The Curse of Eve

by Zenaida

Gen. 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

I had never heard this section of scripture referred to as the “Curse of Eve” until I heard of Emma Smith’s blessing that she wrote for herself. I haven’t yet decided if I agree with that description of this verse, but I can sympathize.

When Eve is created, she is described as a help meet. Jolene Edmunds Rockwood, in her book, Women and the Power Within, affirms Eve’s equality to Adam with the translation of the Hebrew. Ezer is translated to mean help or helper, but carries the specific connotation of being an equal or superior. God, himself, is described as an ezer for man. The words ezer kenegdo could be translated as equal/superior helper worthy of/meet for man.

Rockwood asserts that the story of the fall is symbolic, and I can agree with that. Eve being created from the rib of Adam symbolizes their unity and equality. She interprets the “curse” as simply a description of the mortal condition, and the “punishments” doled out as the realities we must deal with here. As I read the verse again with this interpretation, I can see how that is possible. I still have the most difficulty with the last part, but the physical realities of the male body versus the female body, and the vulnerable position of childbearing make it seem much more like a description than a proscription. I could be convinced but for the statement [emphasis added] “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception;” God takes an active role in ensuring Eve’s additional great sorrow.

As a side note, I would like to point out what I call here, passing the buck. God calls to Adam and asks him to account for himself. He admits his fear and discovered nakedness, and is then confronted about eating from the tree. He does not answer, “Yes, I have.” His answer is, “The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat.” Eve is then confronted, and blames the serpent. All true, and I wouldn’t expect Adam to take full responsibilty, protecting Eve from judgement, but it seems like the only answer each one gives is saying “It’s not my fault,” including the serpent.

Then judgement is rendered. The serpent is put low beneath all living creatures and given power only to bruise the heel, while man is given power to crush the serpent’s head. Then Eve’s “curse” is given and man is told he will have to sweat for his bread and eventually die. Both Adam and Eve are told they will live in sorrow, except that Eve’s sorrow will be multiplied.

Many have taken this passage and interpreted it to put women in a subordinate position to men, in ritual, in economic status, in value. Eve is blamed for Adam’s fall and her daughters are punished for this perceived defilement of man. What should be our interpretation of this symbolic story? Elder Oaks said in the October, 1993 conference, “It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and ‘Adam fell that men might be (2 Ne. 2:25). Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall” Elder Oaks continues by quoting both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, who agree that Eve should be praised, for executing a necessary part of God’s plan.

So, her choice was part of God’s plan. “[Satan] sought to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God.” The mind of God, meaning that Satan was actually fulfilling God’s will? There must be opposition in all things, but why did our entry into mortality require a transgression to be committed? Perhaps to emphasize the fact that we don’t actually belong here, but in a higher/better place? Does it take an act of rebellion to manifest our agency? That doesn’t seem to make sense.

I do find it disappointing that the example we have from Eve is her “transgression,” and then she is silenced. She assumes her role quietly. Does this simply show the unity of man and woman with man acting as spokesman?

In the blessing she wrote, Emma Smith asks to overcome the curse:

I ask my Heavenly Father that through humility, I may be enabled to overcome that curse which was pronounced upon the daughters of Eve.

I have also heard that the condition of women in this life is temporary. But can the “curse” be overcome in this lifetime? What does the relationship look like that has overcome the “curse?” The atonement covers the Fall of Adam, and so the Fall of Eve. Men and women may not be punished for the transgression, but we live with the consequences of that choice daily.

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14 Responses

  1. HeidiAnn says:

    I like what you’ve written, but I’m just pondering…

    “that curse which was pronounced upon the daughters of Eve. ”

    Could this be a euphemism for something else? Like PMS or something?

  2. mimi says:

    The curse is adam’s mini skirt in the picture.

  3. Douglas Hunter says:

    Discussing Genesis is a little tricky in LDS circles.

    1) It’s literary style and genre mark it as a hebrew mythic or theological text, not a historical text. Yet LDS doctrine needs the story to be an exact literal description of historical events in order for our notion of the plan of salvation to have any traction. And indeed all leaders of the Church have read Genesis as a literal history, as did Emma.

    2) Was transgression necessary? The answer depends upon how much knowledge one believes Eve and Adam had. within the diegetic world of the story it would seem that both Eve and Adam would have to had thought of themselves as violating direct commandments of God. That is what the text suggests.

    On the other hand, it’s pretty common in church for people to suggest (as my stake president did during my lesson a few weeks ago) That Eve and Adam did know what they were doing and broke commandments of God for the purpose of fulfilling God’s will, their actions had this intention. That is a domesticated reading to be sure but its what a fair number of LDS believe.

    The story is not really interesting unless we stay closer to the text and deal with Adam’s dilemma. He was told not to eat the fruit and yet he also was told to stay with Eve. So Adam’s challenge is that if he eats the fruit he breaks one commandment while adhering to the other. If he doesn’t eat the fruit he also breaks one commandment while adhering to another. It’s when we acknowledge this structure in the story that it gets interesting. What is more, according to the text neither of them knows good from evil (right from wrong) until after they eat the fruit. This is the central problem in the way we read the story. We tend to read it as a story in which Eve and Adam had to choose right from wrong, when they are defined by the story as not knowing right from wrong until after they have already done wrong.

    Adam’s reply regarding eating the fruit may be an explanation of his decision making priorities rather than a passing of the buck. In essence he may have been saying “You told me to stay with Eve AND to not eat the fruit. I chose to stay with Eve.”

