This question of “How does God view Male and Female?” is an examination focused on how God treated the first man and woman and what God intended for them both in terms of the relationship of the two sexes.
Many Christians use the book of Genesis in particular, to suggest that women and females are to be in full subjection to men and males, the level of subjection varying according to the particular religion they belong to. The thinking in other cultures and religions has also affected Christian religions, both in the past and the present. Today, there is a whole range of attitudes toward and treatment of women by men, all purportedly backed up by scripture. This leaves us with the question, “What is God’s view?”
This article only attempts to examine what we can learn from the book of Genesis and learn from the example God set, how others treated Adam and Eve, and how Adam and Eve treated each other. The article that follows will not attempt to impose its conclusions on the reader, rather, it will be up to the reader to make their own decision based on the findings and how it affects their God-given conscience.
This article will not examine the attitude of other Hebrew Bible writers, nor Jesus nor the first century Christian Bible writers unless they quote from the book of Genesis or the events contained within. Their view will be examined in later articles in this series: “How does God view Male and Female?”
The following verses as a minimum will be examined:
- Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 5:1-2 – relating to God’s image and likeness.
- Genesis 1:26b, 28b – relating to dominion over animals and the earth.
- Genesis 1:28-29, Genesis 5:2 – relating to the blessing and fill the earth.
- Genesis 1:29 – relating to the food given to them.
- Genesis 1:28-29 – relating to God’s communication with his human creation.
- Genesis 2:18,20 – Eve’s role as “helper” and “complement”.
- Genesis 2:21-23 – how Eve was made.
- Genesis 2:23 – Adam’s view of Eve.
- Genesis 2:24 – the description of the married relationship.
- Genesis 3:1-5 – the serpent’s lie, to whom?
- Genesis 3:6 – who was to blame?
- Genesis 3:7 – their attitude after eating.
- Genesis 3:9-13, 16-19 – God’s communication with Adam and Eve.
- Genesis 3:16-19 – the consequences of disobedience.
All scripture quotations are from the New World Translation Reference Edition of 1984 (Rbi8) unless otherwise noted.
The Findings from the Genesis Account
1. Male and Female – Both Created in God’s image?
Genesis 1:26a “And God went on to say: “Let us make man[kind] in our image, according to our likeness …”
Genesis 1:27 “And God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.”
Genesis 5:1-2 “This is the book of Adam’s history. In the day of God’s creating man[i] he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them. After that he blessed them and called their name Man in the day of their being created.”
Hebrew words used
The normal usage of the term “adam” in the scriptures is to refer to a man as in a “human being”, distinguishing the subject or object from other animals, birds, etc. It is rarely used to mean a male alone, and when it does it is always shown by the context to be understood that way and the sentence includes a reference to a woman \ female \ wife.
The secondary usage in context is “mankind” (man\human beings in a collective sense).
Genesis 1:26a is therefore saying that God said, “Let us make mankind in our image” and therefore both male and female, man and woman were equally made in God’s image. Consequently, the first man and first woman were created as perfect humans, and, neither would be inferior to the other in qualities, as they were both in the likeness of God, their maker.
Genesis 1:27 reiterates this when stating that man was made in God’s likeness and emphasizing this “male and female he created them”. The clear implication being that both male and female were fashioned in the same way, in God’s likeness.
Genesis 5:1-2 confirms this by repeating that man(kind) was made in the likeness of God, and mankind was created with male and female, and that they were named “Man, Mankind” on the day they were created.
Both man (male) and woman (female) were created in God’s likeness with no hint of the superiority of either one.
2. Man and Woman – Dominion over all the other Creation on Earth, by whom?
Genesis 1:26b “… and let them have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth.”
Genesis 1:28b “… and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.””
In Genesis 1:26, after God said “Let us make mankind in our image” he when on to discuss that they, mankind, (therefore both male and female), would have dominion over the fish, the flying creatures, and the domestic animals, and all other animals. This was repeated 2 sentences later in Genesis 1:28b.
There was no differentiation between male and female as to the type of dominion they would have. In addition, God did not add that men would have dominion over their wives or women in general.
3. Man and Woman – Who was blessed and told to fill the earth?
Genesis 1:28 “Further, God blessed them and God said to them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.”
Genesis 5:2 “Male and female he created them. After that he blessed them and called their name Man in the day of their being created.”
You will notice the words, “them” and “their” (plural you) in bold in the above quotations from Genesis. In each instance, God was talking to man and woman together, with no differentiation. God blessed them both and called them both Man(kind).
The blessing and instructions were given to both Adam and Eve without differentiation.
4. Man and Woman – Who was given the Vegetation as Food?
Genesis 1:29 “And God went on to say: “Here I have given to YOU all vegetation bearing seed which is on the surface of the whole earth and every tree on which there is the fruit of a tree bearing seed. To YOU let it serve as food.”
