Men’s Attitude Toward Women: Genesis 2:23

There are, unfortunately, many dark marks in the history of Jesus’ church. One of the most egregious examples, thoroughly documented, has been the inequality that women have suffered. But when traced to its lair, the erroneous attitude contributing to the inequality is not Scripture, but the mishandling of it. Even today in Christ’s church, resistance to the equality of women can still be felt among men. But according to Scripture, Jesus’ church ought to be the arena where women’s equality is showcased. I hope that if you struggle in this area, you’ll consider some seminal thoughts from Scripture.



Roots of our Resistance

There remain large pockets in the church where Jesus’ followers are not receptive to the idea. Perhaps the resistance is rooted in an inheritance of sinful attitudes toward women picked up unconsciously in family upbringing or a faith community. Resistance also might be traced to pugnacious, male pride, disguised as an inferiority complex or insecurity, but exposed by the drawing of swords too quickly.[1] Or, resistance to Scripture truth might even be rooted in a knee-jerk reaction to contemporary, extreme versions of feminism.[2] If you struggle with this issue, it might be helpful to trace out the source of this debilitating attitude.

Contemporary Feminism

While there are unfortunate extremes associated with contemporary feminism, for me[3] it has stimulated a close reexamination of familiar Scriptures and a fresh

examination of unfamiliar Scriptures. Feminism has motivated me to ask, “What exactly does the Scripture say about women?” And, “Have I been selective in choosing passages that reinforce my prejudices?” Or, “Have I ignored the passages that challenge my views?”

Thoughtful people ask these personal questions without fear. Thinking men and women are not afraid to go where the Scriptural evidence leads them.

Guilty as Charged

With regret, I admit having to answer “yes” to the latter two questions—guilty as charged. Perhaps you can identify with my errors. I was selective, though unwittingly. I also bypassed—also unintentionally—Scripture passages that challenged my views. I’m probably not the only male on the planet who made these mistakes.

So, I hope women can forgive us for being selective or for being content to recite our favorite go-to passages on the topic. You deserved better. You deserved to be treated as equal, especially by professed followers of Jesus. We have only ourselves to blame for our failures. We thank you for being patient and gracious with us when, perhaps, we deserved otherwise.

So, contemporary feminism has been a blessing to me because it forced me to drop unexamined assumptions, approach Scripture without an agenda or bias, and develop a more comprehensive view of what God has said.

It seems to me that many debated issues have the value of enabling us to see Scripture truth in a fresh way. It did for me at least.

Creation Patterns are Normative

This blog offers a fresh examination of the first words spoken in Scripture from a human being. First words of major characters normally are programmatic[4] in Scripture.[5] What is important to observe is that these words are the first recorded words from a man and the only words spoken prior to the entrance of sin. That’s right. These are the only words from a human being recorded prior to the fall. That fact is striking and really grabs my attention. What did the man say?

What was man’s attitude toward women sans the debilitating impact of selfishness and pride? What was Adam’s response to God’s gift of the woman to him prior to the entrance of evil?

Adam’s First Words are to be Normative

Adam’s attitude toward woman, expressed in words, are to be normative for men and for women. The order of creation is normative and allows us to see and hear what life was like prior to the impact of sin on the man and the woman.

In the first creation (Genesis 1:1—2:3), male and female[6] were created in God’s image, a phrase which marks them out as special creatures.  Humans are like God in some way that the rest of the creation is not; the phrase also asserts the equality of men and women. God’s image exists in the partnership of male and female. This assertion locks down the equality of male and female into maximum security. Equality was God’s intention.

Man’s Attitude Toward Women

The second account (Genesis 2:18-25[7]) describes God’s institution of marriage, the only institution established prior to the Fall. I hope to pen a blog shortly that shows how marriage is, in fact, the crown jewel of creation.[8] But now, let’s take a close look at the first recorded words of a human, a man in particular, in human history. They reflect his unvarnished attitude towards a woman.

After God shaped[9] the woman into a suitable partner (Gen 2:22; humanity is a partnership) who corresponded precisely to Adam, reinforcing her equality of personhood and dignity, he celebrated her arrival with poetry, the first words of a human being recorded in Scripture, words that express a longing fulfilled:

“This now (finally!) is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman[10] because she was taken out of man.”[11] Gen 2:23

First words of a human, of a man, about a woman. Only words spoken in Scripture prior to the entrance of sin. Adam’s verbal response to a woman sets the standard. His response is to be our response.

Adam’s words, recorded in graphic detail, show that he recognized his own likeness in the woman. She was like him and equal to him. His response to her equality and likeness was not intimidation, but jubilation.

Man’s Attitude Unspoiled by Sin

The man’s jubilant words about a woman are unspoiled by jealousy, by insecurity, or by anger. His statement about Eve is unpolluted by male ego, pride, or arrogance. His elevated poetry is untouched by a desire to control her, an urge to dominate her, or a tendency to treat her as inferior.

A poor upbringing had no chance to influence his attitude towards her. A chauvinistic church had no opportunity to cast its biased shadow over his attitude. His response to the arrival of a woman is free from sin and to be normative for us; it sets the standard for men. Adam’s enthusiastic recognition of the equality of women is to be our attitude.

