Most scholars would say that Genesis 3:14-19 is descriptive (of what happens in the wake of sin) rather than prescriptive (divinely established orders for all future time). All three principals reap the consequences of their own deeds in terms of their primary roles in that culture; God sees to the connection between deed and effect. Every aspect of creaturely life is touched: marriage and sexuality; work and food; an increase in birth pains; death. But the consequences of sin are not put in place by God for all time (see, for example, the fall of Jerusalem). And so every effort can and should be made to relieve the toil, pain, patriarchy, and negative effects on nature ("thorns and thistles").
Much of this "relief" has long been underway: labor-saving devices in farming, anesthesia in childbirth, efforts to make the relationship between men and women more equal. It is especially remarkable that the "rule" of the man over the woman (3:16) is seen to be an effect of sin. Hence, such a reality stands over against God's creational intentions for their relationship (see 1:26-27). The increasingly positive effects of efforts to diminish the impact of patriarchy on male-female relationships is thus in tune with what God desired for them when they were created. How best to do this is an ongoing question for all Bible readers.
14The Lord God said to the serpent,
Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.
16To the woman he said,
I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.
17And to the man* he said,
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
You shall not eat of it,
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011