Volume 18 - Issue 3

The roles of the woman and the man in Genesis 3

By Richard S. Hess

Introduction: sex roles in Genesis 3

The purpose of this essay is to consider the place and position accorded to the woman and to the man in the Garden of Eden. Particular emphasis will be placed upon recent interpretations of the key texts. I will first consider the options which have been set forth recently for understanding the roles of the woman and the man, and then examine the variety of contexts which have been suggested for the setting of Genesis 3. I will then investigate the controversial texts of Genesis 3: the dialogue between the serpent and the woman; the curses/judgments; and the naming of the woman by the man.

Two dominant approaches exist regarding the question of the roles of the man and of the woman in Genesis 3:

  1. The texts are clearly chauvinist and should be regarded as such. This is the majority opinion for most of the history of interpretation. Modern scholarship continues to emphasize this (cf. Trible) and literary approaches have argued that this is the most consistent way to read the text (Clines). However, antiquity does not assure the interpretation. Many of the earlier societies which studied these chapters possessed a ‘patriarchal’ bias in which women were regarded as naturally possessing a lower status than men. Therefore, they would naturally read Genesis with this bias. The identification of this bias allows for the reading of the text from alternative perspectives. Clines represents a feminist perspective but still concludes in favour of an ‘irredeemably patriarchal’ reading as the best one for this text. Reservations about some of his analysis (see below) lead me to consider alternative interpretations.
  2. The texts may represent a fundamentally patriarchal perspective, but the solution is to deconstruct them which, in this case, means to ‘depatriarchalize’ them (Trible). Thus an alternative interpretation is set forth which emphasizes the ways in which the minor or oppressed characters ‘subvert’ the narrative so as to exert power where it is denied to them. This is the approach of most of the feminist literary readings of the text, which either build upon or critique the work of Trible. Her study argued that humanity was originally created as a sexually undifferentiated earth creature. When woman was created, man was left over as the sexual counterpart.1 A similar conclusion is reached by Brenner. She sees woman as portrayed as originally stronger and dominant, but as having forfeited this position by misbehaviour. The misbehaviour led to her subjugation but also to humanity’s acquisition of sexual knowledge and of the ability to procreate. These studies are useful for their explorations of implications of the dialogues and actions in chapter 3. Thus the active and wisdom roles of the woman are properly emphasized. However, none of the human characters in chapter 3 departs as victor or hero.

Neither approach is entirely satisfactory. Recognition of a patriarchal element in Genesis 3, like arguments for ‘depatriar-chalizing’, needs to be verified or falsified by the input of recent interpretative approaches. At the same time consideration of these approaches provides perspectives which may suggest new directions for exegesis.

The setting of Genesis 3

Three recent approaches to this story have been suggested. The first is ideological, the second is religious and the third is anthropological.

  1. An allegory defending royal control in monarchical Judah over against peasant independence

Kennedy takes a ‘materialist’ approach with a view that the couple represent peasants in judah and God represents the king. The king allows the couple to work his estate and provides them with necessities of life. The serpent represents attempts to educate the peasantry and lead them to rebellion. However, the narrative justifies the strict control of the peasantry by the royalty in order to prevent revolution. The judgments reflect the harsh reality of peasant life which is traced to the rebellious nature of the first couple. This does not do justice to the text within the context of Genesis 1–11, wherein the line of promise avoids explicit associations with royalty. Instead, those assertions of human dominion that do appear are portrayed in a negative light.2 A variation of this theme, with a less fanciful premise, is that of Brueggemann, who finds in the origins of humanity in dust and in their elevation to a type of rulership the identification of the text with the Davidic monarchy.

The royalist approach does not concern itself directly with differences in male and female roles. Insofar as it touches upon them, it views differences as a reflection of injustices in the society in general.

