Female Biblical Characters


Ruth Jacob

I'd like to look at Eve, the mother of all humans.  We are told in Genesis that unlike Adam, who was formed from the dead matter of the earth, Eve was made from a part of Adam, who already had the breath of God in him.  Eve is the archetypal woman and the archetypal ideal wife, recognised at first sight by Adam, hence his breathless, overwhelmed response when he first saw her.

Genesis tells us that God created humans in his own image: "male and female created he them" (Genesis 1:27).  In other words, Adam - the man, or the individual alone - is not the image of God.  God contains all possibilities, not just male ones: after all, it was out of God that the universe came into being, rather reminiscent of birth.  Male and female complement each other.  And God's image must represent a reference to another; God is love, and love is impossible without an object of that love.

Let's look at the story.  Here is Eve.  Her first memory is of waking up in a beautiful place beside a sleeping man who wakes up, stares at her and says something like, "Wow, this is a bit of all right!"  What woman wouldn't feel good with a mate who thought she was the best thing since the beginning of creation?  She has no concept of loneliness, frustration, want, pain, hunger, thirst, disease, or death.  All her life is pleasure; immediate gratification of all her wants.  Adam tells her that their creator has warned against a certain tree.  As far as we know, Eve didn't hear this from God.  How well did Adam explain the warning and its importance to her?  We are not told.  She finds the tree, tries the fruit, gives it to her husband who eats it, their eyes are opened, and the rest is history - well, prehistory, anyway.

It is because of the man's decision to go against God's warnings that all sorts of troubles are to come on them.  But it is through the woman that the serpent, the initiator of this breach of relationship will be overcome.  And then God speaks directly to Eve for the first time, promising that the seed of the woman will be the hero who does this.  Before this promise, the woman followed the man, she had a second-hand relationship with God, in fact she was rather unaware and could not be held responsible - and we see this to be recognised in the New Testament: it is in Adam, not Eve, that all die (1 Corinthians 15:22); through Adam's transgression that condemnation came (Romans 5:18); the woman (Eve) was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14), yet Adam sinned with his eyes wide open.  Though Eve had already tasted the fruit, it was only when Adam ate it that their eyes were opened.  When God called out "Where are you?" he called to Adam alone.  It was Adam who used to meet and talk with God, not Eve.

It seems, then, that Eve's relationship with God really began only as they left the garden.  She clung to the promise, expecting it to be fulfilled.  She was the Woman - the only woman so far - so it must be through her that salvation would come.  When the first child was born she saw that he was like Adam and it was she who said, "I have got a man from the Lord" (Genesis 4:1).  How she must have watched him, maybe watched her other children too, wondering, as she looked at each one, if this would be the one to destroy the source of their sorrow and (now) hard life.  Maybe then they could go back to their carefree, happy life in the garden ... and this is what people have gone on wanting: a return to childhood, unthinking, unaware, a kind of nirvana.

Yet it is not God's purpose to bring us full circle.  No no!  Even he himself is constantly "becoming what I am becoming" (Exodus 3:14).  God is always creating new things, and his purpose is to bring humanity to maturity.  We are not destined to return to the innocence of the garden, or any kind of innocence at all, in the sense of unknowingness.  How could Adam and Eve ever learn love, at a time where there was no need, no want; there was no occasion for either of them to give themselves for the other, except in a way which would give them equal pleasure, no opportunity to put the other's needs or wants before their own.  God never intended for them to stay in the garden.  He planted the 'forbidden tree' and gave them directions so they could find it!  (Romans 11:32)

And God never intends us to return there, either.  We don't look for a garden, but for a city, built out of living stones, each one a person matured and shaped to fit and hold together, the cement being love, and the basis - the cornerstone - being Jesus Christ, the last Adam, who traces his ancestry through a woman.