Genesis famously offers two “versions” of Adam and Eve’s creation. The first, in the first chapter of Genesis, is a broad overview: “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
The second chapter of Genesis presents a more detailed narrative: God forms the man Adam from the dust of the earth (adama), Adam dwells in Eden for a bit, and then God proclaims that “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him.” Afterward, God borrows a rib from Adam when he is sleeping, which he fashions into a woman. This act has profound symbolic significance, which Adam himself relates in a kind of poetic mode: “This one at last/ Is bone of my bones/And flesh of my flesh./This one shall be called Woman (isha)/For from man (ish) was she taken.”
In examining the verses of both creation stories, we learn important lessons about not only the origins of human beings and our relationship to our creator, but also about what marriage should involve.
Embracing Genesis’ messages about marriage may require departing from certain sacred cows of modern Western life. But Genesis suggests that the tradeoff is worth it. Here’s my take on it:
3 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned About Marriage While Reading Genesis”
The critique of Jewish tradition with respect to gender inequality easily becomes a critique of the Hebrew Bible as a whole. That critique fails because Adam and Eve were created to reflect God’s ideal before the fall, before power dynamics came into play. So I strongly agree, that God did not create hierarchy within marriage, or between men and women in society as a whole, and the Hebrew Bible bears testimony to that fact.
After the fall, power relationships became the controlling dynamic due to sin, and power gravitates toward hierarchies, even among men on their own. Did God foresee this consequence, that women would, categorically, have less power than men? I am sure He did, but that does not mean He had any obligation to design His creation for less pain in a fallen world, rather than to reflect His ideal of complementarity in a world that was yet without sin–one that, I believe, included delight in the differences He ordained.
It is not as though women have been left, however, with the short end of the stick, even in a fallen world. To see it that way is already to have made the decision that power is what matters most. But that is not the Biblical perspective. Adults are not easily molded. Leaders, in order to be successful, must in many ways bend to the will of the crowds they lead. That is not the case with children, where minds and hearts are much more of a blank slate. And women, traditionally, have had far more influence on training children than have men. The task is often not held in high esteem in our society, but the esteem is withheld only by those who, again, think in terms of power dynamics rather than in terms of the heart of God. It is better that way. It is a protected space because the lack of esteem means that men will not attempt to take that role from women. It is true that, in some parts of the world, children are quickly removed from and even turned against their mothers. That is not the pattern in the Hebrew Bible.
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Thank you Jane for this beautiful reflection. Your observation about those who think in terms of power dynamics rather than “the heart of God” reminds me of the fascinating work of Miriam Kosman, whose book I review here: https://bookofbooksblog.com/2015/11/23/gender-and-judaism-a-sophisticated-view-from-the-haredi-camp/ . I also tried to explore these ideas in another essay (I apologize if these might not be totally coherent for those reading outside the Orthodox Jewish community): https://bookofbooksblog.com/2016/08/29/extol-her-for-the-fruit-of-her-hand-an-alternative-perspective-on-female-leadership/ Thank you again for your insights!
My pleasure to be here!