Adam and Eve in Harmony

by Alison Rowan

The relationship between Adam and Eve, Creation’s crowning glory, God’s masterpiece that perfectly expressed the orderly and harmonious fulness of God to Creation, has remained one of speculation and sadly great division in the Christian World. Complementarians claim there was a hierarchy, couched in terms of a ‘gender differentiation’ or a ‘leadership role’ and a ‘nurturing role’, whereas Egalitarians claim there was complete mutuality. The understanding of the word, ‘head’ is pivotal to this argument. Complementarians claim it to mean a higher authority or leader, the Egalitarians claim it to mean ‘source of origin’, but I have done an exegetical study of the figurative uses of head throughout both the Old and New Testaments and have found a more consistent meaning of ‘Headship’ points to it being the ‘unifier by the leveling of status and/or progenitor’.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over …..all the earth …. And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them …. And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion ….” (Gen 1:26-8)

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”(Gen 5:1-2)

The question of whether any of these statements above even imply different roles or a disparity of authority, is what will be investigated here. The difference in views stems from how certain words found in texts that describe this relationship have been defined through applying different hermeneutics.

Regarding the word “alone”:

In the beginning when Elohim (the plural name for God used here) created and named them both as 'Adam’ in their own image as a male/female unity, Eve can be thought of as being 'in Adam' as we are 'in Christ'. Please note, she was not ‘created’ like all other creatures ex nihilo nor Adam either: they were formed from the Earth, adamah. Since God did not have to breathe into Eve’s body that He had ‘formed’ from Adam’s rib. Eve was ‘in Adam’ as he named the beasts in Gen 2 and was told to tend the Garden. Later that ‘day’ - whether or not you wish to interpret that as 24 hrs or as a ‘period of specified activity’ - is immaterial, the fact is that on the ‘day’ that he/they created THEM, Elohim, the male/female God called THEIR name Adam, Because He blessed them and commanded them to multiply, there had to be two humans standing there! It is clear from Gen 1 and 5, Elohim commissioned them both later in the day after separating them - making NO gender distinction, He gave them both the equal calling to be Ruler of Creation together. However, their FUNCTION was different, because her expertise in ruling was with the feminine characteristics of Elohim, whereas Adam’s rule displayed the male. A single gender rule of either sex would be inadequate to express the fullness of God’s nature. Either sex of Mankind could not fulfill their purpose “alone”.

BEFORE Eve was separated from Adam and able to participate in her calling as ruler of Creation, it could not yet be declared 'very good'. It was incomplete: it was 'not good' Gen 2:18 God only declared it was VERY good, after there were two human forms on the Earth. It was ‘not good’ because Adam was “alone”. The Hebrew word is le-bad-dow לְבַדּו  Strongs 905e with suffix (89 t.) to express the idea of by oneself, alone, solitary (properly in his, thy, my separation). It does not mean (as has been implied) “lonely” or “lonesome” -- lacking companionship! Adam’s abilities were deficient: he needed HELP. Eve was therefore separated from him through his side as (NKJV) 'a helper comparable to him' (Heb. 'ezer kenedgo') to express the female side of God’s nature.

An apt illustration is that Adam, like a single scissor blade made a stab at ruling but just wasn't cutting it. Two matching blades are needed, both moving independently, but joined at the heart and both guided by the Creator’s hand.

Regarding “ezer kenedgo”

Ezer kenedgo has been defined by Robert Alter in The five books of Moses, as “one who gives active intervention on behalf of the other.” 'Ezer' = helper and  where it is used in Psalm 118:7, it is quoted in Heb 13:6 "the Lord is my Helper." Here the Greek word used is 'boēthos' constructed from 'boi', a shout, and 'theō', to run, meaning 'succour' in essence, 'one who comes to strengthen in response to a shout for help.’ The image of a lifeguard (male or female) sprinting into the surf at the shout of distress, does capture the essence of the Biblical ezer.

In the 21 instances where ezer is used in the OT to describe either God or humans as covenant allies helping each other, it always has the meaning of a sufficient one supplying help to another who is lacking in that area requiring supply. NEVER is there any sense of subordination by the helper, rather the one requiring help needs to humbly receive and submit to the expertise, advice or back up of the helper.

Since the Lord is in no way inferior in rank to the one He is helping, why should it be assumed and wrongly taught that Eve was?

The notion is false that Eve was ranked beneath Adam and in effect her 'help' was merely confined to the Complementarian’s notion of ‘roles', that is, ‘following his lead’, ‘carrying out orders' or picking the berries and doing the domestic stuff while Adam got on with the real work of ruling and protecting. Adams role was given to him alone in Gen 2: … to use his physically stronger frame and fatherly instinct to guard and tend the garden. Eve has the physical frame to bear and nurture children. In the texts of Genesis 1-2 there are zero references to the man being designated the ‘role as leader’ and the woman having the ‘role as follower.’ This is more akin to her being his servant 'ebed' in Hebrew. No, she was ‘ezer.’ The only differences the sexes have is in their physical, not their mental makeup nor abilities to function in the spirit.

