Meaning of "desire" in Gen. 3:16

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Lester Busald | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Aug 24 2010 9:08 PM

I was reading in Genesis chapter 3 and when I came to verse 16 I was wondering what is really meant by the word desire.  I am using the NASB 95 update.

For one I don't know why the Greek came up since it should be hebrew.  Two others came up as hebrew but they are different than the greek.  It seems the hebrew is a longing for, to be with her husband, but the greek seems to intimate that she is thinking evil of her husband.

Any insights on this please.

When I looked up the info on this I came up with this:


AFFECT kakoo


, 2559), from kakos, "evil, to treat badly, to hurt," also means "to make evil affected, to embitter," Acts 14:2. See evil, harm, hurt. Note: Zeloo, akin to zeo, "to boil" (Eng., "zeal"), means (a) "to be jealous," Acts 7:9; 17:5; "to envy," 1 Cor. 13:4; "to covet," Jas. 4:2; in a good sense ("jealous over"), in 2 Cor. 11:2; (b) "to desire earnestly," 1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1, 39; "to take a warm interest in, to seek zealously," Gal. 4:17-18, kjv, "zealously affect," "to be zealously affected." The rv corrects this to "zealously seek," etc. See covet, desire, envy, jealous, zealous.¶





tšwqh urge



†[תְּשׁוּקָה S8669 TWOT2352a GK9592] n.f. longing;—of woman for man, אֶל־אִישֵׁךְ תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ Gn 3:16 (J); of man for woman, אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְאֵלַי תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ Ct 7:11; of beast to devour, fig. אֵלֶיךָ תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ Gn 4:7 (J). (G ἀποστροφή Gn, ἐπιστροφή, Ct whence NesMarg. 6 proposes תְּשׁוּבָתֵךְ

Gn 3:16, which Ball Hpt reads in all; but how explain the unusual and striking word in MT?).


Strong’s Hebrew #8669 8669תְּשׁוּקָה [tâshuwqah /tesh·oo·kaw/] n f. From 7783 in the original sense of stretching out after; TWOT 2352a; GK 9592; Three occurrences; AV translates as "desire" three times. 1 desire, longing, craving. 1a of man for woman. 1b of woman for man. 1c of beast to devour.

Thanks,  Les



Posts 19577
Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 24 2010 9:41 PM

Lester Busald:
For one I don't know why the Greek came up since it should be hebrew

That would be because the Septuagint, which was the early Christians' first Bible, was written in Greek. It was a translation of the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament). Greek was the common tongue at the time of the first century church, even though the people who initially made it up were mostly Jews by birth. They were Greek-speaking Jews, because of the Hellenization of the Middle East under Alexander the Great.

As for the meaning of this word תְּשׁוּקָה, it can apparently mean different things, and different translators have wrestled with which translation is most fitting in that context. There is surely no consensus about it. I recall people giving arguments for it meaning several different things (natural/sexual desire; or a broken kind of desire, i.e., emotional dependency; or a desire to rule over and usurp his authority). It is the source of divisions between egalitarian and complementarian interpretations of Scripture, both of which have done deep and thorough and faithful scholarship and yet hold fast to their differing positions. So it's not going to be resolved by figuring out a simple answer as to "what that word means." However you can learn more about some of the considerations in how it has been translated by looking at scholarly and critical commentaries on Genesis which will address this issue. You might also want to try a Bible Word Study on that word and look at other uses of it throughout Genesis and the Old Testament in general. The Learn to Use Biblical [Greek and] Hebrew with Logos videos will give you some great help on how to do this.

Posts 881
Jack Hairston | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Aug 25 2010 5:13 AM

Hi, Lester:

My understanding of Genesis 3:16 was helped by comparing it to the parallel statement in Genesis 4:7:

"sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you, but you must master it."

The word for "desire" is the same word as in Genesis 3:16, and the word for "master" is the same too.

So, if the wife's desire means the same as sin's desire, it appears to be a control issue. Genesis 3:16 seems to describe the battle of the sexes, which I understand to mean that God's curse was on the wife's relationship to her husband. This curse continues to this day, except in Christ (Ephesians 5:33), where the wife is enjoined to respect her husband, and the husband to love his wife.

Just my two cents' worth...


Posts 406
Danny Parker | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Aug 25 2010 9:10 AM

Agree with Jack.

