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 “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.

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. However, 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, 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. 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. I believe 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 should be hardly surprising to think 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 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 even 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 Abraham and 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 (Ge.n 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. Still, we are all guilty of adding our own embellishments to the story and of having our own extra-biblical theories. 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.


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