In spite of the abundance of commentaries on Genesis 2, the creation of mankind and the revelations of male and female roles, I continue to find hidden gems and discoveries of my own that speak to my mind and my heart. Today it comes from a reminder of the Hebrew used to express the suitability and fittingness of the lovely being we call Eve.
To Adam, she was Isha, bone of his own bone and flesh of his flesh. She was a co-heir to the dominion of the world, the only thing his God had made to whom he could conform his soul, mind and body. To us she has become either the controversial victim of ignorance, or the willing herald of sin to the world. Men have held up this unknown queen of creation with skepticism and scorn. Having come from a family in which there were several marriages between both my parents, I feel quite comfortable in relating the typical sermons on Eve and womanhood to the insinuations of an angry, jilted spouse. But is that really who she was? How can we know? A simple Google search for Adam and Eve will makes it painfully obvious what our world really thinks of Eve, a seductive smile as she joins the snake in seducing her husband to sin. WHERE, are the paintings of her first appearance to Adam on the arm of God?
The Hebrew root that is translated suitable in most Bibles is NEGED, נגד
The noun form literally means “in front of, opposite” but in Hebrew I’ve come to learn that the essence of a word does not lie in its literal, rational translation the way English speakers tend to treat language. Americans just want to know “what it means”, and Hebrew, being a language that is hundreds of years old and from a part of the world wholly unknown to us westerners, simply isn’t as cut and dry as we want it to be. The meaning I’m referring to is called “aspect”, you might understand it something like “perspective” in that the words take on meaning, feeling and interpretation based upon a slew of perspectives that might come from anywhere within the context of the story, the storyteller, the characters, or simply Creation at large. In the case of NEGED, the aspect of being in front of someone, or standing opposite to them conveys a strong sense of presence and like-ness.
She is before him, alongside him and fitting to him both literally, as she stood naked in the garden next to her Creator, and spiritually. Spiritually she is present with him because she had been blessed with the same image and likeness of Adam, made through his rib, the protector of the lungs which hold the breath/spirit, ruach, of God. She is like him both inside and out, thoroughly and completely. All these things Adam recognizes when he says “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” but this is NOT why he was breathless and amazed at her presence. She is not the “same”, that is the adjective “zahah” or another of many forms that convey the aspect of idential, same or selfsame being. From God’s perspective she resembles him completely inside and out, and yet he could not help but add to this new life form his signature stamp of uniqueness and beauty; femininity.
You see, it is God who decides what is suitable, what is fitting, what is right. It is from HIS perspective, I believe, that the aspect of neged takes its most poignant meaning, for He made a woman who could, in so many ways, reflect her own-male flesh unlike any other creature, and yet she amazes Adam both with her likeness, but also with her uniqueness to himself. “You shall be called ishah for you were taken out of ish.”
It is undeniably foolish to try to argue the subservience of a woman, or the dominance of a man from this beautiful text. To do so robs the man of his humility and replaces it with an expectation of pride. It robs the woman of her feminine essence, replacing it with destructive insinuations and she grows up to believe that being feminine itself is a sin.* The ONLY question of authority appropriate to this passage is the power and might of God, the ONE who is able to take two and make them one. In the attempts of the Church to come up with rules for men and women they have undermined the authority of the Trinity, and the power of one of the oldest stories in our history to convey the awesomeness and wonder of God.
Please, share this post! Lets remind people to keep the most important thing, the most important, and remember the One to whom we owe everything. Perhaps, in doing so, we can help repair the irreparable damage done to masculinity and femininity in our world enough to love one another the way the Christ loved us.
*Greek philosophers began teaching that women were born as unformed males, years before Christ was born. Such teaching justified generations of abortion, child abuse, girls sold into prostitution and slavery, and the overarching belief that women were incapable of thinking for themselves at all because they were underdeveloped. While Jewish culture undeniable adopted this negative perspective of women over the years, it is NOT reflected in the Creation story of Genesis. Further study will show, remarkably, that many women in the Old Testament were valued and esteemed alongside the men of their stories, but context and human behavior following sin must always be taken into account when interpreting the histories.