God's Design for Marriage
It is Not Good for Man to be Alone
Genesis 2:15-25 (ESV)
I usually try to do things by myself. If I am repairing things around the house, or doing things on the farm, I will typically resist calling for help…until I recognize I either need it or I am foolish to not ask for it. People need help from time to time. Just yesterday I enjoyed the benefit of having several friends assist me with cutting up a fallen pecan tree, a task that most likely would have not been finished yesterday had they not helped me.
People also desire companionship. If you look at most teenagers, you will likely see one who is either in a relationship or who wants to be in a relationship. I believe the same is true for people in general. The traditional thing for most people, I think, is to find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with and marry that person. I believe this longing for companionship, even for marriage, is natural and biblical.
For one, as we will see in our passage this morning, marriage is God’s design. He made it and I believe He desires for us to have it. And as with the rest of God’s creation, I believe marriage is also “very good”. Our passage this morning says a lot about men, women and marriage. When approached by a group of Pharisees, Jesus referred to the Genesis creation account to talk the institution of marriage. It is there where we too will discuss for a few moments about the divine institution of marriage.
Before we discuss our passage, let’s first look at the preceding chapter and see what is going on here.
Genesis 1:26-28, 31 (ESV)
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”…31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
1. God created mankind as two sexually distinct human beings, male and female
2. Both male and female beings were created in the image of God, thus having the same worth.
3. Man AND woman were given dominion over the earth, over all other creatures
4. Procreation was part of the design – Be fruitful and multiply
5. Everything God had made was “very good.”
But was everything so good as God described it? Well, we find at least one thing that was not good. Let’s continue on in to chapter 2.
Purpose in the Garden (Work and Keep)
2:15 One of the first things we find in our passage this morning is that God placed Adam in the Garden…for a purpose. Do you recall the reason God put Adam there? To work and keep it.
Work. This was before Adam and Eve sinned and were consequently expelled from the Garden. This shows that God’s intent was for man to work. Work is not a bad thing. It is not a curse which resulted from the Fall. The Fall just spoiled work, making it burdensome.
Keep it means to have charge or dominion. Therefore, man’s purpose for living in the Garden was to work and oversee the Garden. The biblical account of creation portrays God as Provider for man’s needs, a part of which is the honorable, meaningful labor.
However, this meaningful work soon changed. As a result of the Fall, that job of keeping the garden was then given to the Cherubim with the flaming sword (See Gen. 3:24).
2:16-17 The next thing we find in this passage is a commandment. In verse 16, God addresses Adam personally. Unlike all other created life, the human being is endowed with special significance as a “person” and enjoys divine-human communion. God tells Adam that he may eat of any tree in the garden, except one - the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So which one does man then eat – the tree of knowledge of good and evil, of course. Are there any parents who may relate to this?
It is Not Good
2:18 After God’s commandment to Adam about what not to eat, we find something surprising. If you remember, at the end of Genesis chapter 1, God declares that everything He had made was “very good”. Then here in verse 18, we find that “It is not good that the man should be alone”. This statement is unique to the creation account as apparently everything else was “very good”. Such a statement lets us know that more is to be done to achieve the ideal for man. In a sense, he is not complete – yet. Whether the man felt his aloneness is not stated; only the God’s viewpoint is given. What we can infer from this, and I believe we know from history and our own experience, is that God has created us to have fellowship with him but also to have fellowship with one another. We are meant to be social beings, building relationships with others. God saw that is was not good for man to be alone and God took action to resolve the situation.
What was God’s solution for man’s aloneness? He said that He would make a helper fit for him. There are some points I would like to make about this statement.
1. God does not make a servant or footstool, someone for Adam to order around. God could have done that, but He makes Adam a helper. God also doesn’t make Adam a boss, someone to order him around. Adam needed help to work and keep the garden, so God made him a helper.
2. Some interpret the word “helper” with a negative connotation. They suppose that this minimizes a woman’s worth or status. But consider this:
a. God is Israel’s helper: “O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper.” – Ho. 13:9
b. “There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty.” – Deut. 33:26 (ESV)
c. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” – Ps. 46:1
d. Helper is not a bad term. Man should not “tend the garden” alone. It was good for man to have a helper and God would provide him with someone who could aid him.
3. This helper was to be “fit for him.” Some versions say that the helper would be “suitable for him”. The KJV states that God would make Adam a “help meet for him”. The intent of this statement is that the helper would complement the man, meaning that she would be equal and adequate for him.
I believe these observations emphasize the importance of women to God. According to Scripture, man’s “helper” is an indispensable “partner” required to achieve the divine commission.
2:19–20 What the passage tells us thus far is 1) Man is alone, 2) aloneness is not good, and 3) God would create a helper fit for man. So, how does God go about making man’s helper?
