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Sermon preached on Genesis 2:18-25 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 02/19/2023 in Petaluma, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
If we have any woke guests here with us today, I have to warn you of something that may be upsetting to you. We are going to see Adam, a man, defining what a woman is. Today, we will focus primarily on the creation of the first woman and how she complemented the first man. Next week, I’ll return us to this passage to think more specifically about the institution of marriage by studying verse 24 in detail. While we will think some about marriage today, I especially will be having us to consider gender. Men and women have been created with both similarities and differences and our gender is something fundamental to humanity. So then today we have this opportunity to think about biblical manhood and womanhood.
Let us begin first with the idea found in verses 18-20, that God makes here for the man a “helper fit for him”. You’ll notice that phrase, “a helper fit for him” brackets those verses, so that groups those verses as a unit, around that theme. We begin in verse 18 to see God’s purpose behind the creation of the woman. God says that is not good for man, in Hebrew the adam, to be alone. After chapter 1’s repeated creative acts where God say this is good and that is good, here God says something about his creation that is not good – at least not yet. Man is alone, and creation will not be complete without the creation of his complement, and ultimately the marriage and family and society that will flow from that. In general, it is not good for humanity to be alone. God meant for us to be in relationship to others with the fellowship and community that comes with that.
Let me make that clear. Right now at this point, there was just this single male human. He’s all alone on this big planet. As God makes him a wife, that will provide him companionship. He won’t be alone anymore. But realize that it is just the start of addressing this. From their marital union, they will produce offspring, who will produce offspring, and so on and so on. So, from a marriage will come a family and from there more and more families, filling the world with humans who will be in community with one another. For God to say in verse 18 that it is not good for man to be alone, has to have in mind not just having two humans instead of one, but ultimately to have a world full of humans in family, community, and society.
But realize then the bigger goal of a world full of humans in community won’t happen without God’s beginning here with making a woman for the man. This speaks to this foundational element of marriage in society. Look at where we are at in the Bible. I said chapter 1 was a prologue, so really, right here in the very first chapter of the book, God tells us of this fundamental element of human society. Yes, there are some people that God calls to singleness, but in light of this passage, that should be more of the exception than the norm. Too many people today choose to remain single for wrong reasons, and if that’s the case, it is not good for them, and its not good for society. Again, there are people who are called to singleness, some who even desperately desire to be married, and I don’t want to be unsympathetic to that. But that doesn’t change what the Bible teaches here, that marriage, along the family it generally produces, is a foundational element of society. Our culture needs a renewed value for this institution.
So then, while verse 18 tells us God’s purpose and plan to create a match for Adam, verses 19-20 then proceed to show how God first brings all the animals before Adam. He has Adam inspect each and name each. On a side note, this is a part of that image of God in man. The reviewing and naming of things becomes an act of dominion, and even reflects God. Remember, in chapter 1 God gave name to the high-level items of day, night, heavens, and earth and seas. But God set us as his image bearers over the earthly creatures, and so we image God by then naming them. It’s an exercising of authority. After Adam names all these animals God brought before him, it becomes clear that there is not a match for Adam. Now Scripture doesn’t tell us God’s reason for waiting to create the female and having Adam first inspect the animals and see that there wasn’t a match. But I do note the joy here that comes from Adam when he finally is presented with his bride. Maybe God’s purpose was that Adam would appreciate Eve all the more when at first he didn’t have her. And maybe it also serves to remind us that our spouse is ultimately God’s blessed provision for us. I know today when individuals are single but seeking a spouse, it requires patience and you do have all the more joy when you are finally married. This sort of thing may be what is behind God’s purpose here. That would serve to further heighten our appreciation of marriage when we think of the anticipation of marriage and the subsequent joy when it finally happens. Or to take this as application, getting married is something to actively pursue, yet ultimately is God’s provision.
So then, after all this looking for a match, God is needed to intervene to create the first woman. As these opening verses tell us, God makes for man a helper fit for him. That description of a helper fit for him is emblematic of what I’ll keep saying today. In marriage, the man is to be the head of the woman; he’s to be the leader in the marriage. But in marriage, there is a fundamental dignity and worth of both the man and woman. So, there is a headship involving authority of the man over the woman, but never in any way that demeans or degrades or debases the woman. We see that taught throughout this passage, including in this description of God making a helper fit for the man.