Again, please notice the plural YOU in bold.
All vegetation as food was given to Adam and Eve without distinction between them (plural YOU).
5. Man and Woman – Who did God communicate with?
Genesis 1:28-29 shows that God communicated with both Adam and Eve, both man and woman, together. He did not communicate with Eve through Adam, or only with Adam.
It is important to note that the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and bad recorded in Genesis 2:17, although given to Adam initially, it was because only Adam was in existence at that time. Additionally, although Genesis 3:1-5 does not state it categorically, it is reasonable to understand that likely God repeated the command he had given Adam regarding the tree of knowledge, because she answered the serpent saying “… God has said, ‘YOU must not eat from it, no, YOU must not touch it that YOU do not die”.
In the account in Genesis 2:17, God addresses Adam and has the singular “you” as only Adam was alive at that time. By contrast, the account in Genesis 3:3b contains the plural “YOU” and the wording is different to Genesis 2:17. This likely indicates that God repeated the command he gave to Adam, to both Adam and Eve, after her creation, including her. Eve clearly understood that the command applied to both Adam and her equally. If she had only heard the instruction from Adam she likely would have said “Adam (or My Husband) told me that God said …”
The strong circumstantial evidence is that God repeated his restriction about eating from the tree of knowledge to both Adam and Eve.
6. What did Eve’s position as helper and complement mean?
Genesis 2:18-20 “And Jehovah God went on to say: “It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him. … but for man there was found no helper as a complement of him”.
Notice how there are two key words, helper and complement, in this scripture passage. They are also repeated twice for emphasis. We need to examine the meaning of both to get a proper understanding of Jehovah God’s view of Eve’s position.
The Hebrew word translated as “helper” is “ezer”[v], which means help or succor. Being a helper does not in any way indicate the social status or relationship status of the helper to the one receiving the help, other than in normal usage indicating an equal or higher status of the helper. Help is usually voluntary on the part of the giver. Other terminology would normally be used if the helper were subordinate, such as servant, or slave, or apprentice, or was being forced or coerced or obliged to render help or assistance.
We also should not forget that the majority of uses of this Hebrew word “ezer” are with reference to God as being the helper, and he is obviously superior to mankind in every way, not subordinate.
The Hebrew word translated as “complement” is “neged”[vi] which means “in front of, in sight of, opposite to”. The technical construction of the word means it is “according to what is in front of i.e. corresponding to”. Complement is therefore a reasonable translation and is conveying the understanding that Eve, as the first woman, was comparable to Adam. Also, that together with the first man the slight variance of attributes of the woman completed the man and improved the quality of the joint entity, neither better nor inferior to the man.
Neither of the descriptions of Eve as being a helper or as being a complement indicates any subservient role of the woman to the man.
7. Male and Female – What can we learn from how Eve was created?
Genesis 2:21-23 “Hence Jehovah God had a deep sleep fall upon the man and, while he was sleeping, he took one of his ribs and then closed up the flesh over its place. 22 And Jehovah God proceeded to build the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman and to bring her to the man.
23 Then the man said: “This is at last bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh. This one will be called Woman, Because from man this one was taken.”
The description here would indicate that the first woman, Eve, was made from the same DNA as Adam, obtained from his rib, and then adapted as required to make a female. We should also note that Eve was not created as a new creation, totally distinct with everything different from Adam, but rather built or fashioned from Adam’s rib.
The Bible’s statement and the natural understanding of what it implies are in total harmony with what scientists have discovered in the late 20th Century and early 21st Century.
For example, we know today that males have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, but females have 2 copies of the X chromosome. We also know that 22 of the 23 pairs of chromosomes are identical in both males and females. It is only the 23rd pair, called the sex chromosomes today, that differ between males and females. The 22 pairs account for 20,000 genes, are identical in men and women. The only difference is with the 23rd pair with the X sex chromosome with 800 genes, found twice in females and once in males, and the Y sex chromosome with 200 genes only found in males.
To put these differences in perspective, out of the 21,000 genes less than 1% are only found in men, while to balance against that about 3.8% are found twice in women. One cannot argue that either is inferior to the other, just fractionally different.
Therefore, in creating Eve, the first woman, nothing completely new and different was required or created. At the chromosome level, the Y chromosome was simply removed, and an X chromosome duplicated from the existing one took its place.
This raises the question, When God created Adam, did he already make passive provision to create Eve? The answer we are led to, is, Yes, he did.
