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Five Ways God Established Husbands' Headship at Creation-author-scott-lapierre

Four Ways God Established Husbands’ Headship at Creation

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

Husbands are commanded to love their wives. What does it look like for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church? The world would have multiple answers, but what does God’s Word say? Also, how can wives help their husbands obey this command?

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.

Discussion Questions

  • 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?

32 Responses

  1. Hi Scott! Great article. I believe that you could also add that when the couple sinned, God came to Adam first, to hold him accountable, then Eve.

    1. Carina,
      You’re completely right. We see something similar when Jezebel had Naboth murdered. God still held Ahab responsible.

      I make this point and the first message I deliver at Marriage God’s Way conferences. I hope you’ll check it out…

      The fact is, whether it’s Adam, Abraham or Ahab, God expects men to lead and we can’t turn around and say, “Well, my wife made me do it” or “It was my wife’s fault.” God is going to hold us responsible for what takes place in our marriages and families. We can’t be passive and lazy.

      I hope you listen to the message. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  2. Hi Scott,

    Great article. Really enjoyed this as it reinforced some of my own observations made in studying this topic while adding some additional insights of your own.

    A small proofreading nit from somebody that edits and writes for a living: the numbering in this article appears to be off. You list “5 ways” in your title, but the body of the article only enumerates 4. Could you either fix the title (4 instead of 5?) or the body so they agree? Also, in point #1 ( Adam was created first) there appear to be four subpoints. It might make it more readable to list these as 1a – 1d.

    I am using some of your material for teaching in a small group at my church, and I noticed these small issues. They obviously don’t change the message – only the formatting. Passing them along in the hopes you can update the article, and then perhaps delete this comment.

    1. Steve,
      Thank you for the feedback on the article, not just the encouraging sentiments, but the suggestions. Good observations. I don’t think you are too nitpicky.

      I am blessed that you’re able to use my material in your small group. What is the name of your church if you don’t mind me asking? Hopefully, you found the other articles I have written on male headship. If you have trouble finding them, please let me know. Most of them are linked in this article.

      I will pray for your small group, and please feel free to let me know if you find more mistakes…maybe I will have to have you start proofreading my books :-). God bless!

  3. Dear Scott ,
    You have done a good work in establishing the truth of headship of man over woman/ wife. This subject is harldly discussed or preached in the churches, because of which there no true joy and peace in the Christian homes. Though we see good believers in the church, we do not see good wives and good husbands at home. The Truth of headship is not established in the Christian homes. In the Old Testament, Numbers chapter 30 , is another portion of the scripture where God clearly establishes the headship of man over his wife and the un married daughter. In the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 14:35 , the husband is supposed to be a learned man in the Word of God to guide his home.

    1. Hello G S Panda Das
      Thanks for the feedback.

      I’m glad the post encouraged you.

      I think male headship is a theme in Scripture; therefore, it’s sad if what you said is true, that it’s not preached in churches.

  4. This is such an interesting post! Point 2 was something I had never thought of. How orderly and amazing is our God. Truly he planned out everything just how it needed to be!

  5. Of all species of mammals, man is the only one who lacks a baculum (os Penis)
    There is no word in Biblical Hebrew for the word “penis”. Thus the word is expressed euphamistically.
    It is theorized that the bone that God removed from Adam to create Eve was his baculum.
    This makes not only scientific sense but is logical as well. If makes perfect sense to take the bone from Adam’s reproductive organ to produce a wife for Adam.
    It is also written that God closed the site where Adam’s bone was removed. It is a fact that there is a “line”demarcating the center of the scrotum and ventral penis called the “raphe”. This “seam” is a remnant of the opening created wnen the bone was removed from Adam.
    If the bone used to create Eve was Adam’ baculum, we have a rare instance where science and religion agree.

    1. Hello Eleanor,
      Actually the word does occur in Deuteronomy 23:1:

      No man whose testicles have been crushed or whose penis has been cut off may enter the LORD’s assembly.

      In Hebrew it’s the word shophkah.

      It’s pretty clear, as I stated in the post, that a better understanding (or translation) of “rib” or “bone” would be, “side.” God created Eve from Adam’s side, which included his flesh and bone, hence Adam saying Eve was “bone of my bones AND FLESH OF MY FLESH” (Genesis 2:23).

