Arguments for Male Leadership in Genesis 3

Arguments for

Male Leadership in Genesis 3


After the fall, Eve was told that her husband would rule over her:

“... your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

                                                                                    (Genesis 3:16)

But was it intended that he should have ruled over her in the garden in the first place? Several arguments have been produced from the text of Genesis 3.


God Addressed Adam First

Some have argued from verse 9 that after Adam and Eve had sinned, God addressed the man first, thereby implying that He regarded the man as in charge.

But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”                                                                                                    (Genesis 3:9)

There is a logical sequence in how God challenged each participant. He had given the prohibition directly to the man, so he challenges the man first.

“Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”                                                                                                           (Genesis 3:11)

The man reluctantly admits his guilt, keeping his admission to the end of his sentence in which he first blames God for giving him the woman, and the woman for giving him the fruit.

“The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

Next, therefore, God asks the woman:

“What is this that you have done?”

She passes the blame on to the serpent, before likewise admitting her guilt.

“The serpent beguiled me, and I ate.”

God turned to the serpent, then to the woman, then to the man, working back according to the order in which He had originally ascertained their guilt. The order is a logical one, but does not suggest we should conclude anything beyond this.


Was the Man Intended to Rule from the Beginning?

It has been argued that the events in Genesis 3:1-12 imply that God’s intention was that man should always take the leading role; the woman should always follow his lead. According to this interpretation, the woman wrongly took the lead and therefore led the man into sin, thus demonstrating how bad a thing it was and is for women to adopt any position of leadership.

It is difficult to see any reason to consider that Eve’s fault lay in taking a lead as such. She was deceived by the serpent, and her fault lay in that she mis-led Adam, not that she led him. The usage of the word “help” (ezer) as we have already explained, suggests that support in a good direction was God’s intention. She would be no suitable help if she could not discuss with him, advise him, and receive advice in turn. The point being made by the account in Genesis 3 does not appear to be that leadership by the woman was in itself wrong but that each sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. The man blamed the woman and God Himself, and the woman blamed the serpent, but God held each individually responsible. The intended harmonious partnership had been spoiled.


Eve Tempted by the Serpent

It has been argued that the serpent approached Eve because she was the weaker of the two and more susceptible to temptation. Some people therefore deduce that women by nature are more easily led astray. Accordingly, women in general should be ruled over by men.

The text does not draw such a conclusion. It comments that “the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made”. Eve put up a reasonable defence, especially if she had not been given the instructions directly from God. She had no previous experience of temptation, nor had she been warned about the existence of the serpent or how cunning it was.

... the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”[1]                                                                                               (Genesis 3:2-3)

Adam by contrast apparently put up no objection. Eve gave him the fruit and he ate it. Sometimes people argue that the serpent approached Eve knowing that she would be the harder one to persuade. If the serpent could defeat Eve, Adam would easily give way.

It does not seem reasonable, according to the text, to deduce that Eve was weaker than Adam or vice-versa. The only information given is that both knew the commandment. They gave way to an attractive temptation, and neither should have eaten the fruit; they both sinned.


After exclusion from the garden, the record shows a continued deterioration in relationships. In Genesis 4 we have the first murder when Cain kills Abel. Then we see demonstrated what the rule of a man over a woman meant. God’s intention for marriage (“one flesh”) was disrupted by Lamech:

... Lamech took two wives; the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.                                                        (Genesis 4:19)

And before long Lamech was boasting of his prowess in murder, demonstrating his rule over his two wives and over anyone who interfered with him:

Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, hearken to what I say: I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”                                                      (Genesis 4:23-24)


By the time we reach Genesis 6, God expressed extreme dissatisfaction:

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.                                                             (Genesis 6:5-6)



[1] It is sometimes suggested that by adding “neither shall you touch it” Eve is distorting the word of God. This addition could have been put in by Adam in passing on the command to Eve. Since, however, these words merely add to the definite sense of prohibition, they are if anything strengthening the command and it seems more than a little unjustified to suggest anything more than that.

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