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Was it Adam’s responsibility to relay God’s command to Eve?

Adam taught Eve


In Genesis 2:16–17, God commanded the first human in Eden not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Along with the command was a warning of death for the transgressor. This command and warning were given to the first human, Adam, before the first woman was made.

Did Adam have an added responsibility towards Eve?

Some Christians believe Adam was given the responsibility of telling the woman about God’s command and warning. This assumption, however, has no biblical basis. The Bible simply does not state or imply that the man was given the responsibility of passing on God’s command once the woman was on the scene.

Implicit in this contrived notion of the man’s responsibility is the idea that God must not have spoken directly to the woman, but only spoke to her indirectly, through her husband. Genesis 3:13 and 16, however, show us that God did speak directly to the woman, at least occasionally.

The Bible includes several narratives where God, or his angel, spoke directly to a woman. So it should not be a stretch 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. From Genesis 3:8 we may infer that it was not uncommon for God to walk with the couple in the garden and that he conversed with them both: “the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze …”

It is apparent that the first woman did know God’s command, even if her words to the serpent, as recorded in Genesis 3:2–3, are somewhat different compared with the original command as recorded in Genesis 2:16–17. Eve’s statement to the serpent contains an added clause, as well as plural, rather than singular, second-person pronouns. (The significance of plural pronouns and the added clause is discussed here.)

The text tells us that the woman quoted God. It does not say that she quoted her husband. That is, she does not say, “My husband told me . . .” Rather, she says, “God said . . .” (Gen. 3:3). There is no indication that the woman got her information about God’s command second hand.

Furthermore, if the woman was originally one side of the first human, she would have heard the original command. (More about the first human having two sides, here.)

Considering what the biblical text actually says, there is more credence in suggesting that God also told the woman the command with its warning, than there is to suggest that the man was given the responsibility of teaching the woman. Nevertheless, we are just not told either way.

Did Adam have authority over Eve?

Even though there is no biblical basis whatsoever for the idea that the man was authorised to pass on what God had said, this idea is still brought up all too frequently by Christians who believe that men have been given a spiritual authority that comes directly from God, and that women are to be under the spiritual authority of men.

There is nothing in Genesis chapters one or two that suggests the first man had authority over the first woman, or that men have authority over women in general. In Genesis 1:26–28, we see that men and women had the same status: they are made in the image of God. And we see that they are given the same authority: to rule and have dominion over the animals. It was not just the first man who had authority over the animals as it might seem from Genesis 2:19–20.

It is important to note that at creation, and before the fall, there is simply no indication that men are to rule or lead women, or that men are the sole arbiters of God’s authority and instructions. Rather, both women and men were spoken to directly by God and both were told to rule and have dominion over animals (Gen. 1:26–28). They were not told to have dominion over people.

Despite knowing God’s command and warning, both the man and the woman ate the forbidden fruit. Each is confronted and individually questioned by God about their disobedience (Gen. 3:7–13, 16–19). Both were guilty, both were punished, and both had to live with the consequences of their sin. From then on, women have suffered the injustices of patriarchy—the dominance and rule of men. Patriarchy is a consequence of sin.

Our Identical Authority in Jesus

When Jesus walked on earth as a human being two thousand years ago, he continually taught and demonstrated to his followers how to live as kingdom people. Jesus did not just teach and show a better, more benevolent way of living, he taught about a social and cultural revolution. Jesus taught against hierarchies and he warned about the dangers of power, prestige, and primacy among his followers.

Jesus taught that in his kingdom, the humble are exalted, the lowly are the greatest, and the last are first.

Jesus wants to restore the equality and harmony among people that was present at creation. He has dealt with the sin problem with his redemptive death on the cross, and he has sent his Spirit to renew us and enable us to live as new creation people with kingdom ideals.

Men and women had an identical status and authority at creation; this was part of God’s “very good” creation (Gen. 1:31). In the new creation, men and women also have an identical status and authority as children of God. We are already part of the new creation, but it will be even better and “very good,” when the new creation comes in its fullness (2 Cor. 7:14–15). In the meantime, we need to deconstruct unhealthy, hierarchical relationship models and remember that every man and woman who is in Christ has the same God-given rights, authority, freedom, and privileges (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26–28; Rom. 8:14–17, etc).

A version of this article was first published on the 18th of December, 2014, by Christians for Biblical Equality (International) in their weekly newsletter, Arise.

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Excerpt of “Creation” by Marc Chagall

Explore more

What Eve’s Statement to the Serpent tells us
5 Questions about Adam’s Role in Genesis 2-3
Human (Ha’adam) Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2
The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”
Kenegdo: Is the woman in Genesis 2 subordinate, similar or similar to the man?
Gender in Genesis 1
All my articles on Gender in Genesis 1–3 are here.

9 thoughts on “Was it Adam’s responsibility to relay God’s command to Eve?

  1. Excellent article, thanks for this Marg. I am reposting to Kyria in January.

  2. Actually,

    God commanded the man:

    Genesis 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

    Eve ate of the “forbidden fruit” first.

