Command or Prediction? The disputed Female Role in the Bible

This post is outside the normal sequence, but as I was asked this in one of the comment, I decided it was important enough to turn it into a post.

The question was about Gen 3:16. Does it really mean that women should be controlled by their men, as many man have used this verse to justify their behaviour. How does the Hebrew Bible describe the female role? Below is my answer.

Hi Lea,

This question is extremely relevant today as it was then, as many use this verse in order to justify suppression of women. The verse says:

讜职讗侄诇-讗执讬砖值讈讱职, 转职旨砖讈讜旨拽指转值讱职, 讜职讛讜旨讗, 讬执诪职砖指讈诇讘指旨讱职
and you will desire your man, and he will rule over you

So does it mean that this is God’s will and that it is justified that men rule over women?

Not so fast!

Like other places in the Bible, this verse can be read in many ways. Some read it as a command or a punishment: 鈥淵ou will be ruled by your man鈥.

Another way or reading it is as an observation of a situation or telling us the future. Similar to a sentence like: 鈥測our cities will have slums and will be polluted” By this interpretation, God does not command, does not tell us His will, he just tells and knows what is going to happen.

You can even take it s a warning. That is: 鈥淚 am going to tell you what is going to happen in the future, so that you can use your free will to change it and make it better.鈥

The text is consistent with these three interpretations.

When God commands, it is written in plain language. Like in Gen 2:17

讜旨诪值注值抓, 讛址讚址旨注址转 讟讜止讘 讜指专指注诇止讗 转止讗讻址诇, 诪执诪侄旨谞旨讜旨
from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat from it

So why is it ambiguous here? Why doesn’t the Bible tell us what it want us to do, and leaves place for so much interpretation?

My conviction is that ambiguities in the Bible serve a crucial purpose. When we look into ourselves and make our choices it tells us what type of people we are.

  • Are we the people that take a warning as a command and make things worse?
  • Are we those who take it as an observation or prediction and, knowing that it is bad, do nothing about it?
  • Are we those who take the warning and use their free will to make things better?

There is nothing spiritual about following a command. There is nothing moral about doing things to avoid punishment. Ambiguity in the Bible is where our spiritual growth begins. If forces us to meditate, delve into ourselves, understand better, and discover what type of people we really are. It also tells us what type of people we can be if we keep reading the Bible in earnest.

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1 year ago

In all essence, we were not given Free will, Adom amd Chava chose it. It was a choice, they chose wrong becuase of the tongue of the adversary. That was the pivotal moment when Adom could’ve stopped humanity from the prison we are currently living but they were Warne warned.… Read more »

Ran Fuchs
Reply to  Denise
1 year ago

It is a very good point. Sarah was not a slave, she was Abraham’s partner. And as you say it is not for us to own other people. Thank you so much for your insight.

1 year ago

Thank you Ran, I think you wrote an fascinating article. I can’t stop thinking about it, about our free choice and why women for a long time did not seem to have a choice after most Christian Religious Communities exploiting these verses for their objectives. God used the same way… Read more »

Ran Fuchs
Reply to  Lea
1 year ago

I am glad that my interpretation makes you think. This is all I can hope for. When the Bible gives us few ways to interpret, it is our free will that helps us decide which interpretation fits us. For me, I try to contain all interpretation and know that probably… Read more »