Women in the Text: Creation Order 1

The order of creation, the significance that Adam was formed before Eve, is an age-old argument for male authority. Here’s how the Danver’s Statement words it:

  1. Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood (Gen 1:26-27, 2:18).
  2. Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).
  3. Adam’s headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin (Gen 2:16-18, 21-24, 3:1-13; 1 Cor 11:7-9).

As was the case of slavery, I believe patriarchy (Male authority) was practiced in biblical times, but that does not mean we MUST practice patriarchy to be biblical or godly. Examining the order of creation for gender nuance might go a long way in proving that assertion.

In the beginning…

In Genesis 1, God creates distinct male and female humans. He unifies them in purpose and role. He calls “them” to rule and populate. No distinction in gender roles there. Only equal authority and equal obligations to care for God’s creation. In our rush to get to the specifics of chpt 2, let us not overlook the simplicity of this summation.

A little more details…

In Genesis 2, things are more detailed. There are a few theories on these separate accounts of the creation of man. I believe its a close-up look at mankind’s creation as given in chapter 1. That being the case, Chapter 2 should not contradict or deny the sentiment expressed by the Creator in the first chapter; that male and female are both to rule together.  It will only affirm it.

18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Rescue Help or Servant Help?

Rescue of the Leavitt Atlantic Ocean Rescue by Don Millsap

In Genesis 2,  one argument  for male patriarchy stems from the understanding of the Hebrew words ezer kenegdo, translated in the English as helper suitable. It is argued that  Eve was created to help (assist, aid) Adam. Her whole purpose is to provide help for him. But, the English misses the implication to these words. Kenegdo is loaded with equality. It carries the redundant meaning of  “same as” (ke) and “corresponding to, equal, adequate” (negdo). Ezer is a strong word. It connotates protection and rescue.

This word for “help” does not imply an inferior, but a superior help, in O. T. usage. It occurs 21 times in the O. T. Here it is used twice of Eve. In Isaiah 30:5, Ezekiel 12:14 and Daniel 11:34 of human help; but in every other use made of the word, it refers to Divine help, as, for instance, Psalm 121:2, “My help cometh from the Lord.” (Katharine Bushnell, God’s Word to Women, paragraph 34)

Read through the other verses ezer is used. The context is usually one filled with enemies, battles and salvation from defeat. The ezer is deliverance. When Adam was initially created, God said all was very good. But, now Adam is declared NOT good. Is something wicked already at work? There is an evil afoot, and Adam needs rescue. He needs an ezer!

Exit Eve.

After comparing himself to each of God’s creations, Adam does not find his help. It pleases God to put him to sleep. Adam sleeps like the dead, then awakens to find his bride pulled from his side. The English word “rib” is misleading. The Hebrew word is “side.” (Do I speak about another mystery? It pleased God to put his Son to “sleep,” so His bride – His Body – could be given life through Him!) From Adam’s side, Eve. She is his flesh and bone. She was taken out of him. Was she in his body to begin with? Are they the same creation? Separated now and opposite? Adam recognizes her as his body, his flesh?   The Rabbis have taught for thousands of years that God created Adam male/female. Its an interesting thought. (Rabbit trail: Another interesting thought is that all human embryos are proto-female. We all have nipples, that’s the evidence. The sex separation is not as clear as we might think!)

Rabbi Jeremiah ben Eliezer said: “When God created Adam, he made him an androgynous being, for it says, ‘male and female He made them’ in the same creature (Genesis 5:2).” It seems that the sages there were quite troubled by this concept, because it could lead to the inevitable conclusion that man and women were created equal! (Genesis 2 Essays, Admiel Kosman, page 4)

Man leaves his parents and joins wife.

What ramifications do we see resulting from Eve’s creation? How does God want man to respond to this helpful gift? Man must leave his parents (Curious, when he didn’t have any!) and join his wife. Man. Ish. Man must leave his parents. The man is the one leaving and going to join his wife. God wants man to join his wife after leaving the family of his childhood. The wife (ishah) isn’t required to leave her family. I find this curious too.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

We know these words are God’s because Christ attributes them to Him in Matthew 19. “..at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Many commandments are promulgated in masculine terms, though meant equally for both sexes, but in this instance the case is different: One man and one woman stand before the Almighty, on the very occasion of their differentiation into two sexes, and God enunciates a law as lying between those two just formed, which indicates for all time the duty of husband to wife, not of wife to husband. (Katharine Bushnell, God’s Word to Women, paragraph 44.)

Forgive me for harping on this. I find it so curious. Man has an obligation in the plain text. What is it? To leave his parents and be united to his wife.

