What The Fall Teaches About Marriage

The Fall took place when the devil attacked Adam’s headship. Genesis 3:1–4 says:

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”

There’s an important contrast between the creation account in Genesis 2 and The Fall in Genesis 3:

  • In Genesis 2:16, “the Lord God commanded the man.”
  • In Genesis 3:1 and 4, “[the serpent] said to the woman.”

God spoke to Adam, but the devil spoke to Eve. Why? The devil knew Eve was “the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). Part of the reason God placed Eve under Adam’s headship was for her own protection.

The Choices Adam and Eve Faced at The Fall

When the devil tempted Eve, she had two choices:

  • She could trust her husband who had given her God’s command, thereby submitting to him.
  • She could trust the devil, submitting instead to him.

Sadly, Genesis 3:6 reveals her choice: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

At this point, Adam also had two choices:

  • He could obey God who gave him the command, thereby submitting to Him.
  • He could obey his wife, submitting instead to her.

Adam chose to obey his wife instead of obeying God. Genesis 3:9–12 gives us the outcome of that decision:

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

It’s significant that the conversation about The Fall took place between God and Adam. God didn’t address Eve until Genesis 3:16 when He explained how sin’s curse would affect women.

Who was Blamed for The Fall?

God went to Adam, instead of Adam and Eve, because—as the New Testament reveals—He held him more responsible for The Fall:

  • Romans 5:12–19—Through one man sin entered the world . . . death reigned from Adam . . . the transgression of Adam . . . by the one man’s offense many died . . . by one man’s offense death reigned . . . through one man’s offense judgment came . . . by one man’s disobedience.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:21–22—By man came death . . . In Adam all die.

Since Eve sinned first, we would expect to read that sin and death entered the world through her, but God placed the blame squarely on Adam’s shoulders. Why? As recipient of God’s command and head of the relationship, Adam had higher accountability. So how does all this apply to husbands and wives?

  • Wives should consider how poorly it went for Eve when she stepped out from under Adam’s headship. While staying under a husband’s headship is no guarantee everything will go perfectly, wives can be encouraged that this is God’s plan for their own best interests and safety. By staying under their husbands’ headship, wives are placing themselves in positions for God to work through and bless their obedience.
  • Husbands note that even though Eve made the initial wrong choice, the sobering fact is that God still held Adam responsible! This should serve as a warning to all husbands regarding the accountability that is on our shoulders. When God confronted Adam, he tried to blame Eve (Genesis 3:12). But it did not work for Adam, and it does not work today for husbands to blame their wives. As God-appointed heads of the relationship, husbands will be held responsible for what takes place in our marriages and in our homes.

Two Instructive Examples…

Along with Adam and Eve, there are two other couples in Scripture with husbands giving in to the temptation to submit to their wives…

Abraham and Sarah

God promised Abraham he would be the father of a nation (Genesis 12:2). Abraham and Sarah could hardly have expected decades to pass before God fulfilled His promise. Because of the long wait, Sarah succumbed to unbelief and a desire to control her husband as we see in Genesis 16:1–2:

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.

These words might sound familiar:

  • Genesis 3:17a—God said to Adam, “Because you heeded (shama) the voice (qowl) of your wife.”
  • Genesis 16:2b—And Abram heeded (shama) the voice (qowl) of Sarai.

Abraham faced the same two choices Adam faced: obey God or obey his wife. Sarah usurped Abraham’s authority. Abraham submitted to Sarah instead of leading as God commanded. The consequence was conflict between Hagar’s son Ishmael and Abraham’s God-designated heir, Isaac—a conflict that continued between their descendants and plagues our planet to this very day.

Ahab and Jezebel

Ahab was an evil, spineless king of Israel. His wife, Jezebel, was an evil and tyrannical queen who imposed Baal worship on the people. He wanted a vineyard that belonged to a godly man named Naboth. Even though Ahab offered Naboth a substantial amount of money and a better vineyard, Naboth declined (1 Kings 21:3).

This sent Ahab home pouting. When he told Jezebel what was wrong, she had an immediate solution: “You now exercise authority over Israel! Arise, eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite” (1 Kings 21:7). Tragically, Jezebel had Naboth murdered. When Jezebel informed Ahab of her success, he jumped into his chariot and headed gleefully off to take possession of his new property (1 Kings 21:8–15).

Since Jezebel had Naboth murdered, would God hold Ahab responsible? We find the answer when the prophet Elijah caught up to Ahab at Naboth’s vineyard: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Have you murdered and also taken possession? In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours’” (1 Kings 21:19). God held Ahab responsible for Naboth’s murder, just as God held Adam responsible for eating from the Tree.

A Wife “Stirs Up” Her Husband

Ahab and Jezebel’s marriage is summarized in 1 Kings 21:25: “There was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up.” This summary should be sobering to husbands and wives:

  • Jezebel shows wives the great influence they can be in their husbands’ lives. Women can follow her example, or they can stir up their husbands to do good. A wife stirs up her husband to do evil when she:
    • Feeds his anger toward someone
    • Discourages him from doing right
    • Allows him to feel comfortable compromising
  • Husbands should notice that though Jezebel influenced Ahab to wickedness, God still held Ahab responsible for yielding to his wife. Whether it is Adam, Abraham, or Ahab, God appointed men to lead, and they cannot turn around and say, “My wife made me do it.” God is going to hold men responsible for what happens in their marriages.