  1. A polemic against Canaanite religion

For Wyatt, the serpent and his wisdom are to be associated with the Canaanite god El. The tree of life is similar to the pole or tree in the Asherah cult. The sin of the couple involves the participation in the Canaanite cult of El, for which they are cast out of the garden to the east, just as Israel went eastward into exile for their sins of Canaanite worship. While we may see (with Alonso-Schöckel) wisdom motifs abounding in Genesis 2–3, this interpretation of Wyatt’s needs more explicit evidence to make it the central thrust of the passage. The polemical approach is also argued by Soggin on traditional source-critical grounds and by Wallace using form-critical methods.

A creative variant to this approach has been suggested by Gardner. She posits that the narrative of chapters 2–3 ‘is the product of reflection upon Yahweh’s intentions for Israel and their distortion within the pre-exilic community when the fundamental commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, was breached’. Thus the text serves to warn husbands to control their wives because ‘women were especially attracted to the worship of the goddess [represented by the tree] and introduced men to their cult’ (p. 14). The earlier period of Israel includes women such as Deborah in positions of authority and capability while the later periods denigrate women’s position in society. So it is in Genesis 2–3. The woman is at first equal to the man and the initiator and conversationalist, but later she is the first to sin and is demoted to a subservient position.

The polemical approach has possibilities for explaining the role of many elements in Genesis 2–3. However, different themes predominate in chapter 3. These include emphases on the failure to listen carefully to God’s word and the pride of humanity in trying by itself to achieve divinity. The appearance of these elements elsewhere in Genesis 1–11 and their prominent role throughout the OT suggest that other themes, such as the polemic against Canaanite religion, are of secondary importance.

  1. A story from the Early Iron Age world of Israel’s struggle to settle in the hill country

Meyers develops this thesis in her 1988 volume. Discovering Eve. She rejects the term ‘patriarchal’ as applied to these texts because she is less concerned with the texts as describing what the role of men and women ought to be. Instead, she sees the texts as descriptive of what their roles actually were. This is an extremely important contribution to the analysis of chapter 3, because it demands that great care be exercised in drawing any conclusions regarding Genesis 3 which attempt to establish what is normative for the reader.

In their original setting, Genesis 2–3 represent a struggle to survive in which men and women participated equally. Properly understood, they are not reflections of a hierarchical society but one in which a great deal of intensive labour was required for survival and the functional roles of the respective participants had to be recognized. This meant that women had to bear as many children as possible and both sexes had to devote themselves to agricultural labour, men more so as they were not bearing children. These realities of life became idealized in early Israel and written into the narratives of chapters 2–3.

On the one hand, the Mesopotamian motifs and geography of Genesis 2 suggest an origin for at least some elements of the narrative outside Palestine. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that many of the allusions which Meyers identifies have merit. One can understand the attempt to take traditions and to relate them to the period of Israel’s initial entry into the land. Thus, just as we might tell children of an event a century or two ago by prefacing our remarks with, ‘There were no telephones or televisions then’, so the narrator begins the story in chapter 2 with, ‘There was no rain or anyone to work the soil’. The narrator recognizes that the present place where the Israelites live (the hill country of Canaan) is not like what the land once was for the first couple.

What went wrong? The dialogue between the serpent and the woman

The first seven or eight verses of Genesis 3 provide an account of the garden incident which is as subtle as the serpent in its allusions and implications. However, it forms the basis for interpretations of the role of woman insofar as woman is seen as the ‘first to sin’. In order to understand what happened, the text will be examined from a literary perspective, both in terms of what the characters represent and from the viewpoint of the way in which the dialogue reflects the divine prohibition of 2:16–17.

The serpent is the first of the characters mentioned and the only one assigned a characteristic, shrewdness. Wisdom was ascribed to snakes in the Ancient Near Eastern world. Along with wisdom, the snake was associated with fertility, something which does not at first appear in Genesis 3.3 The Israelite perception of a snake would not be primarily as a creature of wisdom, but as an unclean animal (Wenham). Thus there is some support in these diverse views of the character of the snake for an implicit polemic between the faith of ancient Israel and that of its neighbours, i.e. the snake’s uncleanness vs. its characteristic as shrewd and wise.

