A common teaching is that God created men with a disposition for leadership and women with a disposition for following. People who hold this position claim that a man must be the leader in his home to find fulfilment and that women can only be fulfilled if they actively submit to their husband's leadership. The problem with this view is that it does not exist in the Bible.

I went to the scriptures to identify what they say about the personality differences between men and women. I was surprised to find that they actually say very little about the personality differences between men and women.

When we study the scriptures, we need to be careful to distinguish between:

We need to understand which type we are reading. When studying the behaviour and personalities of people in the Bible, we must be aware of these two possibilities. When studying the scriptures to identify how males and females are different, we should consider which of these categories apply to the passages under consideration. We must distinguish "what is" from "what ought to be", especially when studying the Old Testament.


Genesis 1 explains that God created humans in the image of himself. He created them male and female.

God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over..." So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God, he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it..." (Gen 1:26-29).
In this passage, the similarities are more important than the differences. Both males and females were created in the image and likeness of God. They were both told to be fruitful. Both males and females were given authority to rule over the earth (the command to rule was not directed to men only). God blessed the male and the female equally. There were different sexes, but Genesis 1 does not explain how they differed.

God declared humankind, both male and female, to be good (Gen 1:32). No distinction was made between males and females in terms of value.

Genesis 2

Genesis 1 is a God-centered view of creation. It tells us nothing about the created differences between men and women, except that there are two sexes. Genesis 2 gives a human-centered view of the creation of humans. Adam was created first.

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (Gen 2:7).
God put him the first man in the Garden of Eden to "serve it and care for it" (Gen 2:15). This was a nurturing and serving role. Nurturing is not limited to women.


Genesis tells us that it was not good for a man to be alone/separate (Gen 2:18). Up until this point in the creation account, everything had been good. Adam being alone was the first thing that was not good. The animals created did not provide a solution to this problem (Gen 2:19-20). He needed relationships with other humans. This did not make him different from women. The type of companionship that Adam needed is described in Genesis 2:18, where God declared what he intended to do.

I shall make for him a helper as his counterpart.
This phrase has been badly translated to support male dominance. There are two key Hebrew words. The Hebrew word "neged" is translated as "suitable for him" in many traditional English translations of this verse. However, its root meaning is "front", in the sense of "in front of, what is conspicuous, in sight of, parallel to, opposite". There is no sense of inferiority or subservience.

The other Hebrew word is "neged", which means "helper". Again, there is no suggestion of weakness or compliance. The word is mostly used to describe God's role as our helper (Ex 18:4; Deut 33:26; Ps 33:20; 115:11; 121:2). If God can be called our helper, then a woman can take on the word with honour.

God decided that he would give the man a "helper corresponding to him". The common translation "suitable for him" makes it seem that the woman was created to support the man, but there is nothing in the Hebrew text to support that suggestion. The woman is a helper corresponding to the man. The woman is equal to the man. They two are stronger together because they support each other. It is not a servant/master relationship, but two equals supporting each other. There is nothing in the phrase to suggest that men are created to lead and women to follow, as some theologians claim.

The phrase "helper corresponding to him/in front of him" tells us nothing about any differences between the personalities of men and women. The woman is a helper in the same way as God is our helper. The role does not require a difference in personalities (even if a difference exists for other reasons).

Man is Incomplete

When God took the rib from Adam's side to create the women, the main became incomplete. Part of him was missing. If he was good when he was created, Adam was missing something significant once his rib was removed. The missing part was transformed into the women. The consequence is that humans can only be complete when men and women are together. This is why marriage is important, but it applies to other situations as well. If men are in control of a situation, then they don't have the complete picture. To obtain a correct understanding of their situation, men and women must be functioning together.


These days, men are bigger and stronger on average than women. There is nothing in the creation texts to indicate that God made men bigger and stronger than women at the beginning. We cannot rule out the possibility that they were equal in size and strength when Adam and Eve were first created.

Humans were created in the image of God. The Holy Spirit and the Father have different roles that correspond to each other, but they are equal in strength. If men are made in their image, it would not be surprising if they had been created equal in strength too.

Same Flesh and Blood

God put Adam into a coma and took a rib from his side.

Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man (Gen 2:22).
The male was made from the earth. The woman was made from the bone and flesh of the man. He said,
This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh (Gen 2:23).
Clearly, the man and the woman were made from the same stuff. The consequence is that differences between men and women do not arise from the stuff from which they were made.


Genesis explains something important about the nature of men. In creation, before the fall, loyalty to a wife takes priority over loyalty to parents.

