Those who argue for the permanent subordination of women will frequently use the argument that Adam named the animals and that this showed his unique “role” given to him by God.
In a CBMW article written by Bruce Ware, Dr. Ware makes it clear that Adam was given an authority in the beginning of creation that the woman was not given.
Under the heading B. Fallen Disruption of God’s Created Design Dr. Ware states that there is an authority given to Adam at creation that is not given to Eve.
Gen. 3:15-16 informs us that the male/female relationship would now, because of sin, be affected by mutual enmity. In particular, the woman would have a desire to usurp the authority given to man in creation…
What authority is Ware talking about? Both the man and the woman were explicitly given the rule over animals in Genesis chapter one, however Ware believes that no one knows how Eve was going to rule, but Adam was special and as the designated ruler of the world he had the right to rule by naming the animals. Ware writes:
And remember, although animals were created before Adam, Adam was told to name the animals and this clearly indicates his headship over them.
Ware misnames “rule” and calls it “headship” a term that God never identified for Adam’s rule. Adam is not the “head” of animals and animals are not the “body” of Adam. However Adam was the “ruler” of the animals just as God gave both of them the rule. Was it legitimate for Adam to “rule” the animals and identify their name? Sure. We know that God is the one who initiated the naming of the animals. God Himself did not name any of the animals and instead God formed the animals from the ground and then brought them to Adam to “see” what Adam would name them. I will be using throughout this post the Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew Old Testamentto bring out the Hebrew meaning of several important words. I think you will find it fascinating to discover what the actual words mean in this passage.
So God would “see” what Adam would name the animals. The Hebrew term for “see” means:
see, look, view, i.e., use the perception of sight to view objects and make judgments based on the perceptions
In Genesis 2:20 it says that Adam “gave names” to the animals. Giving a “name” in Hebrew means:
the proper designation of a person, place, or thing
With each animal that Adam named, Genesis shows that there was not found a helper for Adam. “Found” means:
to be discovered, be detected
Adam’s mate was not discovered or detected amongst the animals. Adam was looking for a “help“ and help means:
strength, formally, help, i.e., power to accomplish a task
Adam was not looking for a weak partner but one who had the strength and power to stand by him in order to accomplish the task. The helper was to be “suitable” for Adam. “Suitable” means:
before, in front of, straight ahead, i.e., pertaining to a spatial position anterior to another object, implying a public or open position, and so often being in the presence of another
So the one that Adam was looking for was to be “the strength and power of one who helps” and this future mate was to be one who was before him, in front of him and in his presence in a public or open position. As God watched Adam, Adam named each animal and then rejected each one of the animals as none of them proved to be the suitable to be in his own category.
Then God put Adam to sleep and He took out Adam’s rib. “rib“means:
rib, i.e., bones and cartilage around the heart and lungs of the human body Gen 2:21, 22
God then fashioned the woman fashioned means:
make, form i.e., make something new, with a possible implication of using prior existing materials Gen 2:22
He fashioned her into a woman. Notice that God Himself identifies her as “woman” before she was ever brought to the man.
Genesis 2:22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
substance, “very,” i.e., the essence or essential nature of a thing, a marker of which something consists as the same
near kin, close relation, flesh and blood, formally, bone and flesh, i.e., one who is a blood relative of a next generation, as a figurative extension that a person has the same corporeal mass that has been passed on through the seed of reproduction Gen 2:23
4) Adam’s naming of Eve indicates, in an OT cultural context, Adam’s right of authority over the one whom he named. And interestingly, Adam named his wife twice, first when she was formed from his flesh (2:23), and second after they had both sinned (3:20), indicating that his rightful authority over her continued after sin had come. (emphasis is mine)
Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
leave behind, abandon, i.e., cause an object to stay in a place while the participant leaves
be united, joined, i.e., be in a close association, implying a normal continuing relationship (Ge 2:24); be associated, formally, bind, i.e., be in a close association as a figurative extension of a belt fastening objects together
How they are, together, to rule the earth on God’s behalf, is not here explained.
Most complementarians understand the curse of the woman in 3:16 to mean that sin would bring about in Eve a wrongful desire to rule over her husband (contrary to God’s created design), and that in response, Adam would have to assert his rule over her.
The very beautiful original creation where God identified and named the woman as the one who had the strength and the power to provide Adam what he needed and the very one whom Adam would cling to and join himself to, is now turned into a distorted picture of a powerful ruler who rules the animals along with his rulership over the woman. What Ware has done is take the sinful affects of the fall as the norm and the power of Eve’s place as Adam’s Ezer (powerful helper) is replaced with a subordinate, easily deceived woman who is not allowed to talk to the animals without permission from her ruler-king.
The complementarian view of creation is not Biblical. When they can make the woman as the needy one needing to have a ruler over her and the weak one who had no power or authority to do anything without permission from her kingly ruler, their entire foundation for their view of women is faulty. No wonder CBMW (the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) has struggled to try to figure out what women can and cannot do. They see her as having no authority to do anything without permission and they struggle to find specific permission for women in the Bible to do the simple things like being an usher who passes the offering plate from front to back. So while they are unsure about whether a woman can be an usher or lead in prayer, their predicament comes because their very foundation is built on sand from a faulty view that God created a dependent being who was not meant to be a powerful support for Adam but was instead a dependent of Adam’s who was unable to have any authority on her own to act without supervision. When the foundation is weak, the doctrine based on that foundation will be distorted. It is time that we help complementarians to see the beautify of the creation of woman from the beginning.