Adam’s Jubilation is Genuine

Adam celebrates her equality of personhood and dignity with genuine enthusiasm. It’s one thing to begrudgingly admit the unavoidable. But the man does not begrudge her equality. He doesn’t whisper or mumble. No long faces here. He displays a joyful admiration and celebration, yet recognizes her innate and sexual differences.

And, please observe, God didn’t force his response. The LORD didn’t make him say something; neither did she. His jubilant recognition of her likeness to him and her equality was spontaneous and free.


“Hooray” captures Adam’s sentiment. The man’s search for a suitable partner, one like him, equal to him, was over. The gift of the woman is the expression of God’s goodness, wisdom, power, and love to Adam. No wonder he is so enthusiastic.

Hearing Adam’s Attitude

Trade shoes for a moment. Just imagine the joy, dignity, and security she felt upon hearing his attitude. They communicate deep respect for her, genuine excitement about her, and mutual equality with her. He believes the woman is his peer. This response to the equality of women, made prior to the fall, is the standard for men and women to live by and the divine foundation for the relationship between them.  

Can you think of a better attitude with which to commence a marriage relationship and build a family together? And, who sets the best example of this attitude toward women?  The secular culture or Jesus’ church? Where are women treated as equals?

Part 2: What are the practical implications for the woman if she is the man’s peer?

Thank you for reading.




[1] Easily angered, easily frustrated.

[2] Both the extreme and more moderate forms of the modern feminist movement and pro-woman ideologies fail to speak against the porn industry—financially more profitable than all of the major athletic leagues (pro baseball, football, basketball, and hockey) combined--and also to denounce and refuse to attend the performances of pop stars whose musical lyrics explicitly support the porn and rape culture (i.e., “It would be over with quicker if you’d stop struggling,” “You can’t expect to have a drink with me and not expect this to happen, can you,” ”You call it rape, but you were such a tease,” “I’ll have your clothes off by the end of the dance,” and even more explicit forms of verbal pornography, courtesy of Justin Timberlake, et al.) screams hypocrisy of ideologies based upon human autonomy and divorced from revelation. But I digress.

[3] There are some today who argue for a perspective about all of life, including women, based upon human autonomy, trying to know truth divorced from God’s special revelation. But my own perspective is that an adequate epistemology must be based upon revelation (Deut 8:3; Ezek 28:6, 15-17), specifically, God’s inspired revelation which Jesus called “Scripture.” Jesus said to the Sadducees: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures…” Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24.

[4] By “programmatic,” I mean such words alert the reader to the road map the author has laid out in the particular book of Scripture. First words “program” the outline for the book. For example, the first words in Luke are spoken by Gabriel to Zechariah at the time of prayer: “Your prayers have been heard.” The rest of Luke’s Gospel shows how Jesus fulfills the prayers of the Old Testament and also shows how prayer opens up doors otherwise closed to God’s people. Jesus’ first words in Luke are a question posed to his mother and stepfather, Joseph, while a twelve-year-old boy in the Jerusalem Temple. Jesus’ words are a clue as to what Luke will reveal to the reader about Jesus in the remainder of Luke-Acts. Jesus’ words are programmatic.

[5] For example, the first words of Jesus in John’s Gospel are in the form of a question posed to two would-be followers: “What are you seeking?” In response, the two would-be disciples ask Jesus, “Where are you abiding?” The verb “seek” is programmatic for John’s Gospel just as is the word “abide.” These two verbs create the road map for the reader to follow throughout John’s Gospel. First words are programmatic.

[6] These two words, male and female (Gen 1:26-28), are completely different from the words “man” and “woman” in Gen 2:23. They have different meanings altogether.

[7] The second account occurs chronologically on the second half of day 6. The second account provides an amplified version of what occurred on that day. Of all the acts of God in days 1-6, the establishment of marriage is the most important act. It takes up more space and discussion than any other act of God. For this reason, it is easy to see that marriage is the crown jewel of creation. Viewed canonically, this makes perfect sense. The formation of Eve from Adam as his wife foreshadows the formation of Jesus’ church from Him as His Bride. What could be more important than that?

[8] This, of course, is not to suggest that being single is considered second class.

[9] The Hebrew verb ‘banah’, fashioned, shaped, describes the work of an artist who skillfully molds a masterpiece by careful and wise design. So, the original Hebrew reader in Israel’s community would realize that something very special was afoot. This artistic act was set apart from all other aspects of the creation. It is different and it is striking. What will the divine sculptor produce?

[10] Hebrew: ‘Ishah.’ It is no accident that the first word Jesus spoke to Mary at the tomb on resurrection morning was ‘woman.’ Just as the first Adam, after waking from sleep, named his suitable partner ‘woman,’ (γύναι, in the Greek version of Genesis) his first spoken words, so also the first spoken words of Jesus, the last Adam, awakened from the sleep of death, were ‘woman’(γύναι). See John 20:15

[11] Hebrew: ‘Ish.’