That's why a man abandons his father and his mother and attaches himself to his woman and they become one flesh (Gen 2:24).
We tend to focus most on the "one flesh", which is possible because they are made from the same stuff. However, the first part of the verse uses a strong word to describe the change that occurs when a man finds a wife. The man abandons his parents. The Hebrew word is "azab", which means loosen or forsake. Men must honour their parents, but they are expected to leave their parents and form a new strong relationship with their wives.

The husband attaches himself to his chosen woman. The Hebrew word is "dabaq", which means "to cling, stick, stay close, cleave, keep close, stick with, follow closely, join to, overtake, catch." This is a strong word. A man is expected to really cling to his wife and stay close. The common understanding that men are created to go out into the world and do bold things, whereas women stay at home and cling to their men is wrong. In the beginning, God created men to pursue and cling to their women. Obviously, this shapes the personality that God gave to men, but not in the way that is usually claimed.

Child Birth

The big difference between the sexes that comes from creation is that women have the ability to conceive and give birth to babies. They also have the ability to breastfeed them for the first months of their lives. In contrast, men are only equipped for siring children. Genesis does not tell us if these different roles in reproduction translated into different personalities.

A man will need to stay close to the woman to protect and provide for her while she is pregnant, giving birth, and nursing her baby. That does not require different personalities. It requires both men and women to be loving and caring.


Before the fall, the servant spoke to Eve and asked what God had said to them. This was an interesting strategy. Some commentators have suggested that he directed his attention to the woman, because women are more easily deceived, presumably because they are less rational and more emotional. They suggest that she got into trouble because she responded to the serpent herself without submitting to her husband and asking him what she would do.

The problem with this narrative is that there is no support for it in the scriptures. Neither the Old nor the New Testament suggests that women are more easily deceived. The reality is that all humans are vulnerable to deception. 1 Kings 22 gives an account of the kings of Israel and Judah being deceived by an evil spirit. They were deceived just as easily as Eve was deceived at the beginning.

I believe there is a more obvious reason why the serpent attempted to tempt the woman rather than the man. God's instruction about the trees of the garden had been given to the man, before the woman had even been created (Gen 2:16-17). The woman would have received them indirectly from the man. Because she was not there when God gave these instructions, she would be less certain about exactly what God had said.

Questioning what God had said was a clever tactic because Eve had not heard God give his instructions, but had heard it indirectly from Adam. So when the serpent asked the question, he was not questioning what God had said, he was trying to make her unsure if Adam had reported accurately what God had said to him.

Eve did not know if the serpent had heard God speak to Adam or not, so she could not help wondering if the serpent was giving a more reliable account of what God had said. Naturally, she had a look at the fruit to see if she could discover which account was true. When she saw that the fruit looked good, she took some and ate it to see whose account of the truth was correct. Eve gave some fruit to the man, and he ate too. He could have told her that she had made a mistake, but he didn't. The serpent did not attack Eve because she was weaker and more easily deceived. Rather, he challenged her because she had received the message from God indirectly through her husband, and was naturally less certain about it.

1 Timothy 2:14 gives an interesting commentary on this event.

Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.
This verse confirms that the woman was deceived, as described in Genesis. Being deceived, she fell into transgression. The really interesting thing is that Paul writes that "Adam was not deceived". This is serious. The fact that Adam was not deceived means that he knew what he was doing and understood what the consequence of disobeying would be. It seems that Adam deliberately disobeyed. Perhaps he was frustrated with always obeying God. Whatever the reason, he chose to disobey God. His behaviour was worse than Eve's. She acted on false information, even though its source was unreliable.

In contrast, Adam knew what he was doing and deliberately decided to disobey God. This puts to bed any suggestion that women are more easily tempted than men and need to submit to a man to avoid deception. Eve's experience confirms that submission to a man would not necessarily keep her safe from deception.


The first effect of their disobedience was that the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened, and they realised that they were naked.

They sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves (Gen 3:7).
They both sewed the garments together. Adam did not take the lead and come up with the design for new garments and then tell Eve how to sew them. Rather, they worked together on the garments. They did not take up different roles in doing this task.

Some theologians claim that men should be the initiators and women should respond to their leading. There is no evidence of this in Genesis 1-3. There is no indication that Adam took the initiative in making the garments. They both realised they were naked, and both tried to make garments to cover themselves.

Curses of the Fall

Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and ate the fruit from the tree that they had been forbidden to eat. This fall from grace brought about serious changes on earth. Adam and Eve were actually submitting to the tempter, so the authority on earth that God had given to them passed to the spiritual powers of evil. The spiritual powers of evil began to rule over the earth.

When God met with Adam and Eve soon after they had disobeyed, he explained the consequence of their decision. These consequences are called curses because they were harmful.

