Genesis Two and Ordered Headship

Larry Kirkpatrick
Genesis two carries important data, including some not likely to be appreciated in today’s environment. Almost everything Hollywood touches goes out of its way to set men and women as equals with interchangeable roles. But Christians are not about Hollywood; we are about biblical values lived-out. Therefore, we look to the Beginner and His Book of beginnings.
While Genesis one focused on a sequence and ordering of creation, chapter two is about populating the garden and creating community. Both chapters are about His ordering. One deals with this ordering at the larger-scale; chapter two deals with the ordering of the relationship between the man and the woman, and sets up the situation of innocence in the garden.
In chapter one, God speaks things into order; in chapter two, the human male speaks. He names things which God has created, thus participating in the ordering process.
Call the whole chapter to mind. Verses 1-3 finish initial creation ordering, and should actually be considered part of the first major unit of Scripture (Genesis 1:1 – 2:3). The next major section is 2:4-25. This section opens with a garden empty of humans (vv. 4-6), followed by the creation of the man and the tree of life (vv. 7-9), the primeval river and source of four rivers (vv. 10-14), the man placed solitary in Eden (vv. 15-17), his naming the animals still without a helper “for him” (vv. 18-20), and, at last, the creation of woman from part of man, the first marriage with her being named, and the state of innocence (vv. 21-25). Chapter two presents detail critical for one, and important background for three.
God spoke to Adam about the tree of knowledge of good and evil before the creation of Eve (2:15-17 cf. 18). God did more than speak; He commanded the man (2:16). Had He intended one day to grant to Eve a similar headship role, He could have saved us all much trouble; He could first have created the man and the woman, then commanded them together. Instead, the man was made first, charged with responsibility, and she was created afterward so that the man must impart to her the warning. What better way to prime Adam for his role as protector than to give him the responsibility to warn and protect?
Do we infer too much from this text? Were this all revealed to us, such an argument might be made. This is not all that is revealed to us; we also have New Testament discussion relating to creation order.

For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man (1 Corinthians 11:7-9, all references to ESV).

Nor is this an isolated case. Again in 1 Timothy 2:13, 14 we see creation order in the argument made:

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

Adam was formed first. He was the one made responsible for the warning about the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden. He was the one commanded and warned with reference to obedience and the results that would impinge upon disobedient humans. When they do disobey, Eve is first in transgression—but Adam is held responsible. And so, God again addresses Adam—not Eve. “Have you [Adam] eaten from the tree of which I commanded you [singular] not to eat?” (v. 3:9).
However we might understand the whole New Testament passage (1 Corinthians 11:2-16), it is clear that central to the argument is creation order. Man was formed first, then woman.
Twice the creation-order argument is given in the New Testament, based upon the sequence presented in Genesis. Thus, the Bible testifies three times to a creation order in which the man was created first, then the woman. This then, is no stray, off-the-cuff remark. Rather, inspired writers are shown time and again referring to the identical fact.
It would go beyond the author’s purpose for this document to include a substantial study of these New Testament passages; that will be accomplished by someone in another paper. Here, we simply point to the fact of creation order and that it is referred to multiple times in the Bible and presented by the inspired writer as a part of the revealed understanding of Genesis two.
At the end of Genesis one the whole of the creation was declared to be “very good.” But in 2:18 we are called to give thought to something that is “not good.” The man is alone; he has no helper comparable to him. In 19 and 20 the male is led to seek his helper among the animals. Having completed his assigned task of naming the animals, the garden is still incomplete. The man is still alone. He sees he is alone in the garden surrounded by the animal creation. He has named them all; he has a systematic awareness of what is in the garden—and there is no woman.
We come now to the creation of woman. She is made from him, she is made for him, she is brought to him, she becomes his wife. See the verses:

2:18 fit for him

2:20 fit for him

2:22 from the man

2:22 to the man

2:23 from man

2:24 his wife

2:25 the man and his wife

She is fit for, appropriate for, corresponding to him, Hebrew ezer. In some places in the Bible, God is called ezer, “Helper.” But in Genesis two this word is not intended to convey rank or authority. Meaning is determined primarily not at the word but at the sentence level. The sentence is the fundamental unit of whole thought. Then context must decide. The chapter is not about God’s help in any case, but God’s providing a female helper made from the male for the male.
Whereas the man is made from the ground (2:7) the woman is made from the man (2:21, 22). The whole creation is linked, wired together. He creates her from the man’s side, befitting a helper (1 Corinthians 11:8, 9).
In v. 22 He brings her to the man; He does not bring him to her. All have seen this enacted many times in the marriage ceremony. The father escorts the bride down the aisle to the groom. “Who gives this woman to be wed?” asks the minister. “I do,” the father says. He gives her to him. The analogy is powerful. It is a reenactment of the Eden story of the first marriage. Father God escorted the bride, bringing her “to the man” (Genesis 2:22). He was giving away His daughter. He was Head over her.
Later, in the New Testament we are told in Colossians 1:16, 17 that all things (certainly especially His bride, the church) are made through Him and for Him—an echo of Genesis two.
So here is woman, taken from man’s side. God brings her to the man. Then the first recorded human words are uttered.

This at last is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called woman,

because she was taken out of man (Genesis 2:23).

She was taken from his side, and is now returned! Here is one comparable to him, who can be a helper with him. She is neither porcupine nor marsupial; she is woman. But we do not hear her roar; it is the man who speaks next.
As he has named the other creatures, now he names her. Here is exercise again of headship. She is equal before him, of the same kind, yet he is over her. He has been charged with the warning about the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and now he is given a bride and names her. Is this at the root of the wife taking her husband’s surname in the Western world?
Just as it was true that it was not good for the man to be alone, surely it is just as true that it would not be good for the woman to be alone. As a head needs a body, so a body needs a head. The Designer made each of us to fill a special place in His creation. The image of God expressed in male is not completely understood apart from woman; the image of God expressed in woman is not completely understood apart from man. The man is to lead and the woman is to help; this is the grand, intentional design from Eden, before sin. When we leave the Creator’s track, we set up our sons and daughters for deep and systematic difficulties in life, because we are trying to reprogram the creation and go against its intrinsic designed order.
To summarize then, the case is thus. The woman is man’s equal; yet the roles are differentiated by gender. The man is to lead. He is head. The woman is to help, she is brought into being to help and to complete the creation order of the garden. Before the entrance of sin, before the Fall, man and woman are given dominion (Genesis 1:27, 28), but man is made head over Eden and over Eve.
This is part of Heaven’s ordered headship, of which we shall learn more in due course.