It seems that controversy always surrounds discussion of the roles women should have within church and marriage as defined by Scripture. I must admit that I have often struggled over verses that call for women to be silent in the church and to submit to their husbands. There are so many opposing views on these topics that it is hard to discern just exactly how a woman who seeks to follow Jesus should act. At times, I have struggled and thought that a literal interpretation of certain verses deemed women as having no value, but I know that would not come from the God I serve.
I decided to start this series in an attempt to resolve some of the tension that I and others feel as women who want to follow Scripture. On the last Monday of each month, I will look at strengths and weaknesses of women throughout the Bible in hopes of seeing how they used their different gifts and personalities to glorify God while fulfilling the role God intended for them in marriage and worship.
So let’s start at the beginning with Eve. We meet Eve in Genesis 2-4. Eve’s name was given to her because she is the mother of the living. Adam needed a helper, so God created a woman so that he would not be alone. Helper can have either positive or negative connotations. It can mean that someone benefits another person, but, as I have sometimes read it, the term helper can also sound as if the person doesn’t have a purpose on their own.
Let’s look more closely at the context to see just what kind of helper Eve was. Adam had already seen and named all of God’s creatures, but none of them could provide the help he needed. God already knew Adam’s needs before he created Eve, but he had Adam name the animals first which would have allowed Adam to see his need for the unique abilities of the companion God would provide for him. There were already animals that could assist Adam in fulfilling his charge to care for the land. Eve had to provide more than simple aid in daily chores. Adam’s helper had to be someone who could do what neither he nor the animals could do. He required someone who was intelligent and creative, someone who understood his emotions. He didn’t need someone with the same strengths and abilities he already had; he needed someone who was strong in areas where he was not. Eve was a helper with her own purpose, and she could provide in areas where Adam was lacking.
Next, let’s look at the order of events surrounding the creation of Eve. She came on the scene after God had already commanded Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-18). While Scripture doesn’t specifically say whether God repeated his command to Eve or whether Adam told her about it, God had already given the command to Adam, knowing that He would create Eve later. It is likely that Eve heard God’s command from Adam. She clearly listened because she was able to repeat the command to the serpent (Genesis 3:2, 3). Her avoidance of the fruit before her interaction with the serpent shows trust and confidence in God and her husband. When she trusted in her own eye’s desire for the fruit over the words of God and her husband, she was vulnerable, and evil sounded like wisdom to her (Geneses 3:6).
As a result of eating the forbidden fruit, both Adam and Eve were given specific punishments. Eve would experience pain in childbearing. She would desire her husband, and he would rule over her (Genesis 3:16). I have heard some translations that say Eve would desire to control her husband. Eve’s desire for her husband and his rule over her are part of the pain Eve would experience. They were not part of God’s original intent for marriage. This will be helpful to remember in future discussions of what it means for a wife to submit to her husband. We can read those verses knowing that God did not create women with the intent that their husbands oppress them.
Finally, in Genesis 4:1, we see that Eve acknowledged God’s help in childbearing. She experienced the pain of childbirth, but she recognized God’s help in making good from her painful situation. There was restoration of her relationship with God, and she acknowledged her need for Him again.
In summary, Eve was a helper to Adam, but she had her own specific purpose. She had confidence in God and her husband. God’s intention was not for Eve to live under oppression in her marriage, even though she might experience it as a form of suffering after evil entered the world. When Eve’s relationship with God was restored, she acknowledged her need for God.
Join me next month for a look at the life of Noah’s wife.