Hope Lutheran Church, Fargo, ND - Pastor Mark Vitalis Hoffman
"It is not good for man to be alone"
A Study of Genesis 2.18-24
- A time when I felt very alone was ...
- The best thing someone (my spouse) has done to help me is
- My spouse and I work best as a team when ...
For Your Information:
Read Genesis 1.26-31.
- The Hebrew word translated in the NRSV as "humankind"
in this passage is adam, a word which does indeed include
humans of both sexes.
Read Genesis 2.4b-8.
- The Hebrew word translated in the NRSV as "man"
is again adam, and so at first reading, one would assume
that the passage is talking about the creation of a human being
from the ground. The Hebrew word for ground is adamah,
and so there is a word play about the nature of humans that will
be emphasized again in 3.19: a human (adam) is from the
ground (adamah) and to the ground s/he will return. But
as we shall see later on in this same story, this particular human
is a male person, and so some translations simply transliterate
the word adam as "Adam." Also note that a special
word is used to indicate that adam is "formed"
or "molded" from the dust of the ground.
Read Genesis 2.18-24.
- Note that when God says in 2.18 that it is "not good,"
we are to hear a strong contrast with all that was "good"
as described throughout Genesis 1.
- In Genesis 2.18 and 20, God wants to make for the man "a
helper as his partner." (NRSV) In other translations, this
phrase is translated as, "a helper fit for him" (RSV);
"a helper suitable for him" (NASB); "a help meet
for him" (KJV); "a suitable companion to help him"
(TEV). The word "helper" is regularly used in reference
to God as one's helper. See Exodus 18.4; Deuteronomy 33.7; Psalms
33.20; 70.5; 115.11. The word "partner" connotes someone
who is near or in the presence of or in the view of someone else.
- In Genesis 2.19, it says that God "made" every animal
from the ground. The word used is the most common way to speak
of "making" something.
- In 2.19-20, be sure to note who is doing what actions. God
"made" and "brought" the creatures to the
man to "see" what he would "call" them. Compare
these verbs to the pattern of creation described in Genesis 1.
Note that to "call" something and give it its name was
an indication of dominion.
- In 2.21, the word usually translated as "rib" should
perhaps be understood more broadly as "side." The picture
accounts for why human ribs do not entirely cage in the torso.
- In 2.22, the word which indicates how God made the woman is
usually used in reference to "building" something.
- The man's joy as discovering a suitable helper is captured
by a threefold repetition of identifying the woman as "this
- So far in Genesis, God has done all the talking, usually using
the phrase, "And God said..." Now in 2.23, we read,
"And the man said...," and what the man (adam)
says is, "... This one shall be called Woman (ishah),
for out of Man (ish) this one was taken." The words
ishah and ish are the words used to identify persons
according to their gender and are part of a word play indicating
the relationship between the two.
- It is a bit strange in Genesis 2.24 that the man should leave
his parents and join with his wife since in the patriarchal society
of that time usually the woman left her home. When it says that
the man "clings" to his wife, the word used is one that
is often used with reference to how people are to "cling"
to God. See Deuteronomy 4.4; 10.20; Joshua 23.8.
- Genesis 2.24 is quoted four times in the New Testament in
Matthew 19.4-6 = Mark 10.6-8; 1 Corinthians 6.15-17; and Ephesians
5.29-31. Read these passages and note the various ways in which
the text is interpreted and applied. (In the case of Matthew and
Mark, especially note that Jesus refers to the creation of male
and female as described in Genesis 1.27 and then jumps to the
description of marriage in Genesis 2.24.)
For Your Consideration:
- What conclusions do you draw about men and women from Genesis
1.26-31? About the relationship between men a According to Genesis
1.26-27 which sex is created in God's image? Which sex is given
dominion over creation? nd women?
- According to Genesis 2.7, how is Adam / man created? What
conclusions do you draw about human nature from this description?
- In Genesis 2.18, God says, "It is not good that the man
should be alone." Does this statement indicate that it is
not good for any human to be alone? Or is it suggesting that it
is not as bad for a woman to be alone?
- What does the phrase "a helper as his partner" suggest
to you about the relationship between a man and a woman? Consider
the various words that could be used to render this phrase: helper,
partner, companion. Which of these aspects have you most valued
in your spouse? How have you yourself been able to fill these
roles for your spouse?
- In Genesis 1, God "called" the various creations
and gave them their names. (See 1.8 and 10.) Why does the man
get to "call" the creatures and give them their names
now in 2.19-20?
- According to Genesis 2.22, how is the woman created? Why do
you think God used a rib as the initial building block? What else
is significant about how the woman is created differently than
the man? What conclusions do you draw about the relationship between
a man and a woman from this description?
- In Genesis 2.21-22, God brings the woman to the man and he
says that she shall be called Woman. This is the same pattern
described in 2.19-20 where God brings the creatures to the man
and he calls them a name. What does this indicate about the relationship
between a man and a woman?
- Genesis 2.23 records man's first words. What do you think
he (or was it she?) said next?
- Do you think it is harder for a man or a woman to leave their
parents in order to get married?
- What does the phrase to "become one flesh" mean
to you? What are some of the ways this "one flesh" is
realized in marriage?
- According to Genesis 1-2, what are the grounds for marriage?
Did you notice what is not ever mentioned? (Hint: a four letter
word that starts with L.) Perhaps the question should be asked
in another way: Who is responsible for the union of the man and
the woman in Genesis 2? Now read Matthew 19.6.
- Reflect on what it means for you to be a helper and partner
to your spouse, and plan on doing at least one thing to be a better
helper and partner.
- Look at the pictures in your wedding album with your spouse.
Promise again the vows you made to each other when you were married.
- Read Ephesians 3.16-21 and use it as the basis for prayer
with your spouse.
"I talk marriage; they talk weddings!"
- On counseling engaged couples in Bed and Board: Plain Talk
about Marriage, Robert Farrar Capon
To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up.
- Ogden Nash
Marriage, in which two become one, is a lifelong struggle to see
which one that will be.
Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution.
- Mae West
Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.
- Benjamin Franklin
Further Study Tools on Genesis 2
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Permission requests? Let me
Key Texts Used in this Study (NRSV)
Genesis 1:26-31 Then God said, "Let
us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the
birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals
of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the
earth." 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the
image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
28 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 air and over
every living thing that moves upon the earth." 29 God said,
"See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is
upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its
fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of
the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that
creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I
have given every green plant for food." And it was so. 31
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Return to study
Genesis 2:4b-8 In the day that the LORD God
made the earth and the heavens, 5 when no plant of the field was
yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up--for
the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there
was no one to till the ground; 6 but a stream would rise from
the earth, and water the whole face of the ground-- 7 then the
LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed
into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living
being. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east;
and there he put the man whom he had formed. Return to study
Genesis 2:18-24 Then the LORD God said, "It
is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper
as his partner." 19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed
every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought
them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the
man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man
gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to
every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found
a helper as his partner. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep
to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs
and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD
God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her
to the man. 23 Then the man said, "This at last is bone of
my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken." 24 Therefore a man leaves
his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become
one flesh. Return to study