DAUGHTERS OF EVE
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM WOMEN IN THE BIBLE
PART 1: EVE – “FALL GIRL”
PREFACE TO THE SERIES
Over the millennia women have often been regarded as “lesser” than men and have often been kept “under the thumb” of men – sometimes for no other reason than that they tend to be less physically strong than men who have been able to dominate them.
This is not how it was meant to be! We are going to see that the Bible portrays men and women as of equal value, worth and importance. We are going to see that the Bible honours women – their godliness, their wisdom and often their leadership. And we are going to see how there are many lessons that we can all learn from studying their stories. Our study of the people of the past is called “history” but we are going to see that this is not all about “HIS-story” but that equally important is “HER-story”…
We begin today with the first woman of all – Eve.
Now, to some people the story of Eve is simply that…a story…a parable to explain how things came to be. They say that Eve was not a real person but a fictional symbol to get across some real home truths. Others say that she was indeed the real, first, woman to be created by God. Although I am with the latter group (yep! I believe there was a real, literal, Adam and Eve – the first man and woman, from whom we are all descended) yet all can agree that figuratively or allegorically all women, everywhere, are “Daughters of Eve”…but what do we know – or believe – about this woman?
EVE – “FALL GIRL”
When the world thinks of Eve, they think of the story in Genesis chapter 3 that is known as “The Fall”. Eve – the woman who was meant to be Adam’s helper but ended up being his harmer. Eve – the one who was weak enough to succumb to the temptation of the devil, who took the apple that she was not supposed to take, who took a bite out of it, who then offered it to Adam– some would say she enticed him with her womanly ways to take it, who therefore brought sin into the world, the result of which causes us all to suffer to this very day. Because of her, mankind was banished from the Garden of Eden. Because of her, toil and trouble, disease and death, came into the world. The fallen world was the result of the fall of this woman into sin and rebellion against the will of God. She was, indeed, the “Fall Girl”. Someone has to take the blame and it rests fairly and squarely on her shoulders.
Let’s read about this (what I believe to be literal, historic) event in chapter 3 of Genesis – a passage that shows (does it not?) that she was the one who brought all the trouble into the world that affects our lives to this very day.
THE MAIN EVENT – GENESIS 3: “THE FALL”
Now the snake was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’
2 The woman said to the snake, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’
4 ‘You will not certainly die,’ the snake said to the woman. 5 ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’
10 He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’
11 And he said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?’
12 The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’…
16 To the woman he said,
‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labour you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.’
17 To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat from it,”
‘Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.’
20 Adamnamed his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living…
22 And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live for ever.’ 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
[Just a couple of notes here…
- It is said that the consequence for women of Eve’s sin was painful childbirth. This was used for centuries to justify not giving pain relief to women in labour – this was their “just deserts”. Only when Queen Victoria was given chloroform at the birth of her son Leopold in 1853 did views begin to change. In fact, some scholars believe that a better translation of verse 16 is “I will make great your toil and many your pregnancies”.
- Yes – it is stated that her husband will rule over her…but is this stating what WILL happen rather than God’s INTENTION?]
THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A GOOD STORY…AND THIS IS NOTHING LIKE A GOOD STORY…
And so it began…mankind’s view of Eve in particular, and women in general, has been based on this story and has coloured our view of Eve in particular, and women in general, since this time.
You know, by the time of Jesus, society even had a view that Eve was not Adam’s first wife! They speak of a woman called Lilith – who rebelled against Adam’s authority and so was replaced by the docile, dependent, submissive Eve. Where did they get this from???
But, I’m going to limit the development of the story to the so-called Christian centuries of our received culture – though what I say here is mirrored by the societies before Christ and by other cultures and religions since Christ.
Eve (and so all women) was seen as weaker than Adam – morally and intellectually – and that was why the devil focused on tempting her rather than Adam – who would, so the argument goes, never have succumbed.
But, more than this, Eve (and so all women) were seen as morally inferior to man, more prone to sin. Thus Tertullian (died 220 ad) told female Christians “You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree”! He added that because her sin led to death “even the Son of God had to die” – claiming it was HER fault! John Chrysostom (died 407 ad), who promoted virginity, declared that sex only entered the world after, and as a result of, the Fall and that it was Eve who invented this horrid act! Augustine (died 430 ad) identified sin as coming into the world through Eve who was therefore to BLAME for sin.
