsibility to exercise control and rule over his property is remarkable. We have to keep in mind this was written to real people in real time.

        3. Again, you and your wife are free to choose a hierarchy. I do not affirm that your marriage is inherently more Christ-like. I actually think a strong case could be made that hierarchical marriages in the West malign the gospel just as much as the perception of a woman acting independently would have maligned the gospel in the first century causing Peter to give his admonition. We should strive to not undermine the gospel in our particular context.

        4. You arrangement is for “order’s sake” whereas our arrangement derives out of a friendship of equals under the law and peers in age and economic status for the well-being and efficient running of our family and fulfilling of God’s mission.

        5. Sarah calling Abraham “Lord” is prescriptive not descriptive. I’m all for terms of endearment or respect between spouses. We actually practice this; it’s just our terms reflect more our relationship.

        6. Again, I believe it is clear to you because you see that for which you are looking. I see the point of scripture to be the telling of God’s story through the people of Israel and climaxed in Jesus. This story arises from within real people in real time in real cultural contexts. We get glimpses of their life and relationships, but scripture, as I and many other faithful Christians, do not interpret it to be a manual for every relationship or circumstance we encounter.

        7. “the relationship between husband and wife is used by God to reveal divine truth concerning Christ” If this is an illusion to Eph 5, I disagree. Christ’s relationship to his Bride, the Church, is the model for the Ephesian husbands, in particular, and by extension to all Believers who are called to agape.

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      8. Forrest,

        I understand and respect that you are trying to remain true to what you believe about the meaning of the scriptures in question here. You clearly have strong feelings about it all, but to personally attack the author and question her heart and character publicly just isn’t okay. To paraphrase what was said by the apostle Paul, (in couple of places I believe), “we have not so learned Christ.”

        None of us have the ability to know the inner workings of another, so we don’t ever have the right to judge. Only Christ has that authority and right.

        If you are willing, (and I think this might be helpful for all those commenting on this post), please take a look at this post/article by Frank Viola. Toward the bottom, there are some points to consider when you think you have a disagreement with another Christian. The whole post is helpful, but the 7 points at the bottom have to do with situations like the discussion going on here. The link is here: frankviola.org/2013/01/14/warning/

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      9. I can honestly state what is true in my heart. I did not ‘attack’ her, nor have I made slanderous claims about her or stated anything as if it were the definitive truth – I merely honestly reported what was in my heart concerning the matter.

        I find the position that Mrs. Dale holds to not be an accurate one. That is all. I don’t think she is willfully spreading deception, I just feel that some (maybe a bit more than some) of her ‘theology’, if you will, is born out of her ideas of what is written and does not flow from divine revelation of the Truth of God. I feel that there may be a fair amount of the dross of the fallen human reasoning mixed in with the pure gold of Divine Truth…

        That’s just how I feel – it is not attacking or slanderous or even presented as a ‘word of knowledge’ – in the sense that I claim to have received it from God. It is my judgement of the situation. Can I be wrong? Absolutely. But I am yet to convinced that I am in this matter.

        Also, the whole “we don’t ever have the right to judge. Only Christ has that authority and right,” idea is just false and not scriptural. We are to judge the church, in love, with grace and for the good of the hearer – true – but we are to judge. If we are unable to judge people how could we ever know if we are learning from a heretic, a wolf, a false brother? If we can not judge, how shall we ‘test all things’ and ‘hold fast to that which is good’?

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      10. Hi Forrest,

        I have no doubt that it wasn’t your actual intention – but when you used the words “I do find Mrs. Dale to have a disingenuous heart in her explanation/understanding of the scriptures.” – it became an accusation of being dishonest and deliberately misleading. That is an attack on her character, whether it was your intention or not. You disagree with her, and feel she is mistaken in her interpretation and understanding, but to say you find her “disingenuous” made your statement into a slanderous one. We all have to take care with our words on these forums, and in general, as the world IS watching how we Christians treat each other. (which was the topic of the post from Frank Viola’s blog I linked to above.)

