Man and Woman in Genesis 2
Helping each other to be men and women
Recently we have been studying through the book of Genesis in the morning service (playlist here GraceJapan). When studying the creation of Adam and Eve and the first marriage a couple of things stood out to me.
To be a helper is to give strength to another.
Men and women are opposites.
Together they proclaim the image of Christ and the Church.
They become men and women in relationship with one another.
To be a helper is to give strength to another
In Genesis 2:18 the Lord says “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Peter Leithart has written a helpful article pointing this out (see Adam's Helper). To summarise briefly a helper is a rescuer and a saviour. The word help is never used in the Bible to talk about helping clean the house. The word is used in political and military contexts. Sometimes a helper can be a subordinate, like the men who served King David. Sometimes a helper can be a superior, God is called our helper. To be a helper doesn’t imply any kind of weakness but rather strength. The weakness is in the one who needs help. A helper gives their strength to one who needs it. To help is to rescue and save. The Net Bible suggests the idea here is ‘indispensable companion.’
Wives often get frustrated by their husband’s weaknesses yet this is an opportunity for them to bring their strength to the relationship. In the context Adam has been given a mission to fill the earth. He is unable to do this by himself. He needs the strength of the woman in order to fulfill God’s purpose for the world.
Men and women are opposites
A translation note in the NET Bible says this about the phrase ‘fit for him’.
“The Hebrew expression כְּנֶגְדּוֹ (kénegdo) literally means "according to the opposite of him." Translations such as "suitable [for]" (NASB, NIV), "matching," "corresponding to" all capture the idea… The man's form and nature are matched by the woman's as she reflects him and complements him. Together they correspond.”
A simple example of this might be two pieces of a puzzle. They are the same, both two pieces, but they are the opposite of each other. When you join them together you can see a beautiful picture.
Often a couple may go through trials in their marriage. Sometimes they say ‘we are just so different’. But difference is not the problem in marriage. Even if you found someone who loved the same things as you, who acted the same as you, after a while you will get really frustrated. Why? Because they will have the same problems as you too! Differences are a strength in marriage. The differences you have are meant to be places where you can support and give strength to one another. If you are married, aren’t you glad that your spouse is able to do things that you don’t do well? Or that they care about things that you don’t really find interesting? It is because men and women are physically different that life can flow out of their relationship.
In a church there are many different people from many different backgrounds. Yet in Ephesians 4:16 Paul will talk about each different part working together so that the body builds itself up in love. Once again the differences we have as a church are there for us to give strength to one another. As we serve each other in our different capacities we are able to become a place of love. Together we grow into the image of Jesus Christ.
Adam and Eve are the same, both human, both of equal value, yet as man and woman, they are the opposite of each other. This is not a problem but a beautiful thing. Man and woman complement and correspond to one another. It is because of their matching differences that life can flow from their relationship. With their matching differences a beautiful image can be seen when they are brought together.
Together they proclaim the image of Christ and the Church
Ephesians 5:31-32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Notice that Eph 5:31 is a quote of Genesis 2:24. To understand what Christians believe and teach about Marriage ‘Ephesians 5:32’ is the key. Marriage is God’s picture of Christ and the church. The husband represents Christ and the wife represents the church. He must love and act as Christ does towards His Church. She must love and act as the Church does towards Christ.
All that the Bible teaches about marriage is based on this truth. Why do Christians not support same sex marriage? Marriage is God’s picture of Christ and the Church. Will Christ marry Himself? Will the Church reject Christ to marry herself? Why is divorce not God’s will for marriage? Again Christ and the Church. Will Christ divorce His Church? Why does marriage cease in eternity? Christ and the Church. Marriage on earth is a picture of that relationship. When the real thing comes we do not need the picture anymore. Why not have three wives or two husbands? Christ and the Church. Will the Church marry Christ and Buddah? Why do we need marriage and not simply friendship without commitment. Christ and the Church. Will Christ leave the church when He feels like it? No, He is eternally committed to His Church.
Adam and Eve together in marriage proclaim the mystery of Christ and the Church. Together they multiply, fill the earth with life, and rule over the earth. This is the mission of man and woman and it is the mission of Christ in discipling the nations.
We become men and women in relationship with one another
When Adam sees Eve he sings poetry. “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 (vs23).”
Notice the difference in where Eve was made. Adam was made outside from the dirt but Eve was made inside the garden. In a sense a woman is not something dirty or something to defile. She is from the garden, a holy place, even the final act of creation. She is something to treasure not something to ruin and throw away.
The word for woman here is ‘Ishah’, the word for man here is ‘Ish’. It is possible that both words are related to Hebrew word for fire ‘esh’ (see here). In meeting a woman (fire girl) adam has changed from adama (dirt, humanity in general) to ish (man, fire).
Can women change men? Yes. As Eve’s existence is connected to the man, so his is connected to her. In meeting the woman the gardener has become a poet. The dirt has become a flame. Her arrival has brought the man out of the dirt (Adam). In a strange way the relationship between men and women helps each other to become men and women. Did Adam know he was a man before he met Eve? Did Eve know she was a woman before she met Adam?
Right now we live in a strange time. People can say that their identity is a man or a woman, or even a kitten or a dog, based on nothing outside at all. This identity is based simply on a feeling they have inside. They use this feeling to shape their identity and their reality. People are searching for identity within themselves. God call us to find our identity outside ourselves and ultimately in Christ.
Patricia Weerakoon in her book the Gender Revolution said “…the only way to answer the question “Who am I?” is to first settle the question “Whose am I?” As men and women we ultimately know who we are through our relationship with Jesus Christ. His word has come to us claiming us as His own. The name of the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit has been placed on us. We belong to Him. Who are we? We are sons and daughters of the king.
Adam and Eve’s relationship to each other help them understand and be who they are, and our relationship to Jesus Christ helps us to know who we are.