Things got worse…by the 6th C the Church Council of Macon considered defining women as having a “deficient soul”. Thankfully this misogynistic view was not adopted.
But more and more the idea of women being sexual enticers gained ground. Rather than admit their sexual needs man increasingly accused women of being sexual enticers to gain control over man. Eve became identified with the Serpent in art and literature (serpent body with female head) where the Fall became a sexual temptation of innocent man. Eve had become a seducer.
Eve had truly become the “Fall girl” and it was right for her to be under the control or “rule” of man.
THANK GOD FOR THE TRUTH!
The truth is that an apple is never mentioned in the story of the Fall. Maybe this should warn us against believing the embellishments to the story of Eve. There is no doubt that Eve was tempted first…
But let us get to the TRUTH of who Eve really is…
The truth is that:
- Eve was absolutely essential for the “image of God” to be fully represented in mankind. The first mention of her in the Bible is from Genesis 1: 26-27
Then God 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.’
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God shows Himself through man and woman equally. They have different characters, attributes and callings but both are equal and equally necessary when it comes to the “image of God” as expressed through mankind. And…important point here…BOTH are called to “rule”…not just man.
- Eve was needed as much as Adam to fulfil God’s creation plans. As it goes on to say in Genesis 1: 28
God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’
Again we see the equality of dignity and authority here. Eve was called to be mother and called to rule the earth.
- Eve was created to be Adam’s “helper” (Genesis 2: 18-23). This does not mean Adam’s servant, or slave, or one who had to do whatever the man told her to do. The Hebrew word “helper” – “ezer” – is better understood as “companion who works together with”. This word is so often used in the context of God helping man – are we to say that God is subservient to man? Of course not! So why is this used to suggest that woman is made to do what man tells her to do? Eve was to work alongside Adam – as his equal. There is no hint of subordination here.
- Yes, she WAS tempted by the Serpent. Although she is often portrayed as being alone when this happened, the truth is that Adam was with her – Genesis 3: 6 tells us this. He was the one whom God had instructed not to eat of the fruit of that tree. He should have stopped her. He should have said “no!” It could be argued that the blame for the Fall rests equally with Him.
- She was only given the name, Eve, AFTER the Fall (Genesis 3: 20). And the name is significant. It means “living being” or “to breathe” or “life” and she is declared to be “the mother of all the living”. This is a title of honour given AFTER the Fall. There is no hint in this of dishonour, rejection by God, or subservience to man.
- Let’s have a closer look at this and see how honoured Eve is – despite her clear failing at the time of the Fall. She gives birth to an unknown number of children. We know the names of the first three – Cain, Abel and Seth (Genesis 4: 1-2, 5: 3). The word used for the birth of her first son, Cain, actually means “create” (Hebrew: qaniti) – her role is therefore compared to the awesome power of God who empowers woman to give birth. This word shows high honour indeed!
THE END OF THE TALE?
After Genesis 4: 1 Eve is not mentioned again by name in the Old Testament and only twice, by Paul, in the New Testament.
Tradition says that when she died, she was buried in the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron (Biblically, this was bought by Abraham as a burial place for his wife, Sarah, from Ephron the Hittite. Here were buried later, Abraham himself, Isaac, Rebekah and Jacob).
Tradition (male-dominated?) has made her into the temptress who brought sin into the world. The truth, as we have seen, is that she was a wonderful, honoured, mother of us all who was – just like us – flawed, made mistakes, and sinned. But the sin is not what defined her – it was her standing before God that defined her.
Does all this really matter? Don’t we live in an age of equality of the sexes? A woman can be a vicar or a Prime Minister, she can run businesses full of men and can compete in any sport that man can compete in.
