Man’s original disobedience in the Garden of Eden, and the subsequent Fall, had some major consequences and repercussions for our current topic – the relationship between men and women, and their God-given roles.
The man and woman experienced both mutual as well as unique aspects of the Fall’s consequences. The man and woman both were guilty and ashamed, and both were guilty of blame-shifting. They also had distinct responsibilities in the Fall as well however. Eve was deceived, while Adam made a choice fully understanding what he was doing (1 Tim. 2:14). Eve distorted God’s command, and Adam remained silent. Their sinful choices also resulted in different consequences. Adam was given primary responsibility for sin entering into the world (Romans 5; I Corinthians 5). The woman was going to experience greatly increased pain in childbearing (3:16).
The woman was also going to desire to rule over her husband, and the husband would misuse his authority in a dominating manner (3:16) – a disruption of marital unity. This has caused a distortion of the perfect harmony that is possible between man and woman ever since that day; and because of this, we must do everything we can to get back to the way God meant it to be. God punished the man by making the care-taking of the earth more difficult and painful, and creation itself was cursed, which added to the toil the man would experience all the more (3:17-19). As mentioned before, man and woman experience different sin tendencies as well. The woman tends to try to conquer, overpower, manipulate and control man, while the man tends to control, dominate, oppress and put down women. While both are trying to conquer the other (though, of course, there is the danger for both of going too far to the other side of the pendulum as well–being too passive), it is important to remember that both tendencies are distortions of Yahweh’s intention for men and women, and the solution is not for us to restructure society so that women can be and do whatever they want, nor is the solution to simply make women “get back in their place,” since men too must learn their responsibility of leading lovingly, gently, and graciously (1 Pet. 3:7). (A good statement on this issue–as well as our entire topic–can be found here, as well as in the notes on Gen. 3:16 here). The goal is to act out our responsibilities in the manner in which God intended, with a joyful and humble attitude.
In the next post, we’ll look at a couple of examples in both the Old and New Testaments of men and women living out their God-given roles.