I was invited to present two plenary sessions at the international conference of Christians for Biblical Equality. My second session addressed the widely held belief that God cursed the first woman (Eve), and therefore all women, after humankind’s Fall from grace in Genesis 3. That the woman was cursed is not an unusual belief even in the United States. Americans don’t normally practice witchcraft, however, and so don’t understand the full meaning of what it means to be cursed. In societies that still use curses, the words pronounced as a curse are believed to come literally true. If a father says to a child, “You will never amount to anything,” or if someone hires a witchdoctor to curse a neighbor whom he envies, everyone expects those cursed to sicken, lose their possessions, fail their exams, and otherwise wither away.
So when Genesis 3:16 is believed to be a curse from God, women appear doomed to fulfill its words: Woman must bear children in sorrow, serve men as work donkeys, and also as their sexual property. Further, if woman is cursed, she no longer shares in the blessings given to both man and woman in Genesis 1–dominion over the earth, children, and every good thing for food. If any particular woman has access to more than the necessities of life (and sometimes not even that), it is entirely at the pleasure of her husband.
Imagine what it means for a woman to believe that God is trying to hurt her, that God wants her to be treated as an inferior, and that God wants her to suffer. A cursed person has no claim to better treatment. Further, how hard will even Christian men work to increase the welfare of women when everyone, even the women, believe that God doesn’t want any better for them?
The biggest surprise in the New Man, New Woman, New Life seminar is the study on Genesis 3. We point out that a careful reading of Genesis 3 reveals that only 2 things were cursed: the serpent and the ground. We teach that the bad things that God says will happen to the woman and the man, including the rupture in their relationship, are consequences of humankind’s choosing to live outside of God’s abundant provision. The human beings were not cursed, not even the woman! (In one of the Bondo seminars, the group gasped audibly when Paul Ololo, who was debriefing this study, said that God did not curse the woman.) Instead, God wants to restore them both to the blessings for which He created them.
I first taught this interpretation of Genesis 3 in 2007 in Matana, Burundi. There was a lot of surprise expressed by the audience, and I wondered if they really understood what I said. I got my answer when the group reassembled after lunch. As we reconvened, a choir sprung up and began to sing in the local language. There was not a choir scheduled, but I thought nothing of it. Then my translator leaned over and whispered, “They are singing about when King Balak sent Balaam to curse the children of Israel.” Do you remember the story? God did not want his people cursed, and sent an angel to block Balaam’s path, but no one saw it except the ass Balaam was riding. Balaam, impatient with his balking beast, beat the animal until it finally turned and spoke to him. The lesson gleaned from the ass and the angel, and the title of my talk at CBE, is the song’s refrain:
“You can’t curse what God has blessed.”
God created us all in his image, and blessed, male and female. God intended us for blessing, not curses. You can’t curse what God has blessed.
“Your lectures in Limuru were excellent….When you said that ‘You can’t curse what God has blessed,’ I felt uplifted and a big burden taken away from me. This was excellent and good news to me.”–conference participant Christine Omolo.
|Empower/Uganda president Margaret with Ugandan ladies performing a cultural dance|
|Bishop Johannes (our host in Bondo) speaking at conference