The woman is represented as a real person, not some symbolic figure. She has not been given any previous characteristics other than that of being a helper with the man. She enters into conversation with the serpent. It is only at the end of the story, after the curses, that she is given a name.

The man, also nameless throughout this story, has a task given to him in chapter 2 (Hess). It involves the care of the garden. In fact it is this role which is played upon in the Hebrew word for man, ’ādām, and that for the ground which he tills, ’adāmâ. Although both man and woman react rather than act, it is the passive role of the man which is stressed. Note that it is the woman who repeats the statement God said to the man. The narrative assumes that sometime between chapters 2 and 3 the man spoke with the woman and explained the rules for living in the garden. We are never told that this happened, further accentuating the passive role of the man. In fact, the only actions in which the man of chapter 3 is involved are eating the fruit, answering God’s questions, and naming his wife. The first two are reactions which, like being driven from the garden, are not self-initiated. The third continues something he already began doing in 2:23. Is the passive role of the man in part responsible for the problems which befall the couple?

The participants in the conversation are the woman and the snake. The snake, who initiates the dialogue, approaches the woman. Why not the man? Setting aside time-honoured traditions concerning female propensities toward deception (something which is not found even in 1 Timothy 2), the snake had another reason consistent with the man’s task of naming the creatures in chapter 2. If name-giving is a kind of discernment in determining the nature of a creature, and if the man’s role as caretaker of the garden (2:19–20) would have included the naming of the snake,4 then the man would have seen in the snake the characteristic of shrewdness. There is no indication that the woman was party to this information, nor that she was informed by the man (another example of the man’s passivity?). Therefore, she is susceptible to the snake’s persuasive powers.

In examining the conversation between the woman and the snake, it is of interest to compare the statements of the snake and the woman with God’s statement of 2:16–17. The snake’s statement in 3:1 is a contradiction of God’s statement in 2:16. In fact, 2:16 adds the emphatic infinitive absolute construction to the verb: ‘from every tree of the garden you shall indeed eat’, while the snake takes the basic statement word for word and puts a ‘not’ in front of it: ‘you shall not eat from any tree of the garden’.

The woman’s response in verse 2 appears initially to confirm God’s command, although neither the emphatic emphasis on the verb nor the comprehensive ‘all’, ‘every’ is found there: ‘We may eat from the fruit of the tree(s) of the garden’. Thus the suggestion of God’s generosity in providing a wide selection of food is mitigated. As has long been observed, here is the first step toward the rebellion which follows. It is found in the failure of proper gratitude for what God has given.

The woman’s statement of God’s qualification, forbidding eating of the one tree, is interesting in what is changed. In 2:17 God identified this fruit as ‘From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat’. However, the woman simply defines the fruit by the location of the tree: ‘from the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden God has said, “You shall not eat.” ’ By not defining the tree as the one of good and evil, the woman has removed the reason for not eating from it. Bound up with the knowledge which this fruit conveys is the reason for the prohibition. Therefore, when she goes on to describe the prophesied outcome of eating this fruit, the consequences seem to outweigh the deed: death for eating fruit—come on, you must be joking!

The actual prohibition, ‘you shall not eat from it’, is supplemented by the woman with the phrase, ‘you shall not touch it’. Of course, this makes the command appear more restrictive, although probably commentators have made more of this than is warranted. After all, what would they touch the fruit for, if not to eat it? The point is that we have one more example of a subtle distortion of the original words of God. Misusing and perhaps misunderstanding God’s word lies at the heart of the first rebellion against God.

In 2:17 God warned the man in the strongest possible terms not to eat, ‘for on the day you eat from it you will surely die’—again with the verb having an emphatic form added to it. However, the woman reports the warning in the lightest possible terms, omitting both the sense of the consequence occurring on the same day and the emphatic form of the verb, ‘lest you die’. Thus the consequence is played down and the woman invites the snake to respond.

