1. Does the order in which they are created establish man’s priority over woman?
Nothing in Genesis teaches that creation order establishes man’s priority over woman. God created the plants and animals before man, yet to whom did God give dominion? Was it not the one created later? In fact, the leadership of the one born later is a major Old Testament theme: Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Judah over his older brothers, Moses over Aaron, David over his brothers, and so on. The Genesis account of creation teaches not hierarchy, but that both man and woman together have dominion over the earth. God created man and woman equally in his image. This equality is not limited to spiritual standing before God, but includes shared authority over the earth. Contrary to the male-oriented custom in Moses’ day, Genesis 2:24 calls the man, not his wife, to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. The creation account does not grant man priority in status or authority over woman, but thoroughly emphasizes their equality (Genesis 1:26–29, 2:23–24, 3:6–13).
2. Does woman being man’s “helper” in Genesis 2:18 and 20 imply that women must be subordinate to men?
God says, “I will make a strength corresponding to him” in Genesis 2:18. The first word of this expression, sometimes translated “helper,” as in the New International Version, means “strength, help, savior, or rescuer.” Sixteen times it describes God as the helper, the rescuer of people in need, their strength or power; the remaining three times (Isaiah 30:5, Daniel 11:34, Hosea 13:9) it describes a military protector. It never implies subordination or submission to the one rescued. It means literally, “a strength as in front of him,” namely, “a strength corresponding to him.”
3. Should men rule over women since Genesis 3:16 states, “He will rule over you”?
This is God’s statement of what will result from the fall, not God’s decree of what should be. Like every other result of the fall, this is something new, not in the original creation. It is a distortion of God’s design. Even leading complementarians agree that this “is not a prescription of what should be.”1 They fail to acknowledge, however, that the word for “rule” here does not imply bad rule. Both major Hebrew dictionaries (HALOT 2:647–48 and BDB 605) analyze every Old Testament instance of this word and list no negative meaning for it. This word is even used for God’s rule. Since man’s ruling over woman—even good rule—is a result of the fall, man must not have ruled over woman before the fall. Furthermore, Christ, the promised seed of the woman, has overcome the fall (Genesis 3:15, 1 Corinthians 15:45). New creatures freed by Christ should not foster any of the tragic consequences the fall introduced, including man ruling over woman.
What do you think? What questions do you have about Genesis? Post them in the comments!
1John Piper and Wayne Grudem, “Charity, Clarity, and Hope: The Controversy and the Cause of Christ,” pages 403–22 in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem; Wheaton: Crossway, 1991) 409.
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