The Hebrew names for man (“ish”) and woman (“ishshah”) also indicate agreement with this. Today in English they are named similarly as man and wo’man, but that was not always the case. The history of these words in English is understood to be that originally “mann” referred to someone, one, human (as in one of mankind). The Old English word for a man was “wer” from which the term “wer wulf” (man wolf or werewolf) came. After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, “mann” increasingly came to be used only for males. The Old English word for a female was “wif”, but like “mann” its meaning became restricted over time to married women (today – wife) and so “wif mann” became the term for female, which over time became “wim mann” and with changing pronunciation into “woman” for singular and “wiman”, now “women” for plural, that we have today.[vii]
Eve was built from Adam’s rib, nothing new was created, only a duplication of the X chromosome and deletion of the Y chromosome.
8. Male and Female – What can we learn from Adam’s view of Eve?
Genesis 2:23 “Then the man said: “Now[viii] this is bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh. This one will be called Woman, Because from man this one was taken.” [Authors Note: “Now this is” replaces “This is at last” from the NWT.]
In context, we see that just before Eve was brought to Adam, he had been naming the livestock and the birds and the beasts of the fields. (Genesis 2:20) The Hebrew word “paam” means “now” or “this time”. It does not mean “at last” which incorrectly implies waiting for a long time. Furthermore, in context, the emphasis is that Adam has seen all sorts of different species of creation, all different to him, and now, here was a human like him, before him, made from his own flesh and bone. It was a positive affirmation of delight that he too had a female companion like those animals he named. It was not a complaint that he had been waiting for such a long time for her.
Adam recognized Eve as of the same substance as himself and science confirms this. No superiority of either sex, just minor differences to enable male and female to function as such.
9. Man and Woman – What can we learn from the description of marriage?
Genesis 2:24 “That is why a man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.”
Following Adam’s view on the close similarity of Eve to himself, the account expands on Adam’s view to explain the relationship between a man and a woman in marriage. The Hebrew word here translated “stick to” is “dabaq”[ix]. It conveys the meaning “to cling, to cleave, to keep close”. Elsewhere in scripture, it is used to describe how bone sticks to the skin, and how the tongue sticks to the roof of the mouth in thirst (Job 19:20, Lamentations 4:4). The Interlinear on Biblehub.com translates it “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh”[x]. The word “leave” conveys the departing from, leaving behind of the parents and becoming one unit, inseparably bonded, one flesh joined like flesh and bone which cannot be separated without severe damage to both.
Again, there is no comment on the relative position of the male to the female in this statement, other than the stated one flesh. This implies that to be one flesh both must play their part and while there are the obvious physical differences, neither sex is more important than the other, and neither sex is complete without the other.
10. Man and Woman – Who did the serpent lie to?
Genesis 3:1-5 “Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: “Is it really so that God said YOU must not eat from every tree of the garden?” 2 At this the woman said to the serpent: “Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. 3 But as for [eating] of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘YOU must not eat from it, no, YOU must not touch it that YOU do not die.’” 4 At this the serpent said to the woman: “YOU positively will not die. 5 For God knows that in the very day of YOUR eating from it YOUR eyes are bound to be opened and YOU are bound to be like God, KNOWING good and bad.”
The account shows that the serpent (understood to be Satan based on Revelation 20:2 and Revelation 12:9) spoke to Eve. However, we should note that while speaking to Eve the serpent included Adam. How so? The account contains only the plural “YOU” and not the singular “you”. The serpent questioned whether God had said to both of them that they should not eat from every tree of the garden. Eve, in repeating God’s command used the plural YOU showing the command God had given applied equally to both her and Adam. The serpent then claimed that neither Eve nor Adam would die. *YOU will positively not die”. It was also claimed by the serpent that God knew that in the day they ate from the tree their eyes would be opened and they would be like God. It is clear, therefore, although the serpent spoke to Eve, the serpent was addressing both Adam and Eve.
The serpent addressed both Adam and Eve without distinction and suggested they both would benefit from eating from the tree of knowledge of good and bad.
11. Man and Woman – Who was to blame?
Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise then she took and ate of its fruit. And she gave some also to her husband and he ate with her.” See Westminster Leningrad Codex[xi].
The Hebrew text and most English translations[xii] read that “the tree was desirable to make one wise” in addition to being “pleasant to the eyes”, which gives reasons as to why Eve partook of the fruit. The other point to note is that Adam, her husband was there at the time she ate, and she gave him some fruit there and “he ate the fruit with her”. The Hebrew text does not suggest that Adam did not eat the fruit until much later time.
[Technical Details of the Hebrew text: The “And” of the phrase ‘and she gave’ and the phrase ‘and he ate’ have a Waw-conjunctive in Hebrew, i.e. at the same time, rather than waw-consecutive, which would indicate following (in time) the previous action.][xiii].
No difference in attitude to eating the fruit is noted. The account indicates that Eve took some fruit and ate it while Adam was there and while eating, she gave some fruit to Adam who immediately ate it with her. Adam did not tell Eve not to eat of the fruit, nor did he refuse to eat the fruit himself.
