We study Genesis to learn what God designed and how that design was ruined.
Our study must begin in Genesis, because we cannot fully understand why the New Testament (NT) writers referred to it until we know what it actually says. If a text is used as an authoritative foundation, then the principle being referred to must be established there. So we need to know what did— and did not— transpire in the first three chapters.
In chapter one we read of the creation of humankind. Gen. 1:27-28 states clearly that both male and female were made in the image of God, and that both of them were given dominion over all the lower life forms. No mention is made of any hierarchy between male and female. And if chronology or sequence is an indicator of authority, then a consistent argument would conclude that mankind was the greatest simply because they were made last. Yet when it comes to people, this alleged principle is discarded in a logical fallacy known as "special pleading": in spite of Eve being made after Adam, she is held to be inferior for that very reason. In only that instance is the last made inferior to the first.
In chapter two we are given some additional detail concerning creation. We are told that God formed the person (adam was not a personal name yet) from the dust of the earth (vs. 7), outside of the Garden of Eden. The human was then placed into the garden (vs. 15), and note that he was given two charges: to cultivate it and to guard it. The Hebrew word typically translated "keep" is not another word for cultivate but instead indicates protection and responsibility for the safety of all within it. This identical word is used later by Cain when he sarcastically replies to God, "Am I my brother's keeper?"1 But note that the "position" of guardian is not a position of rule or mastery. The guards on the city walls are not kings or magistrates but servants.
It is only after being charged with the care and protection of the garden that the man is told not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (TKGE), and only after that do we see the first thing God calls "not good": that the human should be alone. Be careful not to read between the lines here: the man did not make this observation nor complain about loneliness. In fact, no place in the entire Bible tells us why the man should not be alone. But we can observe that this is stated after the charge to protect and the warning about the fruit of the TKGE.
Scripture does give us an indirect clue: there was some weakness in the human, some need or deficiency. We are told that his being alone was to be remedied by the entrance of what is called in Hebrew an ezer kenegdo, which means a strong one facing him, a partner equal to a task, an ally. This is in no way indicates an underling, assistant, secretary, "daddy's little helper", or employee, but an equal. God Himself is described as an ezer in other OT references.2
Yet between the pronouncement of the human's need and the fulfillment of the remedy, we see that God wanted to show him something: He brought animals to him to be named. Again, use caution in forming conclusions from this act, which no scripture ever cites as the establishment of authority. Humans were both to be given authority over the animals, as we've already seen, even though Eve was not there to name them. So how could the naming of animals be seen as an act of male authority over female when no female yet existed? If Eve had been made before this and was forbidden to name the animals, perhaps a case could be made for ascribing some kind of preeminence to Adam, but this is not the situation. And since ch. 1 told us that God gave "them" authority over animals only after both existed, we know that Adam could not have named the animals before Eve as an act of authority.
Notice that the animals, like the human, were made from dust. This is a critical fact, as will be shown. Most commentators emphasize "for the human no suitable ezer was found", and this too is important. But nothing is said about God wanting to show the human that he had no mate, only that none of the animals were suitable to be the ezer he needed.
When the human awakens from his sleep, he is shown his ezer at last. Immediately Adam exclaims that she is "his flesh and bones". This is in obvious contrast to the animals, who though made from the dust as he was, did not share in his flesh. Eve was thus established as not beneath Adam but beside him, equal, "a strong one facing him". Technically, she was Adam's clone! And as such, there could not possibly have been any hierarchy between them. Never anywhere in scripture is she even hinted at as being second, less, behind, beneath, or a follower of Adam. In fact we see quite the opposite of authority by chronology in the remainder of the OT: Abel over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, David over all seven of his older brothers, etc. And God's purpose in that was deliberate: to glorify Himself and not the vessels of His will.3
So I believe it is firmly established in these first two chapters of Genesis that no hierarchy existed between Adam and Eve. The only stated differences between them are these: that Adam was to guard the garden, and that he alone had firsthand experience with God's creative power. This will prove to be pivotal to our understanding of chapter three.
But before we go there, notice that this is the point where we read, "for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will be one flesh." The man is to do the leaving and cleaving; he joins to her, not she to him. Were the direction reversed, I'm quite sure that advocates of male supremacy would cite this as proof of a husband's authority. This will ultimately prove to be significant, since it symbolizes the fact that Jesus left "his father's house" to join to His Bride, not she to Him. Something to consider.
