When we read the Bible, it is easy to overlook small pieces of information that pop up between the big truths. This was true for me for a long time whenever I was reading Genesis 3.
Eve and the snake
I was trained as a teacher for Christian religion and Fine Arts. When you look at paintings of Eve, the mother of all humanity, you almost always see her half naked and in the company of the snake.Eve has become the symbol of seduction, bringing the evil one along with her and tempting men to fall into sin. This image has shaped our perception of Eve and women in general, and led tot the implication that women are more prone to be used by the devil and that it can be dangerous to follow the example of a women. A theology professor once told a mixed group of men and women at a consultation on „Men and women in the Bible“ that Eve – meaning all women – is ontologically inferior to Adam - meaning all men - because she was seduced by the snake. Adam instead sinned willingly. And that fact would show hissuperiority and trustworthiness. I never quite understood that kind of argument, but it showed to me how important it can be to go back to theBiblical text itself. What does it say about Eve? Let us have a closer look. The situation is:Sin has entered the world, and God confronts Adam and Eve about it.
9 Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
The consequences of sin
Here, we read that the snake is cursed. Adam and Eve are awaiting God’s judgement. And here comes the little piece of information that is so important, and if taken seriously, could change a lot of our theology. You see it in verse 15: "and I will put enmity between you (the snake, the evil one) and the woman…“ So, Eve is in no way a friend of the snake. She will no longer listen to it, as she knows now that the snake is her enemy. She is freed by the act of God and is no longer in union with the snake.
Enemies, not allies
This is what I understand from that passage. Have you ever wondered why half of the world’s population – women – are so oppressed, abused, limited in their sphere of influence? Where is the root of all the misogyny in almost all cultures around the globe? Could it be this little, often overlooked verse that helps us see more clearly the spiritual background of this suffering of women? Could it be this: Satan hates women and he tries all he can to destroy them, because they have the capacity to carry new life in them. And – as God has promised in verse 15, Jesus would come into the world to redeem mankind, all those born by a woman. Jesus came to crush the head of the snake when he died on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day, he overcame evil and opened the way for men and women to be reunited with God.
In Galatians 3, 28 we read: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.“ The cross is the plus-sign, which is attached to our lives, the plus that makes a sinner into a servant of God. Men and women alike.
Read the Bible again
It was at a church holiday on the shores of Lake Galilee in Israel. It was Good Friday, and I had been asked to preach at 3 pm, at the hour of Jesus‘ death. I was a bit reluctant and knew it might be offensive for some people from a different church background to have a woman speak at that holy hour. But I had been asked to do it, so I did. After the service a man in his early 80's came forward and wanted to speak to me. I was getting ready to apologise, but he puzzled me with his comment: "In my denomination, I have never heard a woman preach. You are the first one and I must say that God has given you the gift to preach. I will have to go home and read my Bible again.“
I think that this is true for all of us. Let us read the Bible again and look out for the big and small insights we can learn about God and us human beings. And let us put aside our tainted glasses and have a fresh look. The cross of Jesus is the plus-sign that changes our lives and frees women and men to be all that God has created us to be.