Let's go back to the drawing board—not to take pen in hand and try to redraw the image of womanhood, like the generation of the sixties did, but to take a look at the model God drew. Genesis lays out His blueprint. The first chapter gives a zoomed-out view of the big picture. It displays the profound dignity of the human race, and shows how the creation of humanity fits into the overall story of creation. It reveals that male and female are more like God than anything else in the universe, and that they share this status equally.
Genesis 2 zooms in to capture the spectacular details. It reveals that God created each sex to be unique. Each has a distinct significance and function. Each perfectly complements the other.
The truth that God wanted to display through male and female was of paramount importance. So it stands to reason that He was highly intentional when He created them. Every action was significant. That's why Genesis 2 is so careful to provide a detailed, frame-by-frame rendering of the creation of mankind. God could have made male and female at the exact same time and in the exact same way. But the fact is, He didn't. The blueprint displays twelve markers that show how male and female roles are complementary, but not identical. Let's have a look and see, starting with what makes the male uniquely male.
The Male Was Firstborn
"Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." (Genesis 2:7)
The first thing to note about the creation of the sexes is that God created the male first. You might think that this fact is trivial or inconsequential, but the Bible teaches otherwise. The firstborn son held a unique role and position in the Hebrew family. He ranked highest after his father and carried the weight of the father's authority. He was responsible for the oversight and well-being of the family. He also served as the representative of all the other family members.
This wasn't just a cultural quirk that the Hebrew people dreamed up. God gave them these directions. Their family structure followed the pattern He gave.
We can tell that the position of firstborn son was important to God, because He called Israel His firstborn son (Exodus 4:22). Adam was God's firstborn human being, but Israel was the first nation He adopted as His own. When
Pharaoh stubbornly refused to release the Israelites from bondage, the Lord sent the angel of death to kill all the firstborn sons of all the families in Egypt. Those oldest brothers were the family representatives. As such, they were destined to die to pay for Egypt's sin. But the Lord graciously made a provision to save them. If they smeared lambs' blood on the doorposts of their houses, the firstborn sons wouldn't die. The lambs bore the punishment in their stead. The Hebrew people followed God's direction and sacrificed lambs. Their firstborn sons were saved.
The Egyptians didn't. Their firstborn sons died.
After this momentous event, God instructed the parents of every Hebrew family to redeem all their offspring by sacrificing a lamb at the birth of their oldest son (Exodus 11:4-15). The oldest brother represented all his brothers and sisters. His redemption signified the redemption of them all.
Conversely, his disgrace signified the disgrace of all. God made Adam first. He was the firstborn—the head of the human race. He carried the weight of responsibility for the oversight and well-being of the human family. So when the human race fell, God held Adam responsible, even though Eve sinned first. The New Testament bluntly states, "In Adam all die" (1 Corinthians 15:22). The Lord held Eve personally responsible for her sin. But He held Adam responsible for smearing the entire human race with his.
Are you beginning to see the significance of Adam's position? The Old Testament sketches the outline, but the New Testament colors it in. The position of firstborn is all about Jesus Christ, the firstborn—the only begotten Son of God.
He is firstborn among many brothers, firstborn of all creation, firstborn from the dead (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:5-6). His divine authority is greater and higher than every human authority, and the model on which all human authority rests. Jesus Christ is "the Last Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:45). He was the lamb that died to take the place of the first Adam and the human family he heads. "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22).
So what does all this have to do with male and female roles, and young Katy aggressively stalking my son? It has a great deal to do with it. The New Testament says that Adam's position has ongoing implications for male leadership in male-female relationships. The responsibility that God put on the shoulders of Adam extends—in one way or another—to the shoulders of all other males. Paul tells Timothy that the reason males bear responsibility for spiritual leadership in God's family is that "Adam was formed first" (1 Timothy 2:13). He also teaches that every man bears responsibility for the oversight of his own individual family unit (Ephesians 5). What's more, this charge appears to extend to a general responsibility of all men to take the initiative and look out for the welfare of the women around them. Exercising godly initiative and oversight is a big part of what manhood is all about.
That leaves us with one of three possibilities concerning the fact that God created the male first. Take your pick:
a. God was crazy—His decision was arbitrary. It meant nothing. The position of firstborn means nothing.
b. Paul was crazy—he hated women. He egotistically tried to seize power for men. He was wrong to draw any significance from the fact that God created Adam first. He was wrong to suggest that Adam's position had ongoing implications for manhood and womanhood.
c. People who reject the idea of God giving men a unique responsibility to take initiative are crazy—they presumptuously think they know more about manhood and womanhood than God or His apostle, Paul.
God made the male first. That doesn't mean he made the male better. But it does mean that He created him to bear a unique responsibility that differs from the female. (I suppose there's a fourth option you could add to the list—"Mary is crazy, and this book is crazy." Please don't pitch it across the room quite yet—there are eleven markers to come . . .)
The Male Was Put in the Garden
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden . . ." (Genesis 2:15)
The second observation we can make about Genesis 2 is that God took the man and "put" him in the garden. God created the male out in the wild, from the dust of the open desert. Then He led His firstborn male away from his place of creation and put him in a garden, in Eden. Why is this significant? Because later in the chapter we see that when a man gets married, he leaves the place where he was created in order to initiate a new family unit ("A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife," Genesis 2:24). It is as though God "puts him" in a new position of responsibility. What's more, the image seems to foreshadow Christ forsaking the home of His Father in heaven in order to pursue His bride, the church.