Immediately in chapter three we read of the serpent (lit. "shining one") tempting Eve. Yet many would add a phantom story between chapters two and three, namely that Eve began to lust for an alleged authority over Adam. Yet no such scripture or story exists, not even in the NT. Eve is never attributed with the beginnings of sin, of lust, of desire, or of anything else before the serpent tempted her. And she was not hiding from Adam; vs. 6 tells us that he was with her.
Neither does scripture ever tell us why the serpent targeted Eve; not one place in either Testament even touches on the question. But remember that observation of Eve being the one who had no direct experience with God's creative power? Surely the serpent knew that Adam would not be fooled into thinking he could be like God, but Eve was vulnerable due to her inexperience. And again, in ref. to vs. 6, there are no words to the effect that she tempted or reasoned with Adam in order to get him to eat the fruit; she simply handed it to him, and he took it without even putting up a mild protest.
So we can discard all the speculation about Eve sneaking around or lusting or plotting or tempting, and we can also dismiss any notion of Adam being unaware of the source of the fruit or of the serpent's temptation of Eve. As vs. 17 will show, he merely "listened to the voice of his wife" (heard the temptation and her responses) instead of guarding as he was commanded. Adam's lack of deception was not to his credit but to his great shame! Eve was "beguiled" but Adam was not, yet he sinned anyway, failing to guard as well as eating the fruit with his eyes wide open.
Before this fateful event, we have seen that Adam had no authority over Eve, that neither chronology nor naming is ever tied to authority by scripture, and that Adam had no authority even over the animals until after Eve was made. She had nothing to usurp or desire before she was tempted. If the argument is made that she had the warning about the TKGE wrong, and it is presumed she only got it from Adam (even though nobody in scripture ever says so), then the fact that neither Adam nor God nor even the serpent points this out is significant. No scripture ever calls Eve inherently deceivable nor forgetful nor mistaken, nor that she lied about the warning. Scripture rarely mentions Eve when discussing the fall of man, but when it does mention her she is only shown to be the one the serpent beguiled, and this is never portrayed as some kind of fault in her. Neither does any scripture ever call Adam the "federal head" of his wife, typically offered to account for sin being laid solely at his feet. So let us put to rest any notions about the fall being somehow Eve's fault.
Now we come at last to what I would call The Confrontation. Many would like to attach significance to Adam's being confronted first, but no scripture ever does so. And many miss the structure of this confrontation, namely that it is in the form of a chiasm. A chiasm (named after the Greek letter X or chi) is when someone makes a series of points toward a central point, then traces back through the points in reverse order. Thus we can find the central point being made by watching for where the "mirror image" begins. And in this case, the crux or pivot point of this confrontation is the curse on the serpent and subsequent remedy through the seed of the woman. The order is man, woman, serpent, woman, man. So this order of confrontation has more to do with making a point than with some alleged preeminence.
But notice Adam's reaction when God asks him about the fruit: he blames Eve directly and God Himself indirectly ("the woman you gave me")! The serpent and the temptation is never mentioned by Adam; he takes no responsibility and shows no remorse or indication of sacrifice for Eve's sake, as some allege. He had stood silently by, listening to the serpent deceive his wife, and took the fruit from her without comment or question.
When Eve is confronted she simply states the truth: "the serpent deceived me and I ate." No passing blame to Adam, no argument about what a great idea eating the fruit was supposed to be, no protest about it being unfair that she was beneath Adam... just telling what happened.
At this point God doesn't even ask the serpent any questions but launches immediately into a curse upon him. But notice that God begins with "Because you have done this...". And in this context of cursing the serpent, God pronounces the ultimate remedy: the seed of the woman would crush the seed of the serpent. In all this debate nobody ever seems to ask why it would be the seed of only the woman that would bring the Savior. Why was Adam not to be a part of this? Scripture never says. Scripture also never says why the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, circumcision,4 was chosen for males, but it may very well have a connection with Jesus being called the Last Adam.5
To the woman God never says "Because you have done this...". And what He does say is disputed: was it "I will multiply your suffering in childbirth", or was it "A snare has increased your sorrow; in sorrow you will bear children"? The first is from the Masoretic text, which post-dates the NT by hundreds of years. It was made long after the beginning of the church, long after the rabbis had made their own corrupt version of the Septuagint (LXX) to combat the Christians' use of the original LXX to prove Jesus was the Messiah. The issue of textual corruption is beyond the scope of this writing, but there are good articles available and I would encourage you to look into them.6 At the very least we should note that the word for "sorrow" is identical to the word that God will use in describing Adam's toil. But most importantly, Eve herself is never told that something she did is the reason for this, unlike Adam and the serpent.