What do I mean? Well, the headship idea can be found in this language that God made a woman for him, for Adam, one fit “for him”. This is not only an interpretation and application that we could derive ourselves, but it is what the New Testament explicitly teaches in 1 Corinthians 11:9. It says there that man was not created for woman, but woman for man. 1 Corinthians there is talking about biblical reasons for male headship in marriage and it says that this is one of those reasons. God made for man a helper fit for him.
At the same time, this idea of a helper fit for him also affirms that common dignity of both the man and woman. That language of “fit” is the idea that the woman is a proper match for the man. That there is something corresponding between the two. This is the idea of complementarianism. The woman and the man are complements to each other. They are not identical creatures, but when they come together they realize their full potential. Think of a bolt and its corresponding nut. They have different threads so that they correspond and come together to fulfill a common purpose. Man and woman are a fit together which expresses their common dignity and worth. Similarly, remember in chapter 1 that God told humanity was to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. The one male human could not have accomplished that on his own. But neither could one female human have accomplished it either. Only together could that be realized as these two complementary pieces come together. So then, male headship should not treat the woman lowly.
The same truth should be understood by calling the woman here a helper. Now, unfortunately I think that description of a helper is lost in translation. Some chauvinists use it to treat their wife like some lowly servant and some feminists think its an example of the Bible demeaning the role of women. People can hear “helper” in English and mistakenly think it’s describing at best something like a personal assistant. But that’s not at all how the Hebrew would have you think of this. In the rest of the Old Testament, almost entirely this word “helper” is used to describe God and the way he comes to the aid and help of his people when they are facing some big challenge or some powerful enemy. This word here for helper in the Hebrew is a word of strength. Husbands, see how valuable your wife is to you. This isn’t saying she is some pawn to keep busy. This is more like saying she’s your “ace in the hole”. This isn’t a word of weakness, but a word of strength. When this verse calls your wife a helper, it doesn’t demean her, it exalts her. The analogy that I kept thinking about was like in the Lord of the Rings, when the good guys are fighting some huge evil army, and they are losing the battle, and hope seems like it is fading, then all of a sudden Gandalf shows up with some huge army of reinforcements to save the day. Your wife is like those reinforcements; at least that’s the kind of imagery this Hebrew word of helper carries with it.
Let’s turn now to our second point and observe another new song. I refer to verse 23, where Adam’s response to God making a woman for him elicits this short sublime poetry. The song is poetically describing this unique act of creation whereby God took the man’s rib or side and somehow turned that into the woman. This poetic interlude here in the narrative conveys this joy of marriage as well as implying praise for God in making the woman.
I might note that this song in verse 23 has implications for marriage as we’ll see next week in verse 24, but technically this song is even more basic than marriage. It sings of the creation of man and woman. Interestingly, this is not only the first place in the Bible that the word “woman” is found, it’s also the first place in the bible that the word “man” is found. Up to this point, if your English Bible had the word “man” it was actually the Hebrew word adam, which is more like the word human than man. Here, in verse 23, the words man and woman, which in many contexts could be translated as husband and wife, make sense in contrast to each other. It’s not that Adam wasn’t a man before his wife was made. But the need to distinguish didn’t come until here. So then, the Hebrew words for man and woman are similar to the English, in that they share the same root. Hebrew for man is ish and Hebrew for woman is ishah; ish and ishah.
All this is to say that this song of verse 23 also expresses both difference and similarity between man and woman, even as their names ish and ishah express both. The similarity is found in language such as this is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”. Adam is literally saying that Eve is one flesh with him because of the rib that was taken from him to make her. He is acknowledging that physical connection and unity. They have a oneness and sameness, despite their various differences. The New Testament again reflects on this idea in the broader context of the institution of marriage. In Ephesians 5:8, it says husbands should love their wives as their own bodies, as their own flesh. It says that no one hates his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it. So, reading that thought back into Genesis here, we see that since the man and the woman are of the same flesh and bone, there is no place for Adam to treat Eve harshly or demean her in some way. To hate her like that would be to hate himself, since she is of him.
So then, we can also find differences here between the man and woman, which is also part of the basis for male leadership. One of those differences is that the woman was taken out of the man and not the other way around. This also means that the man was formed first then the woman. 1 Cor. 11:8 applies these facts as part of the basis for male headship in marriage, saying, “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.” And this application of male leadership is not limited to marriage. For example, in 1 Timothy 2:13 it says that the order of Adam being created first before Eve also has applications for church leadership. That is why the church has historically only practiced male ordination of pastors, elders, and deacons.