  1. Leave the patriarch family.  The husband does not have the right to carry the wife home to his tribe. He is to leave his tribe and go to hers. (I’ve got a post in the works on this female kinship, wait for it.)
  2. One flesh. Unity again. The husband is charged with unity. The plain text does lay a responsibility at the husband’s feet. But its not authoritative. Its unifying.
  3. Why aren’t we teaching men this? How to properly leave their family and unite with a woman (and even her family)? How did things get centered around the man’s family and kin?

At the cusp of human life, do we see distinctions in the genders? Yes.

Do we see that woman was pulled from man? Yes.

Do we see any ramifications because of the creation order? Yes.

  • Lonely Adam is in need. It is not good.
  • Woman is “compatible aid” to solve the problem.
  • Man’s duty is not with his family, but to his wife.
  • They are both asked by God to rule His creation.
  • They stand before him together, man and woman.

And now lets sum it up.

In Genesis 5, the genders are unified again.

This is the written account of Adam’s family line.   When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind”  when they were created.

If only it were that simple.

There is more.

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23 thoughts on “Women in the Text: Creation Order 1

  1. I had some lovely sexism in the workplace this week. It went: “He changed his name to hers when they got married. So I called him a vagina.” Haha, really? And there are some Christians who, while not putting it in those terms, think exactly the same.

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  2. Also, isn’t it true that Adam was referred to in gender neutral language until Eve was created, implying that Adam was BOTH genders, then separated into two “halves” (another translation of “side”)? I haven’t researched that.

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    1. “23. Please read Genesis 1:26-28, and with it, Genesis 5:2. We find that at the first the name “Adam” belonged equally to male and female. God said: “Let US make man [or “Adam,”–it is the same word] in our likeness;” and the story proceeds,–“In the image of God made HE HIM, male and female made HE THEM.” Please note that in the second clause, man is spoken of as both singular and plural.”
      http://godswordtowomen.org/lesson%203.htm

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  3. What do you make of the fact that the command to not eat the fruit of “that” tree was given only to Adam, with the assumption that he was supposed to pass on the command to Eve?

    Kay, I’m not trying to oppose you at every turn. I really do agree with most of this post. I’ve heard the rescue-helper word before (and I heartily agree – what would my husband do without me??), and I know full-well that nothing in the creation story indicates Eve as a lesser being. And, I agree that we are a team, together carrying out the creation mandate to subdue the earth and fill it with Imago-Dei’s.

    I will have to read more about the idea of Adam being gender neutral. That’s interesting, and might change my perspective a bit. As for the “leaving and cleaving”, where do you see the man being united to her family? I just see him uniting to his wife. Maybe you’ll deal with this in a later post.

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  4. It pleased God to put his Son to “sleep,” so His bride – His Body – could be given life through Him!”

    My favorite thing about reading egalitarian material is the beautiful, radical picture it gives of Christ and the church. Thanks for this!

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  5. A general comment. As much as we women might try to assert ourselves and commend ourselves, I believe there is no doubt that God set up the patriarchal system. The disciples (New Testament) called and commissioned, eventually to be honored in the construction of Heaven will be men; the geneologies God gives throughout Scripture are listed by fathers; in fact, women weren’t even allowed past the outer court in the Temple; and there’s more, as you well know. Of course, that doesn’t mean God didn’t use and honor a woman (Deborah, Mary, etc.), but they were listed biblically more as the exception (not that they won’t be equally honored in Heaven). Man’s role on this earth (the Old AND New Testament pretty much says so) is going to be more visible, more predominant, it seems, than the woman’s. Heaven will truly be the great “equalizer.” And, yes, you argue that women have been given “equality” in Christ, but much of that most women (American women are truly blessed) won’t see til Heaven – in my opinion. As Creator and Lord, He made us women for His good pleasure and His glory; in this world, it won’t be the position of honor, but neither was our Lord’s as a suffering Savior. Any earned honor will have to come AFTERWARD.

    My two cents….

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  6. “I believe there is no doubt that God set up the patriarchal system.”

    Only if when God said, “he shall rule over you” to the woman, He meant, “He should rule over you.” And if that’s what He meant, why did He not say to Adam, “See that you rule over her”?

    Patriarchy (male rule) is a result of the Fall. Just as thorns and thistles multiplied in the fields, male humans became inclined and desirous to rule over women. It was not so in the beginning– just as K. Bonikowsky said, God said, “Let THEM have dominion.”

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  7. “The geneologies God gives throughout Scripture are listed by fathers.”

