1 September – Creation, God, Women and Men


Women are mentioned in many of the books of the Old Testament.  We will start by looking at the creation story in Genesis, Wisdom in the book of Proverbs and the use of female imagery in the book of the prophet Isaiah.   There are many notable women in the Old Testament such as Sarah[1] the wife of Abraham, Deborah[2] the prophet, Abigail[3] who became King David’s wife, Ruth[4] the Moabite who became an ancestor of King David and many others.   We will not look closely at these women as our remit is the lives of Christian women who have lived in what is now modern-day Turkey.  Those Christian women would surely have been encouraged by these and other women whose lives are recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures.  
Genesis 1 – 3Genesis, the first book of the bible, starts with an account of the creation of the world as we know it.  The first two verses emphasise who the creator was:
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2)”[5]
The bible then goes on to describe God creating[6] light and dark[7], the sky, land, sea plant life, sun, moon and stars, birds and sea creatures, creatures who lived on the land and finally humankind[8].   
The creation of humankind is summarised as:
“So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.” [9].
Using Hebrew poetry Genesis describes what can be considered the crowning glory of God’s creative work.   Hebrew poetry doesn’t use rhyme or rhythm of sounds but the rhythm of parallel ideas. 
“One thought echoes the proceeding, enriching it from a different perspective, embellishing it with synonyms.  In this poem … the first line emphasizes the image of God; the second line builds on that, saying this image was true for all humanity; then the third line crescendos, saying that humanity[10] was created as male and female.”[11]
 In these verses there is an emphasis on creating both male and female and that both are created in the image of God.  There is no differential between them at this stage.  Both are seen of equal value in this initial act of creation. 
At the end of each phase of creation described in Genesis 1 the narrator comments that ‘God saw that it was good[12]’.  In Genesis 2 the narrator returns to the creation[13] story and elaborates on the creation of Eve, Adam’s wife.  After the first man is created the narrator comments that:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”[14]
After the creation of the animals the narrator comments that for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. [15] The narrator then describes how Adam is put to sleep, a rib is taken from him and formed into a woman.  When Adam sees this woman he exclaims:
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;  
this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” [16]
Adam had met the one who will be his life partner.  In naming her ‘woman’ Adam indicates that she is created from his rib rather than from dust as was Adam.  There was a connection between Adam and Eve in a way that Adam hadn’t connected with any of the animals that God had created previously[17].   There is no suggestion in the dialogue that is recorded in Genesis chapter 1 or 2 that one gender was to be superior to the other.  Both Adam and Eve were created in the image of God[18], they were blessed by God[19].   According to the Genesis account God
“formed a man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.[20]
Similarly the animals were all formed out of dust, or earth, but when it came to creating Eve, according to Genesis, God chose to take
“…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.”[21]
Genesis is not necessarily telling the reader the how of creation but the why, giving the philosophical and religious raison d’etre so that the reader can understand the value and purpose of humanity in God’s eyes.  Thee was wisdom in not creating Adam and Eve, the prototypes of men and women from two different types of soil which might cause them to reject the other saying they weren’t made with as valuable a piece of dust as the other, or for one sex to claim to be from a better type of soil therefore superior in some way.  Because Eve was somehow created from Adam’s body she was  genetically and biologically from the same heritage.  If God had used dust or soil, as was used to create the animals, then wouldn’t Eve just have been like another species of animal rather than as Adam declared “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”[22]?   Eve was created in order to be a ‘helper’ suitable for Adam[23]. 
The word ‘helper’ is used nineteen times in the Old Testament and fifteen of those apply to God.  For instance King David says of God ‘you have been my helper’[24] and the nation of Israel as a whole confesses ‘The Lord is with me; he is my helper’[25].  Derek and Dianne Tidball state that
   To call Eve Adam’s helper carries no overtones of her being the weaker partner in the relationship.  Indeed it implies she is every bit his equal in the role. 
Her equality is further underlined by the use of the adjective ‘suitable’[26], which describes the kind of helper God is going to create.  …In a very real sense, Eve is going to be the counterpart, complement, companion and partner to Adam.”[27]
How then does Eve fulfil the role of ‘suitable helper’ to Adam?  After God creates humankind, in his own image, he then blesses them and gives them authority to rule over the earth:
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”  God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” [28]
 In these initial chapters of Genesis we do not see Eve being a ‘suitable helper’ to Adam in agricultural work, herding animals but the focus is on the working out of their relationship in marriage
“Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.” [29]
The focus is on Adam and Eve doing what Adam can’t do on his own, that is, fulfilling the call to ‘Be fruitful and multiply’[30].  It is like a reversal of the creation story that man is born of a woman.  But because these initial chapters of Genesis focus on the intimate relationship between Adam and Eve and procreation that that is the only way in which Eve’s role as a ‘suitable helper’ is worked out. 
