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Men and Women and the Creation Order, Part 2
Revelation of the Creation Order for Men and Women in Genesis

Editor’s Note: Does the creation order for men and women only apply to the spheres of family and church, or does it apply to all of life — including the civil realm? This article is part 2 of a 3-part series entitled “Men and Women and the Creation Order” that Pastor William Einwechter has penned to address this critical question. In Part 1 of this series, the significance of a renewed consideration of the creation order and its implications for the current debate over the roles of men and women in family, church, and society was introduced, and the meaning of the concept of “creation order” was defined. In this segment, Pastor Einwechter continues his study of the creation order by taking a look at the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman, as well as the results of the curse on men and women’s roles. To read Part 3 of the series, click here.

II. Revelation of the Creation Order for Men and Women in Genesis.

The definition of the English word “order” proves helpful in organizing our study of the biblical teaching on the creation order in regard to man and woman. There are three senses in which the word “order” is used: 1) a fixed or definite plan, system; law of arrangement; 2) the sequence or arrangement of events or things; 3) social position or rank in the community.

All three aspects of this definition apply to the creation order in regard to men and women: 1) they are part of a fixed and definite plan or law of arrangement established by God; 2) they were created according to a divinely determined sequence; 3) they have been assigned a definite social position and rank in family, church, and society by their Creator. We shall use these three aspects of the meaning of the word “order” as the scheme for our consideration of men and women and the creation order.

The Creation of Man and Woman on the Sixth Day Fulfills the Good and Wise Plan of God

[1]. The creation of man and woman on the sixth day fulfills the good and wise plan of God.

According to the good pleasure of His own sovereign and immutable will, God determined to create mankind in His own image and to make mankind both male and female. Genesis 1 and 2 gives the divine record of the fulfillment of His will with the creation of man and woman on the sixth day. The creative activity of the first six and a half days leads up to man who is the crown of creation, the highest of the wonderful works of God. God has created the world and made it the perfect home for man; now He makes man to have dominion over it. We note here three things concerning the creation of man.

(1). Mankind is made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27; cf. Gen. 5:1). According to the creation account, only man is made in the image of God. The image consists in a moral and spiritual likeness to God. Man is a rational, self-conscious being able to exercise his will in deliberate choices. He is a moral being with a sense of right and wrong and an understanding of the difference between justice and injustice. He is a person capable of love and hate. He is God’s representative and invested with authority to govern the earth. No other creature has these attributes or shares his glorious status of being made in God’s image.

(2). Mankind is created male and female (Gen. 1:27; cf. Gen. 5:2). Man exists in two distinct genders, male and female. Therefore, there are two kinds of humanity — male humanity and female humanity. Both are equal in regard to their essential humanity, but one has the distinct characteristics of a male and the other has the distinct characteristics of a female. The words “male” and “female” indicate more than physical differentiation for the sake of physical reproduction. The fish, birds, and land animals are, like mankind, commanded to be fruitful and multiply, and yet the text does not say that God made them male and female. This is because “male” and “female” goes deeper than the obvious bodily differences and includes certain aspects of their “souls,” i.e., their inner makeup, their disposition, is different. Both men and women are self-conscious persons sharing in the rational, emotional, and volitional aspects of mankind. But they exercise these elements of the image of God on the basis of a distinct inner disposition: a male nature and a female nature.

The creation order establishes mankind as male and female according to the will and purpose of God. The man is given the nature and temperament necessary to fulfill his separate calling as a male, and the woman is given the nature and temperament necessary to fulfill her distinct calling as a female. The Scripture interprets (gives the reason for) the plan of God for making mankind male and female in the many passages that teach on their relationship to one another in terms of authority and in terms of their individual roles and responsibilities.

(3). Mankind is charged with the task of taking dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26, 28). Man, as God’s representative, is placed as ruler over it. Man takes dominion, and fulfills his calling, when he obeys the commands to be fruitful, to fill the earth, and to subdue it. The dominion mandate instructs man to develop the natural resources of the earth so that the full potential of the creation can be realized to the glory of God. It places all things under man’s feet and charges man to utilizes these things in the development of the world and of human culture that is marked by righteousness. It is important to see that the dominion mandate is given to both the man and the woman and that it can only be fulfilled if they work together and each fulfills their God-given roles as male and female.

Consequently, the creation account of Genesis 1 reveals four very important truths for understanding male and female as established in the creation order. First, both the man and the woman are made in the image of God. In their essential human nature, they are equal. In their basic constitution, they both possess all the elements of human personality: intellect, emotion, and will.

