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By Stephen Green. (First published in Christian Voice: September 2009)
Gen. 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in
; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Seven times during the creation account God saw that what He had made was good. The light was good, as was the division of earth and sea. The vegetation was good, and the separation of night from day. The fishes of the sea and the beasts of the field were good. Finally, as God stepped back and saw it all, including the creation of man and woman in Gen 1:27, it was all good.
Then we have this detail in Genesis 2 in which the creation of man is set out more completely, and the Bible tells us that God saw that the man being alone was 'not good'. This was the first thing God observed in creation that merited such a description. In order to make the situation 'good', the woman was brought into being to complement the man.
Clearly, there is no contradiction in the accounts, but we fallible human beings are being taught something profound. Knowing we are a bit slow on the uptake, the Bible is trying to drum some important truths into us.
GOD'S FIRST SOCIAL INSTITUTION
Here are some I have seen, by God's grace. Firstly, the family is an important institution in the eyes of God. Families, as brought into being by God and designed as the lifelong union of one man and one woman, form the building blocks of any stable society. We are also shown how the family should relate to the state.
In these opening chapters of the first book of the Bible, we read how God created the family as His first social institution. So the family, based as we see on the union of a man and a woman, is of primary importance in the way God has designed human society to work. The creation of the family predates organised worship, the institution of the church, in Genesis 4:26, and a system of law and order to restrain evil, that of the state, in Genesis 9 and 10. But neither supplants the family. Neither takes it over or gives it permission to exist.
We have the fundamental right, and the natural desire, to be joined in marriage, not because the Church in an order of service or the State in a Constitution or the United Nations in a Charter of Human Rights says so, but because God says so. Nor may any human government redefine marriage or the family into a perversion of God's original design.
Secondly, marriage, on which the family is based, reflects something of the character of God Himself. Just as the Triune God is in fellowship, and desires fellowship with man, so man, created in His image, desires fellowship with God, and fellowship with other human beings. And the first and greatest fellowship of all is that of a man and a woman in marriage. As the Psalmist says: 'God setteth the solitary in families' (Psalm 68:6).
THE WIFE COMPLEMENTS THE MAN
Thirdly, in the anti-homosexual joke that God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve, lies a much deeper truth. When God saw that the man needed a helper, He did not make for him a buddy, or a valet, or a workmate. He made him a wife, and in contrast to the animals (let alone to another man) Adam recognised her as someone he could be one flesh with. The intimate parts of the human body are indeed designed to show at a physical level the emotional and spiritual complementarity of man and woman. Two men or two women can never be 'one flesh' at any level; only a man and a woman can do that.
If the Lord had merely wanted the man to be more efficient in his daily life, a cook could have met Adam's need for refreshment at the end of the day's work. But the man had more on his mind than food. Come to that, a gardener would have been a greater use in the dressing and keeping of
. But the man had deeper needs than just to get the work done, important as that was, and is, as we shall see. He had, and still has, the need to form a spiritual, emotional, intimate and sexual bond with someone of the opposite sex. And the human race needed and still needs to procreate. Although the man's need is presented in terms of a helper for his work, verses 23 and 24 immediately show that a lot else is going on.
A dog may be man's best friend, but the man needed more than someone to round up the stock we read about in verse 20, eat from a bowl and sleep at his feet when the day's work was done. He needed someone to stand at his side, help and advise him in his work, know him inside out, and share fellowship with him at the end of the day.
IN FELLOWSHIP AT THE END OF THE DAY'S WORK
The expression 'meet for him' in verse 18 means 'appropriate for him' in English but 'as before him' in the Hebrew. There is an emphasis on the need for someone to complement the man, to make him complete. By the way, let us be clear that it was not 'a helpmeet' the man needed, whatever one of those is, but 'a help (pause!) meet for him'.
Because the man needed someone to complement him, someone from the same genetic pool as him but still different, a friend of the same sex would not do. Men may like each other's company, and depend on it in battle or on an expedition, but it does not fulfill all a man's desires and needs to camp down for the night with a travelling companion. They may share a good meal and a yarn, but there is something missing and that something is a character complementary, intimate, one-flesh, meet for him. There is a lovely picture of the conclusion of the day's work and the simple joy of a man and his wife sitting down together over a meal in Ecclesiastes Chapter 9:
Eccl. 9:7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.
9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
The reference to bread and wine finds an echo in the Lord's Supper, or Holy Communion. The man and his wife are at every level 'in communion' with God and with one another, in the mystical one-flesh bond. That is why Eccl 4:9-12 speaks of the joy and necessity of a companionship between two people and then suddenly talks of 'a three-fold cord' which is 'not easily broken.' The Lord is the other cord in the marriage.