Then God makes a prediction (not a command): Eve would desire or turn toward her husband. This desire is lifted from context and given all sorts of imaginative meanings by many. They say it must be sexual desire, or lust for power, and try to bolster such views by bringing in an outside context: that of the desire of "sin" to have Cain.7 But even there we see that it is Cain himself, not anything he allegedly possesses such as power or position over another, that sin desires. It wants the man, not his rank. Likewise, Eve is never said to want anything belonging to Adam but the man himself, and unlike sin, she is not an evil entity.
So God is telling Eve that she is about to make a critical choice, and that this choice would result in something that did not exist before (or it wouldn't be predicted): her husband would rule over her. Had this rule already existed God would have only said that it would be stronger or harsher, but since no such rule is stated anywhere before this in any form, the context only supports the existence of rule by Adam over Eve after sin. To put it bluntly, it is the man that will now usurp authority over the woman, whom God had created as his equal. Ironically, today many men accuse women who want equality of attempting to usurp the very authority they themselves got by usurping.
We must also consider the fact that God had just finished telling the serpent that the woman he beguiled would be his ultimate undoing, and that God Himself would put extreme hostility between her and him. This is no physical fear of snakes (besides, fear and hostility are two completely different things) on the part of only women, but a special seething hatred between the forces of Satan and the progeny of only Eve, because from her seed alone would come the promised Messiah.
History is replete with proof of this hostility. Women have been Satan's supreme objects of hatred, being oppressed and treated as property across cultures and eras. Satan surely laughs at how even Christian men who should know better have viewed women, beginning with some of the so-called "church fathers", just like many of the Jews before them. Read these quotes:8
- "Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman… Whoever teaches his daughter the Torah is like one who teaches her obscenity." Rabbi Eliezer
- "Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil's gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily Gods image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God had to die." St. Tertullian
- "What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children." St. Augustine of Hippo
- "As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence." St. Thomas Aquinas
- "If they [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why they are there." Martin Luther
- "Most of these feminists are radical, frustrated lesbians, many of them, and man-haters, and failures in their relationships with men, and who have declared war on the male gender. The Biblical condemnation of feminism has to do with its radical philosophy and goals. That's the bottom line." Jerry Falwell
- "God, by creating Adam first (Gen. 2:18; 1 Cor. 11:8) and also by creating woman for man (Gen. 2:18,20,22; 1 Cor. 11:9), has set the gender-based role and responsibility of males in the most basic unit of society (the family) to be that of leader, provider and self-sacrificial protector (also cf. Eph. 5:25; 1 Peter 3:7), and likewise has set the gender-based role and responsibility of females to be that of help and nurture (Gen. 2:18) and life-giving (Gen. 3:20) under male leadership and protection (cf. 1 Peter 3:7)" The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood
- "make dads the godly leaders [of the family] with the women in submission, raising kids for the glory of God." Randall Terry, Operation Rescue
- "In the beginning God made man male and female. He made Adam first, and then made Eve from Adams rib. This order of creation subordinates wives to their husbands in marriage, and women to men in the church. As an act of submission to their Creator women are commanded to submit to their husbands and to male leadership in the church. Women are not allowed to teach or have authority over men in any formal capacity in the church." Reformation Fellowship of the East Valley, Mesa, AZ
Astoundingly, Christian teachers today are encouraging women to commit Eve's critical blunder in following men. They think her decision to look only to Adam instead of remaining in the garden with God was a good thing instead of a disaster, both for her and for all her daughters to come. It did not have to be, as we will learn when covering God's pronouncement on Adam, and should not be perpetuated.