The snake’s response is to deny the emphatic warning of God by repeating the emphatic form and attaching a negative particle to the front of it, ‘you will not surely die’. Here he fills in what the woman glossed over. He then goes on further to fill in what was omitted by the statements of the woman in failing to identify the tree. The free is called what it is because it enables one to become like God, knowing good and evil. That this actually happens seems to be confirmed by verse 22. However, that a form of death lies in store as a consequence of the rebellion also seems to be suggested.

At this point the narrative resumes in a series of actions (verses 6–8): she saw, she took, she ate, she gave, he ate, their eyes were opened, they knew, they sewed, they made, they heard, they hid. Once again, the passive attitude of the man in contrast to the woman is evident in the initial verbs and in their subjects. The ironies of the couple listening to the snake rather than to God and of the trees, designed as a context for God to meet the couple, now used as a means of separating the two, enhance the effect which this rebellion creates.

The vain attempts to conceal themselves from each other and from God end with God’s appearance and voice. Notice how easy it was for the couple to forget God’s word the minute he was absent, even in the midst of his creation. Notice too how it is God, not the couple, who initiates the call back to himself. God questions the man first, the one to whom the command was first given. The questions and responses tend to show how widespread the rebellion is, although the obvious intent of the couple is to shift it from themselves. Note that the first word of both responses of the man and the woman is the person/animal they want to blame (the woman!/the snake!). God does not question the serpent but begins to pronounce ‘judgment’.

What went wrong? Certainly there were many aspects to the rebellion which were involved, much in the way of pride, of ignoring or distorting God’s word, and of listening to the serpent. But the ‘judgments’ which follow make clear what went wrong from the standpoint of God. There are two causal clauses connected to these judgments, one with respect to the snake in verse 14 and one with respect to the man in verse 17. The former is a general condemnation of the snake for having ‘done this’. It refers to the woman’s statement in verse 13 which suggests that the serpent led her astray. The condemned action was the serpent’s deception designed to get the couple to eat of the forbidden fruit. The action condemned with respect to the man was that he listened to his wife. He should have known better because God had spoken directly to him on the matter. No action of the woman is condemned but she is included in the ‘judgments’ because of her participation in the rebellion. She did not deliberately deceive, like the serpent, nor did she disobey a command given to her directly from God, like the man, but she did disobey and she knew it.

The roles of the woman and of the man must be understood in the context of the reason for the rebellion. The motivation was to know as God knows, to possess divine wisdom and to seize God’s gifts and use them in whatever way the man and the woman wanted.5 This desire is related to the errors already observed in the woman’s conversation with the snake: the lack of proper gratitude for God’s gifts and the misuse of God’s Word. The gifts include more than the garden and the tree. They include the presence of God and fellowship with the Creator. This is especially represented in God’s gifts of his words which describe how to live in the garden. The distortion of God’s word is a misuse of God’s gift. The motivation for that distortion is the desire to possess a ‘full life’ apart from God’s will. However, the result is the spiritual ‘death’ of expulsion from the garden, with the consequent difficulties of coping in the resulting world.

Put in another way, this is the attempt of humanity to penetrate the divine world, to become like gods. It recurs more explicitly in 11:1–9 and in reverse in 6:1–4. In all these, God resists their efforts and places restrictions upon humanity. The irony is that fullness of fire requires the initiative of the Creator’s word. It begins anew in Genesis 12:1–3, when God calls Abram into a covenant of faithful dependence and apart from the world in which humanity was/is still trying to become like gods. The lack of gratitude for God’s gifts and the misuse of his word are two parts of the whole rebellion in which human beings seek to become divine without the consent of God. Such failing was shared by the couple. Both participated and both were judged. The dominant role of the woman might appear to assign her greater liability, but both suffer the same fate in the end—expulsion from the garden.

