Here I lay my Ebenezer

We sang “Come Thou Fount” this morning in church. They skipped the Ebenezer verse. Boo. So, because I’m plagued with a condition called Earworms, I’ve been humming that vacant verse all morning.

Here I raise my ebenezer,
Hither by thy help I’ve come.

Eben-ezer

Before Ebenezer was Scrooge, it was a place. Eben, in Hebrew, means Rock or Stone. Ezer means help. The history behind the location of this helpful rock is found in 1 Samuel 7.

When the Phillistines gathered to attack Israel at Mizpah, Samuel asked the Lord for help in defeating them.  This wasn’t a case of needing an extra hand to finish the job. The Israelites were facing death without help. They didn’t just need assitance in winning the battle. They needed rescuing.

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

To bear witness to God’s help, Samuel erected a standing stone. Standing stones were common in the ancient world. They marked a place to be remembered. They said to the locals, “Something happened here.” The what would either be remembered through oral tradition, or in the case of Samuel, eventually written down and preserved long after the stone’s spot eroded away.

Stone of help. Here is the place where God rescued us.

Ezer me, please!

It seems when we are in need, we are receptive to God’s presence. The Israelites were terrified of dying at the hand of the Phillistines, and they cried out for Ezer! They recognized they could not go it alone against the foe. They needed rescue.

So did Adam. Although created good, he was not. He was alone. He needed help. Not an assistant. Not a personal aide to prop him up. He needed something more than that. He was in severe danger. Without help, he would fail. He needed ezer: rescuing help.

Genesis 2:20 says, “adam matsa ezer.” The man found not help. Maybe he could find that missing something somewhere in God’s creation? But, among all the animals the man called, the man found not help. Because God had not formed her yet.

For Samuel, God brought ezer in the form of a storm. For man,  ezer was his own form, but stood face-to-face to him (the Hebrew word kenegdo found in verse 18). It was wo-man, God’s rescuing help for man.

 

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Be careful what you say

It is so easy to speak harshly of those who believe differently than you.

I have entered what Brian McLaren calls the third stage of faith: perplexity. Everyone has an opinion. Who knows what is right? And I’m slowly shifting to the fourth: Harmony/Humility. Love God. Love Others.

My thoughts

As I begin a new Bible study group this fall studying the Pentateuch, I’ve considered this week how to handle Genesis 1-2. Did God create in a literal week? Did He use evolution? Why was woman created? What is the creation mandate for marriage?

I know how I used to teach these things. What is the right way for today? How will I react when someone differs, or passionately clings to their understanding and condemns mine? Will I bristle at the labels: biblical, clear teaching, plain meaning and traditional? Can I express the liberal truth of inclusion in a humble way? I know what I used to think of those who believe like I do now…can I take the judgement myself?

Science and faith

History astonishes me. Because we usually repeat it.

Everyone once believed the earth was the center of our solar system. Why? Because the Bible said so. The world cannot be moved. It is firm and secure. It is held by strong pillars. (Psalm 93:1 Psalm 96:10 Psalm 104:5 Job 9:6 Psalm 75:3 1 Samuel 2:8) Science was proving the earth revolved around the sun. But because that “theory” went against the “clear” teaching of Scripture, that theory must be condemned as un-biblical and wrong. The people who believed it were accused of being in sin, rebellious and anti-God.

 “Those who assert that ‘the earth moves and turns’…[are] motivated by ‘a spirit of bitterness, contradiction, and faultfinding;’ possessed by the devil, they aimed ‘to pervert the order of nature.'” `John Calvin, sermon no. 8 on 1st Corinthians, 677, cited in John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait by William J. Bouwsma (Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), A. 72  (Read the whole article here.)

Sound familiar? Evolution, genetics, brain chemistry and homosexuality are being probed by science. Does the science match our understanding of “clear” biblical teaching? If not, how do we respond? Like Calvin? I know I have…

…but now, I am humbled by my ignorance. And I am motivated to understand more. I am cautious about dogmatics. And I hope to love those in a different stage than I am with kindness, patience and sometimes simple silence. It is better to be quiet than to argue, namecall, or  condemn.

Simple silence

It is so hard.

Making a small difference

“Why does Adam get blamed for causing sin when Eve was the first one to eat the fruit?”

