What happens when a different meaning is pasted over Hebrew words #3 and #4 in Line 1 of Genesis 3:16? All kinds of harmful results occur!
First. Different from what? From not using a hendiadys.
Simply put, the Hebrew words #1 (“multiplying”) and #2 (“I-will-multiply”) go together to say, “I will surely multiply. Hebrew words #3 (your sorrowful-toil”) and #4 (“and-your-conception”) are two different things that God will surely multiply, or will certainly bring to pass.
God announces, or promises, I will do these two new things that will affect your life: “I will surely multiply (#3) your sorrowful–toil over the cursed soil and (#4) your conception of your just-promised Offspring.
Second. What different meaning? The new meaning introduced by using a hendiadys.
Simply put, Hebrew words #1 and #2 are treated the same way. But when a hendiadys is used for the two different Hebrew words (#3 and #4) that God will multiply, they are mashed together into one very different idea from the plain meanings of those words. And this very different single idea is “pain–in–childbearing!” Sadly, this is what is found in most modern translations. Does it look and sound familiar? It shouldn’t be, but it is.
In some places in the Old Testament, and worded a different way, a hendiadys can occur (pronounced “hen” “die” “uh” “diss”). With a true hendiadys two words are merged to communicate one single idea. Even if a hendiadys were grammatically indicated in the syntax, merging Hebrew words #3 and #4 would be a very difficult thing to do! Because how can you place into a single idea the sorrowful–toil to be experienced when doing fieldwork on the cursed ground, and the promise of the conception of the Offspring who will crush the head of the serpent-tempter? Yet, because this is what most modern language translations have been doing the results have produced many strange and even harmful ideas.
How is placing a hendiadys in Genesis 3:16 a bad thing to do?
- Adding a hendiadys places a virtual curse on the woman! It sounds as if God is saying, “From now on you will have pain-in-childbearing.” Wouldn’t this require God to institute a change in the woman’s body and her process of giving birth at the end of her pregnancy? Yet a hendiadys is not grammatically necessary. So let’s go back to stating the facts simply without resorting to complicated contortions of the simple word order of the original Hebrew wording. By not imposing a hendiadys, Line 1 in the Hebrew does not read like a curse. Good! There is no reason to place one in this part of the verse (or elsewhere). The only reason for inserting a curse on the woman into Line 1 might be to accomplish an attack by Satan who is trying to malign his enemy.
- Adding a hendiadys and covering up the text results in no sense of God’s confirmation of the creation blessing “to multiply” announced in Genesis 1. In fact, not spelling out clearly the four words of Line 1 in Genesis 3:16 reverses the sense of “I will surely multiply.”
- Adding a hendiadys results in an incomplete protevangelium, or the first announcement in the Bible of the Good News of a Savior. I never liked the idea of restricting the announcement of the protevangelium to the serpent-tempter in Genesis 3:15. Remember, that verse numbers were not part of the original Hebrew text. What looks to modern readers as a clear break between two different verses is really not a clear break after all. The protevangelium announcement in 3:15 is overheard by the woman as God speaks to the serpent-tempter. Should only the serpent receive the promise of the coming Offspring who would crush his head? No! But if Hebrew word #4 (“conception”) is covered over by a hendiadys no one can see that God finished his announcement of the Good News with confirmation of it to her.
- Adding a hendiadys covers up the announcement of the proleptic prophecy to the woman. Without clearly indicating that God will multiply Hebrew word #3 (“sorrowful-toil”) for her she receives no warning from God of the coming curse on the ground as a judgment made because of the man’s rebellion. How unfair is that?
- Adding a hendiadys makes Line 1 and Line 2 look like they go together. That makes Lines 3 and 4 look like a separate part of Genesis 3:16, that builds on that virtual curse communicated by using a hendiadys. People then come up with ways God supposedly is addressing that human who was deserving of her own curse during childbirth. As a result, no one sees that God’s words contain a confirmation of a proper marriage relationship. Desirable desire by the insightful and non-blaming woman is good. Hierarchy by the rebellious and blaming man is bad. Love and a harmonious partnership if God’s continued plan for marriage.