Moses’ intent is to show us “man’s creation ‘in God’s image’ entailed a ‘partnership’ with his wife. The ‘likeness’ which the man and the woman share with God in chapter 1 finds an analogy in the ‘likeness’ between the man and his wife in chapter 2” – John Sailhamer.
- These types of parallels are not accidents.
How does the creation of woman in Genesis 2 relate to Genesis 1?
- “Genesis 1:27 simply informed us that when God created two earth creatures who would be his image bearers he created one earthling that was male and another earthling that was female. The verse said nothing about how he created them or when he created them (simultaneously or sequentially) – Victor Hamilton.
- So most believe that our text today gives more detail about the creation of man and woman.
- More on this in a moment.
Genesis 2:18 (ESV) — 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
This verse is rather startling.
- As we know, Genesis 1 repeatedly states creation is “good” and ends with creation being “very good”.
- And out of nowhere we are confronted with the statement that something “it is not good”.
- What are we to make of this?
We saw in Genesis 1 that declaring that creation was “good” and “very good” could mean a number of things:
- Wenham says it referred to the “perfection of the final work”.
- Sailhamer says, “That which is ‘good’ in Genesis 1 is that which will benefit the man and woman”.
- Specifically, the readying of Eden/Promise Land for mankind.
- On Walton’s functional approach he says that “good”, “has nothing to do with moral perfection or quality of workmanship” – John Walton.
- He says “good” means “the functional readiness [order, purpose, function] of the cosmos for human beings”.
So from these views we can speculate about why “not good” would make its appearance.
(1) We need to be reminded of the following:
- Our guys don’t think, generally, that Genesis 2 is Day Six.
- However, for those that see Day 6 as specifically Adam and Eve, they do see vss. 18-25 as additional info about the creation of man and woman on Day 6.
- This would mean, then, that this statement was God’s commentary immediately after creating man on Day Six.
(2) Therefore, the statement “not good” likely means:
- Wenham – perfection of mankind is not yet attained without woman.
- Sailhamer – the preparation of the Promised Land was always for man and woman, so without woman the preparations were not fully inhabited.
- Walton – mankind can’t function as intended (fruitful and multiply and have dominion) without woman.
BTW – This significant focus on the necessity of woman for perfection, preparation, or function is not found in any other ANE creation story – it is unique to the Israelites.
- This feature alone significantly highlights the importance and necessity of women.
Genesis 2:19–20 (ESV) — 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
Here we have the odd appearance of an animal parade.
- This parade of animals was either a special creation of animals, or was referring to previously created animals that were brought before Adam.
- The pluperfect tense can be correctly translated “had formed” as in already formed in the ESV, for example.
- And folks like Hamilton and Sailhamer say, “it refers to the creation of a special group of animals brought before Adam for naming” – Victor Hamilton.
The real question is why would God admit that man alone is “not good” and then respond by commencing the animal parade?
- It seems a bit out of place.
Most are in agreement here.
- Sailhamer puts this agreement as follows:
“The author saw the man’s naming the animals as a search for a suitable partner. In recounting that no suitable partner was found, the author has assured the reader that man was not like the other creatures” – John Sailhamer.
The animal parade thus raises the tension around the fact that man is lacking without woman.
- Man himself is “not good” without woman.
Some suggest that the “naming” here is more significant than “robin”, “jack rabbit”, “coyote”, etc.
- Adam is noting the different “kinds” or categories.
- And, significantly, “kinds” or categories different from his kind.
In fact, the suggestion is that this is how these verses make the best sense.
- Adam noted that none of the animals brought to him were “fit for him”.
- This is not because they had different names, but because they were different kinds.
- None were mankind.
Mathews puts it this way:
- “The creatures are named within three broad categories: domesticated ‘livestock,’ ‘birds,’ and ‘beasts of the field’ (cf. 3:1). By this the man could observe that there was none among the creatures who matched him in kind” – Kenneth Mathews.
“The fact that the man is expressing his rule over the animal world in the search for an appropriate helper caused him to realize his inadequacy to the task if he continues in the impotent condition of ‘alone.’ In this way God is preparing the man to value his mate” – Mathews.
