READ GENESIS 2:18–25
Very good but yet “not good” Genesis 1:31 says that when God surveyed all that He had made, He judged that it was very good. There were no moral or spiritual flaws in His handiwork. Everything that He had created and formed fit His divine plan and heavenly blueprint. But when we come to Genesis 2:18, the LORD God declares that there is something that is “not good,” namely, man’s solitude. There is something lacking. This is not the discovery of a flaw, something like an artist might discover in a work of art upon its completion, for example, a chip in a statue or a smudge on a painting. Nor is this a moral lapse in the man’s spiritual constitution. God is saying that man’s solitude is something that is most undesirable. It is striking that this is God’s judgment and not the man’s complaint to God. Indeed, the man has not yet spoken in the record of the text. God evaluates the situation perfectly with regard to the man. Therefore, God declares that He will make a “helper suitable” for the man.
Verse 19 describes the bringing of the beasts and the birds to the man for naming. Earlier in Genesis one we read that the birds are God’s handiwork on the fifth day while the beasts are what He created on the sixth day of the creation week. It is the tactic of some to say that the Bible contradicts itself here. In Genesis one the order is thus: birds, then animals, and finally man (male and female). But here the order is the following: man, then animals and birds. then the woman. But if there is a “genuine” contradiction here, it is passing strange that Moses (who wrote under divine inspiration!) did not perceive the contradiction. The NIV translation of verse 19 (“Now the LORD God had formed”) is a legitimate way of expressing the original language. This indicates the fact that the animal and bird worlds had already been created, and these creature realms might yield the helper suitable for Adam. Genesis 2:19 is recalling an earlier fact. and it does not necessarily mean that the animals and birds were created after the man. In other words, no contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2 can be proven at all.
Lonely or alone?
I would suggest that man’s solitude that is declared “not good” is not primarily a reference to loneliness (in a psychical or psychological sense). Recall that the first man, Adam, had perfect fellowship and communion with God Himself. The words of Psalm 73:25, 26, would have been true for Adam as well as for the believer today: “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth….God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” In addition to covenant friendship with the LORD, Adam would have found all the creatures to be non-hostile towards him, all potential “pets” perhaps! Yet the companionship of beasts and birds for the man is not sufficient in God’s grand plan of things.
The Jewish rabbis have a tradition that says all the animals passed by Adam in pairs. Adam saw this parade of pairs, and he then sensed his own lack. This clever spin on Genesis 2:18ff also works with the idea that man’s need of a helper suitable for him was due to loneliness. Perhaps the more important consideration about man being alone relates to his calling, his office. Adam had God as a companion, but the duties that pertained to having dominion over all the creation would be very demanding. The suitable helper for Adam would assist him in his role as king, priest. and prophet in God’s creation-kingdom. She would help the man in his work of exercising dominion over the earth.
Furthermore, Adam would need another human being with whom he and she would be able to experience God’s blessing in having the children that would fill the earth. Obviously Adam could not reproduce himself! God therefore takes the initiative in solving this “not good” problem. What’s a “helpmeet”?
The King James Version of the Bible in Genesis 2:18, 20, speaks of “help meet.” A new word—helpmeet—was coined as a result. But what does it mean? The word for helper can have the idea in our language of servant. the assistant who stands in the background, perhaps the slave who has to “go for” this or “go for” that. But, in fact, the word is used many times in reference to God Himself as our heavenly Helper. Reflect on the following passages:
Exodus 18:4: “My father’s God was my helper.”
Deuteronomy 33:7: “Oh, be his help against his foes.”
Psalm 70:5: “You are my help and my deliverer.”
Psalm 121:1, 2: “Where comes my help? My help comes from LORD.”
Psalm 124:8: “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
Psalm 146:5: “The God of Jacob is his help.”
More passages could be cited, but the general meaning of help and helper begins to become clear. The word is not pejorative, inferring a put-down for the person called a helper. The word has almost the sense of rescuer or deliverer. The helper is the one who does for me what I could not do all by myself. God said that man’s calling as image-bearing ruler of the creation was such that being alone is not a good thing. Adam needed help, and none of the animals would provide this help.
The word meet is better translated as “suitable to,” a “counterpart for,” one who “corresponds to another in a complementary way.” Thus the woman will be a helper who meets Adam’s need; she will, with him, help him fulfill mankind’s chief end, namely, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (d. Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q/A 1).