Second, the man and the woman are different in that God created them as male and female. Humanity is not uni-sexual but bi-sexual; there are two dimensions to humanity. These differences extend beyond the physical and also refer to differences in their inner nature, disposition, and temperament. These differences (in body and soul) are not arbitrary but are a specific part of the created order. They are part of the all-wise plan of God for mankind that prepares both the man and the woman to fulfill their own unique roles in that plan.

Third, the dominion mandate is addressed to both the man and the woman, and it can only be fulfilled as each carries out their God-given role as a male or a female. Mankind’s successful accomplishment of the dominion mandate is based on full acceptance of and submission to the creation order of male and female.

Fourth, the truths that mankind is made in the image of God, is made male and female, and is responsible to take dominion in the world are all part of the creation order. Therefore, these truths necessarily apply to all aspects of life. It is impossible to separate any one of these facts from the others or to limit their application to one or more spheres of life. As part of the creation order, they apply to all aspects of man’s life in this world. The creation order applies to all creation. This is not only a good and necessary deduction, but the rest of Scripture confirms that the creation order revealed in Genesis 1 continues as the standard for men and women today and it applies to all of life.

The Manner and Sequence of the Creation of the First Man and the First Woman Further Distinguishes the Man from the Woman

[2]. The manner and sequence of the creation of the first man and the first woman on the sixth day is based on the plan of God and further distinguishes the man from the woman.

The creation order indicates that all of the creation is determined by and subject to the sovereign will of God. The creation account of Genesis 1 and 2 proceeds according to God’s plan, and nothing in it is arbitrary; all is indicative of God’s purpose. The account of the creation of mankind in Genesis 2 further reveals God’s plan for the man and the woman. The manner and sequence of their creation is expressive of the divinely ordained distinction between them and the relationship that they are to sustain to one another. The order of creation — the man was created first — is expressive of the creation order.

Genesis 2 gives details concerning the creation of man and woman that were not revealed in Genesis 1. It is the first “history” (toledoth, “this is what became of”) of Genesis. And so, it is not merely a supplement that gives us more information on man’s creation but is part of the literary structure of Genesis. It tells us the history of man from his creation until his life directly after his fall into sin (Gen. 2:4 - 4:26). Genesis 2 reveals three things concerning the creation of the man and the woman.

(1). Man is created first and in a manner that is distinct from the woman (Gen. 2:4-17). Genesis 1 merely states that God created man in the image of God, male and female created He them. From that text, it could be deduced that the man and the woman were made in the same way at the very same instant. However, Genesis 2 shows that they were made at different times and in a different manner.

Man was made first, and from the dust of the ground. God formed him from the earth (adamah) and breathed into him the breath of life. Thus, he became a living being, a man with a body and soul (Gen. 2:7). Significantly, the creation of the woman did not follow directly after the creation of man. Rather, man is first placed in the Garden of Eden and is given charge of the Garden and instructed to “dress” it, i.e., to bestow labor on it, to keep it in good order, and to practice the arts of husbandry. Furthermore, he is taught his duty of obeying God’s Word when he is instructed concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and commanded not to eat of it. Finally, he is given the task of naming the animals in the Garden. All of these particulars suggest the essential dependence of man on God and his positional priority over the woman.

(2). Woman is created after the man and from the man. The fact that the woman was not created at the same time as the man and is created in a completely different manner is one of the most striking elements in the entire creation account. There is a definite reason for this difference, and it is recorded in the Word of God for our instruction. It indicates a difference between the roles and responsibilities of men and women by God’s design. A man does not occupy the position of a woman, and a woman does not occupy the place of a man in the creation order. At the fundamental point of their origin, man and woman are clearly distinguished — and the issue is not merely biological reproduction, but essential nature, position, and function.

It is significant that the woman is not created directly from the ground like Adam. Instead, the biblical text states that she is made from one of Adam’s ribs. This indicates that she derived her physical being from the man. Furthermore, the biblical text does not say, as it did concerning the man, that God breathed into her nostrils the breath of life. The import of this difference is not explained in the text, but it may show that she also derived the immaterial aspect of her life from the man. If this be the case, then it means that she received both her body and soul from man by divine design and through God’s creative power (i.e., the principle of life being first implanted in man by God and now extended to the woman through the man by God’s power).[1] The woman’s origin is, literally, from the man.

Why did God create the woman from the man? By so doing, He established the complete unity of the human race through common descent from Adam. Adam is the father of us all. In a unique way, even Eve comes from Adam. Therefore, Adam is able to serve as the federal head of all mankind, including the first woman (Rom. 5:12). In addition, the creation of the woman from the man establishes the proper relationship between man and woman. It indicates the positional priority of the man over the woman, and the essential dependence of the woman on the man.