Reversing the Effects of the Fall

Husbands and wives were designed to be lifelong companions, but now sinful natures are at work, trying to destroy what God has joined together. Sin has turned God’s ordained roles into struggles of pride, selfishness, and self-will. How can a marriage survive this kind of conflict?

The good news is that we have been given a recipe for reversing the effects of The Fall, and it’s in the commands God has given us in His Word:

  • God’s commands can take harsh or passive men and make them loving, godly leaders.
  • God’s commands can take controlling, manipulative women, and make them gentle and respectful.

Applying God’s commands allows couples to enjoy marriage as God intended before The Fall. The result will be relationships characterized by love, joy, and peace.

Discussion Questions:

  • Husband:

    • Consider the two choices Adam faced when Eve offered him the fruit.  What would a present day example of this look like for you?
    • Think of a time your wife did not trust you. What were the consequences? How did it make you feel?
    • Describe a time your wife “stirred [you] up”:
      • To do good.
      • To do evil, and looking back, how do you wish your wife would have handled the situation? How do you wish you would have handled the situation?
  • Wife:

    • Consider the two choices Eve faced when the devil tempted her.  What would a present day example of this look like for you?
    • Think of a time you did not trust your husband. How did you feel? What were the consequences?
    • Describe a time you “stirred up” your husband:
      • To do good.
      • To do evil, and looking back, how do you wish you would have handled the situation?
  • Both:

    • After The Fall, what was the significance of God addressing Adam, rather than Adam and Eve?
    • How did reading this chapter show you the impact a wife’s influence can have over her husband?
    • What effects of the fall do you see most clearly in your marriage?
    • What commands from Scripture would allow you to reverse these effects in your marriage?

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7 thoughts on “What The Fall Teaches About Marriage

  1. Hey Scott, one of my favorite posts you’ve done. Love the way you draw parallels between Adam/Eve, Abraham/Sarah, Ahab/Jezebel. Good to see that Adam’s passivity isn’t a one-off event or problem.

    It’s also helpful to see that we’re always submitting to someone, and deeply challenging to let that be the Lord. In my marriage – and life, really – I find that intentionally choosing to follow the Lord takes much more effort, and is much ‘scarier’, than sitting back and letting my wife take the lead. I’m so thankful for Christ’s forgiveness and the power of the gospel that’s slowly helping me live out the pattern God established at creation.

    Thanks again, brother.

    1. Hi Bryan,
      Great to hear from you. Thank you very much for the feedback.

      No, Adam’s passivity isn’t an isolated event for men. I’d go so far as to say it’s a pattern in Scripture (since there are at least three examples…but probably more).

      Yes, submission is commanded throughout Scripture in all areas of life. People who have problems with submission in marriage will generally have problems with the Christian life in general.

      I appreciate your humility Brother. Yes, I’m thankful for the Gospel’s work in my life too. A very needed work!

  2. This is a familiar story about the fall of Adam and Eve. You brought out the point that Eve was the one to sin first yet Adam was the one who God held most accountable. It is a good reminder to be submissive to my husband. In our society today we constantly have voices coming at us telling us that submission isn’t important.

    1. Hi Judith,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, of all the marriage topics I discuss, submission is easily the one that draws the most criticisms from liberals and egalitarians.

  3. A couple of supporting thoughts: 1) The relationship between Abraham and Sarah in regard to the expulsion of Ishmael is also instructive when it comes to the flow of authority in a marriage, how the feedback and counsel of the woman should work properly in regard to the man’s responsibility and authority as husband. When Sarah implored Abraham to drive Ismael out of the camp, Abraham didn’t just follow her advice directly, like he did when he bedded Hagar, but took her counsel to him before God. Abraham respected Sarah’s counsel enough to take it to God and of course respected God enough to seek God’s counsel. Sarah respected Abraham’s position enough to take her counsel to Abraham for him to make the final decision for the camp. God respected Abraham’s position by revealing his direction to Abraham for him to listen to Sarah on the matter. 2) In the Garden the Serpent tempted Eve that if she ate of the Tree she could be “like God”. The Serpent speaking through Feminism of our time offers the daughters of Eve the same basic temptation with a twist. Instead of specifically tempting them that they can be “like God”, they are tempted that they can be “like men” to have the power associated with certain aspects of God’s image that have been more specifically encoded into men, and men’s nature and men’s role, to not be fully satisfied being unique as a woman. Wanting to be more “like men” than they are designed to be is the same basic drive to want to be “like God” in the Garden. Modern sons of Adam who defend and accept Feminism are co-eaters of this fruit. This leads to three attitudinal spirits that are at war in a woman — the spirit of Eve, Lilith and Jezebel. The Eve spirit is the noble, nurturing feminine spirit that women are naturally designed and ordained by God to have. Lilith is the angry warrior spirit that declares independence from men. Jezebel is the temptress spirit that uses sexual power to try to achieve the power of men. Lilith rebels against Eve and Jezebel follows Lilith.

    1. Hi Greg,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right that the situation with Abraham, Sarah, and Ishmael does provide a very good example. This was definitely the way it was supposed to take place and makes a great contrast with the previous account when Sarah commanded Abraham and he submitted to her…and it caused plenty of problems.

      Yes, you’re right about the temptation. The real offer made Eve susceptible to the same sin the devil himself succumbed to: having no authority.

Do you have a question or thought? If so, please share!