Genesis 3:16 – Hebrew Word 3 — “sorrowful-toil.”
In Genesis 3:16, God told the woman she would experience two things. She would have (Hebrew word 3) “sorrowful toil” and (Hebrew word 4) “conception.”
The man would be told about “sorrowful-toil” in the next verse, in Genesis in 3:17. They would experience the same “sorrowful-toil.” The single cause of it would be God’s curse on the ground because of the man.
All food would have to come from the cursed soil. It would be this “sorrowful-toil” the woman and the man would experience. It had to do with raising food.
When God told the woman she would experience “sorrowful-toil” the earth had not yet been cursed. This prophecy told what would happen but not what would cause it to happen.
The word “sorrowful-toil” (‘itsabon) was a very rare word. In addition to God’s prediction of it to the woman in Genesis 3:16 and God’s announcement of it to the man in Genesis 3:17, it was used in Genesis 5:29. In Genesis 5:29 its meaning was the same.
When the parents of newborn Noah named him, they expressed their hope that life would be better because of this child. They hoped he would provide them relief from the “sorrowful-toil” they were experiencing as the result of the curse on the soil. They “… called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one will comfort us concerning our work and the sorrowful-toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.’”
This was not just any kind of work. The English words “work” or “toil” are not nearly as precise as the Hebrew word. It was a very specific kind of toil, a “sorrowful-toil.” It meant: “the-sorrowful-toil-which-results-from-God’s-curse-on-the-soil.”
This is the bad news God announced to the woman. She would have “sorrowful-toil.”
Genesis 3:16 – Hebrew Word 4 — “conception.”
The woman had heard God tell Satan in the serpent about her “seed” or “offspring” (Genesis 3:15). In Genesis 3:16, God spoke to her directly about her seed. The meaningful word “conception”(heron) was used for “seed.”
Many people have missed the connection of the promise of “seed” in verse 15 with “conception” in verse 16. To conceive and have seed or descendants was good news! It was a look into the woman’s future. It was also a look into victory over her enemy!
Sadly, many translations make it look as if God’s first words to the woman in Genesis 3:16 had all bad news, or even something like a curse, for the woman. Not so!
From our place in history, it is possible to see the whole line of descendants who were conceived from the first woman down to Mary, the virgin who conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:23-38, Galatians 3:16). Mary’s child Jesus was the Seed to crush the serpent’s head!
(Because most modern translations do not use the word “conception,” another important truth from the Garden of Eden is missed. There is no question of when human life begins when Genesis 3:16 is translated correctly. Human life begins at conception!)
What about the translations of Genesis 3:16 that have said that God spoke about “pain-in-childbirth?” They are incorrect.
God did not speak about “childbirth” in these first four Hebrew words to the woman. God spoke of “conception.” Conception took place nine months before childbirth!
God did not speak to the woman about “pain.” God spoke to her about the “sorrowful-toil” that would be involved in raising crops from the cursed ground.
There is nothing about “pain in childbirth” in the first four Hebrew words of Genesis 3:16. This must be kept in mind in order to clearly understand the rest of God’s words to the woman in Genesis 3:16.
This is an excerpt from the book Women and Men in the Light of Eden, pages 29-30, by Bruce C. E. Fleming. It is available in paperback and as an e-book. Additional resources are available from Tru316.com