Humankind, as epitomised by Adam and Eve was given a mandate to live in the world, to work with creation, to eat plants and to steward the animals.   Humankind, as epitomised by Adam and Eve was placed in the Garden of Eden and given specific boundaries as to what they could and couldn’t eat:
“You may freely 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 die.” [31]
It was the fruit of these trees that was to be the cause of conflict and a new, unexpected chapter in the lives of human beings. 
One of the main themes of the bible is the spiritual battle between God and Satan and the forces of evil at work in our world.  whether we like it or not all of us are enjoined to this spiritual battle.   Genesis chapters one and two describes God’s initiative in creating a world in which humankind, represented by Adam and Eve, are invited to live in fellowship and union with God the creator.  In the course of their life of fellowship with God they could expect their relationship with God to be tried and tested as Adam and Eve were not created to be puppets who would automatically do God’s bidding but individuals who would have the opportunity to choose how they would navigate through life.  Their first big test is the focus of Genesis Chapter three.   
Genesis Chapter three is divided into three sections:
1.       Verses 1-7 Satan seduces Adam and Eve
2.       Verses 8-13 God takes stock of what has happened
3.       Verses 14-19 God curses the serpent, the woman and the man. 
4.       Verses 21-24 God’s remedy is to make garments of animal skin and to banish Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. 
The snake (or the serpent) that sidles up to Eve is Satan who questions what God had commanded the man and the woman re: the trees they could not eat in the Garden of Eden.  He calls into question what God has said.  Satan denies that they will die if they eat the forbidden fruit but rather suggests they will be like God, knowing good and evil.  The woman is hooked, she takes some of the fruit tries it and gives some to her husband as well.  It should be noted that the serpent’s use of the plural form of you[32] seems to imply that Adam as well as Eve was present during this conversation.  They eventually BOTH tried the fruit and BOTH knew they were naked[33].   Hence Adam was probably there in the conversation but from the text of Genesis doesn’t seem to have corrected Eve or challenged the Serpent. 
Adam and Eve’s sense of shame because of nakedness not only affected their relationship with each other but also their relationship with God.  After eating the fruit and becoming aware of their nakedness they didn’t want to appear before God because of their shame at being naked[34].   
In the second stage of this dialogue God immediately asks about how they knew they were naked.  There were two possibilities – either that someone had told them or that they had eaten the forbidden fruit.  The next stage in this part of the conversation is ‘the blame game’ – the man says “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”[35]  And the woman follows suite by saying “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”[36]  In a sense Eve’s response is true – she had been lured and enticed by the way that the Serpent had re-interpreted God’s command, she had been tricked but she and Adam should have understood what was going on and corrected the mis-representation of God’s commands to them.  This was the responsibility of both Adam and Eve, not Eve’s alone. 
As a consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience they and the Serpent were cursed and lost the fellowship and intimacy that God had wanted to have with his creation – whether human, animal or plant life. 
The interaction continues with God firstly cursing the serpent, Satan, because he had been the person who led the human couple to disobey God. 
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.” [37]
The woman’s offspring referred to above is understood to be none other than the crucified risen Christ who would  deal a deathblow to Satan.   God, in sorting out the situation gives hope. 
Secondly God turns his attention to Eve and promises:
“I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.” [38]
The pain in childbirth and being ruled over by her husband were not part of God’s original plan but the result of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace.   Derek and Dianne Tidball make the assertion that
“…it is here that the element of hierarchy and headship comes into play for the first time, as part of the consequence of the fall, rather than being part of God’s original intention at creation.![39]
Thirdly Adam, who was probably there while the Serpent was leading Eve astray also came in for increased difficulties in his role of tilling the soil and looking after creation. 
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18     thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19     By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”[40]
Adam was held just as responsible as Eve.  God’s final actions were to make clothes of skin for Adam and Eve and then they were banished from the Garden of Eden  
“See, the man has become like one of us,…and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.[41]
Adam and Eve then started their life outside of the Garden of Eden, outside of paradise.  Even though they had both been punished by God for their part in disobeying God’s command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were still equal before God, they still had their partnership and Eve was still “a helper suitable for” Adam.  The bible tells us very little about how this worked out in their day to day life.  Genesis chapters four and five describe the births and deaths of the human family but not the way their relationship worked out.  Perhaps the biblical writers did this on purpose so that those who came after wouldn’t fall into the trap of trying to somehow emulate the original nuclear family.  As we read the bible we see how women and men were faithful to following God and living a life that was pleasing to God. 
There is hope as we shall see later in our exploration of gender relationships in the bible.  The Apostle Paul writes:
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”[42]

