Published: 22 February 2021

It Is Not Good For The Man To Be Alone

Everything God created functioned as intended – it was good, very good (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). However, God said the man’s situation was not good because, as a solitary human, the man could not function as God intended. There were no others like the man and because of this, for the first time there was dysfunction in God’s creation. God’s solution to the situation was to make the man a counterpart:

“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.”” (Gen. 2:18 CSB)

The man had been given the task of naming all the animals God created (Gen 2:20). This was God’s way of demonstrating to the man that while all the animals had mates that were similar to one another, there were no beings who corresponded to him.

Adam’s rib

“So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.” (Gen. 2:21 ESV)

Rib is from the Hebrew word tsela (צֵלָע) and is usually translated “side” in the Old Testament. It is not an anatomical term. Instead it usually refers to, for example, the side of a building or when referring to one side of a two sided structure. For example:  

You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. (Exod. 25:14 NASB)

He then built a chambered structure along the temple wall, encircling the walls of the temple, that is, the sanctuary and the inner sanctuary. And he made side chambers all around. (1 Ki. 6:5 HCSB)

It is curious how the word rib made its way into the English Bible when the Hebrew word is never translated rib anywhere else. It is interesting to note that Adam didn’t think she was made only from a rib bone: 

“The first question to ask is whether the text suggests that Adam thought of Eve as having been built from his rib. The text gives us the answer: he did not. The first words out of his mouth were: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). More than a rib is involved here because she is not only “bone of his bone” but also “flesh of his flesh.””[1]Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (p. 77). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

As Walton observes in the quote above, Adam states there was more to Eve than just a bone from his side. Flesh was involved as well. The implication is that Eve was formed by splitting Adam in half! The practice of referring to our spouse as our “better half” was quite probably a literal statement for Adam and Eve.

Adam’s little helper?

When we read that Eve was to be a helper for Adam, it almost automatically conjures up images of a person of lesser skill aiding a more experienced person. In our minds, we tend to think of the relationship of a small child “helping” mom or dad wash the car, or clean out the garage. This notion is dead wrong when it comes to Eve’s relationship to Adam.

Eve’s role was not to be Adam’s subordinate, but to provide for him what he could not provide for himself. With Eve’s presence, the situation has gone from “not good” to “good.”

The word helper is translated from the Hebrew word ezer. In Hebrew there is no inferiority or condescension associated with this word. In fact, God is called a helper in numerous places throughout the Old Testament:

[T]he name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). (Ex. 18:4 ESV)

Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. (Psa. 33:20 ESV)

But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay! (Psa. 70:5 ESV)

He destroys you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper. (Hos. 13:9 ESV)

The late Jay Guin astutely observed:

“In the vast majority of cases, ‘ezer refers to God himself. In a few cases, the enemies of God’s people are criticized as not being the helper that God is. Indeed, ‘ezer is seen as a central element of God’s relationship with his people.

Obviously, God’s calling Eve ‘ezer does not mean that Eve is subordinate to Adam or that women are subordinate to men. If that were so, then God’s inspiring Moses, David, and the prophets to call God ‘ezer would mean that God is subordinate to Israel! Calling Eve “helper” certainly means that Eve was Adam’s complement. She completed what was lacking in Adam. But there is no basis in the scriptures to find subordination or a principle of male leadership in this word.”[2]Guin, Jay. Buried Talents (p. 33) 

In the creation context ‘good’ refers to functional viability[3]Walton, John H. “Human Origins and the Bible: Human Nature in Theistic Perspective.” Zygon, (2012) no. 4: 883. which can be inferred from the fact that Adam was dysfunctional (unable to fulfill his role) without a partner. 

Eve’s role was not to be Adam’s subordinate, but to provide for him what he could not provide for himself. With Eve’s presence, the situation has gone from “not good” to “good.” It is good not merely because Adam now has a reproductive mating partner, but also because he now has an ally and companion. With his “other half” he is now complete and all things function as God desired.

Opposites attract

“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.”” (Gen. 2:18 CSB)

We can make two relevant observations about God’s answer to Adam’s predicament. 

  1. The helper that God created for Adam was oppositely gendered.
  2. God created a single helper for Adam, not many helpers.

The narrative in Genesis 2:22-25 makes point number one above obvious, but it is reinforced by the author’s choice of words. The word corresponding (suitable, fit, etc.) in Genesis 2:18 is translated from the Hebrew word kenegdo which is defined as “that which is opposite, that which corresponds.”[4]Koehler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, and M. E. J. Richardson, eds. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Accordance electronic ed., version 3.6. Leiden: Brill, 2000.   

The NET Bible translator’s notes provides additional information about the expression:

“The Hebrew expression כְּנֶגְדּוֹ (kᵉnegdo) literally means “according to the opposite of him.” Translations such as “suitable [for]” (NASB, NIV), “matching,” “corresponding to” all capture the idea. (Translations that render the phrase simply “partner” [cf. NEB, NRSV], while not totally inaccurate, do not reflect the nuance of correspondence and/or suitability.) The man’s form and nature are matched by the woman’s as she reflects him and complements him. Together they correspond. In short, this prepositional phrase indicates that she has everything that God had invested in him.”[5]Harris, W. Hall, eds. The NET Bible Notes. 1st, Accordance electronic ed. Richardson: Biblical Studies Press, 2005.

Therefore, the narrative itself and the choice of the word kenegdo to describe Adam’s companion makes it clear that she was not the same gender as Adam. 

Related to point number two above, it is also abundantly clear that God made Adam one female partner and not many. Therefore, we may confidently conclude that God’s created order of one man and one woman in a marriage was ‘good’ (functional) and that any other arrangement is dysfunctional. As cliche as it may sound, God did not make Adam and Steve, He made Adam and Eve. 

One flesh

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24 ESV)

The ideal for marriage, as God intended it, was that we would leave our parents – the  closest biological relationship possible – and join with a biological outsider. Marriage, the union of two biologically unrelated people, is meant to be a closer relationship even of that between parent and child. 

We can now see that Genesis 2:24 makes more of a statement than we had envisioned. Becoming one flesh is not just a reference to the sexual act. The sexual act may be the one that rejoins them, but it is the rejoining that is the focus. When Man and Woman become one flesh, they are returning to their original state.[6]Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (pp. 80-81). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition. (emphasis added)

Perhaps Matthew Henry said it best:

“Eve 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.”

References

References
1 Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (p. 77). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
2 Guin, Jay. Buried Talents (p. 33)
3 Walton, John H. “Human Origins and the Bible: Human Nature in Theistic Perspective.” Zygon, (2012) no. 4: 883.
4 Koehler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, and M. E. J. Richardson, eds. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Accordance electronic ed., version 3.6. Leiden: Brill, 2000.
5 Harris, W. Hall, eds. The NET Bible Notes. 1st, Accordance electronic ed. Richardson: Biblical Studies Press, 2005.
6 Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate (pp. 80-81). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.