Both Adam and Eve were individually responsible for their own personal actions. There is no record that either told or suggested to the other that they should not eat or continue to eat the forbidden fruit.
12. Man and Woman – Was there a difference in attitude after eating?
Genesis 3:7-8 “Then the eyes of both of them became opened and they began to realize that they were naked. Hence they sewed fig leaves together and made loin coverings for themselves. Later they heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden about the breezy part of the day, and the man and his wife went into hiding from the face of Jehovah God in between the trees of the garden.”
There was no difference in attitude immediately after eating the forbidden fruit. They both realized they were naked, and both made themselves a loin covering. There is no hint here that Adam complained that Eve had disobeyed him. They both went into hiding when Jehovah came into the garden.
13. Man and Woman – How did God communicate with them after they ate the fruit?
Genesis 3:9-13 “And Jehovah God kept calling to the man and saying to him: “Where are you?” 10 Finally he said: “Your voice I heard in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked and so I hid myself.” 11 At that he said: “Who told you that you were naked? From the tree from which I commanded you not to eat have you eaten?” 12 And the man went on to say: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me [fruit] from the tree and so I ate.” 13 With that Jehovah God said to the woman: “What is this you have done?” To this the woman replied: “The serpent—it deceived me and so I ate.””
When God came to the garden later in the day and called for Adam, Adam initially hid, but then replied. When he was questioned, Adam deflected responsibility for his actions by blaming God for giving him the woman (“the woman whom you gave me”) that gave him the fruit. He had partaken of the forbidden fruit knowingly. Eve had not deceived Adam; she had just given the fruit to him and he made his own decision to eat of it.
Naturally, God followed up by asking the woman Eve, “what is this that you have done”. Eve had a simple answer, she was deceived by the serpent and so she ate. We cannot read anything else into this statement, as we were not there. Furthermore, God accepted her explanation, he did not accuse her of lying or making an excuse.
God treated them as individuals giving them both the opportunity to say what had happened. God did not ask Adam what Eve had done, God asked Adam what he had done. God then asked Eve directly what she had done. God did not ask Eve through Adam.
14. Man and Woman –The consequences of disobedience.
Genesis 3:16-19 “To the woman he said: “I shall greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy; in birth pangs you will bring forth children, and your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.”
17 And to Adam he said: “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and took to eating from the tree concerning which I gave you this command, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. 18 And thorns and thistles it will grow for you, and you must eat the vegetation of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.”
As God was talking to Eve, he continued speaking to her and told her the consequences of her actions which she alone was responsible for.
A more accurate rendering of this passage is “To the woman He said, ‘Greatly I will multiply your toil, [pain, hardship] and your conception [or pregnancy] in pain [or hardship] you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband and he will dominate over you.”[xiv] As God would next also say to Adam, the punishment was that her life was to be much harder from now on. The rest of Eve’s problems would be the consequences arising from her imperfection. In the future giving birth would become more difficult as a consequence, and instead of being happy equals, Eve would have a longing for her husband (perhaps to protect her and provide for her) and in turn, her husband would take advantage of that longing and dominate her.
Because Adam had listened to Eve’s suggestion instead of God’s command, he too would have greater toil, hardship, and pain. The ground would be cursed and be far more difficult to cultivate. He too would have pain, and hard work (sweat) until the day he died. We should also note that the phrase “for dust you are and to dust you will return” was spoken only to Adam as he was created from the dust, and the “you” is singular.
Man and Woman
On close examination, therefore, both Adam and Eve had the same punishment, life would be much harder, as the ground would not be productive as the trees in the Garden of Eden were.
There would also be consequences of their growing imperfection, a disruption in the balance that had existed up till then. In the future, the females would desire a husband and the males would use that desire to dominate the females.
The desire and domination were not caused by God, but by their fall into imperfection.
Finally, they were both thrown out of the Garden of Eden and stopped from returning.
From our examination of the account in Genesis, from the creation of the first man and the first woman to the fall into sin, we can see that God created both Adam and Eve in his likeness. They were given the same instructions and God gave no hint of any superiority of the man or woman. Even when they sinned, he treated them as individuals. It was, however, at this point that the differences would start to become apparent, imperfection being the cause. Eve was not cursed or put in a lower position to Adam, rather it was the natural consequence of their actions and fall into imperfection that would lead to male domination over females.
In the next part of this series, we will examine how the relative relationship between men and women began to change away from that which Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden before they sinned.
[i] NWT Reference Edition has “Adam” here, but “man, mankind” fits better in the context as the secondary usage of “adam” especially given that it is followed by “male and female” of which mankind is made up of, and the naming as “Man/Mankind” is also restated. See also https://biblehub.com/interlinear/genesis/5-2.htm