The Apostle’s description of the implications of the gospels seems to promise restoration of the created order.  A new order of equality, partnership and respect that transcends gender, status in society, former religious affiliation and ethnic origins.   A restoration of paradise because of faith in Christ. 



[1] The story of Sarah starts in Genesis 11:11 and continues to Genesis 23:20.   Sarah, Abraham’s wife was initially named Sarai and her husband Abram.  Later (see Genesis 18) they are renamed Sarah and Abraham. 
[2] See Judges 4 & 5 for an account of this courageous woman’s life.
[3] See 2 Samuel 25:2-44 for an account of the life of Abigail. 
[4] The life of Ruth is celebrated in The Book of Ruth in the Old Testament. 
[5] Ge 1:1–2  The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.  All quotations from the bible are from the NRSV version unless otherwise stated. 
[6] I believe that God is the creator of our world but in making this statement I am making a statement of belief, of faith and not a scientific statement.  I am not sure ‘how’ this work of creation happened, and doubt it was six days of work although it could well have been done in six stages.  The bible gives an answer to what and why but not how.  Questions of how are scientific questions to be answered by scientists. 
[7] Gen: 1:3-2:3
[8] Gen 1:26-27
[9] Ge 1:26–31
[10] The Hebrew adam preceded by the definite article refers to the human race; It is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek anthropos, a gender-inclusive term that includes all human beings, both men and women.  “Who is ‘the Adam’?  ‘The Adam’ is a ‘they.’  The clause, ‘he created him’ is parallel to the following clause: ‘he created them.’  ‘The Adam’ is a ‘male and female.’  Thus ‘the Adam’ could be translated ‘human’ or ‘humanity.’” Aida Dina Spencer, Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985), P.21  quoted in Cunningham & Hamilton P.94.
[11] P.94 Cunningham, Loren & Hamilton, David J (2000)   Why not Women?     Youth With A Mission Publishing, Seattle, WA, USA
[12] Genesis 1:4,10,12,18.21,25,31
[13] Genesis 2:4-25
[14] Genesis 2:18
[15] Genesis 2:20b
[16] Ge 2:23
[17] Genesis 2:20
[18] Genesis 1:27
[19] Genesis 1:28
[20] Genesis 2:7
[21] Genesis 2:21,22.
[22] Genesis 2:23
[23] Genesis 2:18
[24] Ps 27:9
[25] Ps 118:7
[26] Genesis 2: 18, 20
[27] Tidball, D & D, The Message of Women (Nottingham, IVP, 2012) p.37
[28] Ge 1:28–30
[29] Ge 2:24–25
[30] Gen 1:28
[31] Genesis 2:16–17
[32] rather than the singular which is our thee
[33] Cf Genesis 3:7 and 2:25.  The way that they are lured and enticed into eating the forbidden fruit is remiscent of James 1:15.
[34] Genesis 3:8-10.
[35] Genesis 3:12
[36] Genesis 3:13
[37] Genesis 3:15
[38] Genesis 3:16
[39] Tidball, D & D, The Message of Women (Nottingham, IVP, 2012) p.51
[40] Genesis 3:17–20
[41] Genesis 3:22–23

[42] Galatians 3:28-29

Copyright © 2018 Rev Ros Wilkinson