The text is not saying that she is a helper equal to the man (the original language could have said that, but it does not say this). The study note of the New Geneva Study Bible for Genesis 2:18 says this, “The word ‘helper’ entails his inadequacy, not her inferiority; for elsewhere it is often used of God.” This is an important point to understand in our times. The woman is not in her being inferior because of the nature of her creation. Animals are not superior because they were made first. Nor is the ground superior because man came from the ground. Male and female constitute mankind, and both are created in the image of God. But within mankind (humanity), there is a relationship, an “economy,” of office-bearing. In their being image-bearers, man and woman are equally before the face of God our Father. In their respective offices, the man is the head of the woman, and “so there is a divinely imposed subordination here” (E.J. Young, In the Beginning, p. 77). At the same time the woman is a gift of a loving God to the man because our Lord knows that we can never make it all alone in fulfilling the divine plan for God’s creation-kingdom.
Divine surgery on the man (2:21–22a)
The very specific steps that God takes to create this helper suitable for the man is to put him into a deep sleep, under a supernatural anesthetic, after which God removes one of Adam’s ribs and then divinely closes (heals) the side. This deep sleep is like the sleep Abram experienced in Genesis 15:12 when God showed Himself passing between the parts of the covenant animals. The word usually translated as rib actually means side. God removed a portion of Adam’s side, and so whether it was a rib in particular or something else, may be a debated point. In any case, with the “raw material” of this rib for portion of his side) God “builds” (that is the word in the original language!) a woman. The man was described as formed from the clay by the Divine Potter, and now the Divine Builder prepares the perfect companion for Adam from the man’s own body.
Read I Corinthians 11:3–16. Of special interest are verses 8, 9: “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” Paul is clearly recalling the Genesis 2 account here. At the same time Paul points out the danger of individualism and the spirit of self-centeredness when he says in I Corinthians 11:11, 12: “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” This should remind both men and women of their mutual interdependence. “No man is an island.” In creating the woman for the man, God is teaching the human race that we were designed to live in community and in fellowship with one another. The rugged individual may be a prized culture “hero” in some societies, but the Bible would not endorse this.
History’s first wedding (2:22b–23)
Genesis 2:22b says that God “brought her to the man.” If someone had been present there in the Garden for the presentation of this first bride in all of history, and had this person asked the question, “Who gives this woman to this man?” the answer would have come from God Himself, “I do. I give her to Adam to be his loving and faithful wife.”
Upon the presentation of this bride, the Bible records the first human words of history in Genesis 2:23. The words come across as a kind of song, a simple hymn of praise and wonder at the gift of such a wonderful bride. They provide for her a joyful welcome into this creation-kingdom and Garden home. Truly the woman is Adam’s bone and flesh (literally!). The words are used elsewhere in the Bible as a phrase to indicate kinship (see Gen. 29:14; Judges 9:2; II Sam. 5:1). In marriage one joins another “in the Lord” so that there is a spiritual oneness. Jesus Christ must provide the common platform upon which the married couple stand. Furthermore, each married person should find in his or her spouse one’s best friend and companion. There is no mention here of children (that comes in Genesis 3); the woman is prized and praised as a companion in her own right, a gift from our heavenly Father.
Marriage: what God said in the beginning (2:24)
By inspiration Moses now inserts commentary that looks ahead to that time when the human race would practice marriage. That time would come in the very next generation after our first parents. God’s presentation of the woman to Adam along with Adam’s recognition that God has brought the two of them together forms the context for the first explicit words of the Scripture regarding marriage. The creation of mankind—male and female—sets the original context for marriage and the home and therefore for society at large.
The marital relationship existed before the fall into sin, and it becomes clear that marriage is one of the most fundamental building blocks for any sane and orderly society.
Notice what is being set forth for marriage here in the Word of God. The man leaves his father and his mother. Of course, he must always love and respect his parents, but the home that he is establishing and that he shall serve as its head, is a new and identifiably different unit. The marriage relationship is exclusive. Of course, any new husband and wife will want to have the blessing and well-wishes of their parents (if they are still living). but the man who now leaves the home of his youth does so without his parents present to direct the details of his new home and marriage. While he was under his parents, a man received their love, instruction, protection and encouragement. But when he leaves to marry, he now becomes responsible for this. Godly advice from one’s parents is welcome, but in each marriage a new and exclusive relationship has now been established.
