Is it Wrong to Listen to a Woman’s Voice?
Is it Wrong to Listen
to a Woman’s Voice?
you have listened to the voice of your wife...” (Genesis 3:17)
Two arguments have been produced from this verse.
(a) It is argued that Adam was wrong because he listened to his
wife’s voice as such. The conclusion
is then drawn that it is incorrect for men in general to listen to the voices
of women, and therefore women should keep silent in the ecclesia.
(b) It is argued that the expression “listen to the voice of”
means “obey an authoritative pronouncement”. Therefore, according to this view,
when Adam listened to the voice of Eve he was allowing her to rule over him and
to usurp his authority. Only men should make authoritative pronouncements, it
is argued by some, and it is wrong for women to give advice to men or for a
wife to give advice to her husband.
The expression “listen to the voice of” is used in a number of
ways in Scripture. The word qol is
translated “noise” or “voice” according to context. There is no stress on the
word “voice”. It is part of the expression, and whether it means simply to
listen to someone speaking or making a noise, or whether it means something
stronger depends on the context. The statement “because you have listened to
the voice of your wife” means the same as “because you have listened to what
she said or advised.” It does not put any stress on her voice, nor does it in
itself imply that she is being authoritative.
Obviously, when it involves listening to God speaking, we indeed
have an authoritative pronouncement, but in other contexts it does not
necessarily have any strong implication.
Evidence for this can be seen in the various ways in which the
expression is used in Genesis and Exodus.
The expression (“hear the voice of” or “obey the voice of”) is
used of man listening to God’s commandments, and this is clearly authoritative:
you have done this... I will indeed bless you... and by your descendants shall
all nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis
It can be used simply in the sense of “hear someone speaking” or
“hear a noise”. For example,
Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted ... (Ex. 32:17)
On the other hand, the expression is also used of God listening to
a request from human beings:
heard the voice of the lad. (Genesis 21:17)
Again, it is used of human beings listening to advice:
gave heed to the voice of (literally: “listened to the voice of”) his
father-in-law and did all that he had said. (Exodus
Does Genesis 3:17 mean that Adam’s fault was to listen to his wife
as such? Or was his fault in listening to her giving wrong advice and acting on it? No command was given to Adam that he
should not listen to the voice of his wife. What would be the point of a
“helper fit for him” if he couldn’t converse, discuss and listen to her? If Eve
had spoken to Adam as she had done to the serpent when she sought to reject the
serpent’s misrepresentations, her advice would have been considered good; and
this can reasonably be considered to be God’s intention when he made her as a
A further passage from Genesis has been quoted to argue that the
giving of advice by a woman to her husband is in itself wrong:
to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me
from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children
by her.” And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. (Genesis 16:2)
The fact that Sarah’s recommendation on this occasion led to
dissension and suffering does not indicate that God disapproves of a woman
giving advice as such. This is clear from further details of this incident,
where God expresses approval of advice given to Abram by Sarai even though her
advice is contrary to what Abram wishes:
said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and
because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her
The RSV translates “hearken unto her voice” as “do as she tells
We conclude, therefore, that Genesis 3:17 does not imply divine
disapproval of a wife giving advice to her husband; the objection is because
she gave wrong advice. To draw any further conclusion (such as that because of
Eve’s error, therefore women are not to give even good advice) is to read the
idea into the text and to contradict Scripture elsewhere. As we shall see below
(Chapter 24), God does approve of advice and leadership given by women.
When Paul referred to Adam and Eve in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, it was in
the context of irresponsible advice being given by women who were in no
position to teach properly (see Chapters 10 & 11, above, pages 78-93). It
is therefore appropriate to draw a parallel with what happened when Eve misled
Adam. Paul’s teaching in other passages indicates that what matters is not who gives advice but whether the advice
is good or bad.