The Women of Genesis: Root of All EvilIn the Book of Genesis, the New Revised Standard Version, women play a very significant behind-the-scenes role in many of the events that affect the main characters. One of the most representative themes in the book shows man’s view of woman by the role women play in almost every episode.
They are often depicted as deceiving seductresses, causing more trouble than they are worth. Probably the most monumental of events is that of the creation of Adam and Eve and the temptation of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Almost immediately in the beginning of the book, woman stirs up trouble and dooms all mankind. It is almost inevitable that the women created after such a tragedy should follow in Eve’s footsteps.
Eve did not necessarily condemn herself and Adam and all humans to come by deceit or seduction. Her evil wrongdoing came in the form of temptation. As the serpent presented the option of tasting the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Eve became full of pride in believing she could be like God with this wisdom, (Genesis 3:5). When God found Adam and Eve hiding from him and asked him if he ate from the tree, Adam’s reply was that Eve gave him the fruit and he ate. He did not take sole responsibility for eating the fruit but made sure to point out that it was the woman’s idea to eat it. Even the punishments given out to the three violators illuminate the guiltiest of sinners. God punishes Adam by making him have to work for all his food and punishes the serpent by causing conflict between him and man.
But the punishment of woman seems to be the most severe. To Eve, He condemns painful, hard child births and leaves her to be ruled by her husband, (Genesis 3:16). The solemn harshness of Eve’s punishment suggests that even God is most displeased with the woman. The story of Abraham and Sarah also depicts woman as a troublemaker. This time it is woman’s beauty that stirs up trouble for man. Abraham fears for his life because of his wife’s comeliness, (Genesis 12:11-12). He resorts to lying in order to save his own life.
He realizes his wife’s beauty is something to be admired by all men; men that will kill to have her. Then after he lies to save his life he is reprimanded twice for trying to camouflage her as his sister. Abraham gets kicked out of Egypt when pharaoh learns that Sarah is his wife. Later, when Abraham and Sarah travel to Gerar and King Abimalech takes Sarah, God warns the king of his impending doom.
Sarah causes trouble yet again. Genesis 20:18 says, “for the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimalech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.” The blame is laid on Sarah, not the actual person that lied to Abimalech. The one to blame here is, again, the woman. The women in Lot’s life each portray solid examples of disobedient, mischievous characters. First, we are introduced to the disobedience of Lot’s wife. When God decides to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, He warns them to get out of the city.
He sends two angels down to warn the people to flee for their lives and not look back or stop, else they be consumed, (Genesis 19:17). Lot’s wife does not obey and is turned into a pillar of salt right before Lot’s eyes. Almost immediately after this story, the two daughters of Lot seduce their father. In the King James version of the Bible, this chapter is titled “The Shameful Origin of Moab and Ammon,” (Genesis 30). It is shameful because the women intoxicate their own father and commit incest with him.
The firstborn comes up with the idea and says to her sister, “come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father,” (Genesis 30:32). Both women become impregnated by Lot and conceive a son each. Thus, the births of Moab and Ammon are conceived through sin at the hands of their mothers. Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, finds favor in her youngest son, Jacob and decides to help him cheat his elder brother, Esau, out of his blessing from Isaac. Rebekah comes up with the idea herself.
She disguises Jacob, and cooks him the savory meal Isaac asks of Esau to bring him. When Jacob reveals his worries over the plans to cheat his brother, Rebekah says, “let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my word, and go, get them for me,” (Genesis 27:13). In this chapter, the woman is actually accepting responsibility for any mischief caused by her commands! The last two accounts of evil women are that of Tamar and Potiphar’s wife.
Each hold similar talents for deception. These two women are both able to turn the tables on the men they try to seduce. Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute covering herself up so much so that upon Judah’s approach, her father-in-law does not recognize her.
She bargains with him and receives a “pledge” of his signet, his cord and his staff, in exchange for having sex with her. When it is found out that she is pregnant, Judah is going to have her burned until she presents the pledges he offered her as the gifts of the one who made her pregnant. At hearing this, Judah feels the tables turn as he is now the guilty one for not having given her to his son She’lah, (Genesis 38:26).
Potiphar’s wife does the same turning of the tables to Joseph, Jacob’s son.When Joseph repeatedly rejects her, she forces herself on him and grabs hold of his garments. When Joseph flees leaving the garments in her hands, she finds this the perfect opportunity to get revenge on him. She changes the situation around by making Joseph out to be the perpetrator and accusing him of trying to seduce her. He is kicked out of Potiphar’s house and thrown into prison.
Both these women held a special talent in their deceit in that they left themselves a loophole to escape from persecution and put the blame on their victims instead. The viewpoint of Genesis is one that finds great fault in most women. There is a large sense of distrust among the different stories collected in the book and most of seems to stem from the wickedness of the women. The great number of incidents of women causing mischief and wrongdoings suggests the tendency for wickedness has been intrinsic in the nature of womankind since the fall of Eden.