On Men and Women: The Blessing of Genesis 3

After people are created, they live in a luxurious garden (the literal translation of Garden of Eden). It is a paradise, but people sin against God. I am not going into all the details of the text, here, because we have a specific focal point–Biblical manhood and womanhood. There is much to be said about the nature of sin, why God would make a law people would break, and the many manmade controversies that surround Genesis 3. For our purpose, we will look particularly at the text with our specific question in mind:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings (Genesis 3:1-7).

In this part of the story, both the man and woman sin. Notice the details. The woman first takes the fruit because it is pleasing to her eyes and desirable to make one wise. Instead of being the man’s suitable helper, she acts out on her own. Because she is a picture of humanity in relation to God, her action is inherently sinful. It is not because she is inferior to the man. It is because she was created to be the picture of humanity. When humanity tries to act independent of God, the result is unrighteousness–the type we will see in Genesis 6 that gives way to injustice and violence. Instead of leading her and redeeming her, the man helps her sin and joins her in that sin. The result is shame. They try to cover their shame by making coverings that are insufficient.

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life; And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.” Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” Now the man called his wife’s name aEve, because she was the mother of all the living. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them (Genesis 3:13-21).

Notice, God treats the man and woman differently—and it is a good thing. First, the serpent is the most cursed creature. The serpent’s seed will lose the battle with the woman’s seed. The woman’s descendants will win in the end. There’s much more to be said about that point, but I want to remain focused on our purpose. Second, the woman’s pain in childbearing is increased and she will desire her husband. That’s it, much less severe than God’s sentence for the serpent. Third, the man, who failed to lead and redeem as picture of God, is the one through whom the ground is cursed. The man must toil and work to eat from the ground. The ground will produce thorns and thistles for the man. The man will eat by the sweat of his face until he returns to the ground. God reminds the man that he is dust. The man is disciplined much more severely than the woman.

The man still represents God, and names his wife “Eve.” He gives her this name because she is the mother of all the living. God, Himself, now models what the man should have been by creating sufficient garments and covering the shame of man and woman. The man failed to redeem. The woman is still the prize, the object of God’s redemption. Thus, all those who are Eve’s spiritual children are objects of redemption. She is the mother of the living. Adam is dust. You tell me who is prized in this story.

So, the man has several responsibilities as the picture of God that he does not keep in this passage. The man was to lead; he followed instead. The man should have redeemed his wife; he joined her in sin. As a result, it is the man’s responsibility to slave away in labor on this earth to provide under the cursed conditions present until Genesis 8:21, when the natural (not spiritual) curse is lifted because of the Holy Spirit’s work in the baptism of the earth.

The woman has only two responsibilities presented so far—bear children and be a suitable helper for her husband. She is not prohibited from working the land. She is equal to the man. She has a very defined role. Work is not optional for men. It is for women. 

It can be said, then, that a man is saved through his toil and a woman is saved through her childbearing (cf. 1 Timothy 2:9-15). By order of creation, men are the laborers and women are the objects of redemption who multiply God’s image upon the earth. Men are the picture of God who works and wills all things. Women are pictures of humanity, the objects of redemption and those given the responsibility to multiply—the suitable helper and crown of creation.

I understand that this doesn’t work out perfectly. Some women remain unmarried and childless. They are not saved by childbearing but through it. Men are not saved by toil but through it. Still, these verses are the verses upon which every string of theology and practice concerning the distinctions between men and women are built throughout the rest of Scripture. It is why men traditionally serve as pastors and elders. It is why women are traditionally seen performing the deacon (service) ministries of the church. This is why in more traditional and conservative households, the man is the head and the woman is the crown. This is why, in more traditional and conservative societies, the men participate moreso in government than women. It is why men tend to choose more labor-intensive jobs and hobbies than women. It’s not about what women can or can’t do. It’s not about prohibitions placed upon one sex or another. It is all about being the image of God in the context of a post Genesis 3 world. I will quote the Apostle John, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

We know that men and women are equal. We know each sex was created for a very specific purpose. We know that, after Genesis 3, men and women take on different roles in an imperfect world because of their purposes from creation. We do not know what we will be. We do not know if these biblical roles will persist unto the resurrection. We do have an explanation of what we are now. I am very traditional and conservative in my own view of marriage, church, and society. So is my wife. We don’t have the problems that many modern day partners have because of their progressivism or liberal outlooks. I believe God has made his design and purpose plain. I believe that our gender-specific roles in every arena of life are intentionally superintended such that we find fulfillment in being who we were designed to be according to God’s will, not ours. I believe such a complementarian viewpoint to be most biblical and natural, a most satisfactory way to live for both men and women.

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