Here are five reasons to believe that it was God’s pre-Fall design for man to lead his family. First, the man was created before the woman. Look with me at Genesis 2:7. It reads, “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed in his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” The woman was not created until vv21-22.
And it may seem like we’re making something out of nothing here. “Big deal if he was created first. Does that mean that he has authority over the woman?” Yes, it does. It does because the NT says it does. In 1 Timothy 2:11-13, Paul confirms that the order of creation is a significant indication of God’s plan for male leadership of the family. There Paul requires that women “learn quietly with all submissiveness,” not exercising authority over a man. One of the reasons given for that command is that “Adam was formed first, then Eve.”
Additionally, the significance of birth order throughout the Bible and especially in Genesis would indicate that the order of creation is important. In a sense, man was the firstborn of the two, therefore, he was given the right and responsibility of leadership in the family.
Second, that male spiritual leadership was God’s original design follows from the fact that God gave his very first commandment to the man. This is recorded in Genesis 2:16-17, which reads: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.’” It is likely the case that the man then gave instruction to the woman regarding this law. How do we know? She was able in 3:3 to quote the law and the consequences for breaking it.
Adam’s reception of God’s law and subsequent instruction to his wife is similar to Moses’ reception of the law and later instruction to Israel in Exodus. God gave the law directly to Moses in Exodus 20-31 both orally and in the form of the two stone tablets and commanded Moses to teach it to the people (Deut 4:14). Moses then obeyed, passing the law on to the people beginning in Exodus 35. Moses’ reception of the law carried the automatic responsibility to convey that law to the people of God.
That this same responsibility applies to the relationship between a husband and wife seems to be validated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35a, which reads: “The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home.”
Here, Paul connects the woman’s role of submission to the role of learning from her husband. This implies that the headship and submission roles of marriage include the tasks of teaching and learning, respectively. It could be argued then that male headship and female submission are indicated by man’s reception of the law of God in Gen 2 and his subsequent passing of that law to the woman.
Third, that male spiritual leadership in the home was God’s design before the Fall is indicated in that God made the woman for the man. Look at Genesis 2:18 with me. It reads, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.’” The word “helper” in this context suggests that while the man and woman are dependent upon one another, the man has “authority.”
Is that interpretation validated elsewhere in Scripture? Yes, it is in 1 Corinthians 11:9, where Paul notes that man was not created for woman, “but woman for man.” He asserts this in support of the notion that wives are under the authority of their husbands.
Fourth, it is clear that God intended male spiritual leadership in the home because the woman was made from the man. Look at Genesis 2:21-22. It reads, “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” Again, 1 Corinthians 11 provides the divine perspective on this. Paul teaches that the “head of a wife is her husband” (11:3) and that “woman is the glory of man” (11:7). He supports this point by noting that “man was not made from woman, but woman from man” (11:8).
Fifth, that man named woman indicates that male spiritual leadership was God’s design from the beginning. After God had created the woman from the rib taken from the man’s side and brought the woman to the man, the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen 2:23).
Later, in 3:20 the man “called his wife’s name Eve.” This two-fold naming of the woman implies man’s authority over the woman. “In ancient times, the authority to name implied authority to govern.” That the initial naming of the woman took place before the Fall in Genesis 3 indicates that it was God’s original design for man to assume the role of spiritual leader with the wife as his submissive helper.
Each of these features of the Genesis 2 narrative reveals a clear difference of role between the man and the woman. From the beginning man was called to bear the responsibility of headship, while the wife was called to be the man’s perfectly suitable helper. This was intended to be the normal relationship between the man and the wife. Male spiritual leadership in the home is God’s ideal. This is what God wants in our homes. This is what He calls us to.