Twice the apostle Paul stated the headship of a husband:
But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23
Although these verses are found in the New Testament, a husband’s headship didn’t have its beginning under the New Covenant. Neither does male headship have its beginning in the Old Testament under the Old Covenant. It doesn’t even have its beginning at the fall.
Male Headship Began at Creation
Understanding this is important, because if we think headship began after the fall, then it becomes part of sin’s curse. If we see headship beginning at creation, we understand it is part of God’s natural, healthy, divine plan for husbands and wives.
Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and the rest of Genesis 1 gives an overview of all six days of creation. God created man and woman on the sixth day. Then, in Genesis 2:7–25, God zooms in on the creation of Adam and Eve since mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation. It is in this account that God established man’s headship by doing the following…
1. God Established Adam’s Headship By Creating Him First
We are so familiar with the verses that it is easy to miss the significance of some of the details. Imagine reading the passage for the first time. Since God created the animals in pairs, male and female, what would we expect Him to do with the creation of humankind? We would expect Him to create the first man and woman at the same time—as a pair, male and female—but that’s not what He did. According to Paul, this is one of the main reasons women shouldn’t have authority over men (1 Timothy 2:12–13).
We are so familiar with the creation of Eve that it’s easy to miss the importance of some details. If we approach the account as though it’s our first time reading it, a number of significant points arise…
1a. Eve wasn’t created “out of the ground”
One recurring theme has been God’s creation of living things from ordinary dirt:
- Genesis 2:7—And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
- Genesis 2:9—And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow.
- Genesis 2:19—Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air.
With this repetition, we would expect to read: “The Lord God formed woman of the dust of the ground, and breathed into her nostrils the breath of life; and woman became a living being.” Instead:
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”Genesis 2:21–23
In being fashioned from Adam, Eve has the unique distinction of being the only part of creation not created out of the ground. Since Adam was created in the image and likeness of God, Eve was just as wonderfully created in the image and likeness of God. Also, while God created woman from man, He brought forth every other human being since Eve from woman:
For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man . . . Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman.1 Corinthians 11:8–9, 11–12
1b. Eve was created from Adam’s own DNA
God performed history’s first surgery by using Adam’s body to fashion Eve. What modern science reveals about this is fascinating. Every cell in our bodies contains our entire genetic blueprint or DNA. Therefore, God could take some of Adam’s cells and use their DNA to create Eve. The reverse, however, would not have been possible, because men’s DNA contains both X and Y chromosomes (XY), while women’s DNA contains only X chromosomes (XX).
If God had created woman first, it would have been impossible to create man. There would be no Y chromosomes, which is the chromosome that determines male gender. Adam had the genetic material—both X and Y chromosomes—for a woman to be created from his DNA, allowing for the reproduction of men and women.
More than likely Paul had Eve’s creation in mind when he commanded husbands:
He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.Ephesians 5:28b-29a
Just as Adam saw Eve as an extension of his own bone and flesh, so God wants husbands to see their wives as extensions of themselves. A husband should care for his wife as well as he cares for himself. Since he views her body as part of his body, when he loves her, he is loving himself. Since no husband hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, husbands should offer their wives the same concern and devotion they lavish on themselves.
1c. Eve was created from Adam’s side (not only his rib)
The Hebrew word for rib is tsela. The word occurs forty-one times in the Old Testament, but only in Genesis 2:21–22 is it translated “rib.” Nineteen times tsela is translated as “side” and eleven times as “chamber.” Here are a few examples:
- Exodus 25:12—You shall cast four rings of gold for [the ark], and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side (tsela), and two rings on the other side (tsela).
- 2 Samuel 16:13—And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside (tsela) opposite him and cursed as he went.
- 1 Kings 6:8—The doorway for the middle story was on the right side (tsela) of the temple.
Eve came from much more than Adam’s rib. This is also made clear by Adam’s words in Genesis 2:23 when he calls Eve “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”
1d. Eve was created from Adam so husbands and wives would see themselves as “one flesh”
Immediately after Eve was created and given to Adam, Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This is an odd statement since Adam and Eve are the only people in history with no “father and mother.” Therefore, this verse is not primarily about them but is instructive for all future marriages. God wanted Adam and Eve to understand the unity between them, but more importantly He wanted all future husbands and wives to see the same unity between them.
To learn more about a husband’s headship, watch this message I deliver at Marriage God’s Way Conferences…
2. God Established Adam’s Headship By Giving Him the First Command
Creating Adam before Eve allowed God to give His first command to Adam alone:
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”Genesis 2:16-17
God gave the command to Adam as he stood there alone. When Eve was fashioned, Adam had the responsibility of passing along to her the command he had learned from God. Then Eve had the responsibility of trusting her husband. God did not have to do it this way. He could have given the command to both of them after Eve was created, but in doing it this way, God established Adam’s headship in the relationship.
3. God Established Adam’s Headship By Having Him Name the Animals and Eve
God wanted Adam to have authority over all creation. He said:
“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”Genesis 1:26
God wanted man to have authority over creation, and He established that authority by directing Adam to name the animals:
Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.Genesis 2:19-20
Again, God did something with Adam that He could have had Adam and Eve do together. Instead, He had Adam name the animals alone, and in doing it established his authority over the animals. After God fashioned Eve from Adam’s side, parts of Genesis 2:22–23 record: “He brought her to the man. And Adam said, “She shall be called Woman.”
4. God established Adam’s Headship By Having Only Him “Leave Father and Mother”
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”Genesis 2:24
Why doesn’t the command mention a woman leaving her father and mother? The man is moving out from under his parents’ authority and establishing his own headship—or authority—over his family. But the woman is not doing the same. She is simply moving from being under her father to being under her husband.
This is why 1 Corinthians 11:3 does not say, “The head of every man and woman is Christ.” Instead, it states, “The head of every man is Christ [and] the head of woman is man.” Women remain under a man’s authority, first her father’s and then her husband’s, and these men are under Christ. This biblical principle is played out at weddings symbolically when the father walks his daughter down the aisle and gives her to the man who is about to become her husband. The image is of a transfer of headship from father to husband.
- What evidence shows that God established male headship at creation?
- Why did God choose to create Adam from Eve’s side rather than from the “dust of the ground” as He had done with every other living creature (including Adam) up to that point?
Why does Genesis 2:24 mention man leaving father and mother, when Adam had no earthly father or mother?
Do you see any other reasons God created Eve from Adam?
- Why is it important to recognize God established male headship before the fall?
- What is the significance of God:
- Creating Adam first and then Eve, instead of creating them as a pair as He did with the animals?
- Bringing Eve to Adam so he could name her?
- Commanding man to leave father and mother without giving the same command to woman?