Men and Women: The Primary Distinction

In Chapter 1, we established the equality between men and women. Without considering the doctrine of the Imago Dei (Image of God), equality is impossible in the world. While Genesis 1 presented no differences in the roles or places of men and women, Genesis 2 does. In Genesis 1, we read an overview of the creation act. In Genesis 2, we zoom in on the creation of woman in particular. It can be said that the creation of woman is so special, she receives much more attention than the creation of man. I think this is right.

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. 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 suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man 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.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:19-25).

Just as God named the elements of his creation, He now has the man name His creatures. Man names every creature in the Garden but does not find a helper suitable for him, so God fashions one from his rib. When the man awakes, he declares that there is finally someone like him, after his kind, “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh…” The man names her “woman” because she was taken out of man.

In Chapter 2, we see a few differences between the creation of human kind from Chapter 1. They are not contradictory, just different. I think they are different on purpose. The woman is made according to the man’s kind after the man could not find his kind on the earth. This seems much like Chapter 1, where God is described as creating a person after His kind upon the earth. In the details, here, humankind is being set up to paint a picture of who God is and what God has done–His image in the particulars. In the creation, then, the man represents God and the woman represents humanity. The way the man feels about the woman is the way God feels about humanity. The woman is prized by the man. Humanity is prized by God. His church is Christ’s bride. That language throughout Scripture is purposeful. The woman represents the crown of God’s creation. She is wonderfully made.

Notice, the man could not find a suitable helper. With the creation of woman, he has a suitable helper. Without the woman, man could not fill the earth or subdue it or rule over it. The woman, and only the woman, is the man’s suitable helper–thus elevating the woman above the rest of creation. Since everything about people depicts something about God and since the woman represents all humankind, we can know that God has chosen to create humanity as His own suitable helper. God does not need people like the man needs the woman. But, He does want His image within His creation, and humanity is His suitable helper for such a purpose. In Genesis 3, the role of the woman in this divine, historical, living parable will become clearer. I don’t want to read too much into Genesis 2. All we can say is that the woman was created as a suitable helper for the man. Genesis 1 already revealed her equality to the man. Thus, the woman has a very important role in the order of creation, no less significant than the role of the man.

For this reason, because the woman is the kind of the man and his perfect helper, men in following generations are to leave their parents and cling to their respective wives. God’s purpose for each person is not that we remain adolescent. Each one is to become an adult. By the order of creation, this means being the image of God–man and woman together. This is one of the reasons I married young. This is the reason Christians consider marriage to be a relationship of utmost importance in creation. I understand that not everyone gets married. I understand that for any number of reasons, someone may live without a spouse. That does not mean someone is less loved by God or has a lesser place according to His plan. It does not mean some people do not have a purpose. This text does not tell us that God’s plan for every person is marriage. We do see that God’s normative plan in general is for a man to leave his parents and marry his wife. She is his helper. Without biblical marriage, men do not have a helper suitable for them.

The man is to be joined to his wife, and they become one flesh. This is not primarily a statement about sex, though I think sex is in view. The relationship between a man and wife runs deeper than sex can. It is an assuming of identity, which is why a woman traditionally takes the surname of her betrothed. When two people get married, they join in essence. One does not act without the other. They retain their identities. They are still individuals. Different persons, but they now exist as one flesh. This is not exactly like the Trinity, one divine essence existing in three persons, but it is a picture of God. When we are married, we become one flesh and two persons. God is glorified in His design, each time there is a wedding among His people.

The man and his wife are both naked and feel no shame. They are completely exposed before each other and God–no sin, no ulterior motives, no abuse, no rebellion, no shame. It is the perfect relationship.

We don’t know how long the first man and woman live this way. We do know that it will not last. In Genesis 3, they learn what shame is. We will get to see more about what it means to be a man or woman in the world today as we progress through the biblical account.

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