“God’s Image: Male and Female”
Lesson Text: Genesis 2:18-25
Background Scripture: Genesis 1, 2; 5:1, 2
Devotional Reading: Psalm 8
Genesis 2:18-25 (KJV)
18And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
19And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
20And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
21And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
22And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
23And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
25And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
To explain what was “not good” about the man's being alone and what that says about the importance of marriage.
To recognize that God did not intend for human beings to be alone, so God created both males and females.
To trust in the Lord for all of our needs, and to encourage and help one another build relationships.
An Unforgettable Wedding
Many weddings took place on April 29, 2011. But one in particular was quite out of the ordinary: the marriage of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. Millions witnessed the ceremony on TV and the Internet; an estimated one million people lined the procession route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. Depending on where a person lived, a significant adjustment in one's scheduling was required in order to witness the event as it happened. For example, a pub in Cincinnati, Ohio, opened its doors at 5:45 a.m. so patrons could witness the exchange of vows on its TV.
The lesson text for today records another unforgettable “wedding,” if we may use that term. It was unforgettable because it was the very first. This memorable occasion was not witnessed by millions of people. No cheering crowds were there; in fact, only three parties (not counting animals) were present: God, the first man, and the first woman. The account, however, has been read by hundreds of millions of people, for it is recorded in God's sacred Word, in Genesis 2:22, 23.
This record still has much to teach us about the meaning and the significance of marriage. It highlights a truth that today's world desperately needs to recognize: the origin of marriage is divine, not human. It is indeed “holy matrimony.”
Time: The dawn of human history
Place: Garden of Eden
Today’s lesson and the next three are drawn from the book of Genesis. Today’s text deals with part of God's actions on the sixth day of creation. According to Genesis 1:24-31, this is the day God created land animals and the first humans. The picture becomes fuller when we see the first man (Adam) being placed "into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it" (Genesis 2:15).
Some students maintain that the creation account in Genesis 2 is an entirely different, and even contradictory, account from that found in Genesis 1. But Genesis 2 should be considered supplementary, not contradictory, to Genesis 1. Some suggest that Genesis 2 is like the effect of a zoom lens, focusing especially on the events of the sixth day, primarily those involving the man and the woman created in God's image.
The focus within Genesis 2 on the creation of the man and the woman is most appropriate given the special place that human beings have in God’s creative activity. Only humans are said to be created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27), as what might be called the grand finale of God’s work. He saves the best for last, as confirmed by the additional details provided in Genesis 2.
Adam by Himself (Genesis 2:18-20)
1. What does God’s word reveal about man being alone? (Genesis 2:18)
The phrase “and God saw that it was good” appears at various stages of His creative work (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25). The assessment of the creation as “very good” concludes the entire account (Genesis 1:31). However, now God says that there's something in His wonderful world that is not good: the man is alone. In fact, in the Hebrew text, the phrase “not good” is at the beginning of the Lord's statement in 2:18.
What was “not good” about man's solitude? After all, Adam could fellowship with God, enjoy the beauty of the Garden and eat of its fruits, accomplish his daily work, and even play with the animals. What more could he want? God knew what Adam needed: “an help meet” There was no such helper among the animals, so God made the first woman and presented her to the man as his wife, companion, and helper. She was God's special love gift to Adam (3:12).
The word “meet” in this context carries with it the idea of “appropriate.” Therefore the help to be provided for the man is someone who will serve as an appropriate companion.
Thus something of the purpose for the creation of woman is already hinted at even before her creation takes place. She will complete the man, helping him become what he would not be capable of becoming were he to remain alone.
What Do You Think?
How can the church do a better job of ministering to those who are now “alone” as widows and widowers?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
In church programming l In church budgeting | Cooperating with community-based seniors programs | Other
2. For what purpose did God give Adam the task of naming all living creatures? (Genesis 2:19, 20)
The line out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field reflects what has already occurred on the sixth day of creation (see Genesis 1:24, 25). While the waters are said to have brought forth the various sea creatures and birds on the fifth day (1:20), all creatures are made from the ground or dust as noted in Psalm 104:29 (see last week's lesson). The man himself also has been formed "of the dust of the ground" by the Lord God (Genesis 2:7).