This was queried to the girl’s Bible teacher last week at camp. (She was a great teacher!) Of course, my ears prickled and I started squirming as usually happens when the topic of women/Eve/original sin is broached in my hearing. It is a logical question, and I was proud of the young mind who thought critically about what she was being taught.

The teacher began her answer honestly. “I’m not really sure. So I’m going to give you why I think it may be. The Bible says the husband is the head of the wife, so it may be that Adam, as Eve’s head, was held responsible.”

Some girls began to chatter in response to that revelation. And I’m sure we all had a “hmmm…then that means our husbands get the blame for our sin?” look on our face because she quickly amended her guess with…

“But that doesn’t mean Eve wasn’t responsible for her own sin. The Bible says all people sin, and all people die as a result of that sin. But her husband, as a man, was ultimately the one to blame as her head.”

Silence.

It was either the doublespeak that confounded them, or their middle-school brains sensed injustice but didn’t know where to begin to address it.  I started jotting down the verses to help the teacher out of that double bind explanation. Here’s what my scribbled note read:

Why was Adam held responsible for the original sin and not Eve?

Adam willfully broke God’s covenant. He believed eating the fruit was wrong, yet he ate anyway.

  • Adam broke God’s covenant. (Hosea 6:7)
  • Adam knowingly disobeyed, and because of  this he was held responsible. (Romans 5:14)

Eve was decieved by the serpent into eating. To be deceived means to believe something false. Eve believed eating was good, not wrong.

  • Eve was thoroughly deceived when she at the fruit. (1 Tim 2:14)
  • She was led astray by the serpent’s cunning. (2 Cor 11:3))
  • She said herself, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” (Gen. 3:6)
  • God looks at the heart, the motives. (1 Sam 16:7)

The next day in class, the teacher graciously corrected her answer from the day before with the verses from my note. I couldn’t help feeling relieved and optimistic. I pray we have a few girls who understand the quagmire of the Genesis creation order of roles a little differently now. At least, they know the Bible holds a different explanation than “husband is the head and has the responsibility for his wife’s actions” response so common in conservative evangelical churches.

For more on Eve and Adam’s sin, read my series on the Fall.

Problem Passages: Genesis 3:16

This post is a part of the series comparing the teaching on various gender passages in the Bible. Read more about the series here.

Genesis 3:16 says,

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

Context

God is speaking to the woman after she has eaten the forbidden fruit. This verse is often called the curse of Eve because it is one of the terrible consequences of the fall, which is when perfect man and woman ceased to be perfect. Sin entered the world.

Summary of Different Opinions

The two differences in interpretation for this passage are whether God is describing or prescribing these things to women, and whether male leadership was introduced at this point or earlier, at creation.

Complementarian Interpretations

To understand the Comp interpretation of “Eve’s curse”, first we must look at Comp’s understanding of creation. They believe male headship was established at creation. (I go into great detail on the creation in this series of posts.) So, the premise going into Genesis 3:16 is that woman was created as a perfect complement for man, distinguished from him in form and role; happily content with his perfect, loving leadership. The fall distorted that God-ordained order of complementary roles.

Women no longer willingly follow their husband’s leadership, instead they desire to usurp him. They long to be in charge. To be godly, to live as she was intended, a women must put off her desire to lead and put on a submissive attitude.

They conclude this because of their interpretation of the key word teshuqa, translated as desire. To understand how they interpret desire, take a look at what God warned Cain as his angry face betrayed him when God rejected his sacrifice.

Genesis 4:7 “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires [teshuqa] to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Notice the wording is near identical to what God said to Eve? “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Because of the parallel words, John Piper makes this parallel conclusion:

When 4:7 says that sin is crouching at the door of Cain’s heart (like a lion, Genesis 49:9) and that it’s desire is for him, it means that sin wants to overpower him. It wants to defeat him and subdue him and make him the slave of sin.

Now when we go back to 3:16 we should probably see the same meaning in the sinful desire of woman. When it says, “Your desire shall be for your husband,” it means that when sin has the upper hand in woman she will desire to overpower or subdue or exploit man. And when sin has the upper hand in man he will respond in like manner and with his strength subdue her, or rule over her. John Piper:  http://www.cbmw.org/Resources/Sermons/Manhood-and-Womanhood-Conflict-and-Confusion-After-the-Fall

Husbands, who were created to lovingly lead, now sinfully dominate the relationship. Or, [not stated in this verse but evidenced by Adam’s passivity in following Eve’s direction to eat] they let the woman take charge. To be godly, a husband must put off his aggressive my-way-or-the-highway attitude or his passive spirit and put on loving leadership.

