Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Close this search box.

Adam Genesis Eden forbidden fruit


Here’s a comment someone left on my Facebook wall this week (August 2014).

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?

In Genesis 3:9 God called to the man, “Where are you?” Why didn’t God call the woman also?

In Genesis 3:8, the Hebrew verb translated “and they heard” is plural and refers to the man and woman (Adam and Eve) hearing the sound, or the voice, of the LORD. But the Hebrew verb that is almost always translated as “and hid themselves” in English Bibles is singular and can mean “and he hid himself.”[1]

When Adam replies to God, he speaks only for himself and doesn’t mention or even allude to the woman. He uses a lot of first-person language in Genesis 3:10 and he tells God, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10).[2] The woman is not included here. She’s not in the picture at all in Genesis 3:10. The man seems to take all the blame for the hiding. And when God speaks to the man in verse 11, he also uses singular language that doesn’t include the woman.[3]

So, the reason God asked (only) the man may simply be because the focus of the narrative has shifted to the man for a few verses (Gen 3:8-12) after focusing on the woman at the beginning of the chapter (Gen. 3:1-6). It is interesting that the overall pattern of dialogue relationships in Genesis 3:1–12 is Serpent > Eve = Adam < God. The couple are an equal pair caught in a struggle between good and evil. However, there is no greater or lesser degree of either good or evil ascribed to the man or to the woman in Genesis 3.

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

Question 2 is closely related to question 1.

Some people have noted that God speaks to the man first and the woman second in Genesis 3:9–13, and they believe this to be significant. As we have seen, this episode begins with God responding to the couple hiding which may have been initiated by Adam, and the author of Genesis 3 seems to have deliberately set up a pattern of dialogue relationships where the serpent speaks to the woman, and God speaks to the man, so God speaks first to the man.

Even though the man is spoken to first, however, God also speaks to the woman and holds each person accountable for their own actions. And, just like the man’s answer, her answer to God is also recorded in the biblical text (Gen 3:13). To be clear, Genesis 3 shows that both the man and the woman sinned, they are both questioned individually by God, both their replies are recorded, they are both held accountable, and both will suffer with “sorrowful toil” (Hebrew: itstsabon) because of their own actions. Adam is not held responsible for Eve’s sin.

In Genesis 3:16–19, God speaks to the woman before the man when announcing the consequences of their disobedience, but speaks to the snake first. So the order of the characters being spoken to first, or second, or third, varies in Genesis 3. God did not consistently speak to the man first.

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, “the LORD God banished the man from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.” I’ve been told that this verse 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 was also banished by God.

I don’t buy this. For starters, there’s no indication that the man led the woman out of Eden. We might just as easily imagine that she chose to go with her husband. However, I take the statements in Genesis 3:22–24 as applying broadly to the couple even though there is a focus on the man. (Many biblical texts focus on the man’s perspective of the story more than the woman’s.)

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), the man and woman were still 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 God wanted to destroy this union by driving the man out of the garden, not expecting the woman to also go.

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

I’ve heard many people say that Adam had a God-given responsibility to tell his wife about the forbidden fruit, Adam, the first human in Eden, received the command not to eat the forbidden fruit before the woman was made (Gen. 2:16–17). Still, the Bible never says that the man was also given the responsibility to later tell the woman what God had said. The Bible says nothing at all about this. It simply doesn’t tell us how the woman came to know the command.

Implicit in the notion of Adam’s responsibility is the idea that God didn’t speak to the woman, but only spoke to her indirectly through the man. However, the text of Genesis 3:13 and 16 shows us that God sometimes 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 woman in Eden on several occasions just as he did with the man, and that he mostly spoke to them as a couple. But Genesis 2–3 is silent on how Eve learned the command.

And note that when Eve quotes the command about the forbidden fruit to the serpent, the Bible tells us that she quoted God; it does not say she quoted Adam (Gen. 3:2–3). She does not say, “Adam told me …”  She says, “God said …” (Gen. 3:3). To suggest that the man had the responsibility to tell the woman about God’s command is reading more into the story than what the narrator says. I discuss this further, here.