But now we come to new information: all of the creatures that God has made are brought before Adam for naming by the man. God wanted to prepare Adam for the change that would come into his life. But because the man had not ever known another creature of his kind, Adam needed to learn that there was a void in his life. Consequently, to have Adam recognize his need for a woman, God had Adam name the creatures roaming the land and flying in the sky, all of which the Lord had formed from the soil of the earth (Gen. 2:19). God then listened to what Adam named each creature. But in the process a sobering truth dawns: although they come from the ground as he does, none is quite like him. When God paraded the animals before Adam for him to name them, they doubtless came before him in pairs, each with its mate; (Gen. 1:21, 22) and perhaps Adam wondered, “Why don't I have a mate?”
The naming activity had at least a couple of purposes. First, it was a way for Adam to exercise his God-given dominion over the rest of creation (see 1:26, 28). Just as the Creator had named day and night and other basic features of creation, so Adam named the cattle, birds, and wild animals (2:20).
Second, the naming was a way for Adam to review the whole of the animal kingdom (so to speak) and discover at the end what God already knew. Specifically, Adam was alone as a human being. There was no one else like him. Indeed, not one of the animals was a suitable companion for the man to complement and complete him.
Adam with a Suitable Companion (Genesis 2:21-25)
3. How does God begin to meet the needs of companionship for Adam? (Genesis 2:21)
God now acts to address the man's incompleteness. This is a multistep process, the first of which is for God to cause a deep sleep to fall upon Adam.
The Hebrew word rendered deep sleep is used in two other places where the Lord acts in a literal, physical way on individuals: regarding Abram in Genesis 15:12, and regarding Saul and his companions in 1 Samuel 26:12. (Other uses of this word are found in Job 4:13; 33:15; Proverbs 19:15; and Isaiah 29:10.) It is during this divinely induced anesthesia that the Lord proceeds to the next two steps: removing one of Adam's ribs, then closing the flesh.
4. How was the creation of Eve different from that of Adam? (Genesis 2:22)
We learn that God did not create the woman from the dust as Adam had been. Instead, God formed Eve from one of the man’s ribs, that is, a part of Adam himself. Though Eve was made to be a “suitable [face-to-face] helper” for Adam, she wasn't made to be a slave. The noted Bible commentator Matthew Henry wrote: “She was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” Paul wrote that “the woman is the glory of the man” (1 Cor. 11:7); for if man is the head (1 Cor. 11:1-16; Eph. 5:22-33), then woman is the crown that honors the head.
5. How does Adam show his appreciation for the creation of woman? (Genesis 2:23)
When Adam awakens from his surgery, the recovery time is apparently very brief. He beholds in amazement the new individual before him and immediately understands that she is not like any of the creatures he has previously seen and named. The phrase “This is now” is somewhat difficult to translate from Hebrew into smooth English that will fit with the rest of the sentence. Literally it reads, “This is the time.” Perhaps an exclamation such as “At last!” fits the setting.
Adam acknowledges what makes God's newest creation unique: she is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. Adam is aware of the procedure he has just undergone. But rather than feel like he is “missing something” (a rib), he experiences a sense of completeness. His feeling of being alone has been remedied. He clearly sees a special individual before him—one with whom he senses a genuine kinship.
Adam then proceeds to “name” this new creation, just as he has previously named the creatures brought before him: She shall be called “Woman.” In Hebrew, the noun rendered “woman” is similar in sound and form to the word translated “man” that’s found here in English. From this we see that these terms reflect the basic similarity existing between the first two humans.
We should note at this point that the name Adam gives his new companion is really more of a description that recognizes what distinguishes her from the other residents in the Garden of Eden. Adam will not actually name her Eve until later, after the fall (Genesis 3:20). Out of all the designations that Adam has assigned on this sixth day, we can be sure that woman will be the one he will cherish most!
What Do You Think?
What are some ways that husbands and wives can use their similarities and differences to become a more complete reflection of the image of God?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
In thoughts (Hebrews 10:24) | In words (Proverbs 16:24) | In actions (Galatians 5:13)
6. How was the bond of marriage established between man and woman? What conflicts may arise when we don’t put our spouse relationship first in the sight of God? (Genesis 2:24)
Three significant stages in a marriage relationship are set forth in this verse. The first is that a man [shall] leave his father and his mother. Marriage involves the creation of a new bond; this is a bond with one's spouse, a bond that supersedes any close ties with parents. This does not mean that no further involvement occurs with the parents; the idea, rather, is that the parental bond is no longer the most significant relationship in the lives of the husband and wife.