  6. Hi Scott. Bible scholars debate whether ‘head’ is meant as a metaphor for ‘ruler/authority’ or for ‘source/source of life’. But anyway this term does not appear in Genesis 2.
    1. God established Adam’s “headship” by creating him first? If ‘head’ means ‘source’, then this is correct, since in Genesis 2 Eve was formed from Adam.
    2. God established Adam’s leadership by giving him the first command? But Genesis 2 does not say this. Also, the story does not say whether Eve learned the command from God, from Adam, or from both.
    3. God established Adam’s leadership by having him name the animals and Eve? Certainly, if you start by assuming that he had authority over Eve, then his naming of her can be seen as an exercise of authority over her. But you have to prove your assumption first. Naming does not prove authority. Hagar named God in Gen 16:13. This does not show that Hagar had authority over God. You also say that God brought Eve to Adam “so he could name her”. But the text does not say this.
    4. God established Adam’s leadership by having only him “leave father and mother” (Gen 2:24)? But the text does not say this. It says nothing about Adam’s father or mother, or about Eve’s. The remarkable thing about Gen 2:24 (which is before the Fall) is that it fails to endorse the ancient patriarchal and patrilocal pattern. According to that pattern, when a patriarch’s son marries, the son does not leave his family, but instead the wife leaves her family. Gen 2:24 is not patriarchal.
    You say “if we think headship began after the fall, then it becomes part of sin’s curse”. If by ‘headship’ you mean ‘rule’ of a man over a woman, then this is exactly what Gen 3:16 says. It presents the man’s rule as a consequence of the fall (“he will rule over you”). I have discussed what the Bible says about this in more detail in my book ‘Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts’.

    1. Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I copied them and responded below…

      Hi Scott. Bible scholars debate whether ‘head’ is meant as a metaphor for ‘ruler/authority’ or for ‘source/source of life’. But anyway this term does not appear in Genesis 2.

      You’re right that the term “head,” does not appear in Genesis 2, but it appears later in Scripture and – as is the case with many other areas of Scripture – the origin is in Genesis, the book of beginnings.

      1. God established Adam’s “headship” by creating him first? If ‘head’ means ‘source’, then this is correct, since in Genesis 2 Eve was formed from Adam.
      2. God established Adam’s leadership by giving him the first command? But Genesis 2 does not say this. Also, the story does not say whether Eve learned the command from God, from Adam, or from both.

      You’re right that Genesis 2 doesn’t say it directly. It must be inferred. Since Eve received the command from Adam (versus from God), she had to trust him, submit to him, etc. All things which reveal him as her head.

      3. God established Adam’s leadership by having him name the animals and Eve? Certainly, if you start by assuming that he had authority over Eve, then his naming of her can be seen as an exercise of authority over her.

      Since I do see him having authority over, then yes, as you said, I also see this as an exercise of authority over her.

      But you have to prove your assumption first. Naming does not prove authority. Hagar named God in Gen 16:13. This does not show that Hagar had authority over God. You also say that God brought Eve to Adam “so he could name her”. But the text does not say this.

      The context reveals this point. God gave Adam authority over the animals (Genesis 1:28), and then He brought the animals to Adam, and He named them. God gave Adam authority over Eve, He brought Eve to Adam, and then Adam named her. You’re right that it doesn’t say God brought her to him to name her. He brought her to him so he would have a helper, but the same pattern took place with Eve that took place with the animals whom Adam had authority over.

      4. God established Adam’s leadership by having only him “leave father and mother” (Gen 2:24)? But the text does not say this. It says nothing about Adam’s father or mother, or about Eve’s. The remarkable thing about Gen 2:24 (which is before the Fall) is that it fails to endorse the ancient patriarchal and patrilocal pattern. According to that pattern, when a patriarch’s son marries, the son does not leave his family, but instead the wife leaves her family. Gen 2:24 is not patriarchal.

      Genesis 2:24 begins with the word “Therefore.” This word connects the following sentiment with the previous train of thought. It doesn’t say anything about Adam or Eve’s parents, because they didn’t have any, but it’s absurd to think this isn’t about marriage. It’s the verse Jesus and Paul quoted to defend marriage. The woman transitions from being under the authority of her parents to being under the authority of her husband; that’s why she’s mentioned. The same isn’t said of a husband, because he is establishing his own headship over his home.

      You say “if we think headship began after the fall, then it becomes part of sin’s curse”. If by ‘headship’ you mean ‘rule’ of a man over a woman, then this is exactly what Gen 3:16 says.

      Headship was established before the fall, which means it’s part of God’s natural order. If you think it’s part of sin’s curse, then what do you do with the Son’s submission to the Father? Was it the result of sin?

  7. I have never read or heard that God created man to leave and cleave and not the woman? That is all new to me so I will have to dig deeper on this as I was just teaching on it last night. Thanks for giving me something to ponder

  8. I am really interested in the foundational information you have put into these newer posts. The biblical foundation is so important, I can’t wait to read a bit more.

