Made for each other

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If Genesis 1 introduces us to the creation of humanity, chapter 2 fleshes it out giving us a bit more detail about the creation of man and woman. At this stage we are told that there was no bushes and small plants of the field, a reference here I believe to cultivated plant life because plant life already existed in some form from day 3 of creation.[1]  At this stage, there was no rain but there was a form of mist that gave some moisture. However, creation also lacked someone to cultivate and care for the land.[2]

This is the context into which God speaks and acts by making man. Here we see that the creation of humanity comes in two stages. First God makes man (male) before later making woman from man (.  Notice that God does not simply speak now and man is not create ex nihilo (from nothing). Rather he is formed from the ground. The Hebrew for mankind adam has its etymological roots in the word for ground or earth adamah so that some suggest that we might refer to people as earthlings, groundlings or grounders. There is a close connection between those called to work the soil and the soil which they work. Indeed, you will observe too, later in the chapter that the animals are also made out of the ground. It should therefore have been no surprise then when the Human Genome project discovered the close relationship in terms of DNA between humans and animals. The Bible had said all along that we are made from the same materials.

God breathes life into man. Notice that this emphasises the creator, creature distinction. We may have life from God reflecting that we bear the divine image but this life comes from him so that are dependent upon him unlike God who has “life in himself”.[3]

Then God places the man in a garden that he has prepared for him.[4] The imagery here is something guarded, cultivated and ready to sustain and nourish humanity. Notice how this is echoed later in Deuteronomy when God’s people are promised a land where God will defeat their enemies and where they will live in cities they did not build and harvest fields that they did not sow. [5]

God places man in the Garden and gives him a purpose, a job to do. He is to “work it and keep it” or “tend and guard”.[6] In “How did we get here?” we talked about how this is worship language applied also to the Levites and their service in the Tabernacle and Temple [7]  We might also pick up on Paul’s charge to the Ephesian elders and their responsibility for the church to provide by feeding with spiritual food and to protect by guarding against false teachers and abusers. Furthermore, his responsibility here to work the land flows out of humanity’s commission to subdue the earth and have dominion over it.[8]

At this point, we might be tempted to see the description of man’s role, working the earth and consider it to be highly similar to the way that other origin myths talk abot the gods making men as worker-slave for them. The difference here is that:

  • God’s creation is purposeful not incidental
  • God is not dependent upon humans to  do his work, he is able to sustain and protect effortlessly. Nor does he need food providing for him.
  • In Genesis, God provides first for humans and they are constantly provided with good things to enjoy,
  • We will see in Genesis 3 that there is a relationship between God and the groundlings so that he walks in the garden with them.

God sets boundaries. He places trees at the centre of the garden, one Adam may presumably eat from, the other he must not, otherwise he will die.[9] We will come back to this later when we look at the fall of man. However, the key thing I want to draw your attention to is that it is the context of Adam’s commission to work, to worship and to faithfully obey God obediently that God says that it is not good for him to be alone.[10] This helps us to think about what aloneness means.  It is not about loneliness and needing company but rather, it is about he need for a partner in what God has called him to do.[11]

This is why Adam needs a helper, suitable for him, literally one who is like him but  opposite to him, equal in nature but bringing a different role to bear. [12]   Notice as well that Eve is suitable in a way that the animals are not suitable. Eve is to be Adam’s partner and soul-mate.  Together, and only together can man and woman fulfil the mandate to fill and subdue the earth, to be blessed and to multiply.

Now, the risk here is that it can all sound functional, devoid of what we might refer to as romance. Some commentators and even pastors have handled Genesis 2 in that way and the result is a dry view of marriage and relationships.  It is as though the God who creates us is just an engineer but of course he is not, he is artist, poet and storyteller too.  So, we cannot move on without pausing to capture something of the beauty and poetry in Adam’s response to the creation of Eve from one of his ribs

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[13]

And further in the author’s comment that:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.[14]

Here we are pointed towards the exclusivity and the intimacy of marriage.  It is clear both from Adam’s poetic description of his wife and of the comment that man will leave and cleave that the relationship is characterised by love.

[1] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 58.

[2] Genesis 2:5-6.

[3] John 5:26.

[4] Genesis 2:7.

[5] Deuteronomy 6:10-11.  22:2.

[6] Genesis 2:15.

[7] See Numbers 3:7-8; 4:23-24, 26 and Deuteronomy 4:19. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 67.

[8] Acts 20:26-31

[9] Genesis 2:16-17.

[10] Genesis 2:18.

[11] See Cf. Ash, Marriage, 121

[12] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 68.

[13] Genesis 2:23.

[14] Genesis 2:24.

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