Beginning with Eve in Eden, Satan has been enticing women to question God’s Word. “Did God really say . . . ?” were his first words to Eve (Genesis 3:1). Satan wanted her to question the truthfulness of God’s Word, telling her that she wouldn’t die. Satan also wanted her to question God’s goodness, telling her that God was withholding something. Unfortunately, Eve listened to him.
Satan still tells women that God’s Word isn’t true and that God is withholding something. This deception hurts many areas of our lives. The solution is to reexamine our concept of womanhood based on the Bible.
What Is Biblical Womanhood?
The online Free Dictionary defines womanhood as “the composite of qualities thought to be appropriate to or representative of women.” How do we determine the qualities women should possess? Scripture is the ultimate authority.
Most Christians think immediately of Proverbs 31. While this passage is important to biblical womanhood, it is not the foundation. We need to go back to the beginning—Genesis 1. Here we see that God created both male and female in His image (Genesis 1:27).
However, God created men and women with physical, emotional, and mental differences; and while both bear the image of God, they do so uniquely. God also created men and women to have different roles in marriage (Genesis 2:18) and the church (1 Timothy 2:11–13), but again they are both image-bearers and equal in Christ (Galatians 3:28).
Unfortunately, our equality in Christ is often negated in the home, church, and workplace. Why is this? “Any attitude or action suggesting a woman’s insignificance, inferiority, or lack of personhood originated in the fall,” explains seminary professor Dorothy Patterson, general editor of The Woman’s Study Bible.1
The simple answer is sin on the part of both men and women. As a result of the Curse, women struggle with dissatisfaction about their role, desiring their husband’s role instead. Men, on the other hand, may abuse their position and choose to lead harshly, or they become passive and do not lead at all.
Do We Really Understand Biblical Womanhood?
Many secular feminists are quick to blame men for the unfairness and injustices that women face. But as author, speaker, and host of the blog Radical Womanhood Carolyn McCulley writes, “This passage [Genesis 3:1–6] teaches us that women do have a problem. But it’s not men. It’s sin.”2 Eve was proud and rejected God’s words just like many women do today. We’ve been seduced by Satan’s lies that “authorities” like Oprah and Dr. Phil can solve our problems better than the Bible can.
Sadly, many women in today’s church don’t really know the Bible and aren’t interested in studying it deeply, and many Christian women’s conferences present a superficial understanding of Scripture (if Scripture is even used at all). After attending such a conference, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, leader of the women’s ministry Revive Our Hearts, concluded that the focus needs to change.
She said, “The power is in the Word of God; otherwise, it’s just my story. It’s just my thoughts. . . . There’s no substitute for the Word of God. You can bring illustrations all day long out of modern day culture, out of modern day readings and writings and illustrations. But the Scripture cannot be an add-on. . . . We need to be making the Word of God central.”3
Amen! Knowing God through the study of His Word should be the burning desire of every Christian woman.
Carolyn Custis James, president of the women’s ministry WhitbyForum, explains, “Knowing God is a woman’s highest calling and her most pressing need. What we know of him, whether it is a little or a lot, is all we have to hang on to when the storm hits. . . . It is also what energizes and guides us as we tackle the task before us—as mothers, daughters, wives, and friends.”4
What Are Some Overlooked Issues About Biblical Womanhood?
God has a lot to say about the qualities of a woman made in His image. Let’s take a look at a couple.
Have you ever thought about the fact that before the Fall, Eve didn’t need a walk-in closet for her wardrobe? Clothes were not a part of God’s original, “very good” creation; and Adam and Eve didn’t feel any shame about their nakedness (Genesis 2:25).
After the Fall, Adam and Eve attempted to make clothes out of fig leaves that they sewed into aprons or coverings (Genesis 3:7). According to the Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for these coverings means “girdle, belt.” Needless to say, their clothes didn’t cover much.
God subsequently killed an animal and made coats, garments or tunics, of skin (Genesis 3:21). We do not know whether God’s coverings were head to toe, but we do know that sin’s devastating effects include a propensity for lust. God in His mercy gave us clothes to help us with these now-sinful desires.5
DeMoss writes, “You see, Adam and Eve covered their private parts. But what did God cover? Their bodies. God said that it wasn’t enough that their private parts should be covered. Now that they had sinned, their bodies needed to be covered.”6 Other passages in Scripture confirm a pattern of modesty for women (1 Timothy 2:9).
The concept of modesty is challenging in today’s world. Satan lies and tells us that we need to buy clothes that accentuate certain parts of our body. When I discuss modesty with my daughter, we go back to God’s Word and talk about the first clothes Designer and His purpose for clothes. When we base our discussions on the Bible, the discussion never pits her opinion against mine.
Although we might be tempted to think otherwise, work was not a result of God’s Curse. God commanded Adam to take care of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). Originally this work was not painful or overly burdensome, but as a result of the Curse, work became difficult (Genesis 3:17–19). I’m sure many women can attest to the difficulty of instructing and disciplining children and scrubbing dirty clothes, dishes, and floors (my least favorite chore).
Work can take on many forms. Whether a woman has a job outside the home or not, women are instructed to be “homemakers” (Titus 2:5). This duty includes not only housework but also teaching our children from God’s Word (2 Timothy 1:5). In Proverbs 31 we see a picture of a woman who works hard to supply her family with food, clothes, and income and whose lamp does not go out at night. I’m sure many women reading this have switched the laundry to the dryer in the middle of the night!
Satan lies to women in the work area, too. He tempts women to put their desires ahead of their family’s needs. If we’re not careful, the Internet, hobbies, time with friends, our job outside the home (if we have one), and even church ministries can take precedence. Disciplining children and mopping the floors may seem insignificant and are often thankless. But it is part of bearing God’s image to our families and the world. Work is commanded by God, and even though it may be difficult, we are told as women to make our “home work” the top priority.
Genesis provides us with the foundation for biblical womanhood. Women are image-bearers of God. We should embrace the qualities we possess uniquely as women to show the Creator God to the world.