In Genesis 3:16 God says to Eve

Your desire will be for your husband…

What exactly does that mean?

  • 3
    This question is probably better suited for Biblical Hermeneutics.SE, and the question already has an answer there. Good question! See the answers there. Welcome to the site. Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 4:06
  • I have up-voted your Q because it is probably more profound than most people realise. As I cannot answer it since it's been put on hold, let me just say that the word for 'desire' is the same one as said to Cain, by God, to warn him that sin was crouching, desiring to have him. This indicates a sinful power of control that needs to be resisted. This desire of Eve for Adam was not hormonal, as Lesley's answer shows. It's about what we allow to control ourselves - God, or our sinful nature. Do take the tour and adjust your Q as Lesley recommends, and enjoy this site. Persevere!
    – Anne
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 5:43

1 Answer 1


Before I started to research this Bible verse, I held to the explanation given in the New International Version Study Bible:

NIV Study Bible Note: Her sexual attraction for the man, and his headship over her, will become intimate aspects of her life in which she experiences trouble and anguish rather than unalloyed joy and blessing.

Then I found this comment in the New Living Translation Study Bible:

NLT Study Bible Note: Judgment falls on the woman’s unique role of childbearing and on her relationship with her husband. “And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you (or, and though you will have desire for your husband, he will rule over you): The marriage relationship now included an element of antagonism rather than just security and fulfilment.

Intrigued, I pressed on and found a fuller explanation from the English Standard Version Study Bible:

ESV Study Bible Note: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” These words from the Lord indicate that there will be an ongoing struggle between the woman and the man for leadership in the marriage relationship. The leadership role of the husband and the complementary relationship between husband and wife that were ordained by God before the fall have now been deeply damaged and distorted by sin. This especially takes the form of inordinate desire (on the part of the wife) and domineering rule (on the part of the husband).

The Hebrew term here translated “desire” (teshuqah) is rarely found n the OT. But it appears again in Genesis 4:7, in a statement that closely parallels Genesis 3:16 – that is, where the Lord says to Cain, just before Cain’s murder of his brother, that sin’s “desire is for you” (i.e., to master Cain), and that Cain must “rule over it” (which he immediately fails to do, by murdering his brother).

Similarly, the ongoing result of Adam and Eve’s original sin of rebellion against God will have disastrous consequences for their relationship: (1) Eve will have the sinful “desire” to oppose Adam and to assert leadership over him, reversing God’s plan for Adam’s leadership in marriage. But (2) Adam will also abandon his God-given, pre-fall role of leading, guarding, and caring for his wife, replacing this with his own sinful, distorted desire to “rule” over Eve. Thus one of the most tragic results of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God is an ongoing, damaging conflict between husband and wife in marriage, driven by the sinful behaviour of both in rebellion against their respective God-given roles and responsibilities in marriage.

And there I was, thinking that sexual desire was down to hormones. Seems there is more to these few Hebrew words than meets the eye.

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Hope that helps!

  • For what it's worth, I learned something new by answering this question.
    – Lesley
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 7:21

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