    Isn’t the idea that God causes women to suffer in childbirth problematic? There seems to be an interesting tension in LDS thought that at times claims God does not cause or initiate our suffering and at other times claims that he does.

  4. Starfoxy says:

    I’ve been reading “Woman; An Intimate Geography” and it’s super interesting. It goes through the various body parts, and functions and outlines the possible whys and hows of their existence.
    I bring it up because of this- fertility, childbirth, childcare (esp nursing), and sex are generally more difficult for human women than they are for nearly all other mammals and primates. And nearly all of those difficulties either are are related to the size and demands of the human brain.
    For example, from what I’ve read, part of the reason women menstruate so much, and so regularly is due to the comparative size of the human uterus (the size ratio of uterus to body is higher in humans than in other mammals). And either humans have big brains because they have a nice large womb to grow one in, or humans have large uteri in order to accommodate our huge brains.
    In short the suffering of women in regards to reproduction is closely tied to the intelligence of the human race.

  5. G says:

    poor poor emma… it rends my heart, this prayer of hers, this desired blessing.

  6. Kiri Close says:

    Mini skirt?

    Honey, it’s his boney legs that curse.

    Did Adam eat?

  7. gladtobeamom says:

    I did some reading of what the church teaches on the subject it is interesting. It says we should praise Eve for her transgression etc. It was important and necessary. I am not sure what the curse is or what it means to over come it. I did read a little about the fact that Satan approached Adam first and he was not fooled and that is why he went to Eve who was fooled by Satan into partaking. Then Adam partook to stay with her.

    I really like the following quote because though painful and hard(which I am experiencing right now with the worse morning sickness I have ever experienced. It is like having a 6 long week flu.) I think it is a incredible gift to be able to create life and feel it growing inside me etc.

    The Hebrew word for “multiply” is rabah(raw-bah), meaning to repeat over and over. It does not suggest greater sorrow, but rather repeated sorrow. The Hebrew
    word for “sorrow” in the Genesis account (Genesis 3:16) is from atsab(aw-tsab), which means “labor” or “pain.” While these words suggest that toil and suffering would be a part of Eve’s life, Eve did not view the conditions that came upon her through the Fall to be a curse (see
    Moses 5:11). Moses 4:22 “is a great revelation to women. Eve and her daughters can become cocreators with God by preparing bodies for his spirit children to occupy on earth and later in eternity. Mothering would entail inconvenience, suffering, travail, and sorrow; these the
    Lord foretold as natural consequences and not as a curse” (Rasmussen, Latter-day Saint Commentary, 17).

    Wether or not this curse has more to do with men ruling over women I dont know. Everything I have read is more about presiding etc which most of the original meanings in hebrew lead to responsibility over etc. I find more about being equal etc. Sometimes I don’t think this comes through in teaching but more and more I see them trying to teach that it is a partnership more then one over the other.

    There is still a lot I dont understand. This is a very interesting topic and I can to read what others have to offer.

  8. Zenaida says:

    Thanks for the comments! I think I should note, that I pulled the quote from Genesis, and then proceeded to read Moses’ version of the story from then on.

    Douglas, it seems that the idea that Eve and Adam knew what they were doing is suggested from the highest authorities in the church. The quote from Elder Oaks praises Eve’s wisdom and courage.

    I absolutely think the structure of the story is essential to understand, and I think Adam’s dilemma is crucial to the narrative, however, it is no more or less important than Eve’s choice, which was apparently made in “wisdom and courage,” which I find to be fascinating, so I will not discount her.

    I, personally, did not equate Eve’s curse with childbirth, though I know people do. gladtobeamom pointed out that sorrow translated from the Hebrew does involve labor and pain. However, that would not be my interpretation of Emma’s curse that is to be overcome.

    gladtobeamom, Thank you for your interpretation! I would really love to get more into the Hebrew, as it makes things more clear. That is the trick isn’t it. If we knew the nature of presiding and ruling (or could accept the nature of it), I think there would be FAR less debate on the blogs. 🙂

  9. Jacob J says:

    Yet LDS doctrine needs the story to be an exact literal description of historical events in order for our notion of the plan of salvation to have any traction.

    Rarely do I disagree with something so strongly as I do with this assertion. While there is a strong tradition of literalism in Mormonism, I see no reason at all to think our notion of the plan of salvation depends on the Garden story being literal history. In fact, our doctrine of pre-mortal existence gives us some tools to make sense of this as an allegory that our fellow Christians don’t have in their theologies.

  10. Zenaida says:

    Jacob J, I agree with you, but I wonder if you could elaborate…

  11. Douglas Hunter says:

    Jacob,

    That’s really interesting. More detail would be helpful.

  12. mimi says:

    looks like adam explored his feminist side and shaved his legs

  13. douglashunter says:

    Jacob,

    I can imagine at least one objection to what I wrote. This being that I placed too much emphasis on the text of the OT. The argument being that we know of the fall from multiple sources including prophetic revelation. This being the case the text of the OT need not be correct in all it’s details. What’s important is knowing that the fall happened, not how accurate the OT account of the fall is.

    Is this the kind of objection you have?

  1. February 1, 2016

    […] Crossing Thresholds and Becoming Equal Partners by Bruce C. Hafen Helpmate Vs. Help Meet by Frank PelletThe Curse of Eve by Zenaida […]

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