God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). Six times we read that God saw that His creation was good. In fact, in Genesis 1:31 God summed up all of creation and said in the emphatic that it was all “very good!” But we find a marked contrast in chapter two.
“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’” (Gen. 2:18)
“Not good” is a Hebrew word for incomplete. Did God make a mistake by making the man incomplete? No! He obviously wanted Adam, and us, to understand that the woman completes the man. It is God who gives woman to man in order to complete him.
Two expressions describe the role of woman in relationship to man.
Woman is to be, first of all, a helper. The word “helper” is the Hebrew word “atzer.” God’s design for the woman was that she be a help to the man. Another translation of the word could be “to assist.” “Assist” is not a synonym for enslave or rule. Eve was to help Adam in the garden.
This word was often used to describe God’s military help.
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help (atzer) you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Behold, all those who were incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; They shall be as nothing, And those who strive with you shall perish. You shall seek them and not find them— Those who contended with you. Those who war against you shall be as nothing, As a nonexistent thing. For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help (atzer) you.’” (Isa. 41:10-13)
The word was so common in Israel that Jews began to use it to name their children. Eliezar, God helps; Azariah, help from Yahweh; Ezra, helper; and Ebineezer, “rock of help.” (See Psalm 72:12 and Psalm 121:1-2).
The second expression that describes the role of the woman is suitable. She was to be made suitable for Him. “Suitable” means, “to correspond to.” The wife was to be a helper who perfectly corresponded to the man. It could also be translated “of like kind” – someone like himself who could meet his need for a partner. Remember that man was created to rule over all lower creation (the animals and the plants) and in the realm of his human spirit (his nephesh chayim), he was to have fellowship with God. He was to be satisfied with this. But he needed a helper suitable to him to help him.
First, God established Adam’s sovereignty over the animal world.
“Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.” (Gen. 2:19)
Before the fall, Adam was in a state of innocence before God. Adam probably had intelligence beyond anything that we can imagine today. Remember that Bible names often reveal some characteristic in the one named. “To name” in the Hebrew implies that God had given Adam the ability to understand the nature of animals and to name them accordingly.
“The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper (atzer) suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:20)
Every animal sent out a “mating call,” and there was an answer to its cry, but for Adam there was silence. There was no one with nephesh chayim to answer him. Adam was alone!
“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept, then the Lord God took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.” (Gen. 2:21)
We do not know what kind of “sleep” this was. S. Lewis Johnson in a tape series from Believers Chapel, in Dallas, Texas, called it some kind of “divine anesthesia.” What we do know is that man was removed from the scene. All the attention was upon God. While man slept, God removed one of his ribs.
“The Lord God ‘fashioned’ into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.” (Gen. 2:22)
Someone has written: “The rib was not taken from his head, indicating superiority. It was not from his feet, indicating slavery. But it was taken from his side, indicating that she would come along side of him as an equal.” The Hebrew word for fashion is “banah.” This was to distinguish this creative act from “bara,” to create out of nothing (Gen. 1:1) and from “yatzar,” to create from something (Gen. 2:7). “Banah” means to fashion or to shape. The woman was the second human being created by God. She was not taken from the soil but from the man. Both have significance, as we shall see later on. For believers in Jesus Christ, God still brings the woman to the man.
Suffice it to say, the woman did not look like Adam’s rib when God brought her back to him.
“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, She shall be called woman because she was taken from man.’” (Gen 1:23)
Dr. Howard Hendricks, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, called this a “tame translation” of the original Hebrew. He said that it should read, “Here now at last! Where have you been all my life? All the animals have their mates; now at last here is mine.” There was excitement! Adam called her “Isha,” woman, because she was taken from “Ish,” man.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24)
Found in this creation process is the true basis for marriage. Male and female were originally one flesh because they were both one in Adam. The woman was in him but she could not be seen. When Adam’s rib was taken from him and made into the woman, he became incomplete. He was no longer a whole person. He was a rib short!
God then fashioned the woman from that part taken from Adam. She really belonged to the man (his rib). When Adam received his rib back, he was again made complete; and when she was given back to him, she likewise was made complete. The two once again became “one flesh.”
Leave and Cleave
It was for this reason that they were to leave their father and mother. “Leave” means to be permanently severed from someone physically and emotionally. Marriage is not the extension of an old home but the starting of a new one. “Joined” is a Hebrew word which means, “to be permanently glued together.” So when the man got his rib back and the woman was placed back into the man, they once again become one flesh.
“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Gen. 2:25)
Remember there are two parts to God’s breath in man, man’s nephesh chayim. Their human spirit at this point was alive and active with fellowship toward God. With their mind they knew God. With their emotion, they valued God; and with their will, they chose to fellowship with Him. In fact, Adam walked with God, the Lord Jesus, in the cool of the garden each day. It is assumed that he had perfect fellowship with God, perfect fellowship with his wife Eve, and was in tune with his environment.
Because they were spiritually alive at this point, their physical nakedness had no evil connotation. It bore absolutely no shame. There was no need for clothes. Within them was no knowledge of good and evil. There were no evil thoughts and no inordinate sensual lusts. But all of this changed after the fall.
The Order of Creation
Let’s pause at this point to establish some insights that will become important later on. As mentioned earlier, the divine order of creation has extreme significance. Adam, created first, was taken from the soil. He became the image and glory of God (1 Cor. 11:7). He became the representative head of the human race, the federal head (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:23). Eve was created second, and she was taken – not from the soil – but from the man. She became the glory of the man because she was created for the man (1 Cor. 11:7). She became responsible to God through the man. (See “The Fall” and “The Consequences of the Fall”).
New American Standard Bible
Robert B. Thieme, Jr.
Howard G. Hendricks
Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew Definitions