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? Perhaps the Hebrew grammar of Genesis 3:8 holds a key.
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.”
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 the modern English translations have something like, “the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God …” But is there a slight emphasis on the man’s actions in the underlying Hebrew text even though the woman is also hiding?
When Adam replies to God, he speaks only for himself and doesn’t mention or even allude to the woman. The man uses a lot of first-person language in Genesis 3:10; he tells God, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10).
The woman is not included or even alluded to here. She’s not in the picture at all in Genesis 3:10. The man takes 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.
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 focussing on the woman at the beginning of the chapter (Gen. 3:1-6).
2. Is it significant that God spoke to the man first in Gen. 3:9-13?
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 from him which may have been initiated by Adam, so God speaks first to the man.
Even though the man is spoken to first, God also speaks to the woman and holds each 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 by God, both their replies are recorded, they are both held accountable, and both will suffer consequences for their own actions.
In Genesis 3:16-19, God speaks to the woman before the man in Genesis 3:16-19 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.
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 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 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, The first human 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 incorrect 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.
More importantly, when Eve quotes the command about the forbidden fruit command 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). I suggest we not read more into the story than what the narrator says.
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, would 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 may have had another purpose than just giving the animals names. The task was probably 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 to 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 man and woman. The concepts of gender roles, different responsibilities, leadership or submission, are simply not brought up before the Fall.
 “and he hid himself” (וַיִּתְחַבֵּ֨א) is masculine singular, and it’s in the Hithpael and so is reflexive.
 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.
 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.
 This 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 actively part in the conversation. He is silent and in the background of the narrative, but seemingly present. More on this plural language in Genesis 3:2ff here.
You can support my work for as little as $3 USD a month.
Become a Patron!
Image via Pixabay
Adam named Eve because …
What Eve’s Reply to the Serpent Tells Us
All my 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
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.