    This is because that’s how the people of that day thought. There is a theological principle called “accommodation.” It means that God’s dealings with humanity are always a condescension, a bringing of things to our level. His ways are higher than our ways– so He deals with us where He finds us. Just because people did things in certain ways in the Bible, does not make them God’s divine mandate.

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  8. “women weren’t even allowed past the outer court in the Temple.”

    But when Christ died, the veil in the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom, giving complete access to all of us. There is no “outer court” in the Temple above, which is made without hands. Christ is our only High Priest, all believers are “priests and kings,” and we all have access to the Holy of Holies. Israel’s kingdom was based on externals. The Kingdom of Heaven is based on salvation for all through Christ the Messiah. We are ALL to become as “little children” to enter there. This means no special status based on who we were born as or what our body parts are.

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  9. Sorry to keep posting on this, but I did some more research on the exclusion of women from the Temple Court. What I found out was that it was not so in the First Temple– the Temple of Solomon. I found nothing whatever in the Scriptures about women being excluded from the Court of the Israelites in Solomon’s temple, where the people gathered to witness the offerings. It was in Herod’s Temple that there was a special court only for male Israelites, then an outer court for the women, and then an even more outer court for the Gentiles. This was never part of God’s commands for the Temple. It was added later by men. Here is a link to a website with diagrams:

    http://www.bible-architecture.info/Jerusalem.htm

    If you will look in 1 Kings 8:22, it says that at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, he stood “in the presence of all the congregation of Israel.” How could he have done that if half the congregation was in a separate, excluded court? The passage says nothing about women not being there, or about women being excluded from coming into the Israelites’ court.

    The treating of women as second-glass worshipers was never God’s plan. In fact, it was to a woman (and a Samaritan woman at that!) that Jesus revealed the truth that “God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him worship in spirit and truth.”

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  10. Interesting site, Kristen. You may be right about Herod’s Temple being the only one that delineated a “woman’s court”; however, it is well-known that God designed that only men (priests) were allowed into the Holy Place to serve; maybe Herod’s Temple designated that distinction further in its temple – I don’t know.

    I briefly did some of my own checking to reference places in Scripture where God’s COMMANDS (sorry, I don’t know how to italicize on here for emphasis) differentiated between men and women in service, sanctification, purification, etc. These are just some of the places found in the Old Testament: Ex. 34:19; Lev. 12; Num. 2:1-2; 3:40; 5:11-31; 8:19; 11:16; Deut. 36:6-10. In my reading and study, as Kay said above, “I believe patriarchy (Male authority) was practiced in biblical times.” However, I believe further that God DID command – or at least, commend – this practice for the Israelites. Whether or not it was to a fallen world and people matters not. At this point in His dealings with man/woman, He commanded and endorsed this type of leadership (patriarchal). After all, He Himself referred to Himself as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” And, yes, though He could’ve referred to Himself as the God of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel/Leah, He chose rather to identify Himself with the MEN – patriarchs. It’s good, too! – though harder to understand and accept for women in our American culture.

    Could this system (patriarchal) allow women to fully obey and please God? Of course! And isn’t that what our goal as godly women should be anyway? Did it – and will it – entail some suffering along the way? That, too. For those times we have I Peter 2:19-23 to give us hope and motivation. Is it fair? As my mother (every mother?) said many times, “Life is not fair!” For that, we’ll have eternity!

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    1. Linda said: “Could this system (patriarchal) allow women to fully obey and please God? Of course! And isn’t that what our goal as godly women should be anyway?”
      Linda, you say this system could allow women to fully obey and please God. We should avoid systems that “could allow” (or could not allow) women to fully obey and please God. We should encourage everything that would allow (would, not could) allow them to fully obey God.
      How, under this system, could she be allowed to obey God, if God wants a woman to do something that the patriarchal system does not allow?
      Why do you call something good if it does not allow a woman to follow the Spirit?

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  11. Linda,

    Being male wasn’t the only restriction for priests. They also had to be Levites, of the household of Aaron, and they had to be without any external handicaps or blemishes, and they had to follow rigid cleanliness laws. If you are saying that God was deliberately instilling patriarchy into the people, then He was also deliberately instilling lesser status for the handicapped, as well as stratification of society based on who your daddy was.

    I do not believe this was the case. I believe God was restrictive about the priesthood in order to show His otherness and the separation between Himself and humanity based on His holiness. The priestly restrictions were physical pictures of something spiritual– and Christ came to bring the spiritual. We are no longer under the Law. Now we are to “regard no one any longer according to the flesh.” 2 Cor 5:16.