Second, the man is to “cleave unto his wife.” The Hebrew word translated as cleave means “cling to” or “stick to.” It implies an especially tight bonding or loyalty. That is why the first step of fully leaving father and mother must be made. Marriage counselors can attest to the fact that many problems in marriages occur because loyalty to one or both parents continues to trump loyalty to one's spouse.
The third step is a result of the cleaving: the husband and wife become one flesh. This speaks primarily to the unity that is to characterize marriage in the sight of God. That oneness is rooted in the process by which woman was created. God actually did make two out of one by creating woman from man's rib; two then become one in marriage. The intimacy that this creates certainly includes the sexual relationship, but it cannot be limited to that. True intimacy means a sharing of every aspect of life lest the oneness be compromised.
What Do You Think?
What are some ways for unmarried people to seek fulfillment outside the context of marriage?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
1 Corinthians 7:7, 8, 32-35; 1 Timothy 5:9, 10 | Other
7. What did God originally intend for marriage to be like? (Genesis 2:24)
Genesis 2:24 was quoted by Jesus (see Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9) to provide a description of what God originally intended marriage to be like.
God's pattern for marriage was born in the loving heart of God for the blessing and benefit of mankind. No matter what the courts may decree, or society may permit, when it comes to marriage, God had the first word and He will have the last word (Heb. 13:4; Rev. 22:15). Perhaps the Lord looks down on many unbiblical marriages today and says, “From the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8). His original plan was that one man and one woman be one flesh for one lifetime.
God had at least four purposes in mind when He performed the first marriage in the Garden of Eden. First, He wanted suitable companionship for Adam, so He gave him a wife. He gave Adam a person and not an animal, someone who was his equal and therefore could understand him and help him. Martin Luther called marriage “a school for character,” and it is. As two people live together in holy matrimony, the experience either brings out the best in them or the worst in them. It's an opportunity to exercise faith, hope, and love and to mature in sacrifice and service to one another for God's glory.
Second, marriage provides the God-given right to enjoy sex and have children. The Lord commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Gen. 1:26-28). This doesn't imply that sexual love is only for procreation, because many people marry who are beyond the time of bearing children; but the bearing of children is an important part of the marriage union (1 Tim. 5:14).
A third purpose for marriage is to encourage self-control (1 Cor. 7:1-7). “It is better to marry than to burn” with passion (v. 9). A marriage that's built only on sexual passion isn't likely to be strong or mature. Sexual love ought to be enriching and not just exciting, and marriage partners need to respect one another and not just use one another. Throughout Scripture, sexual union outside of marriage is condemned and shown to be destructive, and so are the perversions of the sexual union (Rom. 1:24-27). No matter what the judges or the marriage counselors say, “whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).
Finally, marriage is an illustration of the loving and intimate relationship between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:22-33). Paul called this “a great mystery,” that is, a profound spiritual truth that was once hidden but is now revealed by the Spirit. Jesus Christ is the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) and therefore a type of the first Adam.
Adam was put to sleep and his side opened that he might have a wife, but Jesus died on a cross and His blood shed that He might have a bride, the church (John 19:33-37). Christ loves the church, cares for it, and seeks to cleanse it and make it more beautiful for His glory. One day Christ will claim His bride and present her in purity and glory in heaven (Jude 24; Rev. 19:1-9).
When Adam saw his bride, he burst into joyful praise (Gen. 2:23), as though he were saying, “At last I have a suitable companion!” Her identity as “woman” would remind everybody that she was taken out of “man,” and the term “man” would always be a part of “woman.” She was made from him and for him, and he needed her; therefore, they will always belong to each other and lovingly serve each other.
What Do You Think?
