Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 2:24-25

Genesis 2:24-25

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, but they were not ashamed.
(NET Bible)

First Family

Any counselor can tell you that the relationship with in-laws is one of the greatest stressors on many marriage relationships. Knowing the relative priorities of these relationships can save you a world of heartache.

But who has the wisdom and authority to set those priorities? What priorities have been set? What is the nature of the husband-wife relationship?

Genesis 2:24 is very familiar to many Christians who have heard some form of it used in wedding ceremonies. However, a Bible student must always be aware that the interpretation of such heavily used verses may have been shifted away from the original meaning toward a contemporary adaptation.

To begin understanding what the verse is saying, consider Gordon Wenhams historical input:

The traditional translation leaves suggests that the man moves from his parents and sets up home elsewhere, whereas in fact Israelite marriage was usually patrilocal, that is, the man continued to live in or near his parents home. . . . On marriage a mans priorities change. Beforehand his first obligations are to his parents: afterwards they are to his wife.[1]

The uniting of the man and woman is a powerful bond. The NET Bible Notes say, In this passage it describes the inseparable relationship between the man and the woman in marriage as God intended it.[2]

The NET Bibles shift from one flesh (KJV, ESV, RSV, NIV 1984, NIV 2011) to a new family seems to replace a powerful metaphor of marital unity with a much weaker abstraction. The semi-poetic nature of Genesis 1-11s language resists the incursion of such anachronistic language. Further, the Hebrew word for family does not occur here. Since the language here is figurative rather than idiomatic, there is not adequate justification for replacing the metaphor (one flesh) with the paraphrased abstraction (a new family).

Genesis 2:25 gives us a last, idyllic glimpse at the unaffected happiness of the man and woman in the Garden of Eden. The environment did not require clothing, and there was no other reason to have it; unfortunately, there would be a reason before long. Wenham says, They were like young children unashamed at their nakedness.[3] The man and woman are together with nothing to hide from one another; that too would soon change.

Victor Hamilton explains that the significance of nakedness changed over time: With the exception of this verse, nakedness in the OT is always connected with some form of humiliation.[4] In Genesis 3 we will find out why.

The verb used for the phrase they were not ashamed needs clarification due to cultural differences between us and the ancient Israelites. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says, [The English phrase] to be ashamed stresses the inner attitude, the state of mind, while the Hebrew means to come to shame and stresses the sense of public disgrace, a physical state.[5] With our current cultural stress on individualism, we find it less natural to think of shame as a public status rather than a private feeling.

With sadness we look back to a lost Eden that we might have inherited. But our sorrow gives way to joy in knowing that we can regain all that was lost and much more through faith in Jesus Christ.

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 70.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 2:24.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 71.

[4] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 181.

[5] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody, 1980) 1:97, bosh, to be ashamed, q.v.

 

Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 2:21-23

Genesis 2:21-23

21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part of the mans side and closed up the place with flesh.
22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23
Then the man said, This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called woman, for she was taken out of man.
(NET Bible)

A really big moment!

In 1970 an obscure Australian student said, A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.[1] Really? If true, that would mean it is good for woman to be alone, even though we already know it is not good for man. That seems an unbiblical conclusion, to say the least!

God was not compelled to create the man and woman for close companionship with each other. Why did he do so? How does Gods creative intention affect us in our attempt to please him?

The deep sleep which God brings upon Adam (Gen. 2:21) occurs rarely in the Bible, and it is not well understood. The standard Hebrew lexicon says it is not only an unusually deep sleep . . . but also a sleep which marks an event as one of the high-points of the actions of Yahweh.[2] The creation of woman is one such high point; others are the making of a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:12), revelations from God to Daniel through an angel (Dan. 8:18, 10:9), Jonahs sleep during the great storm (Jon. 1:5), and a famous encounter of David and Saul (1 Sam. 26:12). The mystery remains as deep as the sleep. But in Genesis 2 we can understand why Adam needed deep sleep!

The NET Bible bravely deviates from saying God used one of the ribs (KJV, ESV, RSV, NASB, NIV 1984, NIV 2011) from the man to make the woman (Gen. 2:21b). Old Testament scholar Victor Hamilton says, Gen. 2:21 is the only place in the OT where the modern versions render this [Hebrew] word as rib.[3] They do so due to the power of the King James Version in setting peoples expectations in familiar passages. NIV 2011 only had the courage to put the correct translation in a footnote.

Instead of following the pack, NET offers he took part of the mans side and closed up the place with flesh. In support of this choice the NET translators say: Traditionally translated rib, the Hebrew word actually means side. The Hebrew text reads, and he took one from his sides, which could be rendered part of his sides. That idea may fit better the explanation by the man that the woman is his flesh and bone. The argument is convincing.

