Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Biblical Meaning of Eve

Eve is above Adam and yet subject to Adam. This is the mystery of Christ's relationship to the Church to which St. Paul points. Christ elevates the Church and yet she is subject to Him.

Rembrant's Adam and Eve

Alice C. Linsley

To understand the meaning of Eve we must consider her story in the context of the hierarchy that the ancient Afro-Asiatics saw in creation. In this hierarchical order Eve is the crown, being the last created.  If we think of a pyramid, God would be above the peak and below him would be Eve. She is the perfect companion of Adam and the two share the same essence as creatures made in the Creator's image.

As heaven and earth are binary opposites in the biblical framework, so Adam and Eve represent the binary opposites of male and female. Further, male virtues are associated with east and north and female virtues with the west and south.  The dominance of each depends on a counter-clockwise cycle, as the Sun rises from the east and crosses through high noon to the west, making its daily circuit.

Gender Reversal

Likewise, Adam and Eve reverse dominance.  Eve, being made from Adam's rib, has Adam as her head.  Eve, being the last created, has Adam at her feet. So Eve is both above Adam, as the crown of creation, and below Adam, as one subject to him.  Eve is Adam's crown and Adam is Eve's crown.  (I'm reminded how crowns are worn by the bride and the groom in the Orthodox wedding ceremony.)

His his 17th century Commentaria in Scripturam Sacram, Cornelius a Lapide noted that there is “frequent exchange of gender in Hebrew: the masculine being used in place of the feminine and vice-versa, especially when there is present some cause or mystery.” Eve's creation speaks of a gender reversal which in the Bible signals a sacred mystery.

Order Reversal

There is another layer of reversal in Eve's story.  It involves a reversal of order between Eve, made in the image of God, and the serpent who God put in subjection to humans. Think in terms of a standing ladder with rungs. God in Heaven is at the highest rung of the ladder. Adam and Eve share the second and third rungs, often reversing positions. Lucifer, having been cast down, is at the bottom, symbolized by a creature that slithers with its belly in the dust. In Lucifer's attempt to rise to the top, he seeks to invert the ladder by making Eve subject to him.  John Chrysostom understood Eve's sin in this light: as the exchange of her heavenly crown for the serpent's dust.  Eve exchanged her glory for a baser image.  In submitting to the serpent's will, she allowed the inversion of the divine order in creation.

The inversion of divine order is the demonic inversion of reality. What is real and true is turned on its head and presented to the unsuspecting as the real and true. We live in an age when most people are fooled by the Father of Lies.

Why Eve and not Adam?

Various theories are offered as to why the serpent approaches the woman rather than the man.  Some opine that women are more vulnerable to suggestion or more easily prompted by the sensual. Yet the story doesn't permit this interpretation, as the woman enjoys perfection until after the Fall.  The reason the serpent approaches Eve rather than Adam has nothing to do with an inherent flaw in the woman. Instead the answer rests in the Tempter's character as one who desires to tarnish the crown of God's creation.  Lucifer hates "the Woman" (Gen. 3:15) who as the Mother of God brought forth the Son who crushes the serpent's head.  Eve's story speaks symbolically about the darkness that always seeks to overcome the light or about the evil that continuously seeks to thwart God's plan of salvation.

Eve as Adam's "kind"

In pagan myths there is a suggestion that Adam's first wife (called Lilith) had sexual relations with the serpent.  In many ancient cultures the serpent was a phallic symbol. This is foreign to the Genesis text which speaks of creatures reproducing according to their own "kind".  Bestiality is a serious violation of the order of creation in the biblical worldview. Lucifer attempts to blur the boundaries apparent in the order of creation, so he encourages bestiality and homosex.

Eve is the same kind as Adam as bone of his bone and flesh or his flesh. She is God's unique provision for the man not to feel alone in the world.  Adam is surrounded by living things yet senses that he is alone.  God declares that it is not good for the man to be alone. This is a picture of how “kind” goes with its own kind. The idea of reproducing according to one’s own kind is inherent.  Further, God told the original couple to be fruitful and multiply.  Since Lucifer has no role to play in this, he works doubly hard to tarnish the gift of sex.

Eve's Name Supplies a Clue

The Hivites are descendants Ham (and probably Seth) which means that they are ethnically Kushites (Genesis 10:17). The name Hivite  resembles the name Eve.  Eve is spelled hwh and likely represents a pictograph of the ruler and his two wives. The w or Hebrew vav is a solar symbol designating the ruler.

The Y symbolized a cradle for the sun, the emblem of the Creator.It also designated the ruler's residence and his appointment by the Creator. The ruler's tent was the oholibamah or exalted tent and was represented by the ancient Hebrew and Arabic letter Vaw. This was a solar symbol in the Canaanite script. The urheimat of the Canaanite Y was the Upper Nile Valley.

Tent peg /sun cradle/marks the ruler's residence
This also represents the long horns of the cow worn by Hathor, the mother of Horus, son of Ra. She conceived by the "overshadowing" of the Sun.