        As far as the judging issue, there is a difference between judgement (discernment) and “passing judgement.” I wholeheartedly agree that we need to be discerning what is false, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing, etc, but that’s the Holy Spirit’s work, not ours. We as humans just don’t have the capacity on our own, and every “judgement” we make about another person is tainted by our fallen darkness, no matter how hard we try to keep our motives pure. That’s why Christ is the only Judge, because He’s the only one with a sinless heart, and can actually judge in righteousness.

        And Jesus said Himself in Matthew 5:22 “Not even the Father judges anyone, but has given all judgement to the Son,” In James 4:12 we’re told “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” Jesus cautioned in Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” I just stand firm as to the supremacy and authority of Christ, so I personally give Him sole claim to the right to judge. As for me, I “hold fast the the Head,” for only He is good, as He said Himself (Luke 18:19)

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      11. I said that I feel that she has a disingenuous heart in the matter, I was referring to the deceitful heart of the old man, the carnal mind leadin her astray in her thinking – not that she was intentionality deceiving people.

        And if we are to “convince, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering” we must be able to ‘discern good and evil’ – or in other words, make a judgement.

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      12. I pointed out in a recent comment on another blog post by Mrs. Dale that MANY well respected theologians and men of God agree that “the law” referred to here by Paul is precisely Genesis 3:16.

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      13. Genesis 3:16 isn’t an imperative; it isn’t a law. Genesis is poetic narrative. The original audience would have understood Genesis to be an accounting of the beginnings of ancient Israel. Not only that, it doesn’t say, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak?” Where again is this law?

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  3. While I fully expect you to have some crafty explanation for 1 Cor. 14:

    Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

    I am still curious to learn how you deal with this one…

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    1. Check out how many people are told to be silent in 1 Corinthians 14. The answer is three groups–those who speak in tongues when there’s no one present to interpret. Those who are prophesying when another person gets a word from God. Women, when they are asking questions that disrupt the meeting. In each of the three, the Greek word “Sigao” is used. This portion of 1 Corinthians is answering questions the Corinthians have posed in a previous letter (1 Cor 7:1) In the first two instances, the question is obvious. In the third, it’s just not specified. In neither of the other two does anyone assume it’s a blanket prohibition for all time. It’s obviously situational.

      There are other ways of explaining it too–not craftily but with integrity. If you email me at fdale@house2house.com I have an ebook on the challenging Scripture for women. I’d love to send you a copy.

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  4. Yes it’s amazing how different the interpretation of scripture can be so different when done by Gods spirit being verses and when human reasoning is used..I used to interpret that verse the old way and it was that the husband ruled over the wife then when I was revealed that Gods spirit being was in charge of my Christian living and not me I saw it the way you do.

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  5. I am sure you have discussed 1 Peter 3:1 at some point. Can you point me to a discussion on that passage? Thanks, Felicity.

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    1. Hi Jeff,

      I haven’t actually discussed it yet. I’ll probably get round to it at some point. I rarely write about husband/wife relationships although they often come up in the comments because people assume I don’t believe in submitting to my husband. Actually I do believe in it–but it’s a race to go lower. He lays down his life for me thereby fulfilling Eph 5:21 (submitting one to another) and I submit to him and serve him. It works incredibly well. We’ve tried it both ways and this is far preferable for many reasons.

      One of the best articles I’ve come across on this subject is at http://bit.ly/1xEw4u8, especially where they discuss “likewise” in the 1 Peter 3 passage

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      1. Mrs. Dale, why would you guess that the scripture never directly commands husbands to submit to their wives but does give the reverse command on many occasions?

        Also, the instruction in Ephesians 5:1-21 seems to be practical instruction to believers regarding their general conduct in the world as well as among one another. It instructs Christians to walk in love, sincerity, gentleness, humility by revealing how that practically plays out.

        This doesn’t negate the special instructions on gender roles also given by the same apostles. In general I am to be submissive and yielding, but primarily to my brothers in the Lord and especially to those that have been gifted and called as elders and are recognized as such. I can submit to a woman in a some things, but as a rule the men of the church are to have the authority and responsibility (especially concerning doctrine and other matters of high importance).

        It is in verses 22-33 of the passage that Paul directs his instruction toward the marriage relationship and the positional roles of men and women is more clearly seen. To try to squeeze the descriptive illustration of the love of God working in the brothers and sisters into some directive command specifically regarding the relational roles of men and women is not true to the text as it ignores the context.