The Comps believe this consequence of sin is the battle of the sexes. Women want to be in charge now, and men, to keep their God-ordained position, will use any means to dominate. As a result, Christian women should learn to stay in their God-ordained role, and Christian men should learn to control their aggression.

Further reading:

Extreme Interpretation

The modern complementarian interpretation has softened from the historic  interpretation associated with male headship. This verse was interpreted historically as prescriptive, which means men are commanded to rule their wives. Because Eve was the first to sin, she was judged with sinful male domination.

…thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. KJV

He shall rule. Think of the imperative language in The 10 Commandments…Thou Shall Have No Other Gods; Thou Shall Not Kill. The word shall added a level of responsibility to the husband. Sadly, the word shall was added in the English translation.

Even today, there are extreme camps of Patriarchy that use this verse as a requirement in marriage.  They say husbands should rule. It is their responsibility to make the wife follow his lead. This is the core of Domestic Discipline, a fancy name for abuse.  The reasoning goes like this. A husband is responsible for his wife, so to ensure she is her best (submissive), he must use discipline to acquire her best. Discipline can be physical or mental or financial, anything that will change her behavior. Because how can he lead/rule if she won’t follow? He must make her.

Egalitarian Interpretations

At creation, God said both Adam and Eve were to rule over His creation, and both were to participate in raising children. From this, Egals conclude there is no hierarchy established between the genders. Adam and Eve are called to unity; to be one flesh. Egals believe male headship is a result of the fall.

When God told Eve that she would desire her husband and he would rule over her, God was foreseeing the result of sin on marriage… disunity, abuse and idolatry. God is not cursing or judging Eve, but is  predicting what will happen because of sin.

Some Egals disagree with Comps that teshuqa means a desire to control or destroy. They believe the Hebrew word, which is only used one other time outside of Genesis, means a longing for.  Solomon 7:10 says “I am my beloveds and his desire [longing] is for me.” God tells Cain sin is crouching at the door and longs for him. (Gen 4:7) And He tells Eve that she will long for her husband, and her husband will dominate her.

Another prevalent argument is that teshuqa, the Hebrew word translated desire, was originally translated as turning in the Greek Septuagint (app. 300 BC). Some Egals argue the word was corrupted to mean lust or desire by the Jewish rabbi’s influence (who were notorious chauvinists) on Jerome 700 years later in 400 AD. Hence the Latin Vulgate (Jerome’s translation) influences all subsequent translations to render teshuqa as power or desire or lust. A better translation of this verse might be:

“You will turn toward your husband and he will rule over you.”  (http://godswordtowomen.org/desire.htm)

This translation removes the sexual or combative overtones implied with desire.

Later, when God throws Adam out of the Garden (Gen 3:23-24), Eve’s expulsion is not mentioned. Egals claim Eve was not required to leave (because she was deceived), but chose to join Adam over God’s presence; an indication God’s prophecy is already being fulfilled. She is turning toward Adam and away from God.

Egals believe that this verse foretells male oppression upon women; that women, because of this powerful longing or turning, have enabled male oppression throughout history.  This longing is not focused on God, as it was originally created for, but for man. It is misplaced worship; idolatry.

There doesn’t seem to be any argument over what “he will rule over you” means. Sadly, everyone is all too aware of the aggressive nature of man to abuse power. But, because Egals believe woman subordination to man is a horrendous result of sin, they don’t believe it is how a Christian marriage should operate. Christ came to free us from that curse! (Romans 5:12-21)

Further Reading:

Genesis 3:16

Comps Believe… Egals Believe…
The order of creation God established Adam’s headship in marriage and it was not a result of the fall. God established equal rule and unity in marriage.
The results of the fall Introduced distortions in the relationships between men and women. Predicted patriarchy. Wives long for their husbands replacing God as the center of their life, and husbands dominate the relationship.
Teshuqa means
Desire to control Longing for / Turning toward
He will rule over you means
At times, this has been interpreted prescriptively; meaning that husbands should rule their wives. Most Comps today agree this is descriptive of the sinful tendency of husbands to dominate their wives. Men will take over the world. 🙂

Sin is inherited from your father, not your mother.

