If you were asked to write down what happened in creation, you’d probably write down things like God speaking, light and darkness, sun and moon, plants and animals, people. God made everything from nothing. Debates over the age of the earth. I believe the universe was created at a mature state so everything that needed to operate could and would.
But if the creation story is building toward something, then it stands to reasons that man and woman were the culmination of creation. We are made in the image of God, special creations of God designed to be his regents and stewards of creation. But it wasn’t the creation of mankind alone that put the finishing touch on creation.
What made creation “very good” was marriage.
If we detach marriage from its roots, we’ll be prone to do whatever we want with it. We’ll think of it as an institution that’s just a bunch of traditions that should change with the times. Creation was not considered complete or very good until the first marriage took place. We can no sooner change marriage than we can alter the laws of nature. We can certainly pretend to do so, but playing with the facts doesn’t change them.
Up until now, creation has been deemed good by God. The phrase “And God saw that it was good” appears four times. Then at the end of day six, we read, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Day six is when God made the animals that walk on the earth and mankind, both man and woman. Once man had a compliment in the woman, only then was creation very good. Only when man had a compliment in the woman was God finished with the work of creation.
Chapter 1 of Genesis is a summary statement of the what God did in the six days of creation followed by a Sabbath day of rest. Beginning in 2:4, the tape rewinds and the narrator spends a good deal of time focusing on the creation of mankind, both man and woman. We get more details about the special nature of humanity. Chapter 1 tells us that we are the image of God in his temple of creation. Chapter 2 describes the garden where mankind would live and man’s role in tending the garden, which takes place entirely on the sixth and final day of creation.
Mankind’s job is to multiply and maintain dominion over all of creation. So verse 18 says that God knew it would not be good for man to be alone, or to be the only one of his kind. All of the animals have their compliments, male and female, so man should, as well. Plants reproduce on their own with their seeds. But for whatever reason, God did not create man and woman in the same way he did the animals and plants. When he made the animals, there were male and female. Even they were made from the ground, like the dust from which Adam was made. When he made the plants, they were created with their seeds already in them. But man and woman were created independently of each other.
We should’t read verse 18 as if God didn’t realize at the beginning that it was not good for man to be alone. It’s simply a statement of fact. It is not good for man to be alone, God formed all of the animals from the ground, and he had Adam name the animals. But none of those animals were intended to be a compliment to Adam the way the animals had their compliments.
After making the man, God gave him his orders to maintain the garden and not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Those are his obligations. God also had Adam begin the naming process of the animals. It’s possible in the beginning there were fewer kinds of animals, not the huge number of species we have today. So Adam could have only been naming the animals for a few hours, not weeks and years. All it says is that God sent Adam the animals to see what he would call them, and whatever he named them, that was good enough. God had delegated that naming authority to man. At least that much transpired between the formation of the man and the woman.
And as Adam wrapped up his naming duties, he realized what God already knew. None of these animals were like him. He alone carried the image of God. He was a sentient being with a will and emotions. He had divinely appointed authority over these animals. They were part of his stewardship and dominion. They served him, not vice versa. He was given dominion, not them. He became acutely aware of his special place in creation but also of his loneliness in creation.
Man had no helper. The important word there is “helper.” It’s the Hebrew word “ezer,” which just means “one who helps.” What this word doesn’t carry is the idea of the helper being less than the one who is being helped. “Ezer” is used to describe God many, many times, and God is not less than the one he is helping. God is called our “Ebenezer,” meaning our “rock of help.” He is our strong place when the sand is ever-shifting. A “helper” is not inferior to the helped. That would have been a different word. The woman will not be a servant or a slave but a helper.
What will this new person help Adam do? What was the command given to the man? God told the man to multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. On his own, one man is wildly insufficient to do all of that. Some species of animals might reproduce in themselves, but mankind does not. Some tasks might be a one-man job, but reproducing and subduing is not. Man and woman will have a natural interdependence built into their relationship.
In the same way that Adam did not have a role in his own creation, neither will the woman. In fact, Adam’s only role in Eve’s creation is completely passive. God put Adam to sleep and got to work. Traditionally we read that God took a rib from Adam, but that word we translate as “rib” is really just “side.” God opened up Adam’s side, took some of Adam’s flesh and bone, and with that material formed the first woman. Adam was made from the dust, and Eve was made from flesh and bone.
