1. The Genesis Narrative Goes Against Patriarchal Norms.
It is significant to note that the narrator speaks of the man as the one who leaves the family and cleaves to his wife, not the reverse. This is striking considering what one might expect that in a patriarchal context it would be the male who holds the dominant position in a sexually determined hierarchy. It is also important to note the value of the woman’s creation for the man as she was created as a saviour from his loneliness (Genesis 2:23).
2. The Woman as the Dominant Figure.
Within the story of the humanity’s fall (Genesis 3) the woman appears as the dominant figure. The serpent comes to her and reasons with her, she sins on her own whereas the man follows her, his wife, into sin. Then the creation of the woman “for man” (1 Cor. 11:9) or as his “helper” (Genesis 2) is understood in Genesis as being the one who rescues him from his solitude. This shows that the woman’s role is quite the opposite of the subservient position one might expect in the patriarchal culture of the time as she is elevated to the status of being an agent in God’s saving design.
3. The Symbolism of the Woman Being Made from Adam’s Rib.
Genesis tells us that Eve is taken from Adam’s rib (Gen. 2:22). This is a picture of equality and partnership & not one of a superior to an inferior. However, despite humanity’s fall God does two things: he works within a patriarchal society to point Israel to a better path and he provides many protections and controls against abuses directed at females in admittedly substandard conditions (1).
4. The Woman’s Curse as a Result of the Fall.
Although Genesis shows the intrinsic value of a woman we find that, as a result of the fall, God says to her: “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). And because Adam fell into sin with his wife Eve, God says to him “Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the fields. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Gen. 3:17). Each of these are punishments given by God for their disobedience. However, that God says of the woman in Genesis 3:16 that the husband will “rule over you” is to be interpreted as a curse & not as an instruction or a command. In other words, it does not represent God’s creation ideal. Instead, the radical & countercultural claim made in the New Testament is that that women are coheirs of salvation with men (1 Pet. 3:7). Likewise does the Apostle Paul affirm that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
5. God’s Care for the Woman.
Although God is wrathful and righteous he also has great compassion for the downtrodden, especially for women, orphans & children. The Bible addresses the issue of women and children in several ways. In fact, in the Old Testament, God’s concern for the exploited and marginalized is evident, for example, God’s chosen people, the Israelites, are sent into exile for disobeying the law and not showing mercy and justice to the vulnerable (see Amos 5: 11-17, Mic. 3, Prov. 24: 11-12, Isa. 1: 17, Jer. 22:5). Because women are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27) they possess intrinsic value.
6. Old Testament Matriarchs & Female Equality.
The Old Testament is full of powerful matriarchs who were highly valued and exerted a great deal of influence. To make mention of this fact was very much countercultural & would suggest that the biblical authors intended to be accurate in their portrayal. There are many of these women: Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, and Tamar (all in Genesis); the Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah (Exod. 1); the Egyptian princess (Exod. 2); Miriam and Jethro’s seven daughters, including Zipporah, Moses’s wife (Exod. 2, 4, 15); the daughters of Zelophehad (Num. 27); Deborah, Ruth, Naomi, Abigail, and Bathsheba (Judg. 4–5; Ruth 1–4; 1 Sam. 25; 1 Kings 1–2). These strong women stood up and wielded influence with the best of the men. It’s also worth noting that several other Old Testament biblical texts assume female equality with men (Gen. 1:27, 2:24, Lev. 19:3, Prov. 6:20, 18:22, 19:26, 23:22, 23:25, Song of Songs 6:3, Exod. 20:12).
1. Copan, P. 2011. Is God a Moral Monster? p. 148-9 (Scribd ebook format)