    Men and women were differentiated in the Law because of their specific situations. God didn’t cause the way women were viewed and treated in ancient times. He accommodated the weaknesses of the society He had to work with. The Law worked within those restrictions. What looks discriminatory to us was often protective, when viewed through the lenses of that culture.

    Accommodation means that God knew He could not refer to Himself as “the God of Sarah, Rebekah and Rachael, because the Israelites would have scorned Him. It certainly doesn’t mean He wasn’t their God too, as I’m sure you’ll agree. Hagar called Him “the God who sees me.” As a slave woman, she wasn’t used to the idea of being taken specific notice of by God! But God saw Hagar and made special provision for her.

    Life isn’t fair, you say. True– and God accommodates that fact in His dealings with His people. But He is just, and He did not decree the injustices we experience. Patriarchy is an injustice. It is not of God; it comes from the Fall.

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  12. I don’t believe scorn from this sinful world ever hindered or discouraged God from ordination of His purposes. I Cor. 1:27-28. The Fall of man did not surprise, nor occur outside of God’s ultimate will. Patriarchy does not HAVE to be an injustice when enacted lovingly and for the glory of God. However, women do continue to feel the effects of this sin-cursed world (according to the will and decree of God in Gen. 3), as do men, and the earth itself.

    Kristen, as you probably know, your whole last paragraph begs for a much-too-long theological discussion. I imagine that very theological discussion would reveal the foundation for our disagreement – though friendly – on this very topic. Suffice to say, if God decreed the injustice His Son experienced (Is. 53:10; Heb. 12:2), why not decree the same opportunity (for ultimate joy) for His disciples? God’s ways ARE higher than ours, as Joseph himself discovered (Gen. 50:20).

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  13. Linda,

    Yes, I think we do have fundamental theological differences. I believe God decreed His Son to suffer, but that doesn’t mean He decreed injustice. He delivered His son to sinful men– He didn’t command the men to sin. Jesus said it was God’s will that He be betrayed, but also said “woe” to the man who betrayed Him.

    God permits us to go through persecution and oppression. This does not mean oppression is His ideal will, or that He is pleased with it.

    You say God is not hindered by human scorn– and yet God is concerned with communicating with humanity, and thus with how people think of Him. Moses asked God what the Egyptians would think if He destroyed the Hebrews in the desert.

    The ancient Middle-eastern cultures considered women to be property. If God had revealed Himself as the God of Sarah instead of Abraham, they would not have taken Him seriously. It would be as if He had revealed Himself as the God of cows and sheep instead of the God of Israel. Sad but true.

    But what the Bible describes is not the same as what it commands. Before the Fall, nothing is said about male rule. After the Fall, the Bible describes a state of male rule as an existing fact. But it does not set forth a “divine right of males.”

    But this is probably as far as we can go with this. We will have to agree to disagree.

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  14. Kristen, I do understand where your viewpoint comes from. I debate that side from time-to-time myself. It IS hard to truly understand how God’s will is never sin, and that nothing will happen outside of God’s ultimate will, and yet He uses sin to accomplish His will. Will have to wait for Heaven to fully comprehend, I think!

    One statement of yours and Bible verse together epitomizes this paradox: “God permits us to go through persecution and oppression. This does not mean oppression is His ideal will, or that He is pleased with it.”

    Yet God says in Isaiah 53:10: “It pleased the LORD [not man’s ultimate plan, but the Lord’s] to bruise him [Jesus]; he hath put him to grief…and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”

    Two sides – two methods of dealing with man (Adam and Eve who were perfect AND Adam and Eve – and children – who are fallen) – yet BOTH methods are the perfect will of God.

    Too difficult for my mind to truly comprehend! What an Amazing God!

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  15. Linda,

    Suffice it to say that I don’t agree with you, because God’s decree for His Son to suffer was a unique thing, a plan for our salvation, and does not translate to His will for humanity. Also, though He delivered His Son to cruelty, and that was His will, the cruelty itself was the responsibility of those who committed it.

    God did not decree that man should sin against women during the entire course of this planet’s history, and that He was pleased with that. Christ’s suffering had a definite, limited scope and a specific purpose. The subordination of women has neither of these characteristics.

    We are probably going around in circles at this point, though. God bless.

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  16. Here’s how I sum it up:

    I believe slavery was practiced in biblical times, but that does not mean we MUST practice slavery to be biblical or godly. Yet, “biblical” slaveholders actually taught that exact sentiment.

    Times have changed, praise God!!

    I believe patriarchy (Male authority) was practiced in biblical times, but that does not mean we MUST practice patriarchy to be biblical or godly. Yet “biblical” complementarians actually teach that exact sentiment.

    Times are changing, praise God!!

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