God put the male in the Garden in Eden. The Hebrew word for "garden" indicates an enclosure, a plot of ground protected by a wall or hedge. It's an area with specified boundaries. The garden was a specified place in the land of
Eden. It wasn't the entire land of Eden. It was more like a designated homestead within that land. Eden means "pleasure," or "delight." The Lord took the male to the land of delight, and set him up in his own place, to be the head of a new family unit. But before the Father presented him with a wife, He took some time to teach him the specific roles and responsibilities of a man.
The Male Was Commissioned to Work
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it . . ." (Genesis 2:15)
The word translated work (Hebrew: abad) is the common word for tilling soil or for other labor (Isaiah 19:9). It contains the idea of serving someone other than oneself (Genesis 29:15). What's more, it frequently describes the duties of the priests in worship (Exodus 3:12). The man's life in the garden was not to be one of idleness. God's plan, from the very start, was that the man worked to provide for his family's needs. He was supposed to work to provide for them—physically as well as spiritually. God created men to be the providers. That doesn't mean that women don't contribute.
But it does indicate that the primary responsibility for provision for the family rests on the man's shoulders.
The Male Was Commissioned to Protect
". . . and keep it." (Genesis 2:15)
God also wanted the man to "keep" the garden. Keep translates a verb meaning "to be in charge of." It means to guard, to protect and look after, to provide oversight. It involves attending to and protecting the people (Genesis 4:9; Genesis 28:15) and property (Genesis 30:31) under one's charge. It also extends beyond the physical to include a spiritual component of protection (Numbers 3:7-8). The Lord created men to be physically stronger than women are. Once sin entered the world, men were the protectors, more suited for a fight.
The physical protection mirrors the spiritual protection that God wants men to provide for their families. Again, this doesn't exclude women from contributing. It simply indicates that if a robber crawls in the window, the man is the primary protector. He's the first one to jump up and take the bullet.
The Male Received Spiritual Instruction
"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'" (Genesis 2:16-17)
Before the woman arrived on the scene, God explained the rules of the garden to the man. It was up to him to pass on this spiritual instruction to his wife. That's not to say that the man interacted with God on her behalf. No. She had a personal relationship with the Lord. But it does indicate that as leader of his newly minted household, the man had a special responsibility to learn and understand the ways of the Lord. This was so that he could fulfill his commission to provide spiritual oversight and protection.
The Male Learned to Exercise Authority
"Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field." (Genesis 2:19-20)
I smile when I think of what it must have looked like when the Lord brought the animals to the man to name. It seems to me that besides serving the purpose of making the man yearn for a suitable mate, this was a type of training exercise. To name something is to exercise authority over it (Genesis 5:2; Daniel 1:7). The Lord wanted the male to learn how to exercise authority in a godly manner. His firstborn had a unique responsibility to govern. And the Lord wanted him to govern well. That's why the Lord closely supervised and mentored him through the naming process.
The Lord wanted the male to learn to exercise his delegated authority with gentleness, kindness, wisdom, and much care.
Genesis chapter one indicates that "dominion over the earth" extends to women as well as men. God gave both dominion. So God's excluding the female from the process of naming the animals doesn't indicate that she lacks God's authority to govern. But it does indicate that the Lord does not view her authority to govern as interchangeable with the authority of His firstborn male. A man's authority is unique to what it means to be a man. A woman's authority is unique to what it means to be a woman.
The man was firstborn, but had no kin. He was head of a new household, but his were the only feet that trod within the walls. God commissioned him to work, but there was no one for whom to provide. He knew his mission was to guard and protect, but there was no one to look after. He had thought of new ideas, but had no one to discuss them with.
He was bursting at the seams with the desire to love and serve, but as the day wore on, and he named animal after animal, it became painfully obvious that no creature had anywhere near the capacity to receive what he so deeply wanted to give.
The Lord knew it. He could read it on Adam's face. It was the only thing in creation that was not good. But for the time being it was necessary. It was part of the man's training.
Part of his preparation. The Lord wanted him to catch a glimpse of the full import of God's final and most magnificent work. He wanted the man to feel the longing intensely—to love and want a soul-mate with such passion that he was willing to pay the ultimate price to win his bride.
God knew that He had to wound His firstborn to create woman. It would draw blood. Having a bride would cost the man dearly. When the man named the last animal and turned back to his Maker, the Lord knew it was time. Time to make "her"—the one who would captivate the man's heart as completely as the vision of the Lord's coming Heavenly Bride had captivated His.
"Sleep." The man sank down as dead on the soft carpet of moss. The Lord extended His hand and pierced the side of his firstborn to extract a bloody mass of bone and flesh. I wonder if a lump formed in His throat as He saw the future to which the image pointed. I wonder if His hand trembled as he began to shape and form. I wonder what thoughts flew through His mind as he carefully sculpted each soft curve.
This final masterpiece tipped the scales and set it all in motion. When He was finished, He stepped back to look. He glanced past the flesh he had just formed to peer into eternity future at her and softly sighed. It was good. Yes! It was very good!
Editor's Note: This was part I in a two-part excerpt from Mary Kassain's new book Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild. To read Part II: "Uniquely Female: The Scriptural Blueprint for Femininity" click here.
Excerpt taken from "Back to the Drawing Board," pp. 121 - 133, of Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild by Mary A. Kassian (Moody Publishers, 2010). Copyright (c) 2010 by Mary A. Kassian. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Mary Kassian is author of several Lifeway Bible Studies. She and her husband Brent have mastered the art of cheering after spending countless hours watching their sons play ice hockey and volleyball. The Kassian clan and their pets, Miss Kitty and black lab, General Beau, live in Western Canada.