Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, and author of Biblical Prayer for Today's Believers: Transform Your Prayer Life (available on Amazon).
A Series on God's Will for Modern Women
Recently, at Iglesia Conexiones (Spanish for Connections Church), I began to teach a series on God's will for modern women. The purpose of this series is to teach what the Bible (God's word and Christianity's sacred book) really teaches about women.
In my previous article, Jephtha's Sacrifice, I taught that we must be careful when we try to interpret what appear to be difficult or problematic biblical passages. In this article, I will examine a passage that has often been misinterpreted, even though it is foundational to understanding what the Bible really teaches about women.
Feminists Object to Genesis 2:21-22
According to a brochure by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Genesis 2:22 is a biblical passage that demeans women. The brochure doesn't explain in detail why the author(s) believes this passage demeans women, but I imagine it is because the woman was created after the man and from the man's rib.
Another source also argues that even Christians (from the Apostle Paul to Martin Luther) have interpreted these two details in Genesis as supporting a negative view and attitude against women.
But, are these truly the views that the Bible teaches? My answer—of course—is "no."
The Woman Was Created Second
The Two Sexes of The Human
First of all, we should not think that God creating Eve after Adam means that women are inferior to men. Although God created the man first and the woman second, the man and the woman were equally created in the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), from which—according to biblical thought—human life derives its value (Genesis 9:6).
"And God said, Let us make [man] in our image, after our likeness: and let [them] have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Genesis 1:26-27, KJV)
When God said "Let us make man in our image," He was using the word man to refer to both Adam and Eve—the word man in Genesis 1:26 means human. How do we know this? The text tells us that God wanted them to have dominion over all animals.
Clearly, when God was deciding to crete man, He was thinking not only about Adam, but also about Eve and about all their descendants (the rest of humanity). For this reason, God said "let them have dominion." Accordingly, the passage tells that God created the man (the human) in his own image and in two sexes (male and female).
The creation of the woman after the man (Genesis 2:22) must be interpreted in light of Genesis 1:26-27, according to which passage both Adam and Eve (the human) were equally created in God's image—from which human life derives its value (Genesis 9:6).
We see, then, that when we interpret the creation of the woman after the man (Genesis 2:22) within its context, the creation of the woman after the man cannot mean that the woman is inferior to the man, for their equality had already been established in Genesis 1.
Genesis 2 Is Also about Order
Why then did God create the woman after the man? The idea behind this act is not inferiority but order. When we read Genesis 1, we encounter two main ideas: (1) God is the Creator of everything, and (2) God created all things in order.
We see order all throughout Genesis 1. God separated the light from the darkness, the waters from the expansion, and the land from the seas; He created the Sun to rule the day, the Moon to rule the night—and the Sun, Moon, and stars to help mark times and seasons. Moreover, God created fish for the water, birds for the air, and land creatures for the land. God also created plants to produce fruits after their kind, and fruits that produce seeds after their kind. God created everything in six days, and He rested on the seventh day (which is the Sabbath). Finally, God created the human in two sexes: male and female so they could procreate. The sense of order should be evident to the reader—and the purpose of this order is to establish why Jews were instructed to keep the Sabbath and not mix seeds and fabrics.
When we read Genesis two, we still see the idea of order throughout the passage. God created the man from the dust of the earth, thus establishing man's connection with the natural world around him (Genesis 2:7). God planted a garden for the man, and then He put the man in the garden to keep it (Genesis 2:8, 15). God did not think it would be good for the man to be alone, so He decided to create him a suitable companion (Genesis 2:18)—but He first created the animals, and none of these was a suitable companion for the man (Genesis 2:19-20). God also brought all the birds and the land animals to Adam for Adam to name them (Genesis 2:19). Finally, God created the woman, brought her to the man, and the man realized this was his suitable companion (Genesis 2:21-25).
Obviously, this passage was meant to help people understand why men should have sex with women, not animals or other men—points that would be later emphasized in the Law of Moses. Why? Because God created everything to operate in order.
Second Isn't Less
That the woman was created second should not cause us to think that this means she is inferior, but that God does not mean her to be a social or spiritual leader. To the ancient society of Genesis (Genesis was written some 3,500 years ago), this would have made perfect sense. Men, because of their physical and psychological attributes, were the ones who would go to battle, who would work in the fields, and who would therefore rule and provide social order—while women would take care of making their houses a home, and raising children. Is this ideal? Not for us today, but ancient humans did not have all the rights and nicities that we do today.
Moreover, since the woman was created second, God gave his prohibition directly to Adam, not the woman (Genesis 2:16-17). Why? We need to remember that Genesis is an introduction to Moses—Genesis tells us the background of the Jewish people, the Jewish religion, and Moses' Law. Thus, Adam represents Moses, who receives the Law from God; and Eve represents Israel, who receives God's Law from Moses (Adam). Eve is supposed to follow Adam, who has divine revelation, because that's what Israel was supposed to do: Israel was supposed to follow Moses!
Thus, that Eve was created second, does not at all mean that she is worth less than the man or that she is an inferior being. Eve was created in God's image also (as we have previously discussed), and Adam recognizes her nature to be like his own nature when he says, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." (Genesis 2:23, KJV)
The idea behind this passage is not inferiority, but order. The passage was meant to help ancient Israel understand why men occupied the roles they occupied, and why women occupied the roles they occupied, thus creating order. In biblical thought, value and order are concepts that can be compartmentalized and kept separate.
You're probably thinking to yourself, "That's exactly the problem! Women are relegated to an inferior role in society...." If you're thinking along these lines, you're missing the point. At this point in Genesis, Adam and Eve live in Paradise! They are in harmony with God, in harmony with nature, and in harmony with each other. The idea is harmony. Look at what Adam said:
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:24-25, KJV)
The passage is calling upon men and women to marry and live their lives as one. It is calling husband and wives to live in perfect harmony with each other, and to share intimacy with each other. The passage does not mean to demean women or to teach men to mistreat women, rather it means to teach men to value women as themselves.
All the abuse, coercion, and violence that the Bible describes later, after Genesis 1 and 2, is the result of sin, something that God hates and that we are called to avoid.
Nevertheless, Genesis 2, the passage on the creation of the woman, calls upon us to keep in mind our quest for unity and harmony with each other (men and women), with nature, and with God, despite the fact that the world is filled with sin, suffering, and death.
© 2020 Marcelo Carcach
Alnajda Kadi from Tirana Albania on December 22, 2020:
Very encouraging for me to hear this, as a woman myself. :)
Marcelo Carcach (author) from Westminster, MD on December 15, 2020:
I am glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for your encouraging words!
Tamarajo on December 15, 2020:
I enjoyed your exposition. Many times Biblical text can become misunderstood when read through personal or cultural filters. You did well in rendering the text down to its original intent. Order has to do with design and function. It has nothing to do with value assignment.