It is difficult for me to think of a current issue that brings more controversy than that of gender roles and marriage. Marriage within the Christian worldview is increasingly being seen as outdated and intolerant by the rest of the world. The notion of fornication as sin has all but entirely left our culture. Homosexuality is rapidly becoming a valid and commendable way of life. Children are now taking hormonal medication so that they can develop into the opposite gender. Though the Christian view of marriage and sexuality may be called conservative, make no mistake—it is extreme. To believe fully what is declared in the following verses of Scripture is to be decidedly antithetical to culture. Therefore, do not tread this section of Genesis lightly.
A HELPