It’s Not Good to Be Alone

While the first creation account simply has God creating male and female at the same time in her image, the second account takes a different approach:

15 The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it. 16 The Lord God commanded the human, “Eat your fill from all of the garden’s trees; 17 but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day you eat from it, you will die!” 18 Then the Lord God said, “It’s not good that the human is alone. I will make him a helper that is perfect for him.”

21 So the Lord God put the human into a deep and heavy sleep, and took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh over it.22 With the rib taken from the human, the Lord God fashioned a woman and brought her to the human being. 23 The human[g] said,

“This one finally is bone from my bones
and flesh from my flesh.
She will be called a woman[h]
because from a man[i] she was taken.”

24 This is the reason that a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh.25 The two of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they weren’t embarrassed. (Genesis 2:15-18, 21-24 CEB)

In the next couple of posts in this series I’ll examine more on the idea of marriage according to the Genesis account, specifically whether woman as “helper” says anything about gender norms and whether the fact that Adam and Eve are male and female is a prescription that this is the way marriage must/should always be.

Today, though, I want to look at the general concept of living in relationship and how that is so central. We’ve already seen in the Genesis account that God himself is by definition in relationship, even if you don’t think that the “we” language God uses is meant to be a pointer to the Trinity. Now God has created humanity for relationship with him. Relationship is pretty clearly important right from the beginning and that continues here.

I need to clear up a few things that often get lost in translation (literally) from the Hebrew. The usual way that this text is read is that God created the biologically male Adam, what we think of as “man” today. Then God decided that wasn’t good enough so he created a similar but different being – add a few parts here, take away a few parts there – in order to provide company. If we want to take a more literal approach, it does seem to conflict with the first creation account where male and female are made together, but I’m not taking a literal approach anyway so it doesn’t really matter to me.

Here’s another way, though, which I think is better, borrowed primarily from Jewish teachers. What if the original Adam was both male and female? I like the Common English Bible for a few reasons, and one is obvious in this text as they translate to “human” instead of “man.” In both the Hebrew and the Greek it could mean either way, although I think it is noteworthy that there was also a specific term for “male” which was not used. So if Adam was originally both male and female, this division is not God borrowing some parts and then changing it up, but is rather a division of one being into two. The other reasons I think that this theory is fair:

  1. Eve was taken from the “side” of Adam, which if metaphorical makes perfect sense to split Adam’s sides into two complementary elements. We use this language in English, too, to talk about our “masculine side” or “feminine side.” Two elements in complete union with each other.
  2. The division is then used to explain how the one flesh relationship of marriage restores the original united design which makes far more sense if they were one flesh to begin with than if they were only just similar.

Beyond that, I think it is a better theory in terms of consistency with the themes of the creation story and of the Bible in general. This theory would once again lead us to a high priority on relationship. We were not good enough alone, and it isn’t simply a matter of men needing certain traits that women often have. The original human, Adam, had all of those traits, but it still wasn’t good enough. That’s because relationships – romantic or otherwise – are of the prime importance. God had all the necessary traits, all power, but still created Adam for relationship with him, then divides Adam in order to give us the potential to be in relationship with each other.

Does this make our work efficiency suffer? Maybe it does. Probably it does, even. We have to communicate with each other, ask for help and receive, instead of just knowing all the necessary skills as a starting point and carrying on on our own. But God doesn’t seem to be primarily interested in efficiency. If she was, she wouldn’t have given us the option to eat the forbidden tree (more to come on that in this series), she would have just whipped Israel into shape whenever they strayed instead of speaking through prophets, and she would have stayed incarnated as Jesus to carry out the Kingdom mission instead of leaving it in our hands. But relationship is always more important than any of those efficiency losses that God suffered creating us in this way.

Before I wrap this up, I need to make an important addendum: this doesn’t have to be restricted to marriage. I tried to avoid specifically restricting it to marriage above, but in case I came across that way, I don’t mean for that. I think it is probably fair to say that usually marriage (when done right) is the strongest representation of the self-sacrificial relationships God calls us to. But while the complete “one flesh” relationship may be fully realized in marriage, this priority on deep relationship doesn’t have to be just marriage. We should be seeking that kind of relationship in all of our interactions. If we look at Jesus’ words that there won’t be marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:30), I think the point is that we will be so deeply connected with everyone that the specific marriage relationship won’t stand out as much or possibly won’t need to exist at all. There’s nothing stopping you, married or single, from seeking these deep and meaningful relationships now.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.