The Ruling Class
When we last left Eden, Eve had just been told:
“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16 ESV
The Hebrew is pretty straightforward. The word mashal means to rule or have dominion.
My perspective is that this is not something that God made happen, but rather something He said would happen and is a change in Adam and Eve’s relationship from what it was before the fall.
I don’t think this is necessarily a case for equal authority before the fall.
The reason I say this is because Jesus sees authority differently than fallen man.
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 ESV
Before the fall there could have been
1) equal authority between Adam and Eve or
2) Adam could have had (serving) authority (of the God kind) in their relationship.
Either of those options could explain the change in the relationship at the fall where Adam moved to “ruling over” Eve (in the fallen man kind of way).
Now I don’t know that we have a great way of knowing which option is right, but we do have something else to consider.
In the New Testament we have been given an analogy about marriage that, I believe, gives husband relational authority. Whether that is a reinstatement of what existed before the fall or it’s a new thing given to NT believers, it’s kind of a moot point. It is something we need to understand and (hopefully) live out well.
For the husband is the head1 of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… Ephesians 5:23-25a ESV
I’d like to share a picture and a concept.
Shall we dance?
I like this image as a way of understanding authority and submission in marriage.
Two individual people step out onto a dance floor and become one dancing team (they get married). Someone leads the dance (God picked the guy) and they are an amazing team dancing up a storm (journey mates on a grand God adventure). It is easy for them to be in sync with each other because one leads and one follows (if you’ve ever danced with someone where leadership was in question, you know what I’m talking about).
I feel the cringe.
I understand. I do, really.
For years I’ve watched church culture reduce women to being an assistant to their husband, sort of like an appendage, a third arm. Christian marriages look more like a lot of men doing solos with their wives standing in the shadows.
This is a far cry from what I believe God intended at creation and what He calls us to as NT believers.
In marriage, a husband and wife need to learn how to be a team. They are equal in worth before God. Both have gifts, abilities and callings. Both reflect the image of God and both need to be seen and heard from.
Having different positions in marriage does not change who a husband and wife are as individuals. It just changes how they work together in their marriage.
I think at this point I need to mention that I am talking about the marriage relationship and not about all men and all women or how believers relate in fellowship.
So what do we know:
Leadership is a servant role. Leaders are not supposed to “lord over” others.
There are different theories about how husbands and wives should relate.
The New Testament gives us the analogy of Christ/church and husband/wife.
What I believe:
My best guess is that the pre-fall marriage relationship had some structure.
It’s a bit of a moot point for me because I’m a NT believer living in a fallen world.
I think the Christ/church and husband/wife analogy gives us some direction, but has been grossly misunderstood and misused.
I’d like to address some common beliefs about the different genders in marriage.
Next Article: But What About …? (I’m busy writing this!)
chess pieces: Image credit © Tatjana Baibakova | Dreamstime.com
1st dancing couple: Image credit © Nejron | Dreamstime.com
2nd dancing couple: Image credit © Dgmata | Dreamstime.com
1 Yes, I know some people translate the word as “source” rather than “head,” but whatever word you choose, the wife is still in a position to submit to her husband.