(3). The woman was created for the purpose of being man’s helper (Gen. 2:18). This is a very important revelation concerning the creation order. The text explicitly states that God made the woman to serve as a helper to man. There is no need for speculation; the text is clear; the woman is made for the man. In anticipation of the woman’s creation, God declares that it is not good for man to be alone. Man needs a companion, someone who will complement him and assist him in fulfilling the dominion mandate.

The Hebrew word for “help” means one who aids, supports, or assists another; or an assistant. The word itself does not necessarily imply subordination; context must determine the relationship between the helper and the one being assisted. In the context of Genesis 1 and 2, it does imply subordination, i.e., a helper, an assistant. Man has been created first, given the charge to keep the Garden, given instruction on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and has exercised authority in the naming of the animals. The woman comes into a situation where the man already has been made head over the Garden and given responsibility to keep it, has been given vital, life-and-death instructions concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and has exercised his authority over the animals.

The Hebrew term “meet” indicates the idea of corresponding to, or comparable to, and expresses the notion of one thing or person being suitable for another. The word suggests complementarity rather than identity. Therefore, the woman is not exactly like the man in all respects, but, by God’s design, she is completely suitable to serve as his companion and helper.

The creation account of Genesis 2 is very important for understanding the significance of male and female as established in the creation order. The fact that man was created first from the dust of the ground and the woman was created after the man and from the man establishes the positional priority of the man over the woman in the creation order. The order of their creation (i.e., the sequence) is a manifestation of the creation order (God’s sovereign will and plan for men and women). The fact that the woman was created to be the man’s helper and assistant also establishes the positional priority of the man over the woman.

The deduction of male headship from the order of creation (man created first) and the purpose of the woman’s creation (a helper of man) is confirmed in the rest of Scripture where man is placed in positions of leadership and authority in the family, the church, and the state (we will point this out more explicitly later). Furthermore, the deduction of male headship from the order of creation and the purpose of the woman’s creation is confirmed by the explicit teaching of the Apostle Paul.

In 1 Timothy 2:13, Paul appeals to the order of creation to establish his doctrine of male headship in the church. According to Paul, the fact that man was created first is proof that only men should teach and hold positions of leadership in the church. Women, he says, are to be in submission to the male leadership and be silent learners. Paul’s appeal to Genesis 2 and the order of creation shows that the doctrine of male headship is not a cultural convention, but is part of the divinely established order that applies at all times and in all cultures. In 1 Corinthians 11:8-9, Paul uses the fact that the woman was created from the man and for the man to prove the doctrine that a woman should cover her head in the meetings of the church as a sign of her submission to God’s appointed order of male headship. In 1 Corinthians 14:34, it is stated that women are to be silent in the meetings of the church and be in submission because this is the teaching of “the law.”[2]

All three of the essential distinctions between man and woman noted in the text of Genesis 2 are given precise theological meaning by Paul in the New Testament. According to Paul, the creation account of the man and woman in Genesis 2 establishes the positional priority of the man over the woman in terms of headship and authority. The order (sequence) and manner of the creation of the man and the woman is based on the creation order. The creation order, because it is the will of the Creator for all His creation, necessarily applies to every period in history, to every nation, to every area of life, and to every man and every woman.

The Headship of the Man over the Woman is Established by Numerous Factors in the Accounts of the Creation and the Fall

[3]. The headship of the man over the woman (i.e., the rank, or social position of each) is established by numerous factors in the accounts of the creation and of the fall.

The creation order places man in a position of headship over the woman. This position of male headship (man’s positional priority over the woman) is part of the essence of the male/female relationship. This fact has been demonstrated above. But there are other factors in the creation account of man and woman in Genesis 1 and 2 and in the account of man’s fall into sin in Genesis 3 that further establishes the headship of man over woman. Here all the evidence for male headship from Genesis chapters 1, 2, and 3 is summarized. Such a summary requires a restatement of certain aspects of points one and two above.

(1). Man is first in the order of creation (Gen. 2:7, 21-22). This has already been discussed above, but its importance for understanding the creation order cannot be overemphasized. The sequence of creation establishes the positional priority of the man in the hierarchy of mankind (1 Tim. 2:13) and is the foundation for all male/female relations in family, church, and state.