  9. Scott – I can appreciate your point here about the order of God and the hierarchy that establishes His authority over creation. And, even though this might surprise you, I am a firm believer that husbands are the head of their household… however, I am not sure this exact line of reasoning works, as I am not clear on when Adam and Eve were actually married… God said He created Eve as a helpmate for Adam… one could see that as a coworker, or even a friend… so are you saying that men have headship over women in all circumstances?

    1. Hi Marissa,
      Those are good questions. Thanks for asking!

      First, as far as when they were married, if I had to choose one verse to identify the moment I would go with Genesis 2:24—Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. This is the verse used in the New Testament by Jesus and Paul when discussing marriage (Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7; 1 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 5:31).

      Second, no, men do not have authority (they are not the head over) women that are not their wives. There’s a section in my book titled, “Submission Does Not Mean That Wives Submit to Other Men.” Here’s part of it that answers your question:

      While Scripture is clear that God commands wives to submit to their husbands, it is equally clear that wives are commanded to submit only to their husbands. Each command in Scripture for wives to submit makes this clear:
      • Ephesians 5:22a—Wives, submit to your own husbands.
      • Ephesians 5:24—Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
      • Colossians 3:18a—Wives, submit to your own husbands.
      • Titus 2:3—5 Older women likewise . . . admonish the young women . . . to be obedient to their own husbands.
      • 1 Peter 3:1a—Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands.
      Wives should see themselves under their own husbands’ authority, but not under the authority of other husbands. Even in the church, a wife is under the authority of her husband, and her husband is under the authority of the leadership of the church: “the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
      In Genesis 2:18 when God spoke of creating the first woman, He did not say, “I will make men [plural] helpers.” He said: “I will make him [singular] a helper.”

      You said, “…in all circumstances.” Here are some acceptable circumstances as an example that show men being subordinate to a woman:
      • A male orderly serving a male nurse
      • A male aide or janitor serving a female teacher. When I was an elementary school teacher I served female principals
      • We have Christmas and Easter plays in our church that can be directed by women who are in charge of male actors

      Good questions. Please let me know if you have any others.

  10. I don’t think I ever thought about God establishing marriage at creation — even to Adam naming “woman.” It re-enforces the importance God places on the correct placement of our roles in marriage and the trust we place in our husbands. My daughter told me, “Why don’t women want to submit to their husband’s authority? It’s sure easier not to be the one making the final decisions.” Made me laugh, but when we are following God’s order, we do find it easy to be submissive.

    1. Hi Pamela,
      Yes, that’s a good way to think of it. God’s establishment of headship at creation is a reflection of Him being a “God of order” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

      Your daughter sounds like a wise young lady :). When submission is viewed that way, the large responsibility placed on husbands’ shoulders can be better appreciated.

  11. “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. ” And yet, when God was in the garden with Adam and Eve after the fruit was eaten, it was Eve who spoke up and took responsibility for her actions, while Adam kept quiet, then proceeded to blame Eve for his mistake. The other issue with your statement, is that if Adam and Eve are created in God’s image, and the Trinity is equal, then Adam having headship OVER Eve would then hint that the Trinity isn’t equal and that there is a hierarchy within it.

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      Yes, you’re right that Adam definitely made excuses. He blamed his wife, and he blamed God for giving him that wife. But I’m not sure your point in mentioning that? I do agree with you though that he blamed Eve!

      Actually, the equality between each Person in the Trinity and the submission, authority, and headship that still exists is powerful evidence that there can be submission, authority, headship in marriage and there can still be equality! A common criticism of submission goes like this: “If wives are supposed to submit to their husbands, then wives are not equal to their husbands. Since God made men and women equal, wives do not have to submit.” Consider these verses demonstrating Jesus’s submission:
      • In John 5:30, Jesus stated: “I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”
      • In John 6:38, Jesus said: “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
      • In Matthew 26:39, Jesus prayed only a few hours before His crucifixion, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
      Does the Son’s submission to the Father indicate that the Son is inferior to the Father? Absolutely not. Those who believe submission means women are not equal to men must also believe the Son is not equal to the Father. If we believe the Son can be both submissive to the Father and equal with Him, we must also believe that wives can be submissive to their husbands while still being equal with them.

  12. I’ve never thought about it in regards to Creation. Thank you! I’m going to re-read Genesis about this!
    Blessings!
    Visiting from Christian Bloggers Facebook group

  13. I had never noticed before that God gave Adam the first command before Eve was around. Very interesting! And we are to trust our husbands on these things. I trust my husband, but sometimes charge ahead. I have to keep myself in check and let him lead. He is very wise and perfectly capable!

    1. Hi Tara,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I think what you described (trusting your husband but sometimes charging ahead) is the case with most wives. Glad to hear you think so highly of your husband!

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