In the beginning, there was peace and equality.
The book of Genesis is the main reason I walked away from God many years ago. It then became the reason that I came back to Him later, as I started to read and learn about what His plan was for the human that He created in His image. When I saw it in a new light, God became the magnificent, loving, and amazing Father that I somehow always knew was out there. I came to realize that He loved women as much as men, and expected the same good things from His daughters as His sons.
But, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing the first time I read Genesis. Was God cursing woman? Why would He do that? Was I really a subordinate creature compared to males? If humans were created in His image, then woman was part of the big picture. Why would He cause all women to suffer and tell us that we have to be ruled over by man? It was just unbelievable.
Then, at the old age of 40, I really started reading Genesis, and found some different takes on the translations. I’m no scholar, but there are a lot of scholars out there. Some other non-scholars might say, “Karen…these translators have been doing this for centuries. Are you really trying to say that they made a mistake? It’s all there in the Kings James, for goodness’ sake!”
Well, that’s one of the problems. Most of our translations come from one translation, or some that are similar. And, just as if you take a document, copy it on a machine, then copy the copy, and so on, things get a little….corrupted. I really don’t mean that all of this was intentional. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, that culture affected some of the translations of some key words. We have many Greek and Hebrew scholars now that are just as able, and are now pointing out some unfortunate errors. Katherine Bushnell, an author, medical doctor and scholar of Hebrew and Greek in the late 1800’s writes:
“…always remembering that we bow to no authority as final but the Word of God, as illuminated by the Spirit. We will endeavor to ‘interpret the Bible by what the Bible says, not by what men say that it says.”
The Lord created a human in His own image. He never calls this creature “Adam” as if it were a proper name. The word adam is Hebrew for human, mankind. God made adam in His image. Male and female He made them, and blessed this creation, 5 times over (Gen 1:28): to be fruitful, to multiply, to subdue and replenish the earth, and have dominion over all. This male-female creature in the image of God is the ruler over the earth. This was proclaimed “good” by the Lord; then, for reasons unknown, became “not good” when only one human walked in the Garden. God decided that it was not good for one person to be alone.
So, in the beginning, there was a created human, male and female. The first named person in history, though, was Eve, the Mother of all living, who was named by the human that isn’t designated as male until Genesis 2:24, after the woman is taken from the side of the human. After that event, the remaining creature is called “isha” which means male. The woman is “ishshah." The human was created first, then a woman was taken from the human’s side; the male formed first, then female. The word “tsela” is always referred to as “rib” in this verse, but for some reason, it is only translated as “rib” in Genesis. It would seem that the woman was made from one piece of the adam but we know women are much more complicated than that! No, the word “tsela” is translated everywhere else in the bible as “side,” or “plank.” She was pulled out and formed from the side of the adam.
When the Lord decides to take (or separate) the woman from the human, He wants to make a “helper suitable” for the man. (Gen 2:18) Not a “help meet” or a servant. He wants the man to have a “help” or “ezer,” the same word that David, in the Psalms, uses to refer to God.( Psalm 33:20, Psalm 70:5, and I believe 9 more psalms) In that realization, would we then assume that the Lord is man’s servant, or is in any way subordinate to us? Hardly. The word “suitable” is negdo, or kenegdo, which means “parallel to,” “before,” or “in front of.”
Dr. Susan Hyatt says in her book, In the Spirit We're Equal:
“Re: Hebrew ezer kenegdo. In Genesis 2:18, the word "helpmeet" does not occur. The Hebrew expression ezer kenegdo appears, meaning "one who is the same as the other and who surrounds, protects, aids, helps, supports." There is no indication of inferiority or of a secondary position in an hierarchical separation of the male and female "spheres" of responsibility, authority, or social position.”
You all know the story. “Adam” knew that he wasn’t supposed to eat from the Tree of All Knowledge of Good and Evil because God told him so. And, yet, there they were, Eve, and according to Gen. 3:6, “Adam” was right beside her. They both ate; they see they’re naked, God finds out, etc. Then that interesting stuff happens. God tells this hapless couple how it’s going to be because of their faux pas, but He never curses them. What does He curse? He curses the serpent, and He curses the ground upon which the man must work. He tells the woman that her “teshuqa,” mistranslated as “desire” will be for her husband, and he will rule over her. The man will work the soil for his sustenance.
So, basically, when women are told that they are subservient to men, this verse is thrown at them as proof, and nearly every time by a man who has never toiled in any soil for his livelihood, or even thought that he should. I believed for a time that this was God’s plan for men and women. Mostly for women, since I’ve existed in a post-agrarian society. It’s funny how I (and the rest of society) never expected men to live up to their “part” of the bargain.
If we look at the word, “teshuqa” we find that the meaning has changed over the centuries. It was changed to mean “desire” in 800 A.D, but from the beginning first meant “turning” in the Septuagint (Greek OT) around 285 B.C. It was shifted about as “alliance” and “direction” until around 500 A.D. Then, under some Rabbinical influence started changing to “impulse,” “power,” and “appetite.” It became “lust” or “desire” in 800 A.D. under Rabbinical teaching. Why?
This verse was translated by Katherine Bushnell in her book, God’s Word to Women to mean “You are turning away to your husband, and he shall rule over you.” In other words, the woman turned away from God and chose her husband over Him. Therefore, because she chooses her husband over God, she allows her husband to become her superior. God sent “Adam” out of the Garden. (Genesis 3:24) He never sent Eve. She chose to go with the man.
God was telling the man and woman how it was going to be because of their blunder. He wasn’t saying it should be this way, but because they blew a good thing when they had it, they were now post-Fall creatures—by their own choice. Everything was on their own heads; this was their choice, not His determination. They wanted Free Will…they got it. God’s original intent was for their eyes and actions to be turned toward HIM.
Then we have the troublesome verse about increasing the woman’s pain in childbirth. This is an interesting verse in which I will defer to Katherine Bushnell’s discussion; it’s interesting and she is much better at discussing the changes and misinterpretations of certain words in that scripture: Lesson 15 SATAN'S LYING IN WAIT.
In scripture, God seems to stress the enmity between the woman and the serpent…these two seem to be the ones that will be doing battle….woman will produce the One that will crush the serpent’s head. So, what better way for Satan to battle woman then to orchestrate the perception of her as insignificant in the Army of the Lord?
We seem now to have a Christian world that, for the most part, chooses to live in a post-Fall manner. At any time, we all could choose to attempt to live pre-Fall. Jesus came to restore us (Romans 5:12, etc.) to pre-Fall conditions, and yet many would continue in the comfort and hierarchy of the Fall. It’s hard for us to allow one another to walk in the Lord, or to let others do what He says. Humans have a hierarchical leaning now, someone needs be in charge. The original man and woman never gave us the chance to see what it might be like to walk together, shoulder to shoulder. Men are geared to be the boss now, but it takes a big man to listen to others; to give when he needs to give, or stand firm when that’s needed. Women are just as culpable in the case of the subordinate woman. It’s easier to relinquish control to someone else, because it completely absolves one of responsibility and accountability. But, God’s intention was to make humans in His image, and as such, side by side they were to care for the earth and all of its creatures in an equal and loving relationship, with eyes and hearts turned toward Him.
Sources used: The Bible; The Interlinear Bible, HebrewGreekEnglish, Jay P. Green, Sr.; God's Word to Women by Katherine C. Bushnell; In the Spirit We're Equal by Dr. Susan Hyatt; www.scripture4all.org ; www.crosswalk.com ; www.godswordtowomen.org