Finally we come to Adam. God begins with "Because you have done this..." so we know that Adam is being held responsible for his actions, just as the serpent was; the serpent tempted and Adam failed to guard, blaming even God for his sin. But before we go on, let's remember that the only penalty God had stated before for eating the fruit was death. Again, no scripture defines this death explicitly, so we can only speculate on its meaning and scope. We must not immediately interject "spiritual death", which no scripture ever mentions as happening here. Both Adam and Eve ate the fruit and suffered this "death", but no other penalty was stated. So why were there additional penalties for Adam alone? (And remember that the serpent was never a part of the prohibition against eating the fruit, so we need not include him in this point.)
Once again, scripture never spells out why there were additional penalties beyond death. But we have seen that Adam alone passed blame, extending his sin in a way that Eve did not. He openly and willingly rebelled against God, while Eve had to be tricked into eating the fruit yet never tried to deny it nor pass blame to anyone but the guilty party, that being the serpent.
Now look at the details of what God says to Adam. First of all, it is not Adam himself but the ground that is cursed; there is no curse on Adam, Eve, or human nature. Then Adam is told he would have to work hard to get this cursed ground to produce food (ironically, many women have been forced by men into this which was Adam's burden alone to bear). And it is only in this address to Adam that God says "you came from dust and will return to dust". Only Adam was made from dust, remember? It should then come as no surprise that it is that very dust which God cursed and to which Adam would return.
There is another factor in building the case for why this was only Adam's penalty, but first we need to address an event typically used as another "proof" of Adam's authority over Eve: he names his wife. But not only is this after sin, it is never cited by any scripture as an act of authority. We should consider the fact that the slave Hagar would later give God a name (Gen. 16:13), and also that it is parents who have the authority to name their children, not spouses naming each other. Some try to do exactly that by mentioning Gen. 5:3 where "Adam... had a son in his own likeness, in his own image, and he named him Seth". But Seth was Adam's child, not his spouse. So just as naming animals is never called an act of authority in scripture, neither is Adam's naming of Eve.
Now to the remainder of the fallout of Adam's rebellion and treachery (see a literal translation of Job 31:33). In Gen. 3:22 we read that God says only "the man" must be prevented from eating of the Tree of Life, and it is only "the man" who is banished from the garden "to work the ground from which he had been taken." No mention is made of Eve here, yet as God predicted, we know she "desired" Adam and went with him. But God never ordered her out. Again, speculation, but it is not unreasonable to think that had she stayed, she would have given birth to the Messiah herself. Tragically, for her and all her daughters, she made the wrong choice, and thereby took upon herself the same penalties as were only meant for Adam, along with her own willingness to be dominated. Christian women today are being told that they must look only to a husband or father or priest, not directly to Christ, and thus to volunteer for the same domination as Eve. Her legacy to her daughters is not a deceivable mind but a willingness to be ruled by men.
In conclusion, much of what has been taught about these early chapters of Genesis relies heavily upon reading between the lines and presuming principles without foundation or contextual warrant. We have seen that this passage is a good place to go when one wishes to defend the order of creation, the origin of sin and death, and the promise of the Savior. Clearly, the cause of Eve's sin was deception (her "desire" did not exist until after she was tempted), so it is quite understandable that the NT writers would refer to this passage for that very reason, along with a rebuttal to pagan falsehoods about creation order. But what it completely lacks is any sort of hierarchy between the sexes by virtue of chronology, naming, or even guarding. There is no establishment of "family order", civil government, or religious hierarchy.
So when anyone in scripture refers to this to make a point, we must remember what possible points can be made from it. Those to whom the apostles wrote would have been familiar with these writings and knew them to be from God, and would therefore accept the reference as a valid witness or premise in an argument. What they would not accept would be a new interpretation or new law to be inserted into it. So the fact that Genesis is appealed to tells us that the basis for the appeal must be seen there and be clear to everyone. And hierarchy between the sexes is nowhere to be seen before Adam and Eve leave the garden.
- 1 Gen. 4:9
- 2 ezer, Strong's 5827, to surround, protect, aid; used of God in 2 Chron. 4:11, 26:7, 1 Sam. 7:12, Ps. 28:7, etc.
kenegdo, Strong's 5048, to face, counterpart, such as the left and right hands
- 3 Deut. 7:7, 1 Cor. 1:28
- 4 Gen. 17:10-27, Rom. 4:11
- 5 1 Cor. 15:45-49
- 6 http://www.triumphpro.com/lxx.htm
- 7 Gen. 4:7
- 8 http://www.bibleufo.com/anomwomen.htm