Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Adam Genesis Eden forbidden fruit

Here’s a comment someone left on my Facebook wall this week:

Someone explained to me that in Genesis 3:8-10 God was specifically looking for Adam on this occasion. Also, God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before Eve was ever created and it was Adam’s responsibility to convey this message to Eve. Your thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

I’ve heard these statements before, and others like them. Here’s the reply I left on Facebook which I’ve expanded on.

1. Did God call the man only in Genesis 3:9?

The last few verses of Genesis chapter 2 are all about the mutuality and similarity of the first man and woman. Genesis chapter 3 is a continuation of this narrative, so it’s important to think of Adam and Eve as an item, “a package deal.” Adam and Eve are one flesh (Gen. 2:24) and they are together throughout the Genesis 3 narrative. They were together when the woman was being tempted and they were together when they each ate the forbidden fruit. In Genesis 3:8 it says that “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they, the man and his wife, hid from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (My italics.) Having said that, in verse 9, God calls out to the man (ha’adam) with no mention of the woman, and God and the man have a conversation recorded in Genesis 3:10-12.

Digression: In Genesis chapters 2-3, the first person to be created is referred to as ha’adam which means “the human being”. In chapter 3 this person is undeniably a man (male). However, this person may have been sexually undifferentiated before the part that became the woman was taken out of his side during the “operation” recorded in Genesis 2.21-22. [More on this here.] The first man and woman were very much “a part of each other”. This first human is not technically named “Adam” until later. The first relatively unambiguous instance in the Hebrew text of the first man being called “Adam” (rather than ha’adam, the human being) is in Genesis 3:17.

While God does call out to ha’adam in verse 9, it would be amiss to interpret this as excluding the woman, keeping in mind that we are told that they are one flesh, possibly in a way we have never experienced. Moreover, the woman does enter into the conversation at verse 13.

2. Is it significant that God spoke to the man first in Genesis 3:9-13?

Some people have noted that God speaks to the man (ha’adam) first and the woman second in Genesis 3:9-13, and they believe this to be significant.

I never want to ignore, dismiss or “explain away” any Scripture that, at first glance, might not seem to fit with the ideology of men and women being equal before God. However, I do wonder if the man’s prominence in Genesis 2-3 (and in other andro-centric biblical narratives) has more to do with the person telling the story, than with how God relates with men and women. Nevertheless, the episode in the narrative where God questions the man and woman is one where the man is not more prominent, even though he is questioned first.

God speaks to the man and to the woman individually and holds each accountable for their own actions. Though the man is asked first and speaks first, God also asks the woman for her account of what happened. And, just like the man’s answer, her answer is recorded. Both the man and the woman have sinned, and both will suffer the consequences.

Furthermore, God speaks to the woman before the man in Genesis 3:16-19 when announcing the consequences of their disobedience. If God speaking to someone first is significant, what are we to make of this?

3. Did God drive the woman out of Eden too in Genesis 3:22-24?

Another verse that has been pointed out to me as having significance in regard to supposed gender roles is Genesis 3:24. This is where it says that the Lord God “drove the man (ha’adam) out” of the garden. One argument I’ve heard in response to this verse is that it shows the man leading and the woman choosing to follow him instead of God. This argument is based on the fact that the verse doesn’t state that the woman herself was also banished by God.

I don’t buy this. The statements in Genesis 3:22-24 apply equally to both husband and wife. While the one-flesh relationship seems to have been immediately tarnished by the Fall, and the “naked and no shame” dynamic was diminished or entirely gone (Gen. 2:25; cf. Gen. 3:21), they were still husband and wife, and bound to each other. The lifelong and exclusive union of a husband and wife is part of God’s ideal plan for marriage. It is unlikely that God is going to bust up this union by driving the man out of the garden and not the woman. To read the last few verses of Genesis 3 as applying to the man only is to read too much into this passage.

4. Was it Adam’s responsibility to convey God’s command to the woman?

The first human received the command not to eat the forbidden fruit before the woman was made (Gen. 2:16-17). However, the Bible never says that he was also given the responsibility to tell the woman what God had told him once she was on the scene. The Bible says nothing at all like this.