In my last series exploring if Eve was guilty, I assumed that sin was inherited from your father, not your mother. I was questioned why I believed this? So, I started to think more about it. Here are three reasons why I assume sin transfers from our dads to us. These are speculative, I realize. But, thinking never hurt anyone! I’d be honored if you gave it some thought.

Before I start, my disclaimer once again:

My disclaimer

  • Neither gender is superior to the other. God judges character – heart motivation evidenced (to us) by persistent behavior. Assuming sin and death is inherited from males is in no way arguing the superiority of women. All have sinned. We are all God’s enemies without the mediation of His Son, and as Christians we are all co-heirs as siblings of Christ.
  • The more I study this topic, the deeeeeeper it goes. This is a simple nut shell.

Jesus did not have a human father.

This point, of course, is the most convincing. God promised the serpent that the woman’s Seed (not man’s) would crush his viper head. (Genesis 3:15) Jesus was born of a virgin according to the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14.  Jesus was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit, not a human father. (Matthew 1:18, 20) Galatians 4:4 says He was born of woman. He had no sin nature. (Hebrews 7:26, 4:15)  The virgin birth circumvented the transmission of sin to Jesus by an earthly father.

  • Side note about other suggestions: The Catholics solve the transmission of sin problem in a different way… by declaring Mary herself sinless. Others reject the transmission of sin entirely. They believe all children are born innocent. Jesus alone kept his pure state.

Circumcision is required for men, not women, to enter the Assembly of Israel.

Jewish fathers were required to cut the foreskin of their sons as a sign of the covenant Abraham made with God. If they didn’t, the sons were not allowed access to the benefits of the covenant and could not worship. He was cut off from his people and had broken God’s covenant. (Genesis 17:14) Adult male converts had to circumcise as well. Women and girl babies never received this physical restriction. (That’s why there were so many more female converts to Judaism!! Ya-ouch!) Females could access worship and the covenant as they were.

Colossians 2:11-14 tells us that circumcision is a picture of cutting off sinful flesh. Being uncircumcised is a picture of being dead in your sins. Uncircumcised men were not allowed to worship as a Jew. Why was this picture required in male flesh alone? Over the last few thousand years there have been a variety of answers from proposing the female counterpart of menstruation to reducing the male sex drive to chauvinism.

Some traditionalists argued that the circumcision of men indicate their social and religious primacy within the Jewish polity, and that the absence of circumcision from women betokens their second tier status…The egalitarian influence is modern. (Shayne J.D.Cohen, Why Aren’t Jewish Women Circumcised? pages 214-215.)

One reason could be that sin was inherited through the male seed, and circumcision acts as a symbol of cutting off the sinful flesh. Again, I’m not saying females are sinless. After all it takes a man to make a woman. But, Jewish women did not have this physical sign of sin to cut off since they didn’t pass the sin along. Both men and women need to have a spiritual circumcision of the heart to enter God’s family by grace through faith. Both Jews and Christians actually agree today that faith is necessary, not circumcision.

Death passed from Adam to Moses.

Romans 5:12-19 says one man brought death to the world because he broke God’s command. Verse 14 says death then passed from Adam to Moses. The context of Romans 5 is contrasting sinful man to the Righteous Man. I realize there could be a few explanations why men are mentioned here and not women. Adam and Moses could be the representative heads for their time. They both had direct dealing with God regarding the context of this chapter. And it could also be that inherited sin passed along through the man’s seed.

Wierdness

I admit, it is a little weird thinking in terms of sin transmitting through semen? Throw in Mitochondrial Eve and things get even more speculative! It was an interesting study, but can’t be proven as definitively “biblical.” Take away what you will if it helps your faith. Leave if it doesn’t.

Who is Satan’s Enemy?