Genesis 2:21–22 (ESV) — 21 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. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
There are two issues here.
- The first is the special creation of Eve – from Adam.
- The second is the ingredient God used to do so – a rib.
Except for John Walton and his functional creation view, our scholars believe Genesis 2 to be the description of an historical material creation event.
- The event was the special creation of woman out of man.
- Man, like other life, came from the ground.
- Woman, uniquely, came from another living being.
Where our scholars differ is on the rib as the material ingredient for this creation.
- Interestingly, John Sailhamer actually holds the common conservative evangelical view on both matters.
- “The way this story is recounted shows that its author understood it in realistic and literal terms. When God took one of the man’s ribs from his side, He then “closed the flesh” over the place where He had taken the rib. That detail is not necessary to the sense of the story” – John Sailhamer
So what is the deal with Adam’s rib?
The reason there is dissent on this question is because of the Hebrew word used – “sela”.
- The TWOT (Theological Word Book of the OT) spells it out for us.
- “It is an architectural term” referring to a room or side-chamber – TWOT.
- And it usually is temple or tabernacle related.
- Exodus 26:35 (ESV) — 35 And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side.
- Exodus 25:12 (ESV) — 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it [ark] and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it.
- 1 Kings 6:5 (ESV) — 5 He also built a structure against the wall of the house [temple], running around the walls of the house, both the nave and the inner sanctuary. And he made side chambers all around.
It is sometimes used to describe a cedar plank used to build the temple.
- 1 Kings 6:15 (ESV) — 15 He lined the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar. From the floor of the house to the walls of the ceiling, he covered them on the inside with wood, and he covered the floor of the house with boards of cypress.
Mathews agrees with the TWOT.
“As we have already observed, the language of the garden scene is found in the tabernacle description; the term ṣēlāʿ, here rendered ‘ribs,’ appears frequently in the construction setting of the tabernacle, there translated ‘side’” – Mathews.
Walton even points out that nowhere in the OT does “sela” have an anatomical meaning.
- So where does this leave us in Genesis 2?
Here is the deal.
- All agree that there is a powerful, sacred symbolic meaning of “rib” in Genesis 2.
- But not all agree that Eve was literally “made” out of a piece of Adam.
In disagreement that woman was literally made out of a piece of man.
- Wenham says, “It is certainly mistaken to read it as an account of a clinical operation or as an attempt to explain some feature of man’s anatomy (cf. von Rad, Procksch)” – Gordon Wenham.
In agreement that woman was literally made out of man.
- Mathews says, “She is taken from the man by a ‘surgical’ act of God.”
- Hamilton says, “If we translate ‘side’ rather than ‘rib,’ then the passage states that woman was created from an undesignated part of man’s body rather than from one of his organs or from a portion of bony tissue” – Hamilton.
- Whatever the case, “We need to note that it is not Eve herself but simply the raw material that is taken from the man” – Hamilton.
So what is the symbolic meaning of rib that all agree on?
(1) “The woman was taken from the man’s side to show that she was of the same substance as the man and to underscore the unity of the human family, having one source” – Mathews.
(2) It demonstrates that woman is the same “kind” as man and is thus suitable for him.
- In other words, woman being of man can remedy the “not good” problem.
- She can complete the perfection, preparation or function that we discussed earlier.
- “Paradise is now complete” – Mathews.
(3) “It brilliantly depicts the relation of man and wife. ‘Just as the rib is found at the side of the man and is attached to him, even so the good wife, the rib of her husband, stands at his side to be his helper-counterpart, and her soul is bound up with his’” – Wenham.
(4) “The intimacy and harmony that should support the marriage relationship is captured perfectly with this image” – Bruce Waltke.
- Mathew Henry captures this take well.
- “Not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved”.
(5) Paul also notes a symbolic significance of the “rib” language.
- Ephesians 5:28–30 (ESV) — 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.
Paul seems to be saying that the “rib” language sets up the following intimate parallel.
- The church is in Christ and Christ loves the church.
- In the same way, woman is in man and man loves the woman.
BTW – It is important to understand one more thing about these verses concerning “deep sleep”.
- It is a very rare phrase in the OT.
- It seems to indicate some mysterious form of divine intervention.
