I have updated this study with deeper understanding and revelation as I have been learning and growing. Many of the places in this study, that used to read curse, now read consequence. They are bolded and italicized. The explanation follows. There remains much unchanged and useful information in the original study here.
The Torah reading (parashah) is Toledoth (generations), Gen 2:4-3:21.
The Hebrew paragraph divisions given by the Holy Spirit, are:
Gen 2:4-3:15 s Disobedience to YHVH’s command is sin
Gen 3:16 s Consequences for the woman (painful toil)
Gen 3:17-21 p Consequences for the man (painful toil)
The parashah forms its own chiastic structure:
1a) Gen 2:4-14, Three lifes: breath of life, tree of life, river of life;
1b) Gen 2:15-17, The command of YHVH given;
1c) Gen 2:18-24, Woman, the helper of man;
central axis) Gen 2:25, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed;”
2c) Gen 3:1-5, Woman, the downfall of man;
2b) Gen 3:6-13, The command of YHVH broken;
2a) Gen 3:14-21 s+s+p, Three consequences: the serpent, the woman, the man.
The theme of the paragraph stumah from Gen 3:16 is the consequence for sin, not curse, and not necessarily even punishment, placed on the woman. The theme of the paragraph from Gen 3:17-21 is the consequence for sin, not curse, placed on the man.
I was taught as a new believer that God cursed the man and woman. This is not true, there is not a curse on either the man or the woman. Read God’s words carefully! He did not curse them, because He had already blessed them (Gen 1:28)! Everything that He had previously blessed, He did not now curse, because that would invalidate His previous Word, and the Word of God is settled forever in heaven (Psa 119:89)! The serpent was cursed (Gen 3:14), the ground was cursed (Gen 3:17), but the man and woman were not cursed. However they do receive the consequences of their sin.
The word translated “pain” for the woman in verse 16 and the word translated “toil” for the man in verse 17 is the same word in Hebrew: itstsabon. They received the same consequence as a result of their sin: toil, or work. The woman’s work, I believe, is moreover lifelong, just as the man’s is. Her work is in not only bearing children, but rearing them, in making the home for her and her husband and her children to dwell in. His work is in provision – he goes out from the home, and procures by toiling the food (or material things) necessary to sustain himself and his family.
Notice that in the woman’s consequence, she is also placed in submission to her husband. In Torah portion Bereisheet, both the man and the woman were given equal dominion over the creation. Neither of them were subservient to the other (Gen 1:28). Now God creates a hierarchy: man, then woman, then creation. Creation is still subject to the man and the woman, but woman is now also subject to her husband (not just any man). Who is the man subject to? YHVH, and all mankind and creation is also subject to YHVH through the man’s dominion. He exercises dominion in order to bring his wife, his children, and the creation into obedience to YHVH.
(Bunny trail: he cannot do this by lording it over as the Gentiles do, as Jesus taught His disciples, but by serving, Mat 20:25-28.)
The men and women (and children) who understand God’s authority, order, and plan, and who order their lives in cooperation with Him and not in opposition to Him, will bring blessings upon themselves (see Psa 1)!
So now that we have main ideas for the weak paragraphs, let’s see what the main idea is for the strong paragraph, from Gen 2:4-3:21.
Gen 2:4-3:21 ends in a p’tuchah.
a. Gen 2:4-3:15 (stumah) Sin is disobedience to God’s command.
b. Gen 3:16 (stumah) The consequence on the woman – work (painful toil).
c. Gen 3:17-21 (p’tuchah) The consequence on the man – work (painful toil).
What comes to my mind for the main idea of the entire section is that Sin Brings the Consequence of Work. Can it be that sin brings the consequence of works on mankind as well – working in order to earn righteousness before God? And here is another instance of the Lord’s grace: He established the seventh day as a day of rest, holy to YHVH, before sin, consequences, curses, or work ever entered God’s perfect world. Yes, we have to deal with the consequence of work as a result of our disobedience. The ease of life has gone away. But every seventh day, God lifts the consequence of our sin from our lives, and allows us to rest from our painful toil, as we remember that YHVH is our gracious and loving Creator, to whom we owe worship; to whom we bow the knee!