Uniquely Female: The Scriptural Blueprint for Femininity
- 2010 13 Apr
Editor's Note: This is part II in a two-part excerpt from Mary Kassain's new book Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild. To read Part I: "Uniquely Male: The Scriptural Blueprint for Masculinity" click here.
God created woman from the side of man, so she's made of the same stuff—equal to man. But He didn't create her at the same time, place, or from dust, so she's also different.
Male and female are equal and different. God made them to complement each other. We've already looked at six markers of complementarity that can be observed in the creation of the male. Six more markers appear in the creation of the female.
The Female Was Created from the Male "So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman." (Genesis 2:21-22)
In our culture, "Remember where you came from!" is a common admonition not to look down on one's beginnings. It's a warning to avoid pride and an overinflated sense of self-importance. We intuitively know that it's inappropriate to regard that from which we were made as lesser than us. We know that we are obliged to honor and respect our origins.
The same sort of idea is present in the creation of the female. Because woman was drawn from man's side, it was appropriate for her to have an attitude of respect toward him. He was the firstborn. In the New Testament we see that the fact that she was created from him—and not the other way around—is the basis of a wife honoring the authority of her husband. "For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. . . . That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head" (1 Corinthians 11:8-10).
The Female Was Made for the Male
"Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'" (Genesis 2:18, italics added)
Genesis chapter two tell us that the female was created "for him"—that is, on account of the male. 1 Corinthians 11:9 reinforces that man was not created "for the woman," rather the woman was created "for man." He explains that this is the basis for a wife respecting the authority of her husband.
For most of us, the idea of woman being created "for" man sounds somewhat negative, since it appears to imply that he has license to use and abuse her at will. But the Hebrew preposition carries no such overtones. It simply denotes direction. She was created for—that is, toward or with reference to him, or on account of him. She was created because of him. His existence led to hers. It didn't happen the other way around. Our adverse reaction to the idea that we were created "for man" serves to underline how very far we've fallen from the original created order.
When the first bride was presented to her husband, her heart was undoubtedly bursting with joy to have been created for him. She was thrilled that his existence led to hers. There's another important point here. Being created for someone indicates that God created the female to be a highly relational creature. In contrast to the male, her identity isn't based on work nearly as much as on how well she connects in her relationships. Woman is the relater-responder who is inclined toward connecting with others.
The Female Enriched the Male
". . . a helper fit for him." (Genesis 2:18)
God created woman to be a helper. "Helper" is another word that begs explanation. It's not a term that indicates a lesser status, or the type of help that assists in a trivial way.
The Hebrew word (ezer) is a very powerful one. It's most often used with reference to the Lord being our helper
(Psalms 33:20). An ezer provides help that enriches, and makes the recipient more fruitful than he would be without that help. God created the woman to enrich the man by providing invaluable support that without her he would not have.
What the man lacks, the woman accomplishes. She makes it possible for them to receive the blessing that he could not achieve alone. Woman plays an integral part in the survival and success of the human race. Without her, man could not be fruitful—physically or metaphorically.
So does that mean that women exist to serve the selfish ends of men? Absolutely not. The phrase "fit for him" literally means "like opposite him"—like an image in a mirror. The term is unique to Genesis. It expresses the notion of complementarity.
She's not exactly like him. She's like-opposite him. Corresponding. Harmonized. Suitable. An exact fit. She's a "helper," but more importantly, she's a helper "alongside."
The alongside part is extremely important. The purpose, of woman helping man isn't about exalting the man. It's not about him. Her help contributes to the both of them achieving a greater, nobler, eternal purpose that is far bigger and more significant than their own existence. She struggles alongside for the same purpose for which he struggles. And what is that? The glory of God. The Lord says that He formed and created sons and daughters to magnify His glory:
(Isaiah 43:6-7). A woman helps a man achieve the purpose of exalting and displaying the jaw-dropping magnificence of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the glory of God. That's what she helps him do.
