The Biblical Model for Marriage- Genesis 2:18-23

In the creation story in Genesis 2, God sets forth for us the biblical paradigm for marriage, telling us here what marriage is intended to be and how it is intended to function. As the story begins, the man (Adam) is alone, which God says is “not good”. Human beings are not intended to be alone, but are created to live in relationship, both with God and with one another, and the first relationship which God establishes among people is marriage, for marriage is the relationship in which two human beings become “one” (verse 24), intended to be a reflection of the oneness which exists between the persons of the trinity. We pick up the story in verse 18, in which God says He will make a “helper suitable” for Adam. The Hebrew word “helper” here describes one who will take a subordinate role to aid in accomplishing a mission or purpose. The Hebrew word suitable here is literally one “according to the opposite of him”, one who by relative difference and essential equality would be his fitting complement. So what we find expressed in the use of this language is an equality of being and difference in function between the man and the woman. Just as within the trinity itself, where subordinate to does not equal less than, so it is in marriage. The one with the subordinate role is not inherently less than the other, but the two are equals, and the woman here is a helper in the sense that she is intended to be his spiritual and emotional support, that the two are “one” and neither can fulfill their purpose apart from the other. The story then continues, in verses 19-20, with the man naming the animals God had created. Adam names the animals as God’s representative, and giving them their name here is representative of giving them their identity, telling them who they are and what their roles will be in helping Adam complete his mission. In the process of naming all these animals, Adam finds no “suitable helper”, no other creature “according to the opposite of him”, no other creature with which he can be “one”. So God causes Adam to sleep and forms Eve from Adam’s rib (literally “side”). The two literally are “one flesh”, are intended to be one and seen by God as one. The primary idea here is of the oneness of the couple, they literally are “one”, and marriage will function most as God intended when the couple learn to see themselves as “one”. What this means is that they are a unit, and they rise or fall, succeed or fail together. The failure of one is the failure of both, and the success of one is the success of both. If the wife fails, so does the husband, and vice versa. Seeing things this way enables the pair to live without the jealousy, envy, etc. which characterize so many marriages, with each not seeking to hold the other down, threatened by their success, but to lift the other up, sharing in their success, because the success of one is the success of both. The story then concludes with the man “naming” the woman (verse 23), with her very name expressing the oneness established between the two of them. So what do we take from this story, and how are we to apply what it tells us to our lives? What we find here is that God defines for the man and the woman what their role is to be within the marriage, and how they are to relate to one another within it. We find here that the role of the man, his “mission” regarding his wife, is to help her discover her true identity, who she really is and who and what God intends her to be and do. This is reflected in His “naming” her, and his responsibility toward his wife is to help her be all God intends her to be and do all God intends her to do. He is not to “subdue” his wife, holding her down because he is threatened by any success she may have. He is to lift his wife up, encouraging and enabling her to be all she is intended to be and do all she is intended to do. We also find that the role of the woman, her “mission” regarding her husband, is not to shoot him down through nagging and criticism, but raise him up through praise and encouragement, helping him discover his mission and purpose in life, and helping him live them out, being all God intends him to be and doing all God intends him to do. As we have already seen, this will only occur when we learn to see ourselves, in marriage, as truly “one”, each then working to bring about the success of the other, each giving their all to help the other become all God intends them to be, thriving and flourishing together, as one.

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