The curses and ‘judgments’ of 3:14–19

Note that people are not cursed, only the snake and the ground. Verse 14 is easy enough to understand as applied to the serpent. We may add that the mode of locomotion for the serpent is one which is characteristic of those creatures who are unclean. They do not walk nor swim nor fly (Gn. 1), but perform some hybrid action.6

The enmity of verse 15 is best understood as an eternal conflict between the snake and the human race. The odd expression of ‘seed of woman’ may already introduce an idea which is not fully explained by the fear of snakes. It may not require a virgin birth for its interpretation but it certainly allows for something out of the ordinary.

Verse 16 describes the judgment which God gives to the woman. The traditional understanding of this text suggests it describes the origin of pain in childbirth and of an inferior status for women in relation to men or at least to their husbands. However, an alternative interpretation has been advanced. Carol Meyers argues that the ‘toil’ (‘issābôn) in this verse is not the labour of childbirth but rather the effort involved in assistance in farming the land. Thus the woman is required both to work in the field and to bear children. This means an additional task for the woman which suggests that the man would ‘predominate’ over her in the labour in the field. In other words, he would be able to do more agricultural work while she was bearing children. He would be able to insist on sexual relations because of social and economic necessities for continuation of the tribe and for a large labour pool to assist in the heavy agricultural work. This is the meaning of ‘rule over’ according to Meyers. She identifies this text with early Israel and its initial settlement in the hill country. From this conclusion she derives data concerning labour and population requirements for continuation of Israelite tribal life as it is settling in the central hill country.

The first part of this interpretation has a greater likelihood of being true than the second. The word for ‘toil’ is not used elsewhere for childbirth. Thus Meyers’ translation of the first line of verse 16 makes sense of the syntax and of the word for ‘toil’, which nowhere else is used as ‘pain’: ‘I will greatly multiply your efforts and your childbearing.’ The second half of the first line would carry the same meaning: ‘With [in the sense of “in addition to”] work you will bear children.’

On the other hand, the suggestion that the verb ‘to rule over’ can be altered to the idea of ‘predominate’ seems forcing it into an explanation which has no parallels elsewhere. This is not necessary nor even the preferred interpretation. The idea of mastery is addressed by Foh. She suggests that woman’s desire in this verse is not a sexual desire but a desire to dominate. The text then depicts a struggle of wills between men and women. The question which Foh goes on to address is whether the final statement of this verse is a statement of fact (‘you will want to dominate your husband but your husband will rule over you’) or one implying a determined command on God’s part (‘you will want to dominate your husband but your husband should rule over you’). Since I believe this is part of a description of the new order of things, I prefer to accept the former interpretation.

Verses 14–19 describe a situation which was all too familiar to ancient Israel. There was a division of roles between men and women, reflecting the economic needs of the society. Both were required to participate in the labour for the fruitfulness of the land. However, women were restricted in their contribution, especially as the demands of childbearing and raising placed an additional responsibility upon them. The struggle of wills reflects the tensions created by the demands of survival, and the consequent threat to family harmony.

The naming of Eve in verse 20

Eve’s name (ḥāwwāh) can be associated with the word ḥāy, understood as ‘living’, ‘alive’ and as deriving from the root related to ‘live’ (ḥyh). The actual form as vocalized in Hebrew may reflect a factitive expression of the root, i.e. ‘make alive’.7 The form as it appears in the name is best understood as a nominal form, possessing a Hebrew noun formation often used to designate occupation or profession. In the case of Eve it denotes the role of giving and nurturing life. This parallels the explanation which follows it in Genesis 3:20. It also explains why the name is given at this point. Insofar as 3:16 involves the first assignment of the responsibility of childbirth to the woman (Meyers 1983, pp. 344–349), the giving of the name in 3:20 reflects an awareness or this role for the woman.

As with ‘the man’ ’ādām (Hess), this name may function as a title. It occurs only after the curses and describes the one aspect of woman’s fate which differs from that of man, the bearing of children. This is why the name is given at this point. It follows the first time the couple are informed of the role of woman. The only other occurrence of the name Eve is found in Genesis 4:1 in a context which describes the conception and birth of her first son, Cain. This is followed by the conception and birth of a second son, Abel, in verse 2. The verbs in this verse also refer back to the Eve of verse 1. Thus the distinctive role assigned the woman in 3:16 is shown in her name and in the use or that name when she first exercises that role in the Genesis narrative.

