Genesis (Study 12)—Ish and Ishah (Gen 2:18–25)
The next PC argument to prove male leadership authority is that the male named the female both before the fall (2:23—“woman”) and after the fall (3:20—“Eve”). The contention is that the action of naming a thing or person demonstrates authority over it. And again, the contention cannot be supported. Yes, parents had authority over their children and did name them. Likewise, a builder of a city named the city. But memorials and altars were built and their naming did not demonstrate authority (1 Sam 7:12; Jos 22:34). Additionally, Eve was given authority over the animals as well (Gen 1:26–28) but supposedly never named a single one.
The point is that claiming that the act of naming shows authority is simply assumed, not commanded, not described, not even implied. Naming was merely to give identification (as the adam did in naming the animals). An interesting story is that of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 16. In it God tells Hagar to call her son “Ishmael” because “the Lord has heard your cry of affliction.” So a name (something Hagar would call him) is given to identify with a particular action. Immediately after, we read that Hagar “called the Lord who spoke to her: The God Who Sees, for she said, ‘In this place, Have I actually seen the One who sees me?’” What? Did Hagar give God a name? Was she trying to demonstrate her authority over God by that identity? Where were the lightning bolts?! No, naming shows identity; it does not show authority.
The third PC argument is that God gave the command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to only Adam. Eve had to have learned it from Adam, which demonstrated his leadership authority. Of course, one glaring weakness of this weak argument is that you can’t argue from silence. While true we are not told that God spoke the command to Eve, we are also not told that he didn’t. Nor are we told that Adam relayed the command to her. We are simply not told. Furthermore, even if Eve learned of it from Adam, the delivering of a message does not indicate authority of the deliverer over the one who receives the message. (Our postal workers and Fed Ex drivers are not our authorities.)
Finally, the PCs argue that the fact that the male was created first indicates his leadership. Interestingly, as proof that order demonstrates leadership, they often point to the fact that these early biblical families all gave special authority to the first born. Yet, despite this seeming preference by humans, God reverses that order time and again. A short list of some of the most significant names of the Old Testament shows God’s rejection of the first:
Seth leads (not his firstborn brother Cain)
Isaac leads (not his firstborn brother Ishmael)
Jacob leads (not his firstborn brother Esau)
Judah leads (not his firstborn brother Reuben)
Ephraim leads (not his firstborn brother Manasseh)
Moses leads (not his firstborn brother Aaron)
David leads (not his firstborn brother Eliab)
Solomon leads (not his firstborn brother Amnon)
And when Paul talks of the first Adam and the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45), we also find that it is Jesus, the second Adam, that leads the way to God.
The discussion of who was created first also gets us back to the question of whether that first human created in 2:7 was male prior to the creation of Eve. Remember, the Bible never calls the adam male until Eve is created. We have several textual hints indicating the first human held the genetic makeup of both male and female.
1. In Gen 1:27, the mixture of singular and plural hints at one being of both.
2. The chiastic structure of the creation chapters matches the 2:7 formation with the male-female formation of Gen 1:26–28.
3. Gen 2:18 indicates that it is not good for the human to be one. “Not good” doesn’t mean God created something wrong. God is indicating here that his purpose was to have humans image him. And imaging of structure would include multiple in one. So a helper is made for the human by making the human multiple. The end of the verse completes the idea by saying the helper will be in front of him (rather than as originally a part of him).
4. Gen 2:22 is mostly translated as God taking a rib from the adam. However, the Hebrew word translated rib is more appropriately translated side (as in Exo 26:20 and Job 18:12). While a rib does come from a person’s side, reading the word as it ought to be translated gives a more expansive picture. God didn’t merely take an unused bone as a starting point to fashion another being. He actually took a side of the one human, dividing the human into two. While the original was not literally two humans stuck together like Siamese twins (as some of the early rabbinical Jews thought), the word picture gives us more of the complete idea of dividing the whole of the genetic material. Genesis 2:22 also completes this particular point of view with the fact that God “brought her to the human.” If she had just been made right there by Adam, why would she have to be brought to him—from where? Actually the word translated “brought” would better be translated with the idea of coming to face him (as in Psalm 88:2).
