Genesis tells us when the serpent spoke to the woman, her husband was with her (Gen. 3:6). Yet evidently Adam is silent . Why? I’m thinking we might learn how to answer this question from Ahab and Jezebel, whose story is similar in several respects.
The crucial similarity is that the man knows the word of the LORD firsthand; it is his job to teach it to his wife, and he fails miserably and culpably. Adam received a commandment from God before his wife was created, so she has to learn the commandment from him. Ahab is king of Israel married to a foreign wife, so she too must learn the law of the LORD from her husband. Instead, like Eve, she teaches her husband how to disobey it.
Ahab’s particular sin stems from his desire to purchase the vineyard of his neighbor Naboth, who emphatically refuses to sell it, saying “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers” (1 Kings 21:3). Naboth is appealing to the underlying principle of the law of inheritance in Israel, which prevents land from passing permanently out of the possession of the family to whom it belongs (Lev. 25:23-28). The idea is that the land of Israel belongs to the LORD, who distributed it to the families of Israel when they first came to the promised land, so as to assure that every family had the wherewithal to live and prosper. So Naboth is telling Ahab that the law of the LORD stands in the way of his purchase.
Ahab’s response is to pout, inert and helpless. He sullenly takes to his bed and refuses to eat until Jezebel his wife finds him and gets the story from him. She is astonished that he could be ruler of Israel and not get what he wants. “Arise and eat bread” she tells him, “I will give you Naboth’s vineyard” (1 Kings 21:7). Ahab evidently says nothing in reply. He remains silent while she proceeds to arrange for Naboth to be murdered and gotten out of the way.
So the parallel is: Like Adam, Ahab should be teaching the commandment of God to his wife. Instead, like Adam, he listens to the voice of his wife (Gen. 3:17) as she teaches him how to disobey the commandment of God and get what he wants. The man is silent while the woman takes what is forbidden and gives it to him.
What the parallel suggests is that Adam wanted what was forbidden, just like Ahab. That explains why he is silent , letting her go ahead and do what he was afraid to do. (It must be very frightening to hear God himself warning that you shall die if you disobey, Gen. 2:17). Like Ahab, he needed the strength of the woman to take what he knew the LORD had forbidden. For she was his helper, which in biblical terms means a strong ally . By remaining silent while the serpent spoke, not teaching her the fear of the LORD, he let her become his helper in sin rather than his ally in obedience.
The parallel actually has broad application in Israel’s history. Beginning with Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-8), the kings of Israel often married the daughters of foreign kings, thus making alliances with powerful neighbors. And instead of teaching their wives obedience to the law of the LORD, they stood silently by while their wives practiced idolatry, and often joined them in worship.
In this history of Israel’s idolatry we see the corruption of the two great dualities of the human race: male and female, Israel and the nations (or in NT terms, Jew and Gentile). Both dualities are meant to display what I call the biblical logic of otherness, in which the one is good for the other—as Israel is for the blessing of all nations (Gen. 12:3, 26:4, 28:14). But both can be corrupted, and instead of the one teaching the other the ways of the LORD, the one can learn disobedience from the other. That is what happened with Solomon and his wives, as well as Ahab and Jezebel. And something like it, I suggest, happens with Adam and Eve.