Adam shall rule over Eve

August 10, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 10:44 am   Category: Scriptures

I recently asked Nitsav at FPR about the correlation between Gen 3:16 and Gen 3:7. This is my own answer to the question.

Gen 3:16 closes with the following controversial statement of God towards Eve:

“thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

This is often interpreted as a sexist remark, saying Women will desire men sexually, and man shall be in charge of women. Needless to say many religious groups have been uncomfortable with the inequity here, including the LDS church with it’s current pro-equality stance. One way of interpreting this scripture was found in a recent Ensign, where it states the Hebrew syllable representing “over” can also be translated as “with” making this a declaration of interdependence: “He shall rule [with] thee”

However, as Nitsav observed, looking at the usage of this Hebrew in other passages, this seems unlikely. One example is Genesis 4:7, which contains the following confusing statement of God towards Cain about Sin.

“And unto thee [shall be] his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

As can be seen, this statement almost exactly parallels Gen. 3:16. Here, we learn this desire is not sexual. As Sin desires the man, God is saying Eve will desire Adam.

More importantly, this scripture informs us more fully as to what is meant by “rule over”.

If we only had the bible to draw from we could perhaps conclude, as some of our friends in Christianity have, that “shall rule over” in regards to sin is better translated as “must gain mastery of” i.e., Cain must gain mastery of and resist sin, which seeks to control him, and Adam must gain mastery over Even, who seeks to control him. However, as members of the LDS church, we have also canonized the Pearl of Great Price, which contains Joseph Smiths retranslation of these two passages. While Gen 3:16 does not change, it’s parallel, Gen 4:7, adds this additional insight.

Moses 5:23-25
If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire. And thou shalt rule over him; for from this time forth thou shalt be the father of his lies; thou shalt be called Perdition; for thou wast also before the world. And it shall be said in time to come—That these abominations were had from Cain; for he rejected the greater counsel which was had from God; and this is a cursing which I will put upon thee, except thou repent.

Here we see that the desire spoken of is a desire “to have” or in other words, a desire to subdue, own, or possess. Implied here is a desire to control. What is confusing is that the scripture goes on to say that the desire to control leads to subjection as Cain “shalt rule over him” and become “the father of lies” called “Perdition”. Many Authorities and Scholars have interpreted this verse to refer to Cain’s embodied status giving him supremacy over Satan in the hierarchy of evil beings. This is not “ruling” in the sense of divinely appointed legitimate authority or kingship, but more in the sense of Cain being the biggest and toughest in the pecking order, with no loyalty or devotion involved. Certainly, this is not co-leadership, Cain “ruling with” Satan.

So what conclusions can we tentatively draw from this?

For starters, in this scenario, Satan’s subjection to Cain is due to Satan’s desire to subject Cain to his own rule. Ignoring gender here, is it possible to say that this is alluding to the world of selfishness and scarcity, where we feel we must eat or be eaten? Is Adam’s push to control Eve a reaction to Eve’s push to control him? This is the opposite of Christ’s order, as set up in the New Testament, where he noted that those who desired greatness should seek this via service, rather than pushing for control. In Christ’s order, others submit to us as we submit to them. Christ’s order, the proper order, is also the Lord’s order. So while we can see that the Lord’s order is, in fact, ruling with, Genesis 3:16 is probably not a statement of this order.


  1. Nicely done Matt. No doubt the power politics that underlie so much of our behavior as human beings will be overcome in the Celestial Kingdom. The Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think it makes a lot of sense to look at this as an observation about our natural tendency to coerce or control rather than any commandment.

    Comment by Doc — August 10, 2007 @ 11:49 am

  2. Yes.

    This follows the sweat of thy brow curse upon Adam. I think God is simply stating what the conditions will be on a fallen planet – not, certainly, asserting it as a preferable condition.


    Comment by Thomas Parkin — August 10, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  3. This statement/command was given because of Eve’s partaking of the fruit. I appreciate your comments and view, however I have wondered if this statement/command would be different if Adam had partaken first. Would Adam have received what Eve got? Would Adam and Eve’s roles been reversed? We men are probably too macho to think that could happen.

    Comment by don — August 10, 2007 @ 5:42 pm

  4. One other alternative for rule over That i have not ruled out is that in both instances of rule over above the hebrew actually should be make like. But I don’t have the tools to push this observation further.

    Also, this is my second attempt at looking at women and their status being misread in scriptures. I also did a post on 1 Corinthian’s use of man as the head of woman.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 11, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  5. Cain was lost, and died lost as far as we know. “Unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” It says shalt rule, not may rule, or can rule, but shalt. Once we are saved we can rule over sin that’s in our members, that is the flesh. But here the sin is in our soul, and it’s the wedge between us and God and it keeps Christ from entering in, unless we do well, then we will be accepted, but if not, it lieth at the door to our soul. Jesus said “Behold I stand at the door and knock…
    He that is born of God cannot sin because his seed remaineth in him and he cannot sin because he is born of God. So there is sin in our soul and sin in our members.
    This is talking about sin in the soul of man. We can still sin in the flesh after we are saved but not the soul, if Christ lives there.
    So when God speaks to us and wants to enter the door to our soul, let the King of Glory come in, as Psalms 24:7-10 says.
    So if we don’t accept him, if we do not well, then we are the King of our own souls, and we hold our inward man (HIM) in bondage. And his desire is unto us, and we SHALT rule over him. We are like Pharoah when we reject God, we will not let him go, we keep him a slave to us. Why is his desire unto us? Because he wants us to let him go, so he can prepare his sacrafice unto God, he wants sin gone, he wants washed. We have an inward and an outward man, the law of God seeks after the inward man.
    Jacob and Esau, the younger shall serve the older. Jacob represents the inward man and Esau the outward man. (Twins) (Two) Esau sold his birth right because the outward man has no right to the spiritual birth, it’s for the inward man. God said Esau have I hated, and Jacob have I loved. He loved both men, but it’s what each represents is the point he is making. Cain said my punishment is greater than I can bear. Why? Because it was greater than he could bear. But I thought God doesn’t give us any thing we can’t bear? He doesn’t. We we find out we are lost, and cast out of God’s presence, it’s greater than we can bear. But we are not suppose to bear it but turn it over to God. “Come unto me all the are heavy laden, for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
    We are not capable of carrying the punishment of being lost. That’s God’s will.
    John 3:16

    Comment by Don Smith — December 10, 2011 @ 9:36 pm