MAN WAS MADE TO WORK AND THE WIFE TO HELP
Fourthly, there is another important detail of the creation of man and woman which is often overlooked. The way it happened was like this: (1) The man was formed outside the garden from the dust of the ground. (2) He was brought into the garden. (3) He was given work to do. (4) A wife was made for him to help him in that work.
It was only after the man had his work to do that the need for the help 'meet for him' was expressed. The order of events is important. Man was created outside, in the wilderness, but brought into a place of God’s order and beauty. But in that place, man was not created to hang around or be idle, but to work for His Lord. And then, having been set his work, the wife was made for him. We should note that a wife is to help her man in his divinely-appointed work, not help him to be a layabout.
Nor was the woman created from the man so that the two of them could go off and find work together; the man was already working when God said 'it is not good that the man should be alone.' So the old adage that a man should be working and through that to support his wife finds support in scripture. We live in a society where the cost of living and heavy taxation have combined to force most families to seek two incomes to make ends meet, but it was not meant to be like that. But equally, the man was given a wife to help him, not to spend hours each day drinking coffee with her friends. Neither the man nor his wife were created for a life of idleness and ease. Both are intended to work.
Nor was the woman working and the man made to help her. That might appeal to feminists, but it is to put everything the wrong way round. In fact, in Genesis 3 we find that the man and the woman did put things the wrong way round; she took authority over the situation and he was too weak to resist her. God's judgment put things in the right order again, by saying to her, 'thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee' (Gen 3:16).
It has been shown above that the man was made outside the garden and brought into it to work, while the woman was made inside. Ever since then, a man needs from time to time to leave his immediate circumstances of relative peace and order, where his wife and family are, and do something different. He seems to want to 'get back to the wild.' He may not do that physically, although most men do like being outside, particularly those with office jobs; but he can 'get outside' in art or music, or in social company, or by going fishing, or whatever is just a bit different. Primitive societies, like the hunter-gatherers, live out the divine distinction between the roles of men and women.
WIVES TO BE GOOD KEEPERS AT HOME
In contrast to the man, when the Bible advises women to be 'good keepers at home' (Titus 2:4‑5), it reflects the location of her creation. The focus of her attention is or should be on things but which might appear to her man to be more mundane but which are vital for both of them. And lest some sister begins to rebel over this natural order, she can reflect that by being the last being of God's creation, she is in some way the summit of God's creative genius. For the motoring enthusiasts, if man was the 404, she is the 407. And there is hardly a red-blooded man who will disagree with that observation. Certainly the writer of Proverbs 5:19 understood. Go and look it up!
God designed the man for work. And when He saw that it was not good for the man to be alone, He was saying that for our benefit, so that we might see things as He does. God did not 'give it a go' to see if the man would make out on his own. The wife was not 'plan B'. From the start God did not intend the man to be lonely. His intention always was that there would be a faithful wife alongside the man, supporting him and helping him in his work, to 'do him good and not evil all the days of her life' (Prov 31:12).
The complementary design of man and woman is expressed as we have seen at a physical, emotional and spiritual level. Man and woman are made for each other. Unlike homosexual parings, there is nothing self-limiting in the marital bond. And that is the case even when it appears that someone has married the wrong person. No marriage ever starts just right, any more than any person starts sinless. In the purpose of God we are washed with His blood and made perfect, and so is a marriage. Adam and Eve were, after all, not the greatest example of how male leadership and wifely submission should work, or how to bring up children, but they were still put right, blessed and redeemed.
DON'T MISS GOD'S
I am not arguing to accept anyone, because we are not to be ‘unequally yoked’, but some Christian singles set the bar impossibly high. They think they are waiting for the right person 'in faith' but they do so without ever wondering whether the person God Himself has set aside for them may not be quite what their shopping list specified. So they miss opportunity after God-inspired opportunity to be married and fulfilled.
By building a marriage on the scriptures, and by treating each other as the word states, growing together in the Lord, man and wife can soar to spiritual heights they might not even think about on their wedding day. Both Paul (1Cor 7:5) and Peter (1Pet 3:7) speak of the two of them being in powerful prayer together. We might even see prayer as part of the Christian man's work, in which he needs the ultimate prayer partner that only the help meet for him can be, knowing him as she does better than anyone else.
Much more could be said on this subject, and in countless books on marriage it has been. It has been the intention here simply to go back to the beginning, to find that all we read subsequently in the word of God concerning the relationship between man and wife, as in all Christian doctrine, finds its foundation in Genesis. And there we read:
It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
It is a simple word; but it expresses the heart of God and His design for men and women.