He starts by parading all the beasts of the fields and the birds of the air to see what Adam would call them. With this parade, Adam could observe that there was none among the creatures that was suitable for him. The point is that the man was looking for a human match, but he “found” none.
There are a couple of observations we can make concerning this divine parade:
1. There is a distinct difference in how the animals and birds were created versus Adam’s helper. The animals and birds were created from the ground, as was Adam. The helper, however, will be created from a “living being”.
2. All of the creatures that God paraded before Adam were subject to Adam. He had dominion over them. But Eve was not included in the creatures for which he has dominion over, but rather, she shares this responsibility with him.
The fact that the man is expressing his rule over the animal world in the search for an appropriate helper caused him to realize his inadequacy to the task if he continues in the condition of being “alone.”
Surgery and Wedding
2:21–22 God then causes Adam to go into a “deep sleep” and then go under the knife. Like a divine surgeon, God cuts out a rib from Adam, closes up the wound and then makes a woman from the rib. I once heard it told like this, man was made from dirt, and woman was made from prime rib. I don’t know if that’s helpful, but there it is. The significance of the rib, I believe, is that the man and woman are of the same human “stuff.” This is another point to her being equal and of the same worth as man.
Once God is finished with his “special project”, He then presents her to the man. This may suggest that she is a gift to man from the man’s Maker. Another way one could look at this is like a father who brings his daughter to the groom. This is the first wedding recorded in the Bible, and the bride is given away by none other than God the Father. How cool is that?
2:23 Adam responds to seeing his bride, his helper, by saying this is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”, or “bone out of my bones and flesh out of my flesh”. The Scripture says the woman was “taken out of man”. Another way to look at it is that “man was a part of her”, indicating they are closely joined together. The appropriate response for Adam is to love his wife as he would love his own body, which is exactly what the Apostle Paul said:
· “…husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.” – Eph. 5:28-30
Leave and Cleave (Cling)
2:24 Verse 24 is not a continuation of Adam’s response to Eve, but is God’s statement about marriage, which Jesus quoted in Matt 19:4–5. The verse states:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” – Gen. 2:24
There are three things here that I want to focus on:
2. Holding Fast (Cleaving)
The first thing to consider is “leaving”. I remember trying to explain this to my parents several years ago because they were upset that I was “leaving” them. This doesn’t mean that a person literally leaves their family to never return. Our passage cannot mean that a man is not married unless he departs his parent’s house as it was customary in Israel for a man to remain, not leave, his father’s household. Rather, it means that marriage involves a new pledge to a spouse in which former commitments are superseded. Marriage requires a new priority where obligations to one’s spouse supplant a person’s parental loyalties. Thus one “leaves” the authority and priority his/her parents to join (cleave, cling) to one’s spouse.
Marriage also involves the two united in commitment where they become dependent and responsible toward one another. The phrase “One flesh” echoes the language of v. 23, which speaks of the woman being from the same bone and flesh of the man.
One overarching theme throughout this passage is God’s action. God took the initiative throughout this situation:
· “The Lord God said” it was not good for man to be alone (v. 18), He stated the need!
· “the Lord God had formed” the animals and brought them to Adam (v. 19),
· “the Lord God caused … a deep sleep” (v. 21),
· “the Lord God made a woman” (v. 22).
· “The Lord God…brought her to the man” (v. 22)
God recognized the situation and provided the solution. God’s provision for man was to make him more complete.
So, how do we respond to this?
1. We are created to relate to one another, to have relationships.
a. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow…a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecc. 4: 9,10,12
2. The institution of marriage is good.
a. God’s designed it for humans to have earthly companionship, help and to procreate
b. God also uses marriage to describe His relationship with His creation:
i. His relationship with Israel
ii. His relationship with the Church - Christ the good husband, the Church the bride
3. No marriage is perfect – we are all fallen and sinful people, even those who are saved!
4. Our ultimate worth is not found in our marriage or relationship with each other, it is found in Christ.
5. Just as God provided Adam’s helper through Eve, God provides our help through Christ
a. Because Adam was alone, God initiated the naming of the animals, the making of Eve, and the presenting of Eve to Adam in the first marriage ceremony. It was God’s work.
b. Likewise, while we were weak and still sinners, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for a sinful people, that through His death, burial, and resurrection, we might be restored to a right relationship with our Creator.
c. God initiates and completes our salvation. It is His work, not ours. We just need to respond.
This is good news! Thanks be to God. Amen!
Mathews, K. A. (2001, c1995). Vol. 1A: Genesis 1-11:26 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (213). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Mathews, K. A. (2001, c1995). Vol. 1A: Genesis 1-11:26 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (214). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Mathews, K. A. (2001, c1995). Vol. 1A: Genesis 1-11:26 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (217). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.