The traditional interpretation of Genesis 1, 2, &3 gives a seemingly simple and straightforward narrative of the creation account up till the fall. It goes thus; God made all things in seven days. Then He made a male-human and placed him in the garden that He had previously planted, commanding him not to eat of a certain tree of the garden. After having been working alone for a while, God says that it is not good for the man to be alone, by himself, and He proceeds to make a companion for him. This companion that He wishes to make for the man, we are told, God calls a ‘help-meet’ and it is the female.
The woman is made out of a rib that God takes out of the man. The man sees her and calls her the ‘bone of his bone’ and the ‘flesh of his flesh’. God says that this is how a man and a woman will come together to become husband and wife.
In the beginning of the third chapter the serpent tempts the woman and asks her about the command that God had earlier given. She responds, notably giving a slightly, yet significantly, different account of the command that God gave to the man in an earlier account. The serpent convinces her to disobey God’s command and she also urges her husband to eat. The two eat and suddenly realise that they are naked. God comes to the garden and asks the man, and then the woman, about what had transpired earlier in the day. Each one explains his and her own side of the story and God judges them, reeling out the due punishments for each for their sins. Finally, He sends them both out of the garden.
GENDER ISSUES-RELATED DOCTRINES THAT SPIN OFF OF THIS NARRATIVE
- First born/creation order doctrine; In the beginning the human that God made first was definitely a male and because it was a male-human that was created first then that also means that as a divine design male is regarded as ontologically superior and of higher ranking than female.
- Help meet-doctrine: after God made the first human, a male, He said He wanted to make a suitable help for him and He made a woman. Thus, the female creation was an afterthought, not in the original plan and by divine design was made to serve, and be an associate to, the male. This applies within and without the confines of marriage. The male was made to excel the female in all things, and is to always strive to be just that, as conformity to the divinely ordained expression of his real manhood. Also, because God gave the work of the garden (a type of the earth) to the first human, who was supposedly a male, then it also means that God ‘handed over the garden/the earth’ to males, and only brought females into the mix as a secondary support for them.
- Male authority doctrine; because in the Beginning, it is the male that is written that God initially gave the command to eat or not eat, and he was also the one that was first asked about the command in chapter 3, then he must also have been a divinely elected leader of the relationship and the one whom God holds responsible for the marriage and family.
- The doctrine of the woman’s faulty testimony; Because there is only one clearly written recorded instance of God issuing a command to humanity (Gen. 2:8), it is commonly presumed that that indeed could and must have been the only time that God ever spoke of it and the woman’s reported version in Gen.3:2 is a misunderstanding of the initial and only command ever given by God. Based on these assumptions the following ideas are often held about women;
- In the beginning the woman, who was made after the male, could only have gotten to know of the commandment of God through the agency of the man. Therefore, the divine order is that God does not speak directly to women who are in marital relationship with men in a leadership capacity. If He ever does, it is ad hoc and/or as a damage control for an absentee or incompetent male. The male ought to always be in the lead in the marriage and home.
- From the beginning, women have been…well, spiritually dull and not so smart like men. They are overly talkative and given to exaggerations in their speech. Women are gullible and cannot be trusted with matters of serious discourse.
I find all these assumptions to be scripturally wanting. We will look at them one after the other
THE FIRST-BORN MYTH
First of all, the belief that the first human that God made was definitely a male is doubtful. Adam is a Hebrew word that means human. The Hebrew word, îš, that specifically means male is not in use in the creation story until after God does the ‘surgery’ in Gen. 2:22. I will come back to that later.
Second of all, if we are going to insist on using the logic that being created first translates to leadership and pre-eminence over what came after, then we ought to be consistent at it. According to Gen. 1 account of creation, the animals were made before mankind. But we have not made the same assumption about humans and animals in our theology. Why is that? Because God categorically said that humans were to reign over animals. We discard the logic of creation order and regard God’s express commands as the basis upon which the purpose of so and so is. But with respect to woman and man we uphold the logic of creation/birth order written in Genesis 2, neglecting completely what God said about the purpose of male and female in Genesis 1:26-28.
But… even if the first human were male, even if the male was the ‘firstborn’, does the Bible actually teach that God has a preference for firstborns?
Abel was not a first born. Neither were Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Joseph, Perez, Ephraim, Moses, David, and Solomon. Judah was a fourth born, and Joseph was the eleventh-born amongst twelve children, yet these two were made ‘prince’, that is, the leader and most prominent, amongst their older brothers.
Samuel, Abraham, Samson, John, were biological firstborns. Guess, this can go either way.
Humans in Biblical times definitely had some of these biases, but God certainly did not. Ishmael, had he been around when Isaac was older, would have fought for his (human) rights as first born. Isaac wanted to bless Esau his biological firstborn; Joseph wanted his firstborn to automatically get the greater blessing. There is, however, no record in the scriptures, particularly in the Hebrew Bible, of God Himself ordaining firstborns for leadership among their siblings based only on the criterion of being firstborn. The only instance God seems to have shown any preference and separation for prominence for a firstborn was as regards animals in the old covenant sacrifices. And He explained that it was because of the Egyptians whose firstborns He killed, so that the Israelites could be set free from slavery.
Clearly firstborns—or anything first at all—meant a lot to people at the time, both Israelites and Egyptians alike. One could safely surmise that ‘firstborn’ did connote ‘leader’ in the cultural parlance of ancient biblical times. Thus, in asking for their firstlings and ‘first things’ as items of sacrifice, God was appealing to the human bias to see if they would willingly give to Him what meant the most to them. It was not about God at all. Interestingly when it concerned people, God opted to ask for a third born to typify a firstborn—Levi. That is, even while appealing to human prejudices God still showed that it was not His own ideal.
It seems that God’s own ‘firstborns’ are made, they are not born (Psa. 89:27). That is to say, the one who becomes first in God’s books is the one who God chooses based on other criteria than their birth order. God made Levi, a biological third-born, to become ‘firstborn’ for the priesthood. God made King David, the last of his father’s children to be a ‘firstborn’ because of his contrite heart.
And… He also made Christ, the second Adam, who was also a type of King David (see Ps. 89), to be a ‘firstborn’ amongst many siblings because of His humility and self-sacrifice (Col. 1:15-22, Phil.2:1-11). That is, anyone can be firstborn, because the person who will be first does something to qualify for it. Ironically, that something to be done in other to become first is to become last.
CONCLUSION; The male having been formed first does not automatically imply his superiority or pre-eminence over the female who came after him. To make such an assertion we need more than an assumption of birth order and what it supposedly implies.
Art By Ascending Storm