The Female Deferred to the Male
"The Lord God . . . brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘. . . she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.'" (Genesis 2:23)
I think that the first male and female intuitively knew how to behave. He knew what it meant to be a man. She knew what it meant to be a woman. So when the Lord presented the bride to the groom, the man spontaneously broke into a poem that expressed ecstatic love and delight, and at the same time demonstrated his intuitive grasp of the nature of their relationship. He named her—thus fulfilling his responsibility to initiate and lead. She joyfully responded with deference. For both of them, it was the natural and beautiful thing to do.
When God presented Eve to Adam, you don't see Eve taking charge and saying, "Wait a minute, Adam, I'm going to name myself—thank you very much! In fact, I'm going to be the one doing the naming around here. . . . I've thought of a great name for you!" No. That's not what happened. Adam and Eve acted according to their God-given bents. He initiated. She responded. The pattern of their relationship reflected who God created them to be.
The Lord created woman with a bent to be amenable, relational, and receptive. He created man with a bent to initiate, provide, and protect. As we talked about in an earlier chapter, Genesis 3:16 indicates that sin severely damaged the God-given inclination of both: Sin twisted the positive desire of woman to respond amenably to man into a negative desire to resist and rebel against him. It twisted the positive drive of man to use his strength to lead, protect, and provide for woman into a negative tendency to abuse or refuse that responsibility.
When a girl goes wild, she's overcome by the sinful desire to go against the created order and selfishly dominate a man. Like the Proverbs 7 woman, she becomes the one who does the pursuing—she "seizes him" and demands that he follow her lead. A Girl-Gone-Wild is inclined to dominate. Her counterpart, the Girl-Gone-Wise, is inclined to joyfully defer and give the man the opportunity to set the pace in the relationship.
The Female Was the Male's Perfect Counterpart
"She shall be called Woman [Isha], because she was taken out of Man [Ish]." (Genesis 2:23)
In Hebrew, the name with which the male identified himself was Ish, while his name for woman was Isha. As discussed previously, Ish comes from the root meaning "strength" while Isha comes from the root meaning "soft."
The idea goes beyond the mere physical difference between men and women to encompass the totality of their essence. The man was created to joyfully and actively initiate and give strength. The woman was created to joyfully and actively respond and receive it. Each was created with a unique role and responsibility to be the perfect counterpart to the other.
The Female Was Created in the Garden
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24)
A final but highly significant observation is that the female—the softer, more vulnerable one—was created in the garden, in a place of safety. She was created in a place that was already under the protective authority of her husband-to-be.
The male leaves the protective sphere of his household of origin to become the protector of a new household (Genesis 2:24). The woman doesn't "leave." She's the constant beneficiary of protection from the authorities God has put in her life. The Lord wanted to ensure that woman, His final delicate masterpiece of creation, would always be loved, cherished, and kept safe.
The fact that woman was created within the boundaries of a household also implies that women are to have a unique responsibility in the home. This is consistent with the idea that a woman metaphorically keeps her feet (and heart) centered in the home, rather than outside of it. For the woman, nurturing her relationships and keeping her household in order takes priority over other types of work.
Let Him Drive
The Lord evaluated his equal-yet-different creation of male and female as "Very Good!" Spectacular! Outstanding! Do you agree with Him? Do you feel the same way? Do you try to bring your life in line with God's beautiful, unique design for the woman He created you to be? Or do you defiantly take pen in hand and scribble over His blueprint?
When we think about roles, we often make the mistake of thinking that they are primarily about what we do. Roles influence what we do, but the role defines the behavior, and not the other way around. People miss the point when they engage in endless debates about specific behavior, like whose job it is to take out the trash. Everyone wants a list of do's and don'ts, but the Bible does not provide such a list.
Roles speak to who we are more than they speak to what we do. Roles are about who God created male and female to be. The Lord knows that we'll figure out what we ought to do when we figure out who we ought to be.
Excerpt taken from "Back to the Drawing Board," pp. 121 - 133, of Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild by Mary A. Kassian (Moody Publishers, 2010). Copyright (c) 2010 by Mary A. Kassian. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Mary Kassian is author of several Lifeway Bible Studies. She and her husband Brent have mastered the art of cheering after spending countless hours watching their sons play ice hockey and volleyball. The Kassian clan and their pets, Miss Kitty and black lab, General Beau, live in Western Canada.