The expulsion from the garden in verses 21–23

The Garden of Eden has been understood as the prototype of the sanctuary where the faithful meet with and worship God.8 The tunics or skin are God’s means of providing for the sin of the couple by an animal sacrifice. The skins literally cover them, thereby hiding their shame. The use of animal skins introduces physical death for the first time and implicitly suggests the erection of a barrier between God and people (Ratner). The consequences of the expulsion from the garden meant the cessation of the man’s distinctive role as the caretaker of the garden. How does this fulfil God’s promise of death to those who eat the fruit? Moberly has suggested that the ‘death’ is a metaphor involving ‘personal decay’. He bases this on a similar usage of ‘death’ in the warnings of Deuteronomy 30:15, 19. I believe the consequence, the ‘death’, for the man and the woman is primarily seen in the separation and alienation of the man and woman from the garden, from each other (blaming one another and the coats of animal skin), and from God (expulsion from the garden). Hauser emphasizes the change of language to describe the alienation which begins with the eating of the fruit.


The approach of Meyers has the advantage of understanding both the man and the woman of Genesis 3 as more than literary figures subject to the ideological manipulation of the authors. They represent real people struggling for survival in early Israel. As such, the approach challenges us to apply the biblical text to our own lives and families.

However, the context of chapter 3 at the beginning of Genesis suggests a wider scope than Iron Age Israel. It implies something understood as a universal norm which is established by God. Even so, this norm is clearly set in a particular cultural context. It is one which assumes an agricultural society. No mention is made of what life would be like for those who engaged in other occupations, although the following chapter demonstrates that the narrator was aware of a variety or occupations in which people could engage. Yet principles enshrined in these judgments, such as the need and value of human labour, are intended to have a universal application. Beyond the obvious ongoing role of bearing children, it is not clear that the other judgments regarding women should be distinguished from the original temporal context in which the narratives were first written and applied. The roles and responsibilities of the man and of the woman do not otherwise differ, nor is there any explicit justification for male domination.

We can find the purpose of Genesis 3, within its present context at the beginning or the Bible, as a statement of the human condition. This is the story of the lost opportunity for fellowship with God. Left to our own devices we are prone to deceive ourselves into thinking that we can become like gods. Instead, like this world, we stand under the judgment of God. Genesis 3 stresses the importance of listening again to God’s redemptive word and of finding in that word the opportunity to encounter God’s saving presence. The reversal of God’s punishment of the first couple is therefore not a suspension of labour any more than it is a cessation of having and raising children. These will continue as long as the present world endures. Rather, the reversal of God’s punishment for the rebellion of the garden is a readmittance into the ‘garden’ of fellowship with God. It is this expectation which Christians find fulfilled in the promises of the NT.


Alonso-Schöckel, L., 1976, ‘Sapiential and Covenant Themes in Genesis 2–3’, in J.L. Crenshaw (ed.), Studies in Ancient Israelite Wisdom (New York: Ktav), pp. 468–480.

Brenner, A., 1985, The Israelite Woman: Social Role and Literary Type in Biblical Narrative (Sheffield: JSOT).

Brueggemann, W., 1972, ‘From Dust to Kingship’, Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 84, pp. 1–18.

Budd, P.J., 1989, ‘Holiness and Cult’, in R.E. Clements (ed.), The World of Ancient Israel: Sociological, Anthropological, and Political Perspectives (Cambridge: University Press), pp. 275–298.

Chilton, D., 1958, Paradise Restored (Tyler).

Clines, D.J.A., 1990, What Does Eve Do to Help? and Other Readerly Questions to the Old Testament (JSOT Supplement 94; Sheffield: Academic Press).

