Why Women: Part 1

In the words of the song, “Let’s start at the very beginning–a very good place to start.”

The first of the long list of questions burning in my brain is this: Why did God make women?

God has unfettered creativity. Look out the window for a moment. Little about nature is purely utilitarian. Creation is both beautiful and functional–from trees to birds to stars everything has a purpose and a place in the intricate balance of the biosphere. Remove one piece–a piece as small as a honeybee–and other dependent organisms will wither, die, and disappear. And yet, even though everything in nature has a function, everything is also beautiful, or weird, or wacky, and colorful and diverse.

There are animals that are both male and female. There are animals that are programmed to make a gender switch at a certain stage of maturity. There are asexual animals that reproduce by breaking off little pieces of themselves.

God could have easily made humans to be that way. He could’ve made us all one sex, or all with both sets of sex organs built in, or creatures completely devoid of sex, not male or female or anything else.

Yet He made Adam. And then He made Eve.

He made Adam first. There’s no explanation as to why He made him first. He made everything else necessary for Adam’s survival first–light and the sun and water and plants. Animals even came before Adam did (Genesis 1). God set up everything the way He wanted it and proclaimed it good. Then He said: “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Gen. 1:26).

So God made human beings (“mankind”) to be the rulers of the rest of nature. Not to bully nature, but to maintain it. God scooped up Adam and put him in the first garden and told him to take care of it (Gen. 2:15).

How long Adam maintained that garden by himself isn’t spelled out. But it didn’t seem to take too long (a few verses later, in fact) for God to declare that Adam needed help. “It is not good that the man should be alone,” God said. “I will make him a helper fit [or suitable] for him” (Gen. 2:18).

Yet God didn’t whip up this helper immediately. First God had Adam name all the animals in the garden. The animals, like Adam, had been handmade out of dirt (Gen 2:19). God trotted them out, two by two, for Adam to examine them and name them. Yet out of all these creatures, Adam couldn’t find anyone like him. All the animals he named had others like them, “But for Adam no suitable helper was found” (Gen. 2:20). None of the animals–wonderful as they were–would cut it.

Only after Adam was shown his need for someone like himself did God make Eve.

Eve wasn’t made out of dirt–at least not directly. She was made from Adam’s rib (Gen. 2:22). She was quite literally fashioned out of Adam’s own flesh and bone. And when the first man saw the first woman, he was so overcome with what he saw that the world heard its first love poem:

“This is now bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called ‘woman,’

for she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:23)

And for centuries, people (religious and irreligious alike) have pointed to this passage as proof that women are intrinsically less valuable than men.

After looking at the creation story very, very closely, I’m not sure where they’re getting that.

You could point out that Eve was created second and, somehow, coming second makes her an afterthought. A mistake, even. God should have stopped while He was ahead. That logic doesn’t match the rest of the passage, however. After all, the animals were created before Adam (and from the same dirt, no less), yet God expressly gives authority and dominion over these creatures to mankind (a term that includes both male and female human beings) (Gen. 1:28).Birth order, in this case, doesn’t seem to have anything to do with personality and certainly not with worth. Eve certainly isn’t an afterthought, either–of all God’s creations, she seems to get the longest drum roll before her arrival.

Many hold the phrase “helper suitable” (or, as the KJV puts it “help meet”) over our heads and say “See? She’s just a helper. How degrading.” The non-word “helpmeet” is tossed around in Christian literature and rhetoric quite a bit and has caused more trouble than the commissioned translators of the 1611 version might have intended. I say “non-word” because “helpmeet” just isn’t a word (I’ll write more on this one in later posts–it’s a juicy topic). The KJV reads “a help [space] meet,” not “helpmeet,” and the phrase means “a helper suitable” for Adam. Even “suitable” seems an understatement when we gauge Adam’s reaction to Eve–she was clearly more than just “suitable.” And “helper” can’t be equated to a term like “the hired help,” and certainly not “slave.” Adam couldn’t handle the garden on his own. Man could not be an island. Helping someone else is not degrading. Especially not helping someone rule the planet. Adam needed a friend. He needed a relationship. He was made in the image of God, and God is a relational being.

Others lean heavily on Eve’s subordination stemming from her origin in Adam’s rib cage. (Simone de Beauvoir, I’ve noticed, has a particularly hard time letting this point go.) Yet this justification is immediately dashed by Adam’s slack-jawed response to seeing her for the first time. His sinless eyes immediately recognized her as a being made not for him, but of him. Cut from the same cloth. To look at her was to look at himself. Eve, like Adam, was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).

And God looked at everything He had made and called it “good.”

Were Adam and Eve unequal? No. They were part and parcel of each other. God rightly calls them “one flesh.” One person. One being. Equally treated. Equally loved.

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6 comments

  1. alicianewk10 · September 10, 2015

    Yes yes yes yes. “Eve, like Adam, was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).”

    Like

  2. TypewriterError · September 10, 2015

    One thing you may find interesting is looking up the word used for “help” in that passage. It’s the word “ezer” and I’m not sure if you know that it’s not limited to talk only about the help a woman can give a man. If you don’t know yet, I’ll not spoil it for you but this will help you look into it more: http://biblehub.com/hebrew/strongs_5828.htm

    Like

    • E.A. Stephens · September 10, 2015

      I looked it up on Bible hub!! :)) I can’t wait to dig more into this. Thanks!

      Like

      • TypewriterError · September 11, 2015

        No problem! ^u^ It blew my mind when I found that out.

        Like

  3. The Intransigent One · September 15, 2015

    The question that story gives me is, why did God create only one man to begin with? Assuming God to be omniscient, wouldn’t he have known, before he even created Adam, that it’s not good for man to be alone? Why did he subject Adam to aloneness, then? That was unnecessary suffering for Adam, that God could have easily spared him with a bit of foresight, which God is supposed to have in spades – and this was BEFORE sin came into the world so arguments about a fallen, broken world don’t apply.

    Liked by 1 person

    • E.A. Stephens · September 16, 2015

      That’s a really important question, and one I thought about for a while before writing this post. While it’s not spelled out in the Bible, I firmly believe God waited to make Eve so A) Adam would know what it was like to live without her. BECAUSE God has foresight, maybe he saw Adam taking Eve for granted if they both were made at the same time. God seems to be taking deliberate steps to cement Adam’s need for Eve in his mind before Eve even arrives. And Adam wasn’t completely alone–He had God, after all, and at that time God and man existed in close personal fellowship.

      And B) God didn’t make another man because *mankind needed women.* My guess is Adam and whoever the other dude might have been *still* would have felt lonely, even if they had each other’s friendship. Man needed woman. I’m no theologian, but that really seems to be God’s point in making Adam wait.

      If there’s one thing I’ve learned about God, it’s that He’s not at all about instant gratification. And He never does anything arbitrarily.

      Like

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