Using a verb suitable for a potter, God fashioned Adam from the earth (Gen. 2:7). In Genesis 2:22 the language figuratively shifts to that for a builder when God literally builds Eve from the tissue taken from Adam. Then, in what must have been an unforgettable scene, God presents the woman to Adam.

In Genesis 2:23 — Then the man said, This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called woman, for she was taken out of man — Adam sounds awestruck, does he not? By expressing his words in poetry, the author captures the emotion of the moment. The phrase at last conveys Adams relief in finding his companion from the vast array of life he has examined.

Concerning the phrase bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, Hamilton says:

[The phrase] speaks not of a common birth but of a common, reciprocal loyalty. Thus when representatives of the northern tribes visit David at Hebron and say to him, we are your bone and flesh (2 Sam. 5:1), this is not a statement of relationship (we have the same roots) but a pledge of loyalty (we will support you in all kinds of circumstances).[4]

The next important issue is whether the fact that the man names the woman means he has authority over her. We agree with the NET Bible Notes, which answer no:

Some argue that naming implies the mans authority or ownership over the woman here. Naming can indicate ownership or authority if one is calling someone or something by ones name and/or calling a name over someone or something (see 2 Sam. 12:28; 2 Chron. 7:14; Isa. 4:1; Jer. 7:14; 15:16), especially if one is conquering and renaming a site. But the idiomatic construction used here . . . does not suggest such an idea.[5]

The reader is already aware that almost every verse in the early chapters of Genesis is awash with thorny issues of interpretation and theology. We have only begun to face the challenges of this amazing book!

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Irina Dunn, a student at the University of Sydney (Australia) in 1970.

[2] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) tardemah, deep sleep, q.v.

[3] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 178.

[4] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 180.

[5] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 2:23.


Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 2:18–20

Genesis 2:18–20
18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.”
19 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.
20 So the man named all the animals, the birds of the air, and the living creatures of the field, but for Adam no companion who corresponded to him was found.
(NET Bible)

What the man can’t do without

Throughout human history the relationship between man and woman has been discussed through the perceptual grid of power. The relationship has been called “the war of the sexes.”

Why was woman created? Was competition between sexes part of God’s design? What kind of relationship did God intend between the first man and woman?

“Against the sevenfold refrain of ‘and God saw that it was (very) good’ in chapter 1, the divine observation that something was not right with man’s situation is startling,”[1] says Old Testament scholar Gordon Wenham about Genesis 2:18. Consider that this is God’s evaluation, not Adam’s; Adam has not figured it out yet.

The word “alone,” an adjective in English, translates a Hebrew noun which means “solitude.”[2] A more literal rendering could be “The-man-in-his-solitude is not good” (a rough translation). Why is this situation negative? First, there is no way for the man to be fruitful and multiply as God intends (Gen. 1:28). Second, the need for companionship is more fundamental than many recognize. For example, solitary confinement is widely regarded as extremely stressful and can even produce mental disorders.

The contemporary social history of the United States makes it difficult to translate the word offered as “companion” at the end of Genesis 2:18. The King James Version of the Bible (1611) gives the last phrase as “an help meet for him.” This phrase led to the development of “helpmeet” and then “helpmate.” These derived words are based on a misunderstanding and obscure the actual meaning of the author.

The words of the Bible may be used in many ways; not all such ways are fitting. Some, not guided by the love of Christ, have used the word “helper” (NIV, NASB, ESV) or the phrase “help meet” (KJV) in a way that demeans wives and women in general. Primarily to avoid such distortion, the NET Bible uses the translation “a companion for him who corresponds to him.” Similarly, the New International Version (2011) offers “a helper suitable for him.” A word study will further clarify the crucial word.

Word Study (“companion” or “helper”)

The Hebrew word ‘ezer, translated by NET as “a companion for him” in Gen. 2:18 means: “help, assistance.”[3] The NET Bible Notes say: “Usage of the Hebrew term does not suggest a subordinate role, a connotation which English ‘helper’ can have. In the Bible, God is frequently described as the ‘helper,’ the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs.”[4] Exodus 18:4 and Deuteronomy 33:7 provide examples.

Hamilton adds: “The verb behind ‘ezer is ‘azar which means . . . ‘save from danger,’ ‘deliver from death.’ The woman in Gen. 2 delivers the man from his solitude.”[5]

The Missing Person

In light of the above analysis, the NET Bible made a wise choice with “a companion for him who corresponds to him.”

One by one God creates “every living animal” (Gen. 2:19) and brings them before Adam. Wenham says: “This hold-up creates suspense. It allows us to feel the man’s loneliness.”[6] Adam examines each living animal and names it. But while the animals exist as male and female, nowhere is there found a fitting companion for the man (Gen. 2:20). Presumably Adam has learned what God said at the start: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 68.

[2] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000)  bad, solitude, q.v.

[3] HALOT, ‘ezer, help, q.v.

[4] NET Bible Notes for Gen. 2:18.

[5] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 176.

[6] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 68.