Implicit in this incorrect notion of Adam’s responsibility is the idea that God didn’t speak to the first woman, but only spoke to her indirectly through the man. However, the text of Genesis 3:13 and 16 shows us that God did speak to the woman. The Bible has several stories where God, or his angel, spoke directly to a woman, so it’s not difficult to imagine that God spoke to the first woman on several occasions just as he did with the first man, and that he mostly spoke to them as a couple.

It is important to note that when Eve quotes the forbidden fruit command to the serpent, the Bible tells us that she quoted God; it does not say that she quoted Adam (Gen. 3:2-3). She does not say, “Adam told me …”  She says, “God said …” (Gen. 3:3). [I’ve written more about question 4 here.]

5. Does Adam’s task of naming the animals in Genesis 2:19-20 suggest that he had more authority than the woman, or any authority over the woman?

Mary Kassian, and other complementarians, would answer “yes” to both these questions. Here is my answer, taken from a previous article.

Adam naming the animals cannot have been an example of an adult male exercising his exclusive God-given authority, because women have the same authority over the animals (Gen. 1:26-28). The task of Adam naming the animals may have had another purpose than just giving the animals names. God gave Adam this task immediately after the statement, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a help (ezer) similar to him” (Gen. 2:18). The task may have been designed to help Adam look for another creature who was like him, “but for Adam there was not found a help similar to him”, so God made a woman who was similar to him (Gen. 2:20). “Similar to him” and “corresponding to him” are the meanings of the Hebrew word kenegdo used in Genesis 2:18 and 20.

Moreover, in the Bible, the act of naming does not necessarily imply authority. For instance, Hagar (the Egyptian slave of Sarah) gave God a name, a significant name that has been recorded in Scripture. Yet no one can rightly suggest that Hagar had authority over God just because she named him (Gen. 16:13-14).  From The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”here.

The narrative in Genesis 2 and 3 does not answer all the questions we would like to ask, and there is a danger in filling in the blanks with our own ideas. We need to be careful that we remain objective and look at what the text actually says. There is simply nothing in the narrative before the Fall, however, which implies that the man and woman had different roles or responsibilities. In Genesis 2 especially, we are told of the similarity and mutuality between the man and woman. The concepts of gender roles, different responsibilities, leadership or submission, are simply not brought up before the Fall.

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Image Credit

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Related Articles

Adam named Eve because …
Blaming Eve Alone
Human (Ha’adam) Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2
Various articles on the created order of man first, woman second, here.
Various articles on gender in Genesis 1-3 here.
Is Complementarianism a Traditional Belief of the Church?
Is Adam solely responsible for the fall?
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
Jesus’ Teaching on Leadership and Community in Matthew’s Gospel

31 thoughts on “5 questions about Adam’s role in Genesis 2 and 3

  1. Well done for this very clear explanation, Marg. This is my belief also and as you say, when people begin to fill in the blanks, they end up with all sorts of doctrines which are more informed by their prejudices than by the word of God.

    1. Thanks Bev. I always love your encouraging comments.

  2. I agree it is important not to add to the text we have.

    On the order of God interrogating the couple, my take is God is addressing the more serious sin of the man first. That is, the serpent is a deceiving sinner, the man a deliberate sinner and the woman a deceived sinner. The deceiving sinner is the worst type and does not even get interrogated, the deceived sinner is the least worst and so gets interrogated last.

    On the woman leaving the garden, I think once the man is kicked out, the woman desires him and follows implicitly. P.S. In kicking the man out, the language used is covenant termination language.

    1. Don, can you explain “covenant termination language”?

  3. My “whacky” view is that it was indeed only Adam who was ordered out, to work the ground from which only Adam was made, since only Adam blamed God for his sin (“that woman you gave me”). God predicted that Eve would “turn” to her husband instead of remaining in the garden, where she might well have given birth to the Seed, making herself the “ezer” of Adam in the most profound way. Eve chose to go with Adam; therefore she was not ordered to go with him.

    Also, the reason I believe God spoke first to Adam is that it is in chiastic form: Adam, Eve, the serpent, then back to Eve, then finally back to Adam. Of particular significance is the fact that while God said “Because you have done this” to Adam and the serpent, he did not say this to Eve. She and Adam both became mortal (“you shall surely die” was the only consequence God ever said would follow eating the fruit), but Eve did not rebel as did Adam.

    1. lol, I certainly wasn’t thinking about your commentaries when I wrote that.

      And your chiasm idea is great. I wonder why I haven’t read about it or noticed it before?