I’d like to conclude my recent exploration of the fall of mankind, Is Eve Guilty? (See the bottom of the post for links, if you are interested in reading the series in entirety.) I’ve been asked why I started this series? Because Genesis 3:15 mentions woman and her seed, not man’s. That thought erased all my previously held assumptions, and penciled a few new ones! 🙂

Summary of views

The Council for Biblical Manhood / Womanhood and complementarian teachers overlay gender roles on the Genesis account. They believe that…

  • Adam is held responsible for the fall because he is the Covenant Head. This assumes that God mainly works for the many through one.  God uses men to represent His authority, not women. Adam was created first and was God’s primary focus. He is chief in his marriage and for all humanity. The Christian husband patterns his role after original Adam’s.

My goal was to overlay a different premise and see where it ended up.

  • Adam is held responsible for the fall because his sin was deliberate rebellion defying God, whereas Eve’s sin was the result of the serpent’s cunning deception.  Adam, as first creation, is the source for all humanity, even Jesus Christ. But, for Jesus to be born without Adam’s sin nature, Eve was formed through Adam, so her seed (without Adam’s sin taint) would birth sinless Messiah.

And, since this inevitably comes up when discussing gender…

My disclaimer

  • Neither gender is superior to the other. God judges character – heart motivation evidenced (to us) by persistent behavior. Assuming Adam is to blame for the fall because his sin is more heinous is in no way arguing the superiority of women. All women are fathered by Adam, and we all share his guilt. We are all God’s enemies without the mediation of His Son, and as Christians we are all co-heirs as siblings of Christ.

Enemies

God calls woman the enemy of Satan (Gen 3:15). Until recently, I can not recall one lesson or sermon expounding on this enmity between women and the serpent. The first two phrases of this verse are passed over for the Messianic promise found in the last phrase. But there is so much depth to explore in every phrase of this verse! Woman and woman’s offspring can mean Eve, all women, all Christians and Jesus. These select are the ones Satan battles against. Where are the sermons detailing why Eve and HER offspring are singled out as Satan’s enemies and not Adam? Instead, we must hear sermons time and again on the curse of Eve and her uppity impulses. (See my disclaimer.)

1.    Eve is an enemy because she blamed Satan as the source of her sin in response to God’s question. She stood against the devil, and God confirmed her place at war with Satan.

2. Woman is an enemy because it is through woman that the serpent’s demise is promised. Satan would stop at nothing to render her useless and impotent in the war she waged through childbirth against him.

And then, knowing of a Seed whose coming would be his doom, Satan would aim his sorest blows at her function of motherhood, and torture her by every means that could be devised, in her child-bearing. How he would hate her every time she was about to become a mother! (Katharine Bushnell, God’s Word to Women, Para 99.)

3.     All believers are enemies because they are the ones at war with Satan’s children. In Genesis, Eve’s offspring are those who war with the devil’s offspring. In the New Testament, it is God’s offspring who war with Satan’s children. Jesus himself called some the sons of Satan and some the sons of God. (Matthew 13:38, John 8:41-43, John 1:12-13) And 1 John 3 details the difference of offspring. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil… The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

4.    Jesus (and again all those who believe in Him) are enemies because they will crush Satan’s head. (Romans 16:20)

Although I assume Adam believed God and found forgiveness through faith in the coming Redeemer, I find it significant he is not mentioned as Satan’s enemy. At this point in the dialogue, I guess he was more a friend than foe. The one who struggles against evil in the Genesis account of the fall is Eve. She is Satan’s declared enemy and the mother of all his foes.

Is Eve Guilty?

Question: Why were Eve’s eyes opened after Adam ate?

Why weren’t Eve’s eyes opened when she ate? Why were her eyes opened when Adam ate? If God was showing mercy to Eve because of her ignorance and heart motivation, then why did Adam’s outright sin trigger her understanding of their actions? Was Eve’s sin not great enough? But then, why would Adam’s great sin effect her own understanding?

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.  Genesis 3:6-7

If there is a clue in the Genesis account to contribute to the notion of Adam’s federal headship. This is it. But, its funny I haven’t heard it taught on. I haven’t read anything about it on either side? Maybe I’ve missed something?

Here are some possible answers:

  • Sin affects everything. God details the consequences of their sin. Because of Adam’s sin, the entire creation was skewed. Eve was part of that creation consequence.
  • Adam was responsible for Eve. She fell because he did.
  • Its not significant. The time between Adam’s eating and Eve’s eating was close together, hence the consequence was because of both of their eating.

What do you think? Why were Eve’s eyes opened after Adam ate?