5. The end of Genesis 2 presents a principle. It is obviously a principle because the husband and wife mentioned are said to leave father and mother, which Adam and Eve did not have. But their joining emphasizes the return to one flesh, and that joining is done in marriage, particularly in the picture of sex. God so designed us to be in and of each other as we reach the full bliss of our oneness in physical essence. Of course, the oneness of physical essence is a truth for all humans, but that oneness of the multiple (as God is in the unity of his Trinity) is imaged specifically by the male and female—husband and wife—joining together in this sexual embrace. And that is one purpose for making us male and female, for this Trinitarian image bearing. However, the relationship of the Trinity is not the only relationship imaged by the husband and wife. It also pictures (1) the relationship of God to humans, (2) the relationship of humans to humans, and (3) the relationship of Christ to the church. But the picture for all three of those relationships draws on a different interaction of husbands and wives. We’ll talk about that in our third question related to this passage.
The final question to consider is this: what should interaction between males and females look like. Our answer begins where our last question left off. We are created as males and females for imaging purposes. We have discussed the Trinitarian imaging of the multiple in one through the sexual union of husband and wife in one flesh. The other three relationships imaged by the husband and wife all show the same connection.
One of those three relationships is humans to humans. How should they relate? Well, if the human structure of multiple persons in one essence images God in his Trinity, then how the multiple Persons of God relate to each other ought to be our starting point.
In our opening discussions of Genesis, we highlighted the interaction of love among God’s Persons. Each Person of the Trinity loves—has the attitude (what the Bible describes as a submissive or servant attitude) of giving of self for the others in communicating the truth, goodness, and beauty which are the very essence of God. Our imaging of God in our persons is to recognize his truth, goodness, and beauty, embrace it in faith, live in forward expectation of hope, and then, as God does, communicate that truth, goodness, and beauty in love—the selfless and serving care to benefit others in encouragement and promotion of that truth, goodness, and beauty that are essentially God. That’s our mission; that’s our life; that’s the purposed interaction of human to human. And that interaction in love among humans is what is to be imaged by husband and wife.
This interaction of love is the same interaction as occurs in the relationship between God and humans. Our Covenant of Life discussion taught us that—God provides for us truth, goodness, and beauty; we receive that TGB recognizing God as their source.
However, even though shared love is at its core, the relationship between God and humans is different from the relationship among the Persons of the Trinity. The difference is that we are not gods. We do not hold infinite TGB. That is the reason God provides and we receive. Through love his strengths ministers to our vulnerabilities.
That difference in ability is also what is imaged by the husband-wife relationship. God intentionally formed males and females differently to display the interaction of such strengths and vulnerabilities. Males are generally larger and more muscular. Their body structures make them (again, generally) superior in muscular strength. They have a chemical makeup that gives them satisfaction in the exertion of muscular strength. Women are structured to bear children. They also have a chemical makeup (again, generally) in greater desire to offer and in greater satisfaction by nurturing care. Regarding these structural differences, just as in the relationship between God and humans, a husband and wife should care for each other as they each offer of their greater abilities to support the vulnerabilities of their partners. That is precisely the point of these male-female differences (which we may call complementary). Remember, however, what we are talking about with husband and wife is imaging relationship. And this provision or use of abilities to support each other’s vulnerabilities is precisely how all human-to-human interactions should work (see Paul’s arguments through the whole book of Ephesians to get Jews and Gentiles in the church to submit to each other).
Therefore, in answer to our question—does the Genesis 2 passage teach authority and subordination in the male and female relationship—the answer is a resounding no. There is nothing but the imitation of God in his love that dictates our behavior.