Eve’s creation is special in another way. Up until now, God has “formed” or “shaped” the various components of creation. It’s pottery language. God is described as a potter taking the otherwise useless lumps from Genesis 1:2, where the earth is already present but formless and empty, and molding it into what we see today. But with the woman, he “builds” her. Some Bibles say “made,” but it’s literally “built.” She shares in the man’s strength. She’s made for work, just like the man. We’ll see later that differences between the two are plentiful, but they share the same essence. The woman is strong, but her strength comes from his strength. The order of creation will matter throughout Scripture, to Christ and his apostles, and to his church, but the dignity of the man and woman are completely equal.
Adam wakes up to find that he has a companion. Immediately he recognizes that she is no beast; she is no bird. She is his other half. He tells her, “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.” This is definitely a poem, because there is so much wordplay going on here.
“Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” shows us what she is like. She is in essence just like the man. She will be his family. Of course Adam knew what God had done with his side, taking the nucleus of the woman and building her. Other animals were also made of flesh and bone, but the woman is built out of his. She does not belong to him, but she is intimately tied to him.
“Flesh and bone” will continue to be a common phrase throughout Scripture. Being another’s “flesh and bone” is to be in a covenant with that person. In weakness and in strength, flesh and bone, you will remain one flesh, committed to each other, in sickness and in health, until death do you part. It is a saying implying unending loyalty. In 2 Samuel 5, David is being anointed king over Israel. The people come to him and say, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’ So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel” (2 Samuel 5:1-3).
The tribe of Israel looked back at the creation story, saw Adam making a covenant with Eve, and used the same language to make a covenant with their new king. When Adam tells Eve that she is his flesh and bone, he is committing himself to her in a lifelong covenant of care and protection.
If there was any doubt that this was absolutely a marriage, verse 24 settles it. Moses writes that because the woman was made from the man, a man will leave his parents’ home and begin a new home with a woman. In marriage, the flesh and bone are reunited. It’s a radical statement, because the same thing cannot be said about any other relationship. Even childbirth is a separation of flesh and bone. In friendship, there is no union of flesh and bone. God did not finish creation with friends or children. Only in the divinely ordered marriage is there a reunion of the flesh and bone that God himself separated at the building of the woman.
Men, we do not leave our father and mother and never speak to them again. We leave them in the sense of responsibility to them. You simply cannot care for two families at once as they need. But as the main caregiver and protector of the relationship, your priority is the care and protection of your wife. Why else is the woman not commanded to leave her parents? As God built the woman from the man, the man bears the responsibility of building the family. A family’s strength is found in proportion to the man’s initiative.
Men, husbands, fathers; take the initiative and stop the things that are keeping your family away from Lord’s Day worship. You are in charge, not the coaches. Nothing benefits a family spiritually like worshiping together with the church and in the home. Worship is a good reason to miss other things. Relax and recharge with your family after worship. Take charge of your family’s schedule. Find a time that works for everyone to pray with your family and read the Bible. You also don’t stop leading your wife when the children leave the home. You continue to prioritize the things of God at every stage of life. A family’s strength is found in proportion to the man’s initiative.
What, then, does the woman bring to a marriage? She brings help in being obedient to the command of God. The same command given to Adam and Eve is given to us. We are all, male and female, men and women, husbands and wives, told to be fruitful and exercise dominion. Wives, you bring a strength to the marriage that men do not. I’ve seen my wife give birth, and she’s seen me suffer through tummy troubles. We are not the same.
Note that while gender roles are a brute fact of creation, there is no sense in which there is to be any subjugation of women by men. Men do not subjugate women; tyrants do. Moderns have created this straw-man argument that Christians think all a woman can do is raise children and manage a household. First of all, who are they to belittle that? Is there any greater privilege than teaching children who God is and what he did for them? Is there any joy like seeing a child finally read a page out of a book when you’ve been working with them for weeks on how to read? Is it easy to keep a running list of who’s going where and what everyone needs? Don’t we pay managers six-figures to do that?
