What is a woman’s place and what is her role? The answer to this question is as varied as women are. A woman’s place is exactly where God tells her it should be. No more and no less. She is capable of seeking Him, capable of hearing His voice, capable of sensing His direction just as surely as any man. That being said, God really did make men and women different from one another. We have different strengths and weaknesses and when we work together – in our homes, in our churches, and in government and society – we form a whole, cohesive, successful unit. The Bible is full of examples of “women’s roles” – you often find her in the pages of Scripture cooking, cleaning, caring for her household, raising children, etc. But while these examples are present, you also find women doing the unexpected and filling non-traditional roles – under God’s direction and with His blessing (we’ll be looking at some of these women in a later post).
In Genesis 1 & 2 we read about The Beginning. God created light and darkness. Next, He created sky and then ground. Following that He created vegetation and then followed that with the sun, moon and stars. Next came creatures of the sea and the flying creatures. Finally, on the sixth day, God created land animals to roam the earth and He created Adam and Eve to rule over all other living creatures. It’s interesting to note that at this point (Genesis 1:26-30) God has made both Adam and Eve and tasked them with ruling together. So far, nothing has been said or done to differentiate them or their roles from one another, except to state that they were male and female. They are to rule, subdue, be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
Genesis 2 goes into more detail about the creation of Adam and Eve. How he was formed from the dust of the ground and then placed in the Garden of Eden. How God paraded the animals before him to be named, but Adam noticed there was no “suitable helper” for himself. And, finally, how God caused Adam to sleep, took one of his ribs, and fashioned the woman from it.
Pause here for just a moment. Each step of creation has been more intricate than the one before. Each step done in a logical sequence: light before vegetation so the plants could grow and produce; vegetation before animals so the animals could have oxygen and a food supply; fish before birds; land animals before Adam because they, along with the vegetation, and the sea and land animals would provide for Adam. He formed both the animals and Adam out of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7 & 19). Then, He placed Adam in the beautiful Garden. But God’s very last act of creation before sitting down to rest – after everything else was readied, after Adam was seeking a mate, after Eden was bursting with life, and beauty, and sustenance – then God created woman. And she was different. She wasn’t formed from the dust of the ground. No, she was formed from the rib bone of the man.
She was the crown of creation. She was God’s final and most glorious act. She was the grand finale as all of creation stood waiting in breathless anticipation. She was glorious and unlike anything that had come before.
We often hear people expound on the reason God made Eve from Adam’s rib. They postulate that as the rib was neither above Adam’s head, nor beneath his feet, then this signifies that she was to be neither above nor below him. And yet, “they” will go on to say that Adam was the “head” over her. Perhaps. But at this point, no one had yet sinned or been cursed. God had not yet cursed Eve by telling her that her husband would rule over her. That was not His initial intent. Besides, if we go with this line of thought, then we would have to logically conclude that if she is neither above nor below Adam, then it only makes sense that Adam was to be neither above nor below Eve.
I read once that the ribs protect vital organs, including the heart. Perhaps God’s intent was to signify that Eve would be a protector. A warrior princess who would protect the heart of her husband, defend him, and honor him. Perhaps this is why she was fashioned from the strength of bone rather than the dust of the ground.
In Genesis 2:18, God says, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” I think many of us have an idea in mind that a “helper” is somehow of less significance or offers less value than the one she helps. But when the psalmist speaks of God as his helper in Psalm 54:4, the Hebrew word used for “help” (azar) is the root word of the one used in Genesis 2:18 (ezer). If God is our helper, what does that say about the exalted position of women as man’s helper. It was not the woman who needed a helper, but the man. Being a helper requires great strength.
1 Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Here is another verse that in our modern American way of thinking automatically causes us to think that women are in some way “less than” men. But in Greek, the weaker “vessel” could have referred to a cherished piece of pottery, like china. Something to be cared for, to be proud of, and to cherish. And, yes, something useful. As a metaphor, it would have been used to describe a chosen instrument. And let’s not overlook that in the same verse the woman is referred to as a partner and joint heir.
Finally, let’s talk about that curse where God told Eve that her desire would be her husband, but he (Adam) would rule over her. Again, this is a verse that has had a number of different interpretations. But as in so many other ways, humans tend to take one specific thing and attribute its truth across a wide array. For example, somewhere along the line we’ve picked up the idea that women in general should be submissive to men in general. But this is not what God said. God said that Eve’s husband would rule over her. What’s more, the pain in this curse comes partly from the desire and attraction she feels for him, as well as her attraction to the position of authority God had initially created her to share with Adam. It was specific to their relationship and the depth of the curse was felt because of their relationship.
But let me remind you that this whole idea of the woman being ruled by the man came about because God cursed them as a result of their sin. Not only Eve’s sin, but Adam’s also. He was also cursed. But Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’” And Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
We’ve been redeemed from the curse. We’ve been given our freedom. It came at a terribly high price. Why, then, are we still debating this issue of a woman’s authority? Why are we still deliberately choosing to walk in the curse instead of the freedom and redemption Jesus purchased for us? Why do we still choose to stoop and pick up the burden of slavery we’ve been invited to set down? It doesn’t make any sense.
It’s true we live in a fallen world. It’s true there are aspects of the curse, of fallen humanity, of a cursed earth that we will never be completely free of until Christ’s return. It’s true that redemption, at least on our parts, can sometimes be a process. But when we can choose to walk in our freedom, redeemed from this curse, we ought to do that. In fact, I would go so far as to say that when we deliberately choose to live accursed or deliberately choose to live in slavery, we are throwing God’s gift in His face, trampling it as worthless.
It is not worthless. God has a plan for women. And that plan has always involved men and women ruling together, sharing authority, building one another up in our weaknesses.
A woman’s role is that of protector and helper. It is an exalted position of great worth and value. She is a partner, a joint heir, and a co-ruler. She has God-given authority of which it would behoove our world to take advantage.
That is a woman’s role.