Secondly, the marital relationship is to be permanent in this life. The man is to cleave (stay close, be bonded with) to his wife. The principle of one man and one wife is established in the beginning. Indeed, the nature of marriage is settled from the very beginning. While it is true that several patriarchs (Abraham, Jacob) and several kings (David, Solomon) had more than one wife, we are not to see this as normal. Consider the great troubles and difficulties that resulted because of having more than one wife! The Biblical norm for a man is to love one woman and one woman only in the bonds of matrimony. A great lover is not the person who loves many, many women in a lifetime, but one who can maintain his love and devotion to that one wife whom God has given him. Thus the one who would get married “forsakes” all others, and he or she becomes very circumspect to see that no one and nothing interferes or undermines the marriage relationship.
Thirdly, the marital bond is sealed before God through vows. The two shall be one flesh. This does not mean that the man and the woman lose their individual perspectives or respective abilities and insights. Nor does this expression have reference only to the sexual intimacy that is enjoyed in marriage. Rather, marriage is an estate into which the two enter as ordained by God, and they come together and bring together all for the sake of the other. They seal the union through promises and vows. Thus the Bible endorses marriage and a public display of commitment before there is the enjoyment of sexual intimacy.
Ephesians 5:22–33 expands on God’s revelation in Genesis to show how the human relationship of marriage reflects the gracious relationship of Christ and His church. Christ heads the church, but He is also one with His church. He lives with His Bride. He is prepared to die for the church; in fact, He did die so that His Bride might live. In turn the church lives for Christ in loving submission and devotion. In reflection of this, wives are to submit to their husbands, showing them love and respect (d. Col. 3:18ff; I Peter 3:1ff).
Jesus was once asked by the Pharisees about the permissibility of divorce (Matt. 19:1–9; Mark 10:1–12). Jesus responds, “What did Moses command you?” (Mark 10:3). Their answer refers to a kind of permission that Moses granted in Deuteronomy 24:1–4. But the Lord reminds all of us that this particular permission was in place “because your hearts were hard.” In any relationship—marriage included—after the fall into sin, sinners are involved. Even if they have the best of intentions, sinners still will have difficulties and trials in any relationship. Furthermore, the Lord points back to something in Moses much earlier than Deuteronomy. Jesus quotes from Genesis 2 to indicate what God’s will and intention was “at the beginning of creation” (Mark 10:6). In marriage the two are “no longer two, but one.” “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Mark 10:9).
Naked but not ashamed
The very last words before we read of a subtle intruder are that the man and the woman are both naked, yet they experienced no shame in each other’s presence. Of course it should be this way! Both the man and the woman are created very good, and they are thus adorned with the virtue of a godly spirit. Without sin there is no shame, no fear, no inclination to hide one’s feelings, thoughts, desires or even passions from one another.
By the end of Genesis 2 God’s work of creating is complete. The thinking reader cannot help but be impressed with the fact that the Bible reveals here a God who is so completely concerned about man’s well-being and happiness. No detail is left unattended until the image-bearing team is provided all that is needed to live and serve God and the development of His creation-kingdom. In Moses’ day this would have sounded so wonderfully as good news because the deities of the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians cared very little about human welfare. Blessing rests upon the man and woman.
Yet there is a hint in the text of some “tension” in the sense that there is a tree in the middle of the Garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There is a prohibition expressed concerning it. Yet the human team must choose for the good and reject all that is evil. In so doing, they would experience a continuing relationship of friendship, peace, and great comfort in the presence of each other, but more importantly, in the presence of their heavenly Father.
POINTS TO PONDER AND DISCUSS
1. God said that it was not good for the man to be alone. What is individualism? How is it evident in today’s western society? What threats does it pose for the church, the home and society in general?
2. What does North American society say about marriage? Or, in other words, what view or views about marriage are currently popular in our society? How do most state governments now view marriage, and how did they view it a generation ago?
3. What is feminism? Are there different versions of feminism? Why did it arise? What kinds of responses can the Christian community give to feminism?
4. Read I Corinthians 11:3–12, Ephesians 5:22–33 and I Timothy 2:11–15. What does the Bible understand by headship? How has headship been abused in the past? Why does our society have such a difficult time accepting the Biblical principle of the man as head of his wife?
5. The Bible views marriage as a covenant (d. Provo 2:17; Malachi 2:14). What are the reasons for so many divorces today in our society? What can Christian homes, schools and churches do to better prepare young people for marriage and the realities of home life?
6. Some Greek philosophies viewed the human body as a prison for the soul. Some Christians have treated the human body with shame and contempt. Other viewpoints allowed the body any and all indulgences. Read Matthew 10:28; Romans 6:13; 12:1; I Corinthians 6:12–20; and Philippians 1:20. What is the Biblical view of the human body?
Mark D. Vander Hart