In Genesis 3:16, the word that is most often translated as “desire” in today’s English Bible is the Hebrew noun teshuqa. It’s meaning underwent a transformation over the centuries from “turning” in the Greek Septuagint (and other early non-Hebrew translations) to “desire” in today’s English translations. Why this happened is a bit of an enigma and fodder for another post. (Read the history of this change.)
Teshuqa Turnings is an exploration of the original definition of the word. Through a series of posts, we’ll explore what could teshuqa have meant for the story of the fall? What could it teach us about women and men? Where did the definition of desire come from? What is important about the ESV changes to this word? How has the altered definitions affected women through the centuries?
The etymology of teshuqa from Katharine C. Bushnell
The noun teshuqa is derived from the verb shuq which means in its primitive form “to run.” It is prefaced with te which is an abstracting device, like adding “ness” to “good” to make “goodness.” The ending is a, which is a normal feminine ending for Hebrew. “If this word is taken from the intensive form of the verb, it would bear the sense ‘to run repeatedly,’ that is ‘to run back and forth.'” The back and forth motion necessitates turning which is where teshuqa might have found its source meaning. It is an abstract noun, not literal in meaning. It describes a quality of character. (This information was paraphrased or quoted from God’s Word to Women, para. 129)
Genesis 3:16 has traditionally been called “the curse of Eve.” This misapplied title must be rejected, for this verse holds no curse words. The curse on the serpent begins with the words, “because you have done this…cursed are you.” The curse on the ground because of Adam begins with the words, “because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you…cursed is the ground.” But there is no curse for Eve, no words of culpability. Even the notorious, “I will greatly increase your pain” is not so intentional in the Hebrew, lending a passive tone to Eve’s oncoming sorrows. This pain of children could be called a curse, but it is not inflicted by the hand of God as such. At least, He does not name it so. Eve was His friend.
Eve’s teshuqa or “turning”
Eve’s turning is to follow Adam away from God. Her pain begins when she leaves the Garden and God’s intimate friendship to follow Adam. Some points to consider:
Satan tempted Eve because Adam was already on or leaning toward his side. Adam didn’t need to be tempted. (Gen 2:15-18)
In her innocence, Eve was completely deceived by the serpent’s guile. Adam was not. (Gen 3:6, 13, 1 Tim 2:14, 2 Cor 11:3, Job 31:33, Hosea 6:7, Romans 5:12-21)
Adam continues in his rebellion and joins Satan in blaming God for the evil that was now present inside him. (Gen 3:12)
When queried, Eve accuses the true adversary. She tells the truth about her deception and that Satan was to blame. (Gen 3:13)
Because she named the enemy, Satan would war with woman. But God prophesied that woman would be victorious. Her heir would defeat him. (Gen 3:15)
Adam would toil for the things that God freely provided for him in the loving commune of the Garden. Adam would struggle in his new role of provider because that was not a role he was meant to play. (Gen 3:17-19)
Adam would physically die. (Gen 3:19)
Life was found in Eve. She is titled “the source of life” in hopeful anguish by her husband who had just received his death sentence. (Gen 3:20)
Adam, the man, was banished from the garden so that he would not eat of the Tree of Life and live forever separated from God’s goodness. (Gen 3:22-24)
Then, Eve turned and followed Adam.
Read more on Teshuqa’s roots: