Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”… 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.Genesis 2:18,21-25
Then 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.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Before I dive into today’s notes, let me be very clear about something as it relates to the study of Scripture. I earnestly try to approach the study of God’s word from an exegetical point of view by drawing out of the text what it actually says, rather than reading into it what I want it to mean (eisegesis). If I believe (and I do) that the Bible is indeed God’s word, then whatever it says within the context of the original writer and audience is His truth, and it doesn’t matter what I think or want to believe.
Nearly 1500 years after Moses penned Genesis, Jesus Himself prayed in the garden of Gethsemanae, “Sanctify them [His disciples] in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Up to that point, the Old Testament was all we had for God’s Word. So contextually, this is what Jesus was referring to. With that in mind, let’s begin.
Just as we studied in Genesis 2:4-17 that mankind was created with a purpose – to participate in God’s creative order for His glory – today we see that God created man and woman with a purposeful design. As God created man, He showed that “it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18) That one statement alone carries with it so much theological weight as it relates to a Christian anthropology.
First, God created man and woman by His design to be complementary of one another. Just as man should not be alone, neither should woman. Man was not created to be a creature in isolation. Furthermore, he would not be able to fulfill God’s creation mandate to multiple and fill the earth if he did not have a biologically compatible mate. That’s not how reproduction works. Man needs woman in order to create a child. Conversely, woman needs man in order to create a child as well. However, the sexual union between a man and woman isn’t strictly about reproduction, but it’s a picture of the unity of God’s design that man and woman should not be alone in this life. As such, God created man and woman as helpers “fit” for one another.
One thing to also point out is that God did not form Eve out of the side of Adam. The text clearly states that He took a part of Adam from him (his rib) and formed something distinctively different from that material. However, this is a different word from what we see in Genesis 1 (viyabara – “made”), but rather it is something different. The word for “made” in verse 22 is וַיִּבֶן “vayyiben”, which typically means “to build a house”, which is an idiomatic expression for creating a family. Just as one builds a house with certain materials, those materials do not change their substance from their source, but rather take on a new form with a specialized purpose. But in the case of the building of a house, it takes more than just one source of material. In the case of the creating of the first family, it took the original material of Adam and re-created material in Eve together in unity to become a family in God’s design.
The word for “helper” in the Hebrew is “ezer”, pronounced ay-zer. In this context, the most accurate rendering of the translation of this word is perhaps “help meet,” which implies the coming together of two separate, complete, independent entities for a united purpose. It contextually implies a coming together of two compatible entities in a working, mutually productive and beneficial relationship. The only other time in all of Scripture that this word is used and translated in this manner is two verses later in Genesis 2:20 as a contrast between man and the beast of the field, of which there was no “help meet” for Adam.
So God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and he took a rib from his side and formed a creature that was compatible for Adam, that would help him in his five-fold creation mandate (five imperative commands from Genesis 1:28):
- Be fruitful (be productive)
- Multiply (procreative)
- Replenish the earth (work the land)
- Subdue the earth (be a master of your assignment)
- Have dominion (be a procurator) over every other living creature (aside from mankind).
Then the man said, with quite possibly the most romantic poetry since the beginning of creation:
“This is bone of my bone,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called ‘woman’
Because she was taken out of man.”
The Hebrew word for man here is “ish”, and the Hebrew word for woman is “isha”. Thus Adam’s poetic reference here is not only a word picture for the relationship of the created order of man and woman, but it in effect was the first dad joke pun (before Adam was even a dad). All kidding aside, the careful selection of words by Moses in this passage is to theologically demonstrate the beauty of the relationship of compatibility between man and woman, in accordance with God’s design.
As such, “therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The phrase “one flesh” is much deeper than simple sexual unity and compatibility, but rather it is the fusing of one life with another. The word that we translate here as “hold fast” is “dabaq”. The word is often translated as “to cleave” or to “join together”. But there is also the connotation of pursuit, which fits within the context here as it is the man’s responsibility to leave his father and mother and pursue his wife. It is not the wife’s responsibility to pursue the husband. It is when the man pursues the wife that “dabaq” introduces another layer of meaning as he “overtakes” and “joins together”. This is a very vivid poetic image of the romantic pursuit of a man after his bride.
And it is in this pure picture of God’s design for man and woman that we see the end result in that “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” As they walked together in the garden that God created for them, as they worked together to fulfill the mandate that God had given both of them, they did so exposed to the world with nothing to be ashamed of. As they walked in the light of God’s blessing, in accordance with His design, they walked without fear. There was no shame, because sin had not yet been introduced into the created order.
God designed man and woman very specifically to be a compliment to one another. Man was not designed to be capable of doing everything on his own. He required a “help meet”, in the form of his wife, a woman by God’s design. Now this is not to say that every man in this world should marry. Nor does it mean that every woman should be married. If God does not have that desire on your heart, then so be it. But He will never give you a desire in your heart that is contrary to His revealed truth in accordance to His design.