    Yet it was Adam who was told the following:

    Genesis 3:17And to Adam he said,

    “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
    of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
    cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

    The one who was wrong was indeed Adam. And he was wrong for listening to the voice of his wife, not the serpent.

    Eve was wrong for listening to the serpent we see that here:

    Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;

    It is the woman and the serpent who is separated.

    This doesn’t mean I hold to the view that women can’t teach, but your article didn’t contain these important points.


    1. Hi Christopher,

      Thanks for your comment.

      My opening statement is “In Genesis 2:16-17, God commanded the first human not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” So I certainly didn’t overlook this point. In fact, this point is an important part of my discussion.

      The other points you mention are not especially relevant to the specific topic of this post which is “Was it Adam’s responsibility to relay the command to Eve?”.

  3. Excellent, gracias.

  4. If God spoke to both Adam and Eve directly about His command, then Adam failed to ensure accurate interpretation and application of the Word (cf. 2 Tim.2:15) with Eve. He didn’t correct nor protect Eve from her exposure to the deception of the serpent (described as the most crafty creature in Gen.3:1). Sadly, this failed pattern of leadership with Adam is being repeated in our days…

    1. Hello Peter. The way I see it, Adam and Eve both failed. Neither protected the other and neither of them seemed to trust in God’s provision.

      I don’t see evidence that God’s command was misunderstood or misinterpreted. Rather, it was disobeyed.

      Genesis 3 tells us that, despite the command, which they both knew, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Then they were individually questioned by God and told that each will suffer with “sorrowful toil” (Hebrew: itsabon) because of their own actions.

      I’ve written more about Eve’s reply to the snake here:
      And I discuss Adam’s excuse here:

  5. Some interesting questions and points raised in the article and discussion. Can I add the following

    -Adam was given the command not to eat. As you say it is neither pointed out that he passed it to Eve, or that God communicated it to Eve.
    When the serpent speaks it repeats the command as applying to both humans- plural. Again though there is no clarity as to whether God commanded both through adam, or whether he separately commanded Eve. The point is that both are under command, and Eve responds in the plural to the serpents question in plural
    As to the codicil of not touching, was this part of God’s command, or was it a safety clause added by Eve- or by Adam and given to Eve- or by mutual agreement- akin to “isolating the hazard”? Again we are not told.

    However there is a distinct pattern of antithesis in the text.
    Before the fall:
    we ARE told God spoke to Adam (and only adam)
    We ARE told that the serpent spoke to Eve (and only eve)
    We ARE told that Eve then spoke serpent philosophy to Adam and offered the fruit
    The logical fourth part of the antithesis is that Adam spoke the divine command to Eve

    There is a distinct antithetical pattern in the narrative.
    God’s principal communication is with Adam, the Serpents principal communication is with Eve. The couple are however in parity relationship to each other- there is no indication of one being more important than the other.
    Antithesis could also be inferred in their mutual interaction- while Adam gave Eve the command, Eve gave Adam the fruit…

    The overall pattern is God> Adam = Eve < serpent. Basically the couple are a parity pair caught in a struggle between good and evil, the meat in the sandwich so to speak, and the proving ground between right and wrong.

    After the Fall:
    God does not speak to Eve first as the first to chow down on the fruit. He maintains the antithetical principle

    He speaks first to Adam
    He then speaks to Eve
    He then speaks to the serpent- and immediately condemns it
    He then punishes the Woman
    last of all he punishes Adam

    Again note the antithesis- the inquisition is in order of man-woman- serpent
    The punishment is in order of serpent-woman-man

    Patriarchy is specifically introduced in the judgments. The man now – and only now- has an authority role and the woman a subject role. Sin has upset the apple cart and disparity is the result: the God-man relationship of trust is destroyed: the man/woman parity is in ruins. Adam is ejected from the garden, and woman also but only by implication- the man is mentioned and the woman treated as an unmentioned adjunct: the first cognizance of patriarchy.

    There is more to the story than just gender roles, it is a fable (fable in the sense of parable) defining the struggle between obedience and disobedience, command and consequence, that destroys harmony and creates disparity.
    In Genesis 4, Sin has a second go through Cain, who steps across the threshhold, partners with sin in doing so (note the inverse statement of the punishment on Eve- indicating partnership with sin- compare 3:16 with 4:6) and kills Abel. In this case the parable is wholly in male territory, and Cain is wholly culpable. One can only pity his wife, tofally innocent in the debacle, yet married to a guy like that.

    1. Hi Roger, lots to think about here. Especially, for me, this bit: “The overall pattern is God> Adam = Eve < serpent. Basically the couple are a parity pair caught in a struggle between good and evil ..." Very interesting! However, we are not told that Eve spoke “serpent theology” to Adam. Genesis 3 mentions nothing about Adam speaking to Eve, so I have doubts about a logical antithesis at this point of the story. I’m aware of Chrysostom’s comment, “The woman taught once, and ruined all”; however, this is what Genesis 3:6-7 says,
      “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

      Have you, or someone else, written more about these ideas?

      Regarding Eve’s codicil, I (and others) suggest it was part of the narrator’s method of expanding on the story. I’ve written about this here:
      https://margmowczko.com/eves-statement-to-the-serpent/ See the postscripts also.

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