Well, unfortunately recent events have shown us that looking at the truth of Eve and what happened at the Fall is VERY important. On Thursday the 12th of August 2021 Jake Davison murdered 5 people – 2 women, 2 men and a 3-year-old girl – in a killing spree in Plymouth that lasted just 6 minutes. The 22-year-old man said, on a YouTube video, that he was socially isolated, struggled to meet women and made references to “incels” – the misogynistic online groups of “involuntary celibate” men, who blame women for their sexual failings and who have been linked to a number of violent acts around the world. He blamed women for his own short-comings – and is only one of hundreds of thousands of men around the world who belong to these groups. Many in our world still blame Eve…Writing before this event in the book “Daughters of Eve”, Esther Whittock states “Many will be inclined to see [Eve’s] subsequent ‘her-story’ as an insight into the determination of many men to inflate Eve’s guilt, dominate women, and also to project their own feelings of guilt and sexual anxieties onto women”. How true this turns out to be – even in 2021!
LESSONS FOR US
In the same way as Eve, we too are flawed, make mistakes, and sin – all of which have consequences.
But, in the same way, let us learn the lesson of Eve, that we are defined by our relationship with God and not by the mistakes that we make – however BIG they are. Her greatest accolade was to be called “mother of all the living” (Genesis 3: 20) – and this was given to her AFTER the Fall. So too with us – we will make mistake after mistake but AFTER all these God still loves us and uses us and blesses us – hopefully with many “spiritual” children.
The first lesson that I hope we will all learn from Eve is:
- KNOW THE TRUTH OF WHO YOU REALLY ARE IN GOD’S EYES
- Yes, God was angry, God was disappointed, but thank God for His promise (found in Psalm 103: 8-12) –
the Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbour his anger for ever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
God loved Eve, forgave Eve, and blessed her with many children despite her failings – and so shall He with you.
- Eve was essential to His “creation plan” and whatever your failings –
For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29: 11)
He has a “plan” for you.
- Let us thank Eve – and thank all her “daughters” – all women today – for being the “life bringers” to this world – mothers, wives, daughters, co-workers.
- Let us truly and finally learn the lesson that “Ish” (the Hebrew for “man”) and “Ishshah” (the Hebrew for “woman” – some say it literally means “man with a womb”) implies and shows an equality between the sexes. It is significant, say some, that the bone, from which Eve was formed, was not taken from Adam’s head – which would make woman above man, neither from his foot – which would make her below man, but from his rib or his side – which makes her equal to man.
- Without Eve man is incomplete. As “helper” she compliments man. Man and woman need each other and are equal to each other. Views of the superiority of man are post-Fall – and so NOT as they were meant to be.
- Just as Eve was, so you too are made in the image of God…NEVER forget that!
And the second lesson we must learn from our study of Eve is:
- DON’T BE A “FALL GIRL” (OR, INDEED, A “FALL GUY”)
- Eve has been unjustly vilified throughout history. You too shall be! Don’t let it get you “down”, but be encouraged by these words of Jesus (Matthew 5: 10-12) –
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
- On the other hand – take care that you do not LOOK for a “fall girl” (or “fall guy”) in others – someone on whom you can place the blame for all the problems in your life, or someone over whom you can be domineering or controlling in order to give you the power that fallen-man seems to always desire.
- Now…you might be having difficulty with all this…you cry out: “YES! BUT Eve WAS the one who listened to the devil. She WAS the one who succumbed to temptation and took the fruit that she knew she should not take. She WAS the one who gave it to Adam. She WAS the one through whom sin entered the world. She WAS the one who committed the first sin and through whom death came to this earth. She WAS the one whose actions changed everything, for all time, so that the whole of creation is groaning today. It IS right that she be the ‘Fall girl’!”
How can I argue with all this?
Except the knowledge, the truth, the reality, that if she had not done it…THEN I WOULD HAVE BEEN THE ONE TO HAVE DONE IT!
How often we have feared that “God could not possibly forgive me after what I have done – again and again and again!” Thank God for Eve! If God could forgive her, love her, and use her after the consequences of what she did then who am I to listen to the lies of the devil and believe that I cannot be forgiven for the things that I have done. David murdered the husband of the wife with whom he committed adultery yet God continued to love him and bless him after he had repented of what he had done. Surely I have not done anything as “bad” as this…have I? Like the character of Vicky Pollard we come back with a “yeah but”…But there is no “yeah but”. The lesson of Eve teaches us this. Thank God for Eve!
God loves me and forgives me…and still honours me with using me in His service.
For just as God loves Eve, so He loves you.