As we are continuing our study of “beginnings,” there are important lessons to learn about men, women, and marriage from God’s account of creation in Genesis 1-2. When Jesus was tested by the Pharisees in Matthew 19 he appealed to the beginning to make his argument about divorce and remarriage. As we have found so far in our study, God’s creation has original purposes and designs that are often missed. Today we will do as Jesus did and go back to the beginning to find the original purpose for woman’s creation and how she originally fits into marriage. When God created Eve, he sent an important message throughout time that can be applied in important ways today.
Not Good (2:18)
Reading this verse in the context of Genesis 1-2 causes this verse to stands out. Throughout Genesis 1 the word “good” is used seven times as God at the end of each day pronounces his creation good. You may remember that at the end of the sixth day in Genesis 1:31 after God had created both man and woman he pronounced his creation “very good.” Yet, in 2:5 the narrative rewinds back in time and gives us a more detailed account of Adam’s creation and placement in Eden before Eve is on the scene. A first time reader of this passage may not recognize a huge problem in this scene, but the Lord God creator of the universe displays his great wisdom and knowledge of mankind in verse 18, “It is not good that man should be alone.”
It is amusing to me that out of all God’s creating Adam’s situation is the one thing that is “not good.” Though Adam is a skilled man – able to work the garden (i.e. “subdue the earth”) and name the animals (i.e. “have dominion over” animals) – God announces that it is not good for Adam to be alone. Alone, Adam has no companion, none with whom to toil or glorify God. Alone, Adam has no way to fulfill the rest of God’s charge to him in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply.” It is not good.
When God declares this truth in the beginning, it still just as true today. Yet, a fool’s wisdom is taking hold today that teaches the opposite about the goodness of man being alone. Society teaches 20-30 year olds that their life is successful if they center their lives around pursuing the highest degree of success in their professions. On the other hand, marriage and family are looked at as a foolish decision that sucks the dream, excellence, and ingenuity out of a young professional, holding him back from his true potential. I can still hear the business professionals that mentored me throughout college that scoffed at my decision to marry Ashley – who by the way were fools ruining their own marriages and families by centering their lives around success. This is where this becomes an even greater problem: young men who have selfishly spent their lives fantasizing about their careers, wealth, and success eventually get married and their wives are miserable because they still think it would be better for them to be alone so they wouldn’t be held back from success. Adam was alone with all the gold and food the Earth holds. Yet God says his situation is not good. Any wisdom that disagrees with this is earthly and unspiritual. For God – the norm is togetherness and community.
Helper & Counterpart (2:18)
When God sees man alone and says he will make a helper “fit for him” – the word he uses is “nagad” which is captured really well in the HCSB’s “complement” and the NET Bible’s “corresponds to him.” What God recognizes is what we recognize in a plain dry hamburger – it needs cheddar as its complement for it to taste any good – otherwise it is “not good.” God solves Adam’s “not good” situation by creating a counterpart – but how is she his counterpart? Genesis describes her as his counterpart through the word “helper.”
When God says he is going to fix the problem of man’s aloneness he doesn’t create another man to help him work the garden – he says he will make a “helper” for him. But, we need to see how woman is a helper and what this word connotes in the original Hebrew. The Hebrew word used here is “ezer” which is used 21 times throughout the Old Testament and most of the time it is in reference to God. Deuteronomy 33:26, “There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty.” Psalms 70:5, “But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!” To us – helper often makes us think of a lesser position; however, the word “ezer” does not refer to a subordinate. Instead, this word is used to describe the LORD God rescuing his people who are desperate for his action. When God says that he will make a helper for Adam, he is describing this future creation as one who Adam desperately needs. Another man cannot fill this role or else God would have duplicated Adam. When God creates woman, though she has similarities to man, she is a completely different being that completes Adam’s incompleteness by naturally filling a role that another man cannot fill. Women were created to solve the physical and psychological problems of man being alone – not to mention the problem of not being able to “multiply.” Another man only compounds those problems. Women were not just created as a second man with a slightly different make up – they are totally different with differing strengths to meet different needs.
It is a shame what a low view of women people have adopted throughout history, as if women are a less capable version of men who don’t seem to flourish at going out to war, building houses, and mowing lawns. Christians, there is a reason for that – she fills a different role that requires different innate strengths. Fortunately, in the world’s push for women’s rights, women are typically not looked down on in the way they have been throughout history. Unfortunately, what is looked down on is God’s original intent and purpose in creating women as helpers as if it is an outdated and unneeded role. Modern women are looked at shamefully if they do not center their lives around successful careers but instead fully pour themselves into their God-given role as a helper for her husband and bearer and raiser of children. I speak to both men and women – if we think God’s original purpose for women is shallow or outdated in any way we must humble ourselves and adopt God’s thinking in this matter. Certainly, the manner in which a wife fulfills her original role may change from situation to situation. A wife may find that the best way to be a helper to her husband changes over time. However, when we do not value a wife’s original purpose, a wife will seek her value in other places. This not only hurts her family, but also holds her back from being successful in her God given role. Do we fully trust God’s original plan and value women as helpers of men, or not?