And if a wife helps her husband by being employed, so be it. There is nothing unlawful about it. Sometimes a second income is all but necessary. Some women are simply called by God to be titans of industry. The woman of Proverbs 31 is such a woman. Women were some of Christ’s main benefactors. Lydia, from Acts 16, is called out as a businesswoman who was converted along with her family and supported the church financially. Women: help your families as you feel led and as it pleases the Lord.
The passage ends with a beautiful line, that they “were both naked and were not ashamed.” In the first marriage, we see a principle for all future marriages. Most especially in that relationship, there should be a complete absence of shame and fear. Marriages after the fall are never entirely untroubled, but Christian marriages should be marked by peace and joy. We should learn to be comfortable in our own skin with this one other person. It should be the most natural relationship in the world.
And because of that, the best advice for the young and unmarried is to get married young. Getting married and raising children is the most civilizing thing in the world. Don’t put it off out of principle. There is this false narrative that you have to get your life sorted out and get settled before you get married. By that they mean you need this much money, be this far along in a career, yada, yada, yada. That is a complete 180 from the truth. How much better would those things be, how much easier is life, with a companion and a helper? Your boss will post a job opening the moment you get fired, quit, or die. Your family can’t replace you. Adam and Eve knew each other for a few minutes. Adam woke up and proposed.
Paul does of course call for some people to remain single as he was. But that is a special case. The normative call for all Christians is to marry and have children. One theologian said it like this: marriage shows the glory of the gospel; singleness show the sufficiency of the gospel.
Every marriage will carry with it certain troubles, all of which are common to marriage. Don’t think that because you have found “the one” that you will avoid those troubles. But if Christ is the center of your marriage, those troubles, while still quite persistent, will take place among the peace and joy of a Christian marriage.
Bridge Between Two Worlds
The New Testament does not change a thing about the creation of the man and the woman. There is no reinterpreting or rounding off the edges to fit contemporary taste. It is the creation story that gives Christ and his apostles their theology of what marriage should be.
Paul says in Ephesians 5 that wives should submit to their husbands and husbands should love their wives. It’s pretty widely understood that God commands into our weaknesses.
At the fall, God cursed the woman and said that Eve’s desire would be for her husband, meaning that she would desire his place and resent his leadership. Her husband was supposed to rule over her; the curse would be that she would resent it. Childbirth would be painful, not enjoyable. Two natural parts of womanhood, childbirth and submission to a Godly husband, would become points of contention instead of sources of joy. Paul says to redeem those things. He reminds us that even when living with imperfect sinners, the call for wives to submit to their husband’s leadership is still there.
At the fall, God cursed Adam by making work, the thing he was supposed to do anyway, a terribly difficult task. He did this because Adam listened to Eve instead of God. Adam knew better, but because of his weak leadership, because he did not protect his wife from the serpent’s deceit, he would have to work even harder at squeezing out an existence. And because of how hard he would have to work to get results, he would be tempted to resent his wife. So Paul tells us husbands that in spite of our own curse, the command to love your wife is still primary.
But before God cursed the man and the woman, he cursed another. The serpent who deceived the woman received the worst of all three curses. He would be the lowest form of life on land. The offspring of the serpent would not be little baby snakes but all those who reject the gospel. God tells the serpent that he “will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.”
The real enemy would never be your husband or your wife but the one telling lies to you about God. There is where the real strife comes from. But the promise of God is that there is coming a certain offspring, one in particular, who would put an end to all of that enmity and strife. The Father of Lies would be defeated by the Son of God, but it would give the appearance of a loss. Satan would bruise the heal of Christ, which would appear to be fatal. But the Son of God would deliver the final blow, not just bruising Satan’s heal, but crushing his head. It would be decisive.
By taking our sin upon himself, Christ begins the unraveling of all of sin’s curses, even the ones related to marriage. He was perfect and without any of his own sin. Though he died and gave the appearance of victory for Satan, it was a quiet, surprise defeat. On the third day, he rose from the dead and showed the enemy, the offspring of the serpent, that God has power over sin and death and every curse. In his resurrection, he purchased our salvation from the curse and God’s wrath once and for all.
The curses and the difficulties that every husband and wife carry into a marriage are part of the package. But Christ has overcome them all. When a husband takes the initiative in a God-honoring manner, when a wife submits to a God-honoring man, and both submit themselves to the Lord, marriage shows us the power of the gospel. The curse is defeated, and it was defeated by Christ, who died for his bride, the church.