The Curse of Eve
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.