‘Your husband shall rule over you’
or: ‘To flourish in love…’
After the Fall in Paradise everything became different and God speaks to the woman (Gen. 3:16): “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” The first letter to the Corinthians 11:7-12 heightens the effect: «« A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman is from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. »» How, then, was it in the beginning, when the fall had not yet taken place? In Genesis 2 is written, verse 18: «« And the Lord God said: It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him. (and in verses 24 and 25:) Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. »» Not surprisingly, these verses have been applied to greatly denigrate the woman as compared to the man. These texts provided a pretext for her suppression, for it was assumed that a lower ranking also meant that the woman had been put in an inferior position. A king ranks higher, but that does not mean that his subjects are of small worth, and yet a husband is not a king over his wife and his wife is not his subject, but there exists nonetheless a distinction in ranking order. It is very common for a woman, or a man, to situate herself or himself above or below the other, to take up a dominating or dominated position. But it is much more difficult to become each other’s equal, to stand upright and to continue to stand upright without fear or shame in the way things were before the Fall in Paradise (Gen. 2:25), knowing each one’s worth, not feeling threatened or crushed and not seeking to crush the other. The woman is destined to establish a position of equality with the man by being helpful to him in the sense of being available, to encourage him and to be his guardian, according to Genesis 2:18: “she will be a helper facing him”, and thus they should look each other in the eye, the requirement for a righteous, unselfish, thriving relationship, turned inwards but also outwards towards their family and society at large. This helpfulness is, from the Hebrew vantage point, in no way demeaning. She is not only his ‘helper’ in the denigrating term of the word. It has something majestic. In this manner we talk about God: “He is to us our help and shield” (paraphrase of Ps. 115:9-11) From this text we may confidently conclude that the wife has tutelage over her husband. My dictionary states under tutelar: “guardian, defender, protector or keeper, a person who takes care of the interests of children, a supervisor”. Without her care many a man would not be able to keep going nor to fulfil the tasks he is called on to perform. The psychological power of the woman over the man should not be underestimated. Weaker in muscular power, she is often the strongest psychologically and holds the


subtle power to guide and encourage him. She is therefore the guardian of the plant and at the same time its fertiliser. So her mission with the man remains of the utmost importance. She is described in this sense in the Old Testament (Prov. 31:10-31). The first three verses of this song of praise go as follows: “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her, so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life.” The subsequent verses praise her great industriousness and her talents of organisation, which positions her more as a helper in the meaning of stewardship.
In the Talmud is written the following story: “It once happened that a pious man was married to a pious woman. They arose and divorced each other. The former went and married a wicked woman, and she made him wicked, while the latter went and married a wicked man, and made him righteous. This proves that all depends on the woman.” (Bereshit Rabbah 17:7)

A remark is in order here. Because of the Fall, a terrible imbalance came into being in the original unity of the man and woman; the latter, suddenly deprived of the loving attention and presence of the Father, turned to Adam expecting everything from him, from him who experienced this obligation as an unbearable burden, from him who had also become slave to sin and was no longer capable of fulfilling the task. Her adoration destined the woman to be dominated in the terrible meaning of the word, or to dominate in her struggle away from it. This is the verdict of their situation (Gen. 3:16): “Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.” That situation, which is a curse where the man abuses his position to exploit the woman to force her into submission, also indicates the trials that both have to go through to find again the blessing of the Father and to discover the true meaning of ruling over on the one hand and to go along with on the other, according to the letter to the Ephesians 5:22-31: «« For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her (until His torture to death on the Cross), that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word. …So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it. »» By turning to God, both man and woman discover who they really are meant to be, ready to be filled with His Love in order to attain the true liberating equality where they again find unity with one another, in accordance with the task assigned to them by God. To preclude any misunderstanding I stress once more that this equality does not imply being identical to each other in the sphere of competition or rivalry, because that would deprive their unification of its splendour. The unification is no simple addition but a fulfilment or whole-making of the man and conversely a whole-making of the woman, a mutual contribution for the attainment of the objective for which they were both created. The task and struggle is to change the ‘inside’ contradictions, at war with each other, into unity-lovingness. Then only will the common condition be met for unitylovingness with ‘one another’. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), a psychologist before the term existed, was long ago of the opinion that “the work of the one through the other” (opus alterum per alterum) facilitates the discovery and recognition of the inner femininity of the man, as it does equally vis-à-vis the inner masculinity of the woman.


In the process of growing towards each other in a step by step approach of the unity envisaged by God, it requires from both partners an effort and sacrifice - sometimes an heroic sacrifice - but for its reward one does not need to wait for the hereafter, because God’s blessing does not remain absent. By giving one shall receive, but in a way different from that to which people are accustomed in this short-sighted and opportunistic society. It takes time, a time often not allowed for… Perhaps an appropriate title for this article should have been: “To flourish in love.” True enough! Hubert Luns
[Published in “De Brandende Lamp” 4th quarter 2005 - No. 104] [Published in “Positief” Jan. 2007 – No. 368]