5. Does Adam’s task of naming the animals suggest he had more authority than the woman, or authority over the woman?

Mary Kassian, and other complementarians, answer “yes” to both these questions. However, naming the animals cannot have been an example of an adult male exercising an exclusive God-given authority, because women also have a God-given authority over animals (Gen. 1:26–28). Women can, and do, give names to animals if they wish.

The task of the first human in Eden naming the animals probably had a purpose than just giving the animals names. The task seems to have been designed to draw attention to the fact that “there was no helper just right for him” (Gen. 2:20 NLT). So God made a woman who was like him. “Similar to him,” “corresponding to him,” and even “equal to him” are meanings of the Hebrew word kenegdo used in Genesis 2:18 and 20 of the women in Eden.

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 suggests that Hagar had authority over God just because she named him (Gen. 16:13–14).


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. I think we all do it to some extent. But we need to be careful that we remain objective and look at what the text actually says. We need to understand the author’s intention and not make the text say what it was not meant to say.

There is simply nothing in the narrative before the Fall that 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 couple. The concepts of gender roles, different responsibilities, leadership or submission, are simply not brought up before the Fall.


[1] “and he hid himself” (וַיִּתְחַבֵּ֨א) is masculine singular, and it’s in the Hithpael and so is reflexive. In Hebrew syntax, a singular masculine verb can be used for a singular masculine subject plus a singular feminine subject which is what we have in the second clause of Genesis 3:8. So modern English translations have something like, “the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God …” despite the singular verb.[2] Nevertheless, the Hebrew text may slightly shift the focus to the man halfway through verse 8.
Similarly, the verb for “sing” is singular feminine in Judges 5:1 which seems to put a slight emphasis on Deborah even though Barak is also singing.

[2] Unlike what many people say about the man’s reply to God, I believe both Adam and Eve replied honestly to God, they briefly and accurately retold what happened, and did not pass blame on to others.
Several important plot points are repeated once in Genesis 2–3, often in spoken dialogue. And plot points of the story are repeated in Adam and Eve’s replies to God (Gen. 3:12 & 13). I suggest the narrator of Genesis 2–3 did not intend for his readers to understand that either Adam or Eve was trying to pass the buck as is commonly understood.

[3] The singular language in Genesis 2:16–17 is different from the conversation between the snake and woman which consistently uses plural language and which implicitly includes the man even though he doesn’t take an active part in the conversation. He is silent and in the background of the narrative, but seemingly present. I have more on this plural language in Genesis 3:2ff here.

You can support my work for as little as $3 USD a month at Patreon.
Become a Patron!

Image Credit

Image via Pixabay

Explore more

Adam named Eve because …
What Eve’s Reply to the Serpent Tells Us
All my articles on gender in Genesis 1–3 are here.
Is Complementarianism a Traditional Belief of the Church?
Is Adam solely responsible for the fall?
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish), and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2
All my articles on the created order of man first, woman second, are here.

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

  1. 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 sounds as though God created male and female humanity at the same time. Genesis 2-3 is a distinct account that is about the creation and fall of the man and woman in Eden.

      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).

      In both the Septuagint and in the Hebrew Bible there is a sense of single-minded devotion from the women. See here: https://margmowczko.com/tag/teshuqah/

  2. 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.

      I have an article on 1 Corinthians 7:4 here: https://margmowczko.com/1-corinthians-74-in-a-nutshell/

      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.

  3. 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.

      It’s not super clear when ha’adam becomes “Adam.” When ‘adam is used with the definite article it is not a name. But occasionally ‘adam is used with an inseparable preposition which can mask the definite article, as in Genesis in 2:20, 3:5, 3:17, and 3:21.
      The first somewhat unambiguous instance in the Hebrew text of Adam being called “Adam” is not until Genesis 4:25. In the first phrase of Genesis 5:1, it is even clearer.

      1. Thank you for that clarification!

  4. 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.

  5. “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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 …

  9. 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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Marg's Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Join Marg's Patreon

Would you like to support my ministry of encouraging mutuality and equality between men and women in the church and in marriage?