'Kenedgo' = comparable, with the sense of standing opposite like a mirror image. There is equivalence here, not rank. Companionship is covered in 'kenedgo' meaning compatible, suited to, matching, is it not? Those words describe a beautiful intimacy. It also describes her suitability as a mate, for all must reproduce after their own kind. A good illustration is that of two interlocking jigsaw pieces. They can only be joined as 'one' when laid side by side, each filling the gaps in the other. They cannot be joined if one is atop the other, through superior rank. Only with mutuality, the two become one flesh, one harmonious expression of the image of God.

Regarding the word “desire”

Having enjoyed the sweetest of communion in co-operation and mutuality alongside her husband, the desire for this to continue would have been still so strong. This sums up what I believe her non-sexual “desire” was - and the agony of the CHANGE of relationship between the two of them as a result of the Fall. Susan Foh proposed the error, adopted by Complementarianism in 1975 which states Eve’s desire was to rule over Adam and that he should not let her. She arrived at this through superimposing two verses over different chapters on different subjects.

Gen 4:7 "Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to master you, but you must rule over it."

Gen 3:16 "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

What Susan Foh has done and Complementarian teachers readily reinforce, is to COMBINE these two verses in the following way:

"Sin (in your wife) is crouching at your door. SHE desires to master you, but you must rule over her." -- a gross perversion of Gen 4:7

With THAT mindset, Gen 3:16 is then misread as ...

"Your desire will be to (master) your husband, but he will (because he must) rule over you."

I have even heard it taught that the HUSBAND is actually sinning if he does let his wife take any lead and that SHE is sinning if she does, too. This is such an abusive perversion of both the text and God’s heart for his children! Whereas, I believe her actual desire was to still be his ezer kenedgo - his exact equivalent on equal terms with equal responsibility under God to rule creation together. I believe she yearned to still be ‘one’ with him, joined side by side as they cooperated, drawing on each other’s strengths, in perfect deference, honour and harmony. Neither before the Fall had any right, need or desire to rule the other.

Her hopes were crushed under his domination instead. The perversion of Creation--patriarchal rule started here. Has it ever occurred to you how it is that Satan could target the Woman alone, as permitted by God in Gen 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman”? Women and men had to be separated for this targeting, and the woman’s lot was to suffer, Satan’s enmity through it. Therefore, Satan’s enmity against Eve and her daughters began its outworking here in the permission for patriarchal rule. It is not as the Complementarians assert, the institution through which God blesses women, but actually, rather the institution through which Satan abuses them!

Regarding the word ”for”. (This is not in the Genesis accounts)

The Complementarian view taken from 1 Cor 11:9 “neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” assumes that Eve was created to fulfil a lack in him of companionship and assistance. She was created to fulfil HIM, Adam being the axis around which Eve’s life should revolve and find purpose.

If, companionship was the emphasis of “for”, then God could have said he was looking for a chabereth kenedgo = female companion suited to him. Or even a kenath kenedgo = intimate friend suited to him.

It is unfortunate that our more common use of the word helper has slipped over into meaning 'assistant to a superior who gives the orders' - a junior, a servant. This is simply NOT how the Hebrew or Greek words translate it. Rather dishonestly, in order to make Eve ‘fit’ into the subordinate ‘role’ with which Complementarianism views her through its definition of “for”, by necessity, the meaning of ezer kenedgo must be changed. Eve becomes a ‘servant’ companion/sexual partner and then deceitfully a replacement word for ‘helper suited to’ has been coined to encapsulate this notion -- “helpmate”. I find it quite despicable.

Complementarian theologians have insisted in using their understanding of the word 'for' taken from a text that was not to exist for several millennia after Genesis was written, and then work backwards. In order to make it fit their assumed meaning, the faulty hermeneutics of superimposing an anachronistic assumption requires a CHANGE to the meaning of ezer kenedgo.

A sound hermeneutic by exegesis, seeks to understand the original definition of the words 'ezer kenedgo' and then move forwards to correctly interpret “for”, leaving the meaning of ezer kenedgo, UNCHANGED.

It remains to be asked which rendering of these words I have highlighted are the most true to the original language, to the understanding of the Hebrew readers and therefore to how GOD intended them to be understood? This in turn, radically effects the relational dynamics within a marriage and the successful running of a home. This brings liberty to both husband and wife, since some men have neurological conditions which are not disposed to taking the strain and anxiety of taking all the decisions as “leader.” It also prevents any opening being supposedly divinely endorsed, that a man has the right to impose his will or take any advantage over the physically more frail women and daughters in his life.

Since Christ has crushed the Serpent’s head and cancelled the permission to oppress the woman and her daughters, all patriarchal abuse must end, in practice. There is no patriarchy in the Body of the Serpent’s Victor, nor in the true gospel of Liberty which he established at such great cost for all the oppressed. His kingdom is one where all are enfranchised with an equal voice and value.