18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 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. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“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.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. – Genesis 2:18-25 ESV
During each phase of the creation process, God had repeatedly declared His divine satisfaction with His handiwork.
And God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:25 ESV
And after “God created man in his own image…male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 ESV), He “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ESV). The sixth day of creation ended with God’s resounding approval of all that He had made, including the first man and woman.
But in chapter two, Moses reveals that there was a moment in the creation story when God was not satisfied. He had formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). Then God had placed Adam in the garden He had created for him to live in and care for. Yet, while Adam bore God’s image, had been animated by God’s breath, and lived in an idyllic environment where He could enjoy God’s constant presence, there was something missing. God evaluated the situation and concluded, “It is not good that the man should be alone…” (Genesis 2:18 ESV).
This should not be construed as a mistake on God’s part. It was not a case of divine oversight or a sudden revelation on God’s part that His creation was somehow flawed. As chapter one revealed, it had always been God’s plan to create man (‘āḏām) in His own image, and that image would include two genders: male and female. This biological diversity was absolutely necessary if ‘āḏām was going to obey God’s mandate to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV).
In chapter two, Moses is simply revealing the underlying purpose behind God’s delay in making the female version of ‘āḏām. Because God had endowed Adam with the ability to reason and the capacity to create, He assigned Adam the responsibility of naming every living creature He had made.
The Lord God formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. – Genesis 2:19 NLT
While the creatures had been formed out of the ground just as Adam had been, that is where their similarity ends. They lacked the ability to name themselves because they had no capacity for reasoning or speech. They were driven by their natural animal instincts. But Adam, who had been made in the image of God, was able to think, discern, create, and comprehend in ways that set him apart from every other living creature. That is why God had assigned to him the sole responsibility of subduing and having dominion over the rest of creation.
Adam’s God-ordained assignment to name the animals had a secondary purpose behind it. As he observed each species of creature, Adam realized that each of them had a corresponding mate. There was a male and a female. But Adam quickly noticed that there was no one who looked like him.
…but for Adam no companion who corresponded to him was found. – Genesis 2:20 NLT
It seems quite likely that as Adam carried out his creature-naming assignment, he observed some of them carrying out God’s divine mandate to procreate. Yet, he had no companion or female counterpart. God had already recognized this void in Adam’s life and had predetermined to remedy it.
“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” – Genesis 2:18 ESV
But it was important that Adam recognize his own insufficiency. He was not meant to be alone. So, as this lone male observed the natural state of God’s creation and saw that every other male creature had a female counterpart, he developed a growing awareness of his need and of his own inability to do anything about it. According to the NET Study Bible notes, Adam suddenly realized “there was not found a companion who corresponded to him.”
God had always intended for Adam to have a companion. But this “helper” was meant to be far more than a friend. She was to complement and complete Adam. Only as male and female could they successfully bear God’s image and spread His glory across the earth. Without Eve, Adam would have been unable to carry out God’s Kingdom mandate. He could not have multiplied and filled the earth. He would have been incapable of making more of his own kind. And as soon as Adam recognized his need, God stepped in to do something about it.
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. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. – Genesis 2:21-22 ESV
God performed the first surgery. He anesthetized Adam, removed one of his ribs, then miraculously closed up the wound. In Hebrew, the word translated as “rib” is צֵלָע (ṣēlāʿ), and it can also be translated as “side.” It was used to refer to the ribs of a boat or the planks of a house. The imagery is meant to convey the woman’s intimate and interconnected relationship with Adam. God could have formed the woman out of the dust of the ground, just as He had done with Adam. But instead, God chose to make the woman from man. Unlike any other “companions” in God’s creation, the man and the woman would share a unique and irrevocable bond.
“. . . the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; 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.” – Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible
They were the same, but very different. Adam was זָכָר (zāḵār) – a male. Eve was נְקֵבָה (nᵊqēḇâ) – a female. The Hebrew word for “female” is derived from another word, which means “to pierce.” It seems that Eve’s designation as a female has biological implications that demonstrate the complementary nature of her relationship with Adam. But while all the living creatures were given the ability to copulate and procreate, man and woman were to enjoy a relational intimacy that went far beyond the act of breeding and propagating their kind.
When Adam awoke from his divine surgical procedure, he was given his first glimpse of his new companion and he shouted, “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” (Genesis 2:23 ESV).
The Hebrew term הַפַּעַם (happaʿam) conveys a sense of extreme relief. It could be better translated, “now, finally, at last” (NET Bible study notes). During all the time he had spent naming the living creatures, Adam had grown increasingly more frustrated with his inability to find a mate. He knew something was wrong but had no way of fixing the problem. Yet, when Adam saw what God had done, he was blown away. And true to his original assignment, Adam immediately gave this striking creature a name, “Woman.”
The Hebrew word for “woman” is אִשָּׁה (‘iššâ), and, in the Old Testament, it is most often translated as “wife.” When spoken, this word sounds similar to the Hebrew word for “man” – אִישׁ (‘îš). It seems that Adam immediately recognized that this creature was meant for him. In a real sense, she was the answer to his prayers. And he knew that her link to him was more than simply biological – it was physiological. She came from him. She was “flesh of his flesh” (Genesis 2:23 ESV). They shared a unique and inseparable bond that was unmistakable and undeniable. Adam knew that they were meant for one another. Nothing else would do.
And Moses provides a summary statement to underscore the unique nature of the relationship between a man and a woman that would later manifest itself in the marriage union.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24 ESV
Moses recognized the long-term implications of this first union between a man and a woman. It was far more than a sexual relationship. At this point in the story, Adam and Eve had not had time to consummate their union. The term “one flesh” speaks to their “blood” relationship. They literally shared the same “flesh and bone.” And Moses understood that this unique relationship shared by the first man and his wife was to be a model for all future couples. From that point forward, Adam and Eve were considered as one in God’s eyes. Their divine union was to be inseparable and indissoluble.
Jesus would refer to this very moment in time when giving His insights regarding marriage and divorce.
“…from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” – Mark 10:6-9 ESV
God had made Eve from Adam. And God had returned to Adam what He had taken from him. According to God’s divine mathematical formula, these two individuals were no longer two but one. And Moses accentuates the “very good” nature of this God-ordained union.
And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. – Genesis 2:25 ESV
There is a sense of innocence and intimacy in this statement. At this point in the creation story, the first man and woman were completely content with everything about their circumstances. They lacked nothing. They had no need for clothing, food, water, or shelter. The world in which they lived was perfect. They were able to enjoy one another’s companionship and live in intimate and unbroken fellowship with God. And yet, we know how the story ends. This perfectly matched couple was about to experience the very real danger of discontentment and doubt. It was just a matter of time before they succumbed to the very thing that Jesus would later warn about in His sermon on the mount.
“…do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” – Matthew 6:25-27 ESV
The peace and joy of the garden were about to be replaced by anxiety and discontentment. This perfectly paired couple would soon reveal humanity’s predisposition for self-deception and self-determination. While God had provided them with everything they could ever need, including one another, they would soon reveal their dissatisfaction through an act of blatant disobedience. And the world would never be the same.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.