      But I do take the last few verses of Gen. 3 as including the man and woman.

  4. Marg you and I have been saying the same explanationon Genises, but I’ve been explaining on youtube. People don’t realize to go back and remember in Genises1:27-30 how God made adam & eve in his image….then he gavve them both authority to rule the earth and all of creation. God even prepared a way for them to work light for food. But when many see God punishing eve, they get confused and figure eve tried exercising adam’s “authority”….but he had no authority over eve before they ate the fruit.

    True, eve even told the serpent the command that God gave adam and for eve to know, someone had to tell her. Either God or adam. But the concept of Husbands being the head of the wife came from the teaching of how God took away eve’s privelage in ruling with adam and made adam the ruler over his wife. But If some can only see that adam was only a husband, not a pastor. Also that eve just simply gave adam the fruit and adam chose to eat it. That’s where paul in 1Tim2:13-14 reffers this from, how evve was deceived and in the wrong becoming the weak vessel….leading to how God made her to be under her husband’s authority.

    However, God has seen the heirarch of men in the bible abusing women or their wives, and I love how he sent Apostles peter and paul to set wives and women free equally. 2 verses I like that supports wives and giving rules to the heirarchy husband as well are in 1Corinthians7:3-4 “Husbands submitting to their wives and how a husband and wife have power over each other equally. And in 1Peter3:7 where peter said for husbands to let the wives be heirs in the grace of life. The word heir means to be in the same rank of ruling. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Lol that’s proof and power to knock out the misinterpreted scriptures on women being in 2nd class.

    1. Hi John, we agree on many things, however, I don’t believe that Paul refers to Eve’s sin to reinforce a belief that women are easily deceived and therefore need a husband to be their authority, or that only men can be pastors and elders. (Perhaps I’ve misunderstood you here(?)) I believe Paul brought up Eve’s deception to correct a false teaching in the Ephesian church.

      Peter mentions that a woman is the weaker vessel in his first letter. I know many women who do not like being referred to as a “weaker vessel”, but when it comes to physical strength, most women are physically weaker than their husbands, and husbands must take this into consideration. As you point out, for a husband and wife to be called coheirs (sugklēronomois) seems to indicate equality.

      And as you say, the man had no authority over Eve before they ate the fruit. I believe any authority he had after the Fall was not God’s ideal intention, but a consequence of sin, something which Peter and Paul wanted to set women free from as much as possible. 🙂

  5. I’m having a struggle with the whole creation story. My interpretation seems clearly evident in Genesis 1:27 > “So God created people [Adam = humankind] in His image; God patterned them after himself; male and female He created them.” My understanding of this verse is that the male AND the female were created at the same time, 2 persons in one > a human being. Then God found that the HUMAN > Adam, needed a companion. So in effect God separated the human into a male & female. I see no creation order here – the male & female were created simultaneously. A final observation concerns the use of the term “desire” in verse 16. This term is, from my studies, inaccurate. Eve was actually “turning” from following God to following Adam. The term, desire, has sexual connotations that muddy one’s understanding of the significance of Eve’ s turning from God.

    1. Hi Mary Ann,

      In Genesis 1 and 5 it seems as though God created men and women at the same time. Genesis 2-3 is a distinct account that seems to zoom in on the creation and fall of the first man and woman.

      If we take Genesis 2 at face value, then we see that an integral part of the first woman was part of the first human. The first human is not identified as a male human being until he is presented with a female human being made from a part of his side. This is much clearer in the Hebrew text. I have colour-coded the Hebrew text regarding this here.

      I have looked into the Hebrew word teshuqah and read several articles on it. I’ve also looked at how it is translated in the Septuagint.
      There is nothing sexual in the Greek: pros ton androv sou hē apostrophē sou. A very literal (and very awkward translation) of this is “your turning away [will be] to your husband.”

      I simply read the Hebrew teshuqah as “longing” or “desire”. And I interpret it as: The woman will long for her husband (or desire to be married) . . . but her husband will rule her (Gen. 3:16). However, it seems entirely possible in the Greek that the woman will turn away from God to follow the man.