Two Changes

I see two changes in Genesis as a result of the fall that affected the roles of men and women. These changes were the consequence of the first humans empowering the spiritual powers of evil by surrendering their authority to them.

Strength and aggression tend to go together. A strong man feels more comfortable being aggressive, whereas a small person will be more cautious. A strong person will be more comfortable attacking a dangerous snake. So once men became stronger than women, it was natural that their physical strength could make them act more aggressively. This tendency towards aggression would be stronger for men who are cut off from the countervailing voice of the Holy Spirit.

When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they unwittingly submitted to the spiritual powers of evil and came under their authority. All of their descendants were born under their authority, so by default, the spiritual powers of evil had authority over all humans living on earth. Gaining authority on earth allowed the spiritual powers of evil to intervene in the lives of the first humans and change them (perhaps genetically).


Genesis does not describe the process by which the change in humans took place, but there are really only two possibilities. God did it. Or the spiritual powers of evil did it.

1. God

Many theologians assume that God intervened in response to Adam and Eve's sin, and changed their physical and mental capabilities to implement the curse. The implication of this view is that God changed the shape of the women's pelvis so that childbirth would be painful and that he changed the physique of men so that they would become stronger than women and consequently more aggressive. The other implication is that God changed the earth so that it stopped producing good crops. The problem with this view is that it makes God the author of evil. It seems odd that God would change humans so that they would be more evil.

God is creative and kind. He did not use might and force to create the universe. He created everything by speaking. He spoke, and it was done. He did not need to bash the universe into shape using brute force. It seems unlikely that God would change the people created in his image to act in a way that he does not act. Changing Adam so he would rely more on his physical strength does not seem like something that God would want to do.

2. Spiritual Powers of Evil

The more plausible option is that the spiritual powers of evil altered the minds and bodies of the first humans to do them harm. When Adam and Eve were deceived into sinning, they were surrounded by millions of evil spirits that had been around at the creation and knew something about how their bodies functioned. Most had gone off to attack the animal world and plant world and to harm the earth that God had created, but many would have continued to attack the first humans.

Once the first humans had surrendered to the spiritual powers of evil, they used the power and authority gained to intervene in their bodies to change them, to change Eve's pelvis and hips, and to change Adam's overall physique. They probably changed their genes/DNA so that their descendants would inherit the same changes.

In contrast to God, the spiritual powers of evil love using power and force. When they got authority on earth, they transformed many birds, fish and animals to have the strength that could inflict violence and harm on others. Consequently, making Adam physically stronger and more forceful would be something they would enjoy doing. Of course, the spiritual powers of evil continue to harass people and deceive them into using violence to solve their problems.

Violence is Normal

Soon after the fall, violence became normal, and it was mostly perpetrated by men.

At the same time, society quickly became patriarchal. Abraham and his sons and grandson became the leaders of the people of God. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, with a few exceptions, most activities were initiated and led by men. Before reaching a conclusion about what this means, we need to ask if this situation was the consequence of creation or the fall. It is only normative if it is the consequence of creation. Unfortunately, the situation in the rest of Genesis is different from the situation in Genesis 1,2, so it must be the consequence of the fall. Therefore, patriarchy and violence are not normative for the church. It is just a situation that emerged as a consequence of the fall.


Throughout the Old Testament, God used mostly male leaders. What is the reason for this choice? There is an important reason, which is often missed.

Temporary Military Leaders

Most of the leaders in the Old Testament were temporary military leaders. I have described this role in Temporary Military leaders.

Because military leaders were engaged in violent activity, men usually took up the role because they have a greater propensity to violence. It tells us nothing about God's initial purposes for men and women.


The other big leadership role in the Old Testament was the prophets. Many of these were men. This was probably because it was a dangerous role in a fallen world. The OT prophets were often harassed and persecuted by the people who opposed them. They were sometimes hunted down by enemy kings. Given the violence that the prophets faced, it makes sense that most were men.

However, the prophetic role was not limited to men. Numerous female prophets are recorded in the Old Testament. Examples are Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Philip's daughters (Acts 21:9). These female prophets mostly emerged during more peaceful times. This confirms the truth that the prophetic ministry is not limited to men. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, any believer can speak on God's behalf.


The priests who offered sacrifices were all males. There are two possible reasons for this. The first is that their work involved the slaughter of animals. This aspect of their work would require robust physical strength. The Old Testament specified a range of sacrifices to be offered in the Tabernacle. It was a dangerous place because it was the focus of intense spiritual warfare. God chose men to deal with this dangerous situation.

For a Time

God mostly used men for the Old Testament ministries, such as Temporary Military Leaders, Prophets and Priests. This was necessary due to the increase in violent spiritual power as a result of the fall. It is not an indication of the way that God intended humans to be from the beginning.