(2). Man is charged with the duty of keeping the Garden and commanded not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before the woman is created (Gen. 2:15-17). Man is given dominion over the Garden prior to the woman’s creation. Adam is established as the keeper of the Garden before Eve has been brought into being. The significance of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is first revealed to man, and the test of obedience is placed upon man even before the woman is created. Hence, the man is the first to hear the Word of God, to be instructed in his duty to obey God’s Word, to be given authority and responsibility in the world, and to exercise God-given authority (naming of the animals) in the world.

Because of his positional priority over the woman, Paul states that man is the image and glory of God in a sense that is not shared by the woman (1 Cor. 11:7). Man (the male gender) stands directly under God with no visible, earthly head. He is God’s vice-regent having authority over all other created beings on earth, including the woman. Man is God’s glory because he shows forth God’s authority over all creation. Man is therefore the crown of creation and shines forth the image and glory of God in a way no other creature does, even in a way the woman does not. What distinguishes the man from the woman (beyond the physical differences)? It is his headship over the woman. In other words, man’s authority and headship makes him the image and the glory of God in a way that surpasses all other creatures, including the woman.

(3). Woman is made from man and for man — to be his helper (Gen. 2:18, 21-23). The woman was created from the first man; she traces her origin to him, and according to the Creator’s plan and power, she derives her existence and being from man. Man does not trace his origin or being from the woman. The stated purpose for the woman’s creation is that she should be man’s companion and helper. The text of Genesis does not say that man was created for the purpose of being the woman’s companion and helper (assistant). The creation order of the positional priority of the man is here made explicit. This is why Paul states that “the woman is the glory of the man” (1 Cor. 11:7). Paul does not say that she is the image of man; she is in the image of God. But she is the glory of man in the same way that man is the glory of God: She shows the position of man in God’s order by her submission to him. Woman (the female gender) does not stand directly under God with no visible, earthly head. She is under man’s authority and is man’s helper, not God’s vice-regent. Woman is man’s glory because she shows forth man’s position of authority over all creation, which includes his authority over her.

(4). Man names the first woman (Gen. 2:23; 3:20). In the Bible, the right to name belongs to those who have a positional priority over the person being named (e.g., God names man Gen. 5:2; parents give names to their children). As we have seen, one of the first responsibilities of Adam was to name every beast of the field and every fowl of the air (Gen. 2:19-20). This was an exercise of his grant of dominion over the animal world (Gen. 1:28).

After the woman is created, Adam names her. His action of naming the woman indicates his authority over her.[3] In Genesis 2:23, the man gives the woman her generic name to show her origin from man and her distinction from man (Hebrew, ish and ishah; English, male and female, man and woman). In Genesis 3:20, Adam gives the woman her personal name of Eve because she is the mother of all who will come after them.

(5). Man is charged with taking the lead for establishing a marriage and a new household (Gen. 2:24). There is debate over whether or not these statements were spoken to man in the Garden of Eden or whether they are commentary on the significance of the creation of the woman from the man revealed through Moses. Regardless, the headship of the man is further revealed here by the fact that the charge for establishing a marriage and new household is addressed to him and not to the woman. He takes the initiative; he takes the lead in the establishment of a new household.

(6). Mankind is designated by the name of the first man — Adam (Gen. 5:2). The Hebrew word adam is always used in the singular number in the Old Testament. It is also used in three ways: 1) mankind, as a collective to designate the human race; 2) man, as a male; and, 3) as the name of the first man. Man’s unique position as the head of the race and his headship over the woman is seen by the fact that God names mankind by the name of Adam, the term that also designates the personal name of the first man.

(7). Mankind’s fall into sin took place in a context where the role relationship established in Genesis 1 and 2 is reversed. It is significant that the Serpent chooses to approach the woman rather than the man with his temptation to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Most likely he thought that he stood a better chance of success by seducing man’s assistant; through her he hoped to bring man down. He fully succeeded. In the Genesis account, Eve fails in that she acts independently of Adam and does not submit herself to his leadership. And Adam fails in that he heeds the voice of his wife and submits to her decision rather than obeying the Word of God.

The apostle Paul appeals to the account of the Fall to support his doctrine of male headship in the church (1 Tim. 2:14). Paul does not give an extensive explanation of how the account of the Fall supports the order of male headship, but it is clear that he teaches that it does. He simply bases his view of male headship on the fact that the woman was deceived. Paul’s point seems to be that the woman’s nature (the female disposition) and her natural dependence on man (in accord with the creation order), makes her more susceptible to false teachers. When the creation order is ignored and men and women act contrary to their appointed places and roles, they give place to the Devil and provide the optimum setting for the corruption of the Word of God.

