“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.” – C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
When we look at women in the Bible whose stories are hard to comprehend, I think of the first woman whose role set the trial-filled stage for the women who followed. Eve’s life was one of perfection tainted by temptation and condemned by decision. When we think of her, we often stop at her fatal mistake. I would like to suggest that Eve has much more to teach us about salvation than about sin.
Despite her pivotal role in the history of mankind and its spiral into sin, Eve is only mentioned in five biblical passages. Each of these offers a different piece of Eve’s story.
Eve’s Creation (Genesis 2:15-25)
We first find Eve at the moment of her creation, after God created Adam and declared that he required a helper suitable for him. God then formed Eve out of Adam’s ribs, and Adam’s need was satisfied. In a shame free, sin free environment of perfect union with each other and communion with God, Adam and Eve had everything – including the free will to go against perfection and embrace destruction.
Don’t we also see that fruit in our lives? Don’t we also have the tendency to see God’s will for us, that which His Word declares good and holy, and instead we run after the very opposite?
Eve’s Decision and the Consequences (Genesis 3:1-24; 4:1-26)
The story we find in Genesis 3 is familiar. Satan in all of his craftiness and determination to thwart God’s plan enters the picture. He persuades and tempts and skews truth, and Eve falls for it. She eats the fruit God specifically commanded not to and sin enters the world.
Every decision we make has a consequence, whether we intend it or not. Eve is the only woman in the history of the world who could fully comprehend the vacuum that sin creates. She experienced God’s perfection and harmony in the garden, and she experienced toil in the absence of God’s harmony outside of Eden. She went from seeing the lion lay with the lamb to a rivalry between her sons that resulted in the murder of one and the banishment of the other. She felt the first sorrow, the first loss, the first conflict. She felt the first pain, the first regret, the first guilt. If ever there was a woman who dealt with the “if only” thoughts that keep the mind occupied deep into the night, it was Eve.
And yet, I can’t help but wonder if it is in the struggle that we truly come to see God for who He is. Obviously we shouldn’t sin so that we can experience grace deeper (Rom. 6:1-2). However, I think that in God’s intricate plan He is able to take sin – the very thing He hates – and use it to reveal Himself more deeply to us. He is able to turn brokenness into restoration. How can you fully discover Jehovah-Yireh (The Lord Will Provide) unless you are first in want, or Jehovah Rapha (The Lord that Heals) unless you are first wounded? Unless you are at war, how can you fully understand Jehovah Nissi (The Lord Our Banner) or Jehovah Shalom (The Lord our Peace)? You can’t comprehend Jehovah Raah (The Lord is the Way) unless you’ve lost your way, or Jehovah Shammah (The Lord is There) unless you know abandonment. We cannot accept Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness) unless we first acknowledge our unrighteousness and unworthiness.
Eve’s decision had consequence for us all, but it also had a purpose – to more deeply reveal the character and attributes of God.
Eve’s Legacy (2 Corinthians 11:2-3)
In 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds the church at Corinth of Eve’s legacy: sin. “Just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” While Paul is right in casting Eve’s failure as something to flee, I offer that Eve’s legacy is more than just her mistake. Eve’s legacy is a greater understanding of our need for Christ.
Each day, we experience the ongoing consequences of the sin that entered into the world through Eve. We see it in the unkindness of one human to another. We see it in the groaning of creation, in childhood cancer and natural disasters. We see it in broken relationships, words of anger, fits of rage. And yet, it is through the pain that we have hope.
In the foreword of her book I Am a Star: Child of the Holocaust, author Inge Auerbacher writes, “It’s important to remember that out of the ashes of such despair, fear, hunger, and pain can come redemption, life, hope and healing.” Out of the ash heap of original sin comes hope and healing through the graciousness of God.
Eve’s Contribution (I Timothy 2:11-15)
Paul’s letter to Timothy addresses issues at the church in Ephesus concerning false teaching, roles of leadership and authority in the church. As he writes about the role of women in the church at Ephesus, we see Eve’s legacy mentioned again – she was the one deceived and through whom sin entered humanity. Her legacy continued to be one of failure. However, Paul adds verse 15, “But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
One commentary I read suggested that there are three explanations for this verse. The first is that Paul is encouraging women to find contentment in their roles within the home as wives and mothers. Since many women are neither wives nor mothers, I tend to step away from this explanation unless the argument is that this verse can only be read in context of the culture of that time or is a specific message for the women at Ephesus. The second explanation is that when Paul writes that women will be saved through childbearing, he is referring to women being kept physically safe in childbirth. There are countless stories, a few of which I am personally acquainted with, in which women have suffered injury or death in the childbirth experience. It is reasonable to conclude that this would be especially true for societies outside the age of modern medicine. I tend to step away from this explanation as well.
I lean toward the third possibility: Paul is referring to all of womankind (and mankind) being saved through one specific birth, that of Christ our Lord. Through her descendants came Mary. Through Mary came Christ. Through Christ came rebirth for us all. Despite her failure, Eve’s greatest contribution was her role in unfurling God’s redemptive plan for humanity.
In Eve we have an example of a grave and deadly mistake, of moral failure, of a yielding to temptation as well as the weighty and tremendous consequences that came as a result. But she – and you, and I – are far more than mistakes and failures. She – and you, and I – are testimony that God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called for His purposes (Rom. 8:28).
Daughter of Eve, don’t live in the legacy of your mistakes and regrets. Live in the cleansing waters of sanctification and forgiveness. Don’t see your past mistakes as a permanent barrier between you and God, but through confession and grace discover that your mistakes can lead you to a deeper understanding of the depth of God’s character and His abounding love for you.
-by Jenn Anthony
See more of Jenn’s great writing at jenniferanthony.org