Reflections on Genesis 3:16
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Reflections on Genesis 3:16

This passage ends, “… he [Adam] shall rule over you.” Historically, this has been an important basis for the subjugation of women, and many Christians today still believe that women are obliged to yield to the desires of their husbands. According to this view, a good, loving husband still cares for the well-being of his wife, but his needs and desires remain paramount.

This paternalistic worldview has been, thankfully in my view, largely rejected. Most people accept women’s rights, in principle if not in policy. Women may assume leadership roles inside and outside the home and refuse the sexual entreaties of their husbands, and all of us recoil at the thought of stoning women caught in adultery (though even in biblical times men were generally given a pass for this “crime”).

The status of women has increased substantially since biblical times, despite many biblical passages that undermine an egalitarian view of women. Yet, when it comes to nonhuman beings, our culture’s attitudes largely resemble those of the ancient Hebrews. We condemn gratuitous cruelty, but whenever human and nonhuman interests collide, human concerns (however trivial they might be) trump those of nonhumans. I strongly suspect that the divergence between women’s rights and animals’ rights reflects the ability of women to advocate on their own behalf, while nonhumans are much more vulnerable to the cruel predations of humanity.

The great injustices associated with animal mistreatment anger many of us. I plan to expand on that discussion in the next essays.

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