After God had spoken His words of judgment against the serpent and Satan, He turned His attention to Eve. Even though she had been legitimately deceived by Satan (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14), she still had to suffer the consequences of her sin. And since she would be the “mother” of every woman who would ever live, the consequences of her sin would cascade down upon every woman of the human race.
First, God told her, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16, N. K.J.V.). There’s no doubt that it had always been God’s plan for Adam and Eve to produce children (Genesis 1:28), but evidently the process of childbearing was originally supposed to be painless. Now, though, as a consequence of Eve’s sin, pain would be part of the process. Any woman who has ever felt labor pangs can verify that this judgment is still very much a part of our everyday world.
Second, God said to Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16, N.K.J.). The best way to interpret these words is to allow the Bible itself to serve as the commentary for them. So is there another passage where God uses this same phrase? Yes, there is. That passage is Genesis 4:7, which is found in the context of the story of Cain and Abel.
Following Adam and Eve’s sin, God killed either one animal or two and used the skin to make clothing for the couple (Genesis 3:21). This was the world’s first shedding of blood, and in doing it God wasn’t just dealing with the problem of Adam and Eve’s nakedness; He was also dealing with the problem of their sin. You see, Adam and Eve needed forgiveness of sin even more than they needed clothing, and by God’s own standard such forgiveness only comes through the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Watching God make that kill in Eden and seeing for the first time the red blood that flowed inside an animal was Adam and Eve’s crash course in the necessity of a blood sacrifice for forgiveness of sin.
Now let’s fast forward to a time when Adam and Eve have two grown sons: Cain and Abel. It is time for the two boys to bring their own sacrificial offerings for their own sins, and it is only logical that their parents have described in detail to them how God shed an animal’s blood to provide the world’s first offering for sin. Abel, understanding what type of sacrifice is required, brings an offering of the firstborn of his flock of sheep (perhaps one slain sheep, perhaps more), including the fat of the sheep (Genesis 4:4). Cain, on the other hand, brings an offering of the harvests of his farming (Genesis 4:3). Predictably, God rejects Cain’s bloodless offering and accepts Abel’s blood offering.
Someone might ask, “But why didn’t Cain bring the blood sacrifice of a slain animal? Had Adam and Eve not taught him what type of sacrifice was required?” The little book of Jude gives us that answer. That book is all about apostasy in the church, and apostasy can be defined as rejecting or falling away from revealed truth. And what does Jude say about Cain? Jude 1:11 says of apostates, “Woe to them! For they have gone in way of Cain…(N.K.J.V.).” Well, what way could that be but the rejection of the necessity of a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin? And how could Cain be classified as an apostate in regards to that truth if Adam and Eve never revealed it to him? Furthermore, Abel knew to bring a blood sacrifice, and he must have learned it from someone.
Now let’s get back to the brothers and their offerings. After God rejects his offering, Cain becomes very angry and bitter (Genesis 4:5). God understands this and tries to encourage him by telling him, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:6-7, N.K.J.V.). But then God gives him a strong warning: “And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:7, N.K.J.V.).
There is our phrase again, the same one God used in pronouncing His judgment upon Eve (and all the women who would come from her). The point is that just as sin’s desire was to rule over Cain, Eve’s sinful desire would be to rule over her husband, Adam. Her desire, though, would never be any more pleasing to God than sin’s desire to rule over Cain. That’s why God quickly added in the words, “And he (Adam) shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16, N.K.J.V.).
So, what are the two consequences of Eve’s fall that we see on display every day in the world? One is the pain that comes with giving birth, and the other one is the desire among many wives to claim headship over their husbands. Perhaps no scriptural truth is more hated and rejected by the “modern” woman than the truth that God has appointed the husband as the head of the wife and the wife is to be submitted to the husband. Nevertheless, this truth is so fundamental to God’s blueprint for marriage that it is found in no less than seven passages in the Bible: Genesis 3:16; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Timothy 2:11-13; 1 Timothy 3:4-5,12; and 1 Peter 3:1-6.
As for Cain, we know which path he chose. Rather than bring a blood sacrifice and in so doing rule over his sinful desire, he killed Abel (Genesis 4:8-10). How ironic it was that the same man who stubbornly wouldn’t shed the blood of an animal was perfectly willing to shed the blood of his brother!
But what about Eve? Was she able to keep her inner desire to rule over Adam in check? Since scripture makes no mention of her ever again causing any problems, all indications are that she was. Even more than that, she gave birth to a third son, Seth, and he embraced the spiritual legacy that Abel had been forced to relinquish (Genesis 4:25-26, 5:1-32). In addition to Seth, Eve gave Adam many other sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4).
Our choice today, then, is clear. We can either follow Cain’s example or Eve’s. When God reveals truth to us, we have the option of embracing that truth or rejecting it. By submitting herself to Adam’s headship, Eve embraced God’s truth by controlling her sinful desire to rule over Adam. Cain, tragically, rejected God’s truth concerning the need for a blood sacrifice and became the human race’s first lost person.
You say, “That’s fascinating, Russell, but how does it apply to my life?” It applies to your life in that you will join Cain in that eternally lost state if you reject God’s revealed truth concerning the final, all-encompassing blood sacrifice that spiritually fulfilled all the previous blood sacrifices and brought the need of them to an end. I’m talking, of course, about the death that Jesus died on the cross in shedding His blood for the sins of the human race. Make no mistake, to reject Him as Savior is to reject His blood sacrifice for your sins, and that amounts to you going “in the way of Cain.” And as I’ve tried to help you understand in this post, that isn’t a way that you want to go, not for this life or the one to come.