Douglas, M., 1966, Purity and Danger. An Analysis of Pollution and Taboo (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul).

Foh, S.T., 1975, ‘What is Woman’s Desire?’, Westminster Theological Journal 37, pp. 376–383.

Gardner, A., 1990, ‘Genesis 2:4b–3: A Mythological Paradigm of Sexual Equality or of the Religious History of Pre-Exilic Israel?’, Scottish Journal of Theology 43, pp. 1–18.

Hamilton, V.P., 1990, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1–17 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament; Eerdmans).

Hauser, A J., 1982, ‘Genesis 2–3: The Theme of Intimacy and Alienation’, in D.J.A. Clines, D.M. Gunn, and A.J. Hauser (eds.), Art and Meaning: Rhetoric in Biblical Literature (JSOT Supplement 19; Sheffield: JSOT), pp. 20–36.

Hess, R.S., 1990, ‘Splitting the Adam: the Usage of ’ādām in Genesis i–v’, in J.A. Emerton (ed.), Studies in the Pentateuch (Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 41; Leiden: Brill), pp. 1–15.

Kennedy, J.M., 1990, ‘Peasants in Revolt: Political Allegory in Genesis 2–3’, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 47, pp. 3–14.

Kikawada, I.M., 1972, ‘Two Notes on Eve’, Journal of Biblical Literature 91, pp. 33–37.

Levison, J.R., 1989, ‘Eve’s Ungrateful Children’, Explorations 3/1, pp. 2, 4.

Meyers, C.L., 1976, The Tabernacle Menorah (ASOR Dissertation Series 2; Missoula: Scholars Press).

1983, ‘Gender Roles and Genesis 3:16 Revisited’, in C.L. Meyers and M. O’Connor (eds.). The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns), pp. 337–354.

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Moberly, R.W.L., 1988, ‘Did the Serpent Get it Right?’, Journal of Theological Studies 39, pp. 1–27.

Moye, R.H., 1990, ‘In the Beginning: Myth and History in Genesis and Exodus’, Journal of Biblical Literature 109, pp. 577–598.

Ramsey, G.W., 1988, ‘Is Name-Giving an Act of Domination in Genesis 2:23 and Elsewhere?’, CBQ 50, pp. 24–35.

Ratner, R.J., 1989–1990, ‘Garments of Skin (Genesis 3:21)’, Dor le Dor 18, pp. 74–80.

Schmitt, J.J., 1991, ‘Like Eve, Like Adam: mšl in Genesis 3, 16’, Biblica 72, pp. 1–22.

Sjöberg A.W., 1984, ‘Eve and the Chameleon’, in W.B. Barrick and J.R. Spencer (eds.), In the Shelter of Elyon: Essays on Palestinian Life and Literature in Honor of G.W. Ahlström (JSOT Supplement 31; Sheffield: JSOT), pp. 217–225.

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Tosato, A., 1990, ‘On Genesis 2:24’, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 52, pp. 389–409.

Trible, P., 1978, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (Overtures to Biblical Theology; Philadelphia: Fortress).

van Seters, J., 1989, ‘The Creation of Man and The Creation of the King’, Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 101, pp. 333–342.

Wallace, H.N., 1985, The Eden Narrative (Harvard Semitic Monographs 32; Atlanta: Scholars Press).

Weinfeld, M., 1981, ‘Sabbath, Temple and the Enthronement of the Lord: The Problem of the Sitz im Leben of Genesis 1:1–2:3’, in Mélanges bibliques el orientaux en l’honneur de M. Henri Cazelles (Alter Orient und Altes Testament 212; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener), pp. 501–512.

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White, H.C., 1991, Narration and Discourse in the Book of Genesis (Cambridge: University Press).

Wyatt, N., 1981, ‘Interpreting the Creation and Fall Story in Genesis 2–3’, Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 93, pp. 10–21.

1988, ‘When Adam Delved: The Meaning of Genesis III 23’, VT 28, pp. 117–121.

