Abstract

Translators have rendered Eve’s curse in Gen 3:16a in various ways. Taking into account lexical, syntactical, and rhetorical considerations, we propose that the phrase עצבונך והרנך should be translated “your sorrowful conceptions.” Yhwh’s curse on Eve, therefore, was an increase in the rate of barrenness and infertility, and the emotional turmoil that engendered. As a result of the curse, Yhwh makes a descriptive (not prescriptive) observation that Eve would “desire” (תשׁוקה) her husband to help remove the stigma of the curse—something the man would seek to exploit. Syntactically, interpreting Eve’s curse as the emotional anguish that accompanies infertility and barrenness parallels Adam’s emotional toil over the now-cursed and unproductive earth. Rhetorically, the curse of infertility may explain why the author(s) of Genesis chose to include the motif of matriarchal barrenness as well as the “barrenness” of the land (famine) with which the Patriarchs had to contend.

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