A Theology of Woman from Genesis 2-3: Design, Desire, and Deliverance

By | June 6, 2024
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series A Theology of Woman

This blog series is adapted from Sunday School lessons I wrote several years ago for women and teen girls. The goal was to form a “theology of woman” by looking chronologically at all of the major portions of Scripture regarding women and womanhood. What does the Bible say are the roles, duties, challenges, and opportunities that we have as women?

Whenever our family watches a movie, my husband or I often pause the movie to discuss ungodly behavior that is being normalized or at least unaddressed in the movie’s storyline. Just the other day, my husband paused a movie to explain that the way the mom and dad interacted with each other was not right—the wife treated her husband as if he were stupid and incapable of proper parenting. Our youngest quickly piped up that she had noticed this with another fictional couple as well.

I remember my mom warning my sisters and me of the same problem when we read the Berenstain Bears books as kids. The children’s books tell stories of a nice little bear family of four who live in a tree. The stories are described as follows: “There’s no better way to learn life skills and good character traits than from the much loved Berenstain Bears. These collections reinforce positive values.”

While teaching Sister not to bite her nails and restricting too much TV are some of her strong points, Mama Bear is not the greatest example when it comes to biblical submission. Mama Bear is full of criticism, lectures, and commands for her husband, Papa Bear.

Unfortunately, many wives are too often like Mama Bear, choosing to be criticizers and commanders, rather than helpers and followers. This post will look into the origin of male leadership and female submission as well as the effects of the fall on a woman’s desire to submit, along with the hope that we have in Christ. We will learn that God’s divine design for a wife is submission.

God’s Flawless Design

God designed men to lead and women to submit to that leadership. It is important to note that male leadership was established before the fall.  Many argue that male leadership over women resulted from the consequences of the fall (cf. Genesis 3:16). They argue that the purpose of Christianity is to reverse the effects of the fall by returning to equality of the sexes. That is, Christianity should eventually negate the need for submission in any form (using a misunderstanding of Galatians 3:28 to make this argument).

However, the Bible is clear that the wife is to submit to her husband, her leader. Adam and Eve exemplify this teaching in a perfect world. While Adam’s leadership over Eve is not explicitly stated in Genesis, it is implied in several ways.

The Order of Creation

“The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7)

“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:21-22)        

Man was created before the woman. This creation order is important to note because the apostle Paul cites it as significant to a woman’s submission in 1 Timothy 2:13: “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve” (cf. 1 Timothy 2:11-12). Elsewhere, Paul reminds his readers that “man was not made from woman, but woman from man.” (1 Corinthians 11:8). Paul considered the order of creation to be important in his own case for male leadership (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:7-10; we will look at this passage in the future).

The narrative of the creation order describes what Paul later teaches – that man is the head (i.e., leader) of the woman (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3). The creation order reflects this leadership.

The Naming of Woman

 The naming of an object or individual in the Old Testament is widely recognized to be a sign of authority. Adam named the animals, signifying his dominion over them. Adam’s naming of the woman as well implies his leadership role.

“Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.’” (Genesis 2:23)

This naming of the woman does not equate the woman with the other animals that Adam named. If anything, as Adam named the animals, he saw that he did not have an equal match, someone that was like him in nearly every way—that is, not until at last he saw his own flesh and blood. In fact, this woman—unlike any animal that Adam named—was one whom he would hold fast to and become unified with, stronger than any other human relationship, including even their parents.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

The Role of Helper 

As we have seen previously, God created the woman to help the man. Paul also used this fact to argue for male leadership (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:9). Woman was created for the man. The woman’s role as helper implies male leadership.

The pattern for male leadership and female submission existed before the fall.  From the beginning of creation, God designed men to be leaders and women to help them.

If we as women are designed to submit, why is it that submission is such a struggle?  Why must we fight daily to submit as we were created to do? The answer is found in the story of the fall. 

Women’s Fallen Desire 

Before the woman was ever created, God had placed Adam in the garden of Eden, giving him the responsibility to work it and keep it. God had also given Adam a single rule to obey, along with a dire warning if he broke this rule:

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Genesis 2 continues with the story of woman’s creation, of their one-flesh union, and of their innocence, even to the point of being naked together without any shame.

Genesis 3 starkly contrasts this beauty and innocence by describing a crafty serpent. This serpent set out to trap the woman with a threefold method of deception: 

  1. He cast doubt on God’s command (Genesis 3:1).
  2. He denied the consequences of disobedience (Genesis 3:4).
  3. He claimed that sin would be profitable (Genesis 3:5).

Eve was vulnerable. She interacted with the serpent, and she fell for his subtle lies. She—who was already made in the image of God—disobeyed Him, thinking she could be even more like God. After taking the forbidden fruit, she gave some to Adam who was with her, and he, too, ate.

In Genesis 3:13, Eve herself admits to God that she was deceived by Satan. Paul verifies this deception in 1 Timothy 2:14 when he explains that it was not Adam who was deceived, but Eve.

In refusing to submit to God’s command, Eve also took sinful leadership and led Adam to sin as well. Adam listened to his wife’s voice instead of God’s (cf. Genesis 3:17). And suddenly life was thrown upside down. All the things that were intended to be good became tainted by sin and its consequences. Procreation resulted in pain. The harmony and unity of marriage became a struggle with the woman attempting to rule over her husband, and he in turn being tempted to domineer over his wife.

And this is how “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

God’s Faithful Deliverance

What then is a woman to do? She is created to submit, yet every aspect of her being longs to rule over her husband. The answer lies in a promise of deliverance within God’s curse on the serpent.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

Despite the gloom and harshness of the curse in Genesis 3, there is yet hope for mankind. In God’s curse on the serpent, He promised ultimate victory over sin through the woman’s seed—Jesus.

God’s Future Deliverance

God will triumph over Satan in the future.  Though Satan bruised Jesus at the cross, Jesus crushed Satan at the cross (cf. Hebrews 2:14; Colossians 2:14–15). And God will crush Satan forever in the future (cf. Romans 16:20).  One day, we will be like Christ perfectly, and we will no longer sin (cf. 1 John 3:2). The struggle to submit will be over.

God’s Present Deliverance

Not only is there hope for change in the future, but there is also hope for change in the present. Eve had become a “friend” of Satan by placing her trust in Satan’s promises rather than God’s when she took the fruit. Genesis 3:15 makes it clear that, after the fall, Satan became Eve’s enemy. Her heart was changed. She became a lover of God with a changed heart.

As Christians, we are “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As we view God in all his glory, we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). As we are transformed back into the image that we were intended to look like in the first place, we more and more love what God loves and desire what he desires. God can shape our fallen desires into his divine mold of Christ-like submission.

God’s divine design for women has always been submission to her husband. Our sinful tendencies often hinder us from perfectly aligning with God’s design. However, the transforming work of Christ in our hearts allows us to overcome our sinful tendencies and submit to the men in our lives out of love for God.

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

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