It solar symbol for Horite rulers is found in these names: Yaqtan (Abraham's first born son); Yitzak, Yishmael, Yacob, Yosef, and Yeshua. The vav is sometimes referred to as the tent peg. It designated both the residence of the ruler and the ruler's status as one appointed by the Creator.

The marriage pattern of Abraham's ruler-priest ancestors involved two wives living in separate households on a north-south axis. The first wife was a half-sister, as was Sarah to Abraham. The second wife was usually a patrilineal cousin. The first born son of the half-sister wife ascended to the throne of his father and his mother was a queen within his territory. This pattern is evident among the ancient Kushite rulers who united the Nile Valley. It suggests that Eve is the archetypal queen.

Further reading: Adam and Eve: The Blood and the BirtherHierarchy in creation: The Biblical viewThe Meaning and Etymology of the Name Eve; The Pattern of Two Wives; Abraham's Complaint; The Queen Mother in the Kingdom of Kush by Dan'el Kahn


  1. As always, I appreciate your semiotic elaboration... here, of Eve in relation to Adam and Mary, Theotokos. Your discussion of gender reversal is intriguing and I'm glad you mentioned Lilith because I've been curious about the midrash (according to Jewish tradition and beyond) concerning this character said to have mated with the angel Samael and associated with demons and the scourge of children and also something of a symbol associated with Jewish feminist thinking (i.e. Judith Plaskow' The Coming of Lilith). What can be said about Lilith's relationship with Adam and Mary and the Creator? If we think of Adam and Eve in terms of binary opposites, Lilith complicates this straightforward construct and as you point out suggests that Eve is Adam's kind. What more then can be said about Lilith's kind? If Adam/Eve cannot be said to be entirely good but an image associated with humanity's fall from grace, does it follow (ontologically speaking), Lilith represents something in contrast to a fallen state?

  2. Lilith is not found in the Bible so she isn't an aspect of the binary worldview of Abraham's ancestors. She is from Babylonian mythology and represents a much later period. I've written about the Myth of Lilith here:

    The binary opposites male-east-north and female-west-south are part of Jewish mystical thought, as in ka-ba-lah. That, like the myth of Lilith, received much attention and re-working during the Middle Ages.

    The binary worldview is by nature suggestive of a third. In this sense it is dynamic. However, this dynamism only appears when we hold the binary opposites as fixed points. Dynamism disappears when all points are regarded as changing, moving, random and the result is metaphyical nihilism.

    1. Alice, i find your short pieces entirely interesting and they have helped me in my understanding of the Abraham Story as i have begun to implement Isaiah 51:1-2 in my studies.
      Thank you.
      My question is if:"The reason the serpent approaches Eve rather than Adam has nothing to do with an inherent flaw in the woman. Instead the answer rests in the Tempter's character as one who desires to tarnish the crown of God's creation. Lucifer hates "the Woman" (Gen. 3:15) who as the Mother of God brought forth the Son who crushes the serpent's head"
      Then did Elohim Yahuwah know that Adama and Hawah was going to fall. Then why were they created in the first place.
      Why would there be a need for a chosen people or man (Elohim Plan)back then, if Adama and Hawah were both perfect. Did Heiylel know that there was need for a chosen people or man to bring about salvation.
      I personally see the temptation of Hawah as just a crime of opportunity by Heiylel, and not that he hates women or specifically targets her. As a result of his success, Elohim placed a plan into action.
      I would love to hear your thoughts on these questions


  3. Thank you Absalamon,
    I have been living with this query for 4 decades and I have never received a convincing answer. Defore even he created them, didn't God know that humans will fall? If he did not why do we give him of these epithets? If he knew, why blame humans of imperfect nature? Moreover, why do animals and inanimate face the same fate as humans? did they also sin? your answer is appreciated

  4. Perhaps we are asking the wrong question. God knows all things and always has and always will know all things. Why then should the Creator risk the enemy's attempt to corrupt the entire order of creation by seducing the "crown" of creation and bringing her into his obedience? Think upside down (inverted) pyramid. This is the risk of loving a child knowing that they may not always obey you. This speaks of the confidence of the Heavenly Father and the great mystery of divine love.

  5. Alice,
    Thank you greatly! Your answer confirms my initial stand. Life is cinema, God makes heroes, obstacles and ways to overcome them. Everything is part of the whole plan. If God is with me who will be against me? Satan attempted Job with God permission, no one can come to me unless my father calls him, he is the pot maker and I am a clay... young, I told my Sunday school teacher that if my dad can leave sugar on the table knowing that I will anyway eat it, then he should not put it there. He better hide it. For he knows my sweet tooth, I will not overcome it. if he punishes me, it will be fair but
    he knew I will fail. why then consider it?

    1. Because your father wants you to learn.
      And if you cant learn your failure results in an example for others to learn.


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