Cassuto, a well respected commentator on Genesis, holds this view as well as others, although it is far from a consensus opinion. As with English or any other language, words most often must be understood in context. Dictionaries only give ranges of acceptable meaning. The skill of exegesis is reaching the most probable understanding of a particular usage based on context and author's tendencies.


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JRS | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Aug 25 2010 10:37 AM

Danny Parker:

Outstanding and well worth the pre-pub price.

JRS has left the building.

Posts 62
Lester Busald | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Aug 25 2010 2:49 PM

Thank you all for your replies.  I will do a little more digging into this, that is what this is all about anyways.  I kind of tend to believe Eve wasn't desiring Adam in the loving way.

thanks,  again


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Dave Hooton | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 26 2010 4:02 AM

Lester Busald:

When I looked up the info on this I came up with this:


AFFECT kakoo


I don't know where you got that word from because the LXX uses ἀποστροφ:-

*Gn 3,16 ἡ ἀποστροφή σου your inclination-תשׁובך for MT תשׁוקתך your urge?, see also Gn 4,7 [A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint]

This is explained as "a passage in which the Greek differs from the Hebrew and in which the difference can be explained on the level of the writing, reading, or hearing of the Hebrew word, or as an error in the transmission of the Greek text". Its general meaning is turning back Dt 22,1; turning away from Sir 18,24; return 1 Sm 7,17; aversion, faithlessness!

It translates the Hebrew word for "urge, desire, longing" only at Gen 3:16, 4:7. In Song of Solomon(Ct) 7.11 the Hebrew is translated by ἐπιστροφή (compare to ἀποστροφή!) :-

return JgsB8,9; attention (paid to) Ct 7,11 [A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint]


Windows 11 & Android 8

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Bishop James C Johnson Th.D | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Apr 25 2012 10:49 PM

Well thought out reply, valid comparison of scriptures. I for one, believe that what is demonstrated in the comparison, is that, the word desire is used to mean, usurp or rule over, or control !! 

Posts 36
Darren Middleton | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Apr 26 2012 12:46 AM

Susah Foh has a very good article on what is the woman's desire - I read it in theological college, still the high water mark to my mind.

Posts 1523
Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Apr 26 2012 2:05 AM

What is the ‘desire’ of woman? (Genesis 3:16)

The most important element in understanding this verse is defining the word “desire” appropriately. The Hebrew word used here is teshukah and it is found only twice elsewhere in the Old Testament. Besides being found in Genesis 3:16 we observe it being used in Genesis 4:7 and in Song of Solomon 7:10. It will be these occurrences that help us properly determine the meaning of teshukah.

Genesis 4:7 states, “…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” This clearly references a craving to rule. What is interesting here is that the Hebrew word mashal, meaning to rule, is coupled both here and in Genesis 3:16 with teshukah.(1) This certainly is not coincidental. We see something unrelated in Song of Solomon 7:10. Here we observe teshukah signifying sexual desire. So, which usage is more applicable in understanding Genesis 3:16?

Since Moses was the author of both Genesis occurrences and had nothing to do with the authorship of Song of Solomon it is categorically expected that the meaning of teshukah in Genesis 3:16 is the same as in Genesis 4:7.(2)

This would mean that Davis’ interpretation that the ‘desire’ of women as “a deep natural attraction to her husband"(3) is misguided. Genesis 3:16 in its correct context means that the woman is being placed into a subordinate role under her husband. She will dispute and aspire for this headship. Fruchtenbaum states that wives “will seek to gain authority over the husband just as sin desired to rule over Cain."(4) The next part of the curse underscores this truth – "and he shall rule over you."(5)

Under Davis’ faulty interpretation he appears to think that this is no longer part of the curse but rather compensation for the sorrows of childbirth.(6) However, under the interpretation I presented this furthers the curse as a punishment equivalent to the offense. Eve usurped the authority of her husband and now she faces a continual tendency to rebel against that authority. Genesis 3:17 appears to support this conclusion.(7)

1. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Ariel's Bible Commentary: The Book of Genesis, (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2008), 106.

2. Ibid

3. John J. Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis, (Salem, WI: Sheffield Pub Co, 1998), 94.

4. Fruchtenbaum, The Book of Genesis, 106.

5. Genesis 3:16

6. Davis, Paradise to Prison, 94.

7. Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 146.

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