  6. We’re on the same page marg lol, take a look at the 2 verses I gave such as 1 Corinthians7:3-4 and 1 Peter3:7. Paul said the wife has power over the husband, and the husband has power over the wife to symbolize equality and love in a marriage. When I mentioned how paul referred to eve’s failing I wasn’t talking about how women are deceived and need to be in their husband’s authority for protection lol. I never call women deceivers. What I meant was that paul referred the curse of sin regarding husbands being the head of the wife, by eve being a victom of deception and how God punished her or her wrong. I agree God didn’t intend for marriage to be like this, but the curse of eve and adam’s sin led to this.

    However, God also punished adam as well. And that same curse that went for eve has passed on for all females such as being the weaker vessel (Or other words less stronger), and painful child birth. Also for from adam’s sin, it led to all of us men with a curse which is to work ourselves hard for food til we sweat. The teaching of husbands being the head of their wife comes from when God told eve that her husband will rule over her. But men in the Bible took advantage of this, that’s why I said the apostles Paul & Peter were telling the husbands that the wife is equal to them. Even though she is less stronger, they sad to love, submit and count her as a HEIR (1Peter3:7) Heir means to be in the same rank of ruling…… So we’re on the same page lol

    1. 🙂

      The NASB translates 1 Cor 7:4 as: The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

      I take this verse to mean that the wife and the husband cannot have sex with whoever they want as their spouse has the exclusive right of having sexual relations with them.

      The Greek word used here, exousia, can mean authority, right, freedom, licence, and power.

      1. Well, it can maybe be inteerprete relate to a reason regaring sex that’s for the husban & wife for themselves only…because verse 2 says to avoid forncation have your own spouse & be married.

        However, in 1Corinthians7:3 it. Says for the husband to render unto the wife due benevolence. Likewise the wife. I take this to mean to sumbit to each other in all aspects that each other deserves.

        Then in verse 4, it shows how the husband & wife dont have power over their own but each other’s body, now that can mean about how a husband is made to please the wife, likewise around in a sexuall matter. But also, I believe it can mean how a husband and wife have power in equality in the marriage as well. Its still equality whether its about how both couples are to submit in a sexual matter or ust being made to sumbit in all other aspects. Thats what I take on it as well

        1. I take all of 1 Corinthians 7:1-7 as being about some Christians in Corinth renouncing sex.

          This is one verse where the KJV translators have either got it wrong, or the meaning of the word has changed over time. The word they have translated as “benevolence” means “obligation”. Many English translations have the word “duty” here.

          I have more about 1 Corinthians 7:1-7 here.

  7. Bible* said*

  8. Marry ann, when it says in Genises1 how God made male and female. This beginning section of the verse written by moses is just saying the conclusion and idea of God’s plan in forming male & female in his image.

    Then notice how the next chapter starts off by adam being made 1st? When it starts off with adam being made 1st, that’s just showing how God started to make male gender in his image….then when he made eve out of the rib of adam, since adam was in the image of God that made eve in the image of God

  9. I find the name “Adam” being used in Genesis 2:19, which is before 4:25 as you noted. Is it not used in the same way and, therefore a matter of interpretation?

    1. Hi Tricia, I have ha’adam (the human) in Genesis 2:19 in the Hebrew text I use (Mechon Mamre), twice. I also checked the WLC.

      I could be wrong but Genesis 4:25 is the first time the man is simply called adam.

      There are a few times when adam occurs with an inseparable preposition and the Masoretes have pointed the word so that it seems like the name adam, but I suspect that the pointing is incorrect here as it is inconsistent with how adam is used in the verses around it (Gen. 2:20; 3:17).

      1. Thank you for that clarification!

  10. Marg, thanks again for your patience exegesis and detailed answers to so many questions. You and this website are truly a gift to the church!

    1. It is my pleasure. I love this ministry.

  11. “it’s important to think of Adam and Eve as “a package deal.”

    Well said! That is the essence of humanity; the essence of equality.

    Genesis 5:1-2: Marg, what is your understanding of the Hebrew word that is translated as “Adam”, “Man”, or “Mankind” in verse 2?

    1. “Adam” אָדָם is given as a proper name for both the man and for “humanity” in Genesis 5:1-2.

      At the beginning of Gen 5:1 the text seems to be speaking about the man Adam. But then using exactly the same word, in exactly the same form (in the Mechon Mamre edition), the text speaks about humanity. And even has God naming humanity as “Adam” in Gen 5:2.

      I use the Mechon Mamre simply because the Hebrew text, including the pointing, is easy to see.