        In opening the next thought with “Wives…” it is clear that that is the beginning of his instruction to wives where he lays out the role of a woman in relation to man. He reveals the positional authority of men in general that accords with godliness, and the more acute submission (“in everything”) that takes place withing the marriage covenant.

        Then, with the term “Husbands…” he ends his direct instruction to wives (primarily contained in verses 22-24 but briefly returned to and reiterated in verse 33) and begins to more directly instruct husbands on how they ought to behave in relation to their wives… Notice that there is not a single word about the wife’s positional equality nor one word commanding the husband to submit to his wife. Instead he is commanded to nourish and cherish her and even to follow Christ in the giving of ourselves on order to wash and sanctify them… But why no direct instruction to treat them as administrative equals? If this is the apostles instruction, why be so ambiguous about it? Why not be clear and direct as he is on so many other issues (including the submission of a wife to a husband ‘as to the Lord’ and ‘in everything’)?

        Also, if you notice in Genesis 3 God says to Adam “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree…”, you’ll notice that it was the man submitting to the woman in disregard for God’s command the he was held accountable for. God didn’t merely say “Because you have eaten from the tree…” but He, in His Holy Perfection and Severity, does not mince or waste words in saying “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree…”

        It may be that the main thrust of the transgression was a willful submitting to one-who-is-not-God (in this case Eve) and a willful rebellion of God. Ultimately satan was the deceiver, but Eve became his agent and Adam received her on his behalf and rejected the Word of the Lord in doing so.

        We see multiple other times in the scripture that a man went astray from the Lord in obeying a woman over Him.

        In Genesis 16 it was Abram heeding the voice of Sarai that led to trouble (v2). In chapters 12 and 15 of Genesis God had promised to make him a great nation and to give him an heir, but He clearly said that the heir would come from his own body (the two shall become one flesh) – thus signifying that it would be through Sarai that He would make good on His promise.

        But Sarai must’ve doubted and she convinced Abram to connive with her and they conspired to bring about the blessing the God had given by a promise through their human understanding and ability. Through this, Ismael was born. Ismael, like Cain, is a type of carnal religion done in the flesh (legalism/man’s best offered to God and not God’s promises believed and His mercy and faithfulness hoped in).

        Paul expounds on the types and ramifications of this passage in Genesis 16 in Galatians 4.

        Moses in Exodus 4 may well have been honoring his wife’s displeasure for circumcision in not circumcising his son. It almost cost him his life.

        Numbers 25 records satan’s old tactic of using women to draw God’s people into sin, disobedience and rebellion to Him.

        Jezebel wreaked havoc on Israel in the Kings…and is referred to thousands of years later in Revelation 2 as still ‘seducing’ God’s people into idolatry and sin.

        The ‘immoral woman’ is used in the Proverbs to represent a false way/system that ensnares people in error – whom God even uses to judge those who He abhors (Proverbs 22:14).

        This system is a false representation of God’s church – an unfaithful woman, not the chaste virgin to be presented to Christ. She wanders with her feet and does not abide in the truth. This is what I fear you may be doing, Mrs. Dale, in dreaming up your own ideas for the church and not remaining faithful to the plain and clear word of the Lord.

        I am not saying that women are all evil, but that man obeying a woman and not God has been a reoccurring theme in the word of God and this may well have been what Paul was emphasizing in saying:

        “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”
        ~ 1 Timothy 2:11-14

        The woman was deceived, the man willfully defied God and chose rather to obey her than God. This is why Paul commands that the men be in authority and the women be subject to them.

        Again, this is all very clear in the word of God, as revealed by the Spirit of God, and I do sincerely ask you to honestly reflect on what I have said and sincerely pray to God and ask Him to reveal to you if there is any truth in my words.

        Blessings, sister Dale.

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      2. Thanks, Felicity. (A great name, by the way. What a joy to be named “happy”!) A helpful article that places the emphasis where it belongs, on love. Love God, love others, make disciples. Everything else will fall into place if we stay true to these three.

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  6. “As for My people, children are their oppressors,
    And women rule over them.
    O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err,
    And destroy the way of your paths.”
    Isaiah 3:12

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