Twice the apostle Paul stated the headship of a husband:
- 1 Corinthians 11:3—But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
- Ephesians 5:23—For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Although these verses are found in the New Testament, a husband’s headship didn’t have its beginning under the New Covenant. Neither does male headship have its beginning in the Old Testament under the Old Covenant. It doesn’t even have its beginning at the fall.
Male headship began at creation itself
Understanding this is important, because if we think headship began after the fall, then it becomes part of sin’s curse. If we see headship beginning at creation, we understand it is part of God’s natural, healthy, divine plan for husbands and wives.
Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and the rest of Genesis 1 gives an overview of all six days of creation. God created man and woman on the sixth day. Then, in Genesis 2:7–25, God zooms in on the creation of Adam and Eve since mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation. It is in this account that God established man’s headship.
1. God established Adam’s headship by creating him first
We are so familiar with the verses that it is easy to miss the significance of some of the details. Imagine reading the passage for the first time. Since God created the animals in pairs, male and female, what would we expect Him to do with the creation of humankind? We would expect Him to create the first man and woman at the same time—as a pair, male and female—but that’s not what He did. According to Paul, this is one of the main reasons women shouldn’t have authority over men (1 Timothy 2:12–13).
2. God established Adam’s headship by giving him the first command
Creating Adam before Eve allowed God to give His first command to Adam alone. Genesis 2:16–17 says:
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
God gave the command to Adam as he stood there alone. When Eve was fashioned, Adam had the responsibility of passing along to her the command he had learned from God. Then Eve had the responsibility of trusting her husband. God did not have to do it this way. He could have given the command to both of them after Eve was created, but in doing it this way, God established Adam’s headship in the relationship.
3. God established Adam’s headship by having him name the animals and Eve
God wanted Adam to have authority over all creation. In Genesis 1:26, He said:
Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
God wanted man to have authority over creation, and He established that authority by directing Adam to name the animals. Genesis 2:19–20 records:
Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.
Again, God did something with Adam that He could have had Adam and Eve do together. Instead, He had Adam name the animals alone, and in doing it established his authority over the animals. After God fashioned Eve from Adam’s side, parts of Genesis 2:22–23 record: “He brought her to the man. And Adam said, “She shall be called Woman.”
4. God established Adam’s headship by having only him “leave father and mother”
Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Why doesn’t the command mention a woman leaving her father and mother? The man is moving out from under his parents’ authority and establishing his own headship—or authority—over his family. But the woman is not doing the same. She is simply moving from being under her father to being under her husband.
This is why 1 Corinthians 11:3 does not say, “The head of every man and woman is Christ.” Instead, it states, “The head of every man is Christ [and] the head of woman is man.” Women remain under a man’s authority, first her father’s and then her husband’s, and these men are under Christ. This biblical principle is played out at weddings symbolically when the father walks his daughter down the aisle and gives her to the man who is about to become her husband. The image is of a transfer of headship from father to husband.
- What evidence shows that God established male headship at creation?
- Why is it important to recognize God established male headship before the fall?
- What is the significance of God:
- Creating Adam first and then Eve, instead of creating them as a pair as He did with the animals?
- Bringing Eve to Adam so he could name her?
- Commanding man to leave father and mother without giving the same command to woman?