      The phonological marks for the person “Adam” אָדָ֑ם are slightly different for the word for “Humanity” אָדָ֔ם in the Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC), however, even though the consonants and vowel pointings are identical. This indicates a slight difference in the pronunciation. (Pointing for vowels and pronunciation (such as stresses) were added centuries after the biblical texts were first written, and are not considered as “inspired”.)

      Here are a variety of texts of Genesis 5:1-2 for comparison, including the WLC.

  12. Another really helpful article, thanks 😀

    I have been reading the discussion and am out of my league when it comes to the Hebrew; I have to read what others say. One thought though, to my mind the suffering in the world today is as a result of sin and how God responded, either revealed what would happen, as a consequence of Adam & Eve’s rebellion, or enforcing it. However, we all fight that outcome whatever we believe – toil, poverty, sickness, pain in childbirth etc., yet when it comes to women being oppressed by men, many in the church uphold it using Genesis 3 as its argument. No matter how we read God’s response to the woman (especially in the light of the resurrection), we are either for the curse or against it. Blessings all.

    1. Yes, we try to alleviate the pain and suffering and injustice caused by many of the consequences of sin, but some Christians are still hanging on to patriarchy believing it to be God’s will for his people.

  13. Great points. However, I don’t believe it was proven if Adam was with Eve when the snake tempted her to eat the forbidden fruit, it has always been a theory. I don’t know if Eve knew God’s command regarding the eating the fruits from the tree but I assumed he spoke to Adam first because he did him not to eat from the tree or commanded him first as Adam was on earth longer than Eve. It is not too much that men and women are similar but that God created Adam a companion like him in that they are both human beings. Men and Women had similar duties to have dominion over the earth. Once again another great post.

    1. Thanks CT,

      The Hebrew text states that the woman gave the fruit to the man “who was with her” (Genesis 3:6). For some reason, not all English Bibles translate this. I’ve written about this phrase here: https://margmowczko.com/christian-theology/blaming-eve-alone/

      I do think that the woman knew God’s command because she quotes God as saying, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.”

      This quote is only slightly different than what God said in Genesis 2:16-17, “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.”

      I agree that men and women are similar and were made for companionship, rather than for one to serve the other, and not vice versa.

  14. The ongoing wordplay between “Adam” (adam in Hebrew) and “human” (also adam) makes translating this text tricky.

    In terms of your 3rd question, there’s little doubt in my mind that, simply as a matter of translating the Hebrew, vss 3:22-24 are about “humans”: “Now that humans have become like us… God banished humans from the Garden…” The singular adam is stylistic. (In English, too, we use a singular to represent a group. If I say that “the wolf is returning to Yellowstone Park,” I don’t mean a single animal has been trekking across the country. I mean that “wolves” are returning.)


    1. Thanks, Joel. I appreciate someone with your knowledge of Hebrew commenting in this

      It seems to me that ha’adam refers to the first human being, before the operation in Genesis 2, and after the operation when he was clearly male. It is tricky . . .

      I have assumed (wrongly?) that the ‘Life of Adam and Eve’ was a work of fiction written centuries later than the stories recorded in Genesis.

  15. Hi Marg, I’m preaching on Genesis 3 this weekend and I’ve been reading through many of your blog posts today. I’m very appreciative of the work that you’ve done across so much scripture. Some things I don’t agree with but you have given me many other things to ponder. I have a question about your comment that “There is simply nothing in the narrative before the Fall, however, which implies that the man and woman had different roles or responsibilities.” What I’d like to know is what you think the purpose was of God making men and women suitable for one another but different (male and female) before the fall if it isn’t about roles or responsibility? I don’t’ ask this question antagonistically, I’m very genuinely trying to think through your arguments and am very curious to know what you think the original purpose of male/female difference was before the fall was. Thank you again for giving me the chance to reflect on these Scriptures so deeply.

    1. Hi James.

      The primary reason for sexual differentiation is sexual reproduction. As well as male and female humans, God also made male and female animals. How else could humans and (complex) animals be fruitful and multiply? (See Genesis 1:22 cf. 1:28.)

      As I’ve written in a few articles, in Genesis 1 men and women have the same status, the same authority, and the same purpose. And nothing in Genesis 2 contradicts this.

      In some contexts, it may make sense to divide chores and responsibilities according to gender, but it makes better sense to divide them according to individual abilities.

      I hope your message goes well!

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