- At the end of the day, this phrase “preserves the mystery of her creation” – Mathews.
John Walton’s Take:
Walton points out that the literal translation of our text.
- “The Lord built the rib [direct object] for the woman [indirect object]”.
- But he thinks that this literal translation is grammatically to be understood as follows:
- “Then the Lord God built up the side he had taken from the man for (the purpose of making) a woman” – Walton.
However, as we mentioned earlier, Walton does not take any of this to be describing material creation.
- His view is functional creation with the use of archetypes.
“Being drawn from the side of man has an archetypal significance, not an anatomical one. This is the very aspect that the text draws out when it identifies the significance of the detail: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (Gen 2: 24). This is true of all mankind and all womankind. Womankind is archetypally made from the side of mankind. Again we can see that this is a functional discussion, not a material one” – John Walton.
- In other words, the language describes why man and woman are to function as one flesh.
- This is functional language for marriage and sexual union.
Genesis 2:23–24 (ESV) — 23 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.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
In verse 23 an important question is raised.
- Did Adam name Eve?
- This is important because it speaks to the nature of the relationship between Adam and Eve.
- In Hebrew culture, to name something is to own it and have a particular kind of authority over it.
Again, scholars are all over the map.
- Yes – “Though they are equal in nature, that man names woman (cf. 3:20) indicates that she is expected to be subordinate to him, an important presupposition of the ensuing narrative” – Wenham.
- No – “We would be mistaken to think that Adam names Eve here. He rather indicates what category she belongs in. Here he simply states what she will be recognized as, and she will be recognized on the basis of her relationship to man. He indicates the category she will be recognized as belonging to—that of humankind” – Walton.
- Adam is presenting woman saying, “At last, here is one of my own kind.”
- “He and the woman, indeed, are made up of the same ‘stuff’” – Mathews.
In Hebrew, the text seems to make this clear as well.
- Woman is “issa” and man is “is”.
- They are the same kind, “is”.
The “no” view seems to fit better with our above discussion on why God would describe man without woman as “not good”.
- And it further makes sense of why God would parade the animals in front of him.
- Adam recognized that the animals were not suitable for him – not because they had different names.
- But, likely, because they were of a different kind.
- To be taken out of man is to be of his kind – both literally or symbolically.
BTW – One’s view here, historically, has greatly influenced how we have come to define gender roles.
- Entire hardcore patriarchal movements are based on how one interprets Genesis 2.
- These movements go so far as to see the husband as exercising disciplining authority over the wife in the form of spanking.
Another point of contention regards how this text relates to marriage – if at all.
- This is easily answered by looking at Jesus’ words in Matthew.
- Matthew 19:4–5 (ESV) — 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
- Jesus makes clear that not only is verse 24 referring to marriage, but it is God speaking – not Moses and not Adam.
- So, in effect, God has said twice that Genesis 2 speaks of marriage between the “is” and “issa”.
But, even without Jesus’ words, we can confirm this is a marriage text.
The Hebrew language used here is covenant language.
- “‘Leave’ and ‘cling’ are terms commonly used in the context of covenant, indicating covenant breach (e.g., Deut 28:20; Hos 4:10) or fidelity” – Mathews.
- Hamilton spells it out even more clearly.
- The language here is “a covenantal statement of his commitment to her. Thus it would serve as the biblical counterpart to the modern marriage ceremony” – Victor Hamilton.
So their use in context of the man/woman relationship is a covenantal use.
- And since “the OT viewed marriage as a kind of covenant”, the covenantal joining of a man and woman is marriage – Wenham.
Importantly, these two verses also provide a model for the marriage covenant.
- “As a model for marriage this passage involves three factors: a leaving, a uniting, and a public declaration” – Mathews.
- The leaving and uniting we just discussed.
The public declaration comes from the first spoken words of mankind.
- Verse 23 – 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.”
- Adam is declaring his entry into covenant with the woman.
Bruce Waltke summarizes this first marriage as follows:
“This first marriage, set in the sacred temple-garden and designed by God, signifies the holy and ideal state of marriage. God plays the role of attendant to the bride. He gives the man his wife” – Bruce Waltke.