(8). The curse of sin disrupts the creation order’s original harmonious relationship between the woman and the man. Genesis 3:16 reveals God’s word of judgment on Eve and on all her female descendants. It is important to note that the two aspects of her judgment are directly related to her special role as a woman. The first has to do with childbirth, and the second has to do with her relationship to her husband. Because of sin, the whole process of conception and childbirth will be “in sorrow.” This means she will now experience pain and trouble in her reproductive system, and her pregnancies and deliveries will be hard, toilsome, and painful.

Furthermore, sin will cause her relationship with her husband to be corrupted by strife and antagonism. The text says “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Note carefully, that this is a pronouncement of judgment and cursing, and it involves a disruption of the harmonious relationship that God had originally intended for Eve and her husband.

To understand the exact nature of this disruption, we must consider the meaning of “desire” and “rule”. Because of sin, the woman will now have a “desire” to her husband that she did not have previously. The Hebrew word for “desire” (teshuqa) means a longing, an urge, or a desire. The word only occurs two other times in the Hebrew Old Testament (Gen. 4:7; Song of Sol. 7:1). An understanding of its usage in Genesis 4:7 is critical for understanding its usage in Genesis 3:16.[4] In Genesis 4, it refers to sin’s desire for Cain, i.e., sin’s desire to dominate Cain and lead him into sin. In a similar way, the woman’s “desire” for her husband is a desire to dominate him and cause him to do her will. Therefore, because of sin, the woman will no longer be content with her position of subordination to the man but will instead rise up against her husband’s authority.[5]

In addition to this, the husband will now “rule” over his wife. The Hebrew word for “rule” (mashal) means to rule over or have dominion over. It is often used of the rule of a king over his subjects, and can indicate a rule that is oppressive and destructive (Isa. 14:5; 28:14; 52:5). Since its usage in Genesis 3:16 is in the context of cursing, it seems proper to understand that the rule being spoken of will be oppressive and hurtful. It is important to realize that the word for “rule” is also used in Genesis 4:7. Cain is urged to “rule” the sin that threatens him, i.e., he is to enter into conflict with the sin that desires to control and him and crush it.[6]

Therefore, the curse of sin disrupts the creation order of male headship and female submission by introducing conflict between the woman and the man. Instead of being content with her God-ordained position of submission to her husband, her desire will be to control him and dominate him. And her husband, whom she helped lead into sin, will respond with a harsh rule that will seek to dominate her. Because of sin, the harmonious relationship of female submission and male leadership established by God will be corrupted by discontented, rebellious women who seek to control their husbands and by self-centered, domineering men who seek to lord it over their wives.

The curse is not that a woman must now submit to a man (the word submit is nowhere used in the text), but that in the autonomy of human sin (Gen. 3:5), she will rebel against the creation order by not submitting to her husband. And so, properly understood, Genesis 3:16 provides additional support for the original creation order of male headship and female submission.

1. Where you stand on the debate between traducianism and creationism on the origin of the individual soul will influence your decision on this point.

2. Law may refer here to specific statutes in the Mosaic covenant-law, but more likely it is a reference to the revelation of the creation order in Genesis 1 and 2. All of the five books of Moses were referred to as the law by the Jews (the law, the prophets, and the writings are the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible; cf. Lk. 24:44).

3. This does not suggest that the woman and animals are on the same level — far from it! The text is clear that the woman is made in the image of God, that she herself has dominion over the animals, and that Adam instantly recognizes that she is a full human being just like him — bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. The relationship that the man sustains to the woman is unique. Nevertheless, the fact that the man names the first woman does indicate his headship over the woman.

4. Both were written by Moses and appear in the same section of the book. In determining the meaning of a word, we should begin by seeing how the author uses the word in other contexts.

5. It is significant to note that the translators of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (this translation is called the Septuagint, and was carried out in the third century B.C.), rendered the Hebrew word for “desire” by a Greek term (apostrophe) that means a turning away from someone or something, and it can refer to a turning away from someone who is in authority over you; in this sense, it carries the idea of leaving a position of submission, i.e., to rebel. It seems, then, that they understood “desire” in the sense that we are arguing for here.

6. Again, the Septuagint supports this interpretation because the Hebrew word for “rule” is translated by a Greek verb (kupieuo) that means to exercise authority over someone or have control over them as their lord. Thus, it can mean to be master of or to dominate someone, and could well be translated as “to lord it over.”

About the Author

William Einwechter (Th.M.) is an ordained minister and an elder at Immanuel Free Reformed Church in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Linda, are the homeschooling parents of ten children.