Zimmermann, F., 1966, ‘Folk Etymology of Biblical Names’, in Volume du Congrès Genève 1965 (Supplement to Vetus Testamentum 15; Leiden: E.J. Brill), pp. 311–326.

1 For a critique of this interpretation, Cf. Hess 1990, especially pp. 13–15.

2 E.g. Lamech of Cain’s line, the sons of ‘god’, Nimrod, and the builders of Babel. Van Seters’ attempt to argue for the development and combination of two separate creation stories (i.e. the creation of humanity to work for the gods and the creation of the king) in a single Neo-Babylonian text has little to commend it. The ‘parallel’ is very limited. Thus the Neo-Babylonian text and the Genesis account are best understood as developments of separate and unrelated traditions. Nor is there any reason to argue an evolution in a particular direction (E.g.Gn. 2–3 could be an earlier, democratized text which the Neo-Babylonian text tradition developed for its royal ideological interests).

3 Sjöberg has questioned the translation of the Hebrew word nāḥāš as ‘snake’. Instead he argues that ‘reptile’ could also be an appropriate translation for this animal. If so, the parallel with the Ancient Near Eastern snake collapses. However, the translation ‘snake’ seems more likely given the strong parallel between the ‘wisdom’ of the Genesis creature and that ascribed elsewhere to snakes.

4 On the role of name-giving, Cf. Ramsey 1988. Schmitt cites an example of naming as discernment rather than domination in the 18th-century bc Atrahasis Epic in which the lesser gods give Mami, Mother Goddess, the title of ‘Mistress of all the Gods’. Clines 1990, p. 39 n. 3, challenges this, arguing that domination and discernment are not mutually exclusive. However, this begs the question. The argument made is that one should assume discernment when name-giving is recorded and only assume domination when this is explicitly stated (which it is not in the story of the naming of woman in Genesis 2 and 3). Nor is Tosato’s position on this point (p. 390 n. 4) any more convincing. In the Bible no-one appears in the narrative without a name or a title of some sort. The only figure in the narrative who perceives what has happened is the man (other than God, who does not do naming after his creative work; indeed, God never names the man). Therefore, it is logical and necessary that the man names the woman.

5 Cf. Wenham. Wallace 1985, p. 129, discusses these motivations in light of the Ancient Near Eastern contexts of the symbol of the tree of knowledge and of the desire to become like gods.

6 The basic study on this distinction is that of Douglas. Cf. Budd for a summary and critique of more recent approaches.

7 This interpretation was suggested by J. Greenfield and appears in the study of Kikawada 1972, p. 34 n. 9. Cf.also Zimmermann 1966, p. 317, for comparative arguments adducing the similar meaning, ‘the one who gives birth’.

8 Cf. Wenham 1986. Wallace compares the description of Eden with divine dwellings. For Wallace, this leads to the perspective of an originally mythical ‘garden of God’. For Wenham, however, it points in a different direction. The garden is ‘an archetypal sanctuary’. Several aspects may be cited, in addition to those noted in the paragraph. Both the garden of Gn. 2 and the Tabernacle/Temple are entered from the East, have jewels and gold, portray God as walking back and forth, and charge people with guarding or keeping it. See also Chilton on structure and contents, and Meyers 1976 on the menorah. It has also been observed that the construction of the Tabernacle has allusions to the initial act of creation in it. Moses ‘saw all the work … as the Lord had commanded’ and ‘blessed’ the people (Ex. 39:43) just as the Lord blessed the seventh day when he finished his work. ‘As the Lord commanded Moses’ is repeated seven times, recalling the repetition of phrasing in the creation of the world over the seven-day period. In Ex. 40:34–38 the Sabbath is celebrated just as God celebrated the Sabbath at the end of creation. See Moye, p. 597. See also Weinfeld, who relates God’s creation of the world and rest on the Sabbath (Gn. 1) to the building of the Tabernacle and God’s presence resting in it.

Richard S. Hess

Denver Seminary, Denver