What can couples do to ensure their marriages reflect God's plans and purposes for marriage?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
1 Corinthians 7:10-16; Ephesians 5:22-33; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Timothy 5:14
8. Why do Adam and his wife feel no shame about been naked? (Genesis 2:25)
This is an interesting way to conclude this account. The issue of nakedness has not been mentioned thus far, but it will become a critical issue in the next chapter of Genesis, where Adam and Eve's disobedience is recorded. One of the consequences of their sin will be recognizing their nakedness and covering themselves (Genesis 3:7).
At this point, however, innocence characterizes the relationship between the first man and the first woman. The fact that their nakedness produces no sense of shame reflects not only that innocence but also the degree of intimacy between them. When sin intrudes, their innocence will depart. Their intimacy will be damaged badly, as shown by Adam's attempt to blame his wife, in whom he had originally expressed delight (Genesis 3:12, next week's lesson).
What Do You Think?
How have you seen sin affect intimacy?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Between God and people | Between spouses | Within the church | Other
POINTS TO PONDER
1. The creation of the first woman emphasizes our need as human beings to be in relationships (Genesis 2:18-22).
2. Because men and women were created for each other, they can unite in a marriage and become like one person (Genesis 2:23-25)-knowing each other’s thoughts, finishing each other’s sentences, and sharing each other’s hopes and dreams. But we also need relationships beyond marriage. God made us all with the desire to be lovingly related to others. Consider we live in a world created by God, we are creatures made in the image of God, and we enjoy multiplied blessings from the hand of God. How tragic that so many people leave God out of their lives and become confused wanderers in an unfriendly world, when they could be children of God in their Father's world.
We as sons and daughters of God must often ask ourselves… What am I doing to show the love God has for me to others?
The State of the Union (of Marriage)
For as long as most of us can remember, God's ideal for marriage has been under assault in Western society. “Living together” (which used to be called “shacking up”) has gained acceptance, even from some who have been brought up in the church. No doubt this cavalier attitude toward marriage is just one of many consequences that the Western world has experienced as a result of its rejection of a Judeo-Christian framework that defines marriage on biblical terms.
But this is not the time (nor is it ever) for the church to wave the white flag in surrender. We cannot allow the culture to set the terms of the marriage issue. Churches can offer sermons, retreats, and Bible studies on God's plan for marriage. Premarital counseling can be offered (or made mandatory) to those considering marriage in the church. Youth should be instructed during (or before) the high-school years about the biblical teaching concerning marriage and how the Christian marriage can serve as a model of the relationship between Christ and the church.
That last point is crucial. Ultimately, the assault on marriage undermines a key witnessing tool of the church. Strong marriages are an essential part of how the church witnesses on behalf of Jesus to a lost world (compare 1 Timothy 5:14, 15). When Paul uses marriage to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the church in Ephesians 5, he cites Genesis 2:24. That illustration remains a vital part of the church's message to whatever culture it is confronting. Marriage is meant to honor the Creator, and it is meant to honor the head of the church, Jesus Christ.
Unmarried Christians who are content to remain single may feel a bit uncomfortable by the declaration, “It is not good” that the man should be alone (Genesis 2:18). They may discover that their lifestyle allows them to serve the Lord with a freedom and flexibility that would not be theirs if they were married.
The single lifestyle is not inconsistent with the overall teaching of Scripture. Paul, whose high regard for marriage we have already noted, told the Corinthians that a married person has additional cares to address (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). Jesus acknowledged that some remain unmarried “for the kingdom of heaven's sake” (Matthew 19:12). Genesis 2:18 must be seen in its immediate setting. It was certainly not good for Adam to remain alone for several reasons, among them God's desire for humans to "be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28). Adam could not do that alone!
Living in a world affected by sin, we know that there are situations where singleness may be the preferred state in which one should live. Jeremiah was told to remain single and childless because of the hard times that God's people were to face (Jeremiah 16:1-4). Marriage would have made that man's prophetic task more difficult. One could even say that God demonstrated mercy toward Jeremiah through His command not to marry or have children: Jeremiah would be spared the heartache of seeing his wife and children suffer, and his family would be spared the heartache of seeing a husband and father suffer.
Seek God’s face concerning your life! (Matthew 6:33).
Father, may we give marriage the respect it deserves. In these troubled times, we pray for the strength and courage to speak on behalf of marriage as You created and ordained it. In the name of Jesus, whose bride is the church, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Marriage is "holy matrimony" because it was created by God.