We also see the man exercising authority over the woman here by continuing that work of naming that he was doing earlier in the passage. Here he names her “woman”, and next chapter we’ll see Adam gives her the specific name of Eve. This idea that naming someone is a form of exercising authority is still expressed today in the common practice of a wife taking her husband’s last name.
So then, this song about man and woman reminds us that there while there are similarities there are also important differences between males and females. While not exhaustive, the Bible, along with the light of nature, does teach us various aspects of these differences. There are physical differences. Women give birth, men do not. Men generally have greater physical strength than women, 1 Peter 3:7. I would say that women are generally more beautiful outwardly than men, which is why there is the old English description of women being the fairer sex, and its why the Bible in several places acknowledges the outward beauty of women while going on to tell them to especially adorn themselves with inner beauty, e.g. 1 Tim 2:9-10. The Bible speaks of how men and women are supposed to dress differently, Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11. The Bible speaks of the important work of women in child-bearing, homemaking, and mothering, 1 Timothy 2:15, Titus 2:5, Proverbs 31:1. The Bible commends the inner beauty of a woman having a gentle and quiet spirit, and yes, to following the godly male leadership in their lives, and that such submissiveness can even be part of their inner beauty, 1 Peter 3:5. Thus, we see men called to be leaders and to aspire to positions of leadership, 1 Peter 5:2, 1 Timothy 3:1, Ephesians 5:24, Colossians 3:21, etc. But the Bible commands such leadership by men to be one that is loving, sacrificial, understanding, not domineering but rather exercising servant leadership that honors the people under their care, Ephesians 5:25, 1 Peter 3:7, 5:3, Matthew 20:26, etc.
That is but a glimpse into some of the differences between men and women, and I hope this has helped remind you that those differences are supposed to be good. If you don’t think they are good, it may be that you’ve had some bad role models who didn’t do a good job of exemplifying the differences. Certainly, historically men have too often perverted their leadership even while women have too often subverted it. Or, it may be that the culture has lied to you so much about this that it has become hard for you to think biblically about it. But I pray that you’ll be spurred on today to continue to study what God’s Word as well as the light of nature has to say about masculinity and femininity and the differing roles of men and women depending on the context and circumstances.
In conclusion, I’d like to wrap up our message for today about men and women by pointing out how in verse 25 it says that they were both naked but not ashamed. We’ll see next chapter how that will change when they sin against God and their eyes are opened to the consequences. That will result in them trying to hide from God and Adam even turns against Eve. In other words, God in today’s passage said it was not good for man to be alone, and yet after sin, they end up back alone again. But this time, it is not just humans alone from other humans, but it is mankind alone away from God. They try to hide from God, to be alone away from God. That is not good. That is not the purpose God intended for man.
Yet, while man there after sinning tried to be alone from God, we’ll see next chapter that God would come after them. And that was only the beginning of God coming after mankind to save a people out of sin. God would come after mankind again in the second Adam. While the woman here is taken out of the first Adam, the second Adam would be made to come forth from a woman, even the womb of the virgin Mary. God would come to man in Jesus Christ to save us from our sin so that we would be reconciled with God and that we’d not be separated from God, but in fellowship with him. Because indeed it is not good for man to be alone from God. As we said last week, the ultimate fruition of that will be in the age to come when God comes down to dwell with us in a new creation, in a new Eden-like paradise where God and his saved humans will be together forever. This future is ours, for all who have turned and put their faith in Jesus for salvation and eternal life.
While we await that future to come, Christ Jesus has us his church here on earth. Recognize the way we see today’s message true in the church too. On the one hand, there is a unity that both men and women have in the church. As Galatians 3:28 says, in Christ, there is neither male nor female. In other words, both men and women can be heirs of eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus, 1 Peter 3:7. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t differences to appreciate yet in the church between men and women. For example, Titus 2 addresses men and women separately in the church. 1 Timothy 5 speaks of how having men and women in the church means we treat each other as family, as fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers. Malachi 2 and 1 Corinthians 7 would even remind us that this is one of the ways we are to seek to grow the church, through looking to have and raise godly offspring by godly marriages in the church! The various differences that men and women bring into the church are to be a good blessing for the church. I can personally testify that our little church is far better off because of the women here. So then, may we each embrace the gender God has made us to be, and be learning more how to live that out, now and unto glory.
Copyright © 2022 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.