A Spiritual Union
After God declares his decision to create a helper fit for Adam, he brings the animals to Adam for him to name them – but the narrative tells us that no helper could be found for Adam amongst these animals. Adam’s reaction in verses 23-25 tells us how different Eve was from the rest of the animals. Adam, as the first man, isn’t just one generation up from monkeys or Neanderthals – otherwise he wouldn’t notice the difference between himself and a slightly less developed female. To Adam, Eve is recognizably different from the animals! Adam didn’t a long look at the chimps and decide that it’s just not going to work out – it is clear that none of the animals are his counterpart. When he observes the physical and sexual compatibility they have together, it is clear that though they have differences, they uniquely of the same kind. This is seen in Adam’s exclamation in verse. 23, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”
However, when Genesis 2:24 tells us that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” there are reasons beyond the physical and sexual in how and why these two become one flesh. Notice Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”It is not just Adam that is made in the image of God – woman is created with God’s likeness as well! We recently spoke about how the image of God does not denote a physical likeness, but a spiritual likeness and nature. While there are other physical reasons why Adam cannot find his helper, counterpart, one flesh relationship with an animal, the biggest reason is that the animals are not created after the likeness of God as spiritual and eternal beings.
Yet, do you and I recognize the importance of a husband and wife both being created in the image of God? This is more than the simplistic nature of two animals that procreate. This is more than animals that come together to protect and look after one another. This is more than two animals with complementing skills and roles uniting to make a functional family; though, that is part of it. We must appreciate that Adam and Eve coming together in one flesh is significant because these are two spiritual being made in the image of God that have complementing spiritual characteristics and strengths that come together. These are two – not temporary physical beings making a temporary pact to be friends and have kids together. These are two eternal beings that are created with God’s own image making a covenant that, while it only lasts while this flesh and blood lives, has eternity in its scope and purpose since we are here to help one another reach spiritual goals. What is disappointing is when you and I as Christians have a dominantly physical view of marriage as if God brought us together so we could just have a family and not feel lonely.
There are multiple ways we can improve in our appreciation of our spiritual union. One way we can improve our view of marriages is through a commitment to meet one another’s needs. For, when we do not meet one another’s needs, we are ignoring the spiritual consequences. Wives, do you see it as extremely important that you meet your husband’s physical needs? He is a spiritual, eternal being and you are given to him to help him glorify God and if you do not meet his physical needs – you are leaving him as prey for Satan. Husbands, are you showering your wives with affection and spending meaningful, devoted time with them and meeting her needs? She is a spiritual, eternal being and you are called to help her glorify God and if you do not meet her needs you are leaving her as prey for Satan (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5).
What do you have in common with your spouse? It is so disappointing to me to hear Christians say that as time goes on their interests change and they just find that they don’t have anything in common any more. It’s not because I’m disappointed that we as spouses haven’t worked hard to find things we love to do together, though we should do that because our social compatibility is a great blessing. It is because this statement does not recognize the most important commonality that we have: we were made in the image of God. Christians, the reason we often forget this most important commonality is because we aren’t cultivating and using that commonality to the glory of God like we need to be. How are we using our time together as spouses and families? Studying, praying, spiritually encouraging, and spiritually acting together as marriages and families is not something that just some people find “is their thing.” It is what we all need to be practicing as Christians. Our marriages and families are unique to animals because we can come together in a spiritual union that focuses on propelling one another to glorify God and edify one another’s spirits. To think that it is only because of Adam’s physical differences from animals that God created Eve misses the mark. Husbands and fathers, let’s work hard to be good examples to one another as leaders in this. Wives and mothers, lovingly make sure your husband knows that this is a priority of yours and help him be the leader in your marriage and family. Let’s work hard to value this spiritual union for the true blessing that God created it to be.
As God stated from the beginning – it is not good that man should be alone. Christian men, are you showing that you believe and value that truth by the way you spend time with your wife and your family? Woman was created to solve the problems associated with man being alone by being designed as a helper and a counterpart for the man. Let’s ensure that we not only believe this, but are seeking ways that we can better put that original purpose into practice in our marriages. When woman was created with God’s image – God sent the message that he wanted our marriages and families to be more than a smart social and economic decision. He was creating the opportunity for the physical and spiritual union of marriage that can serve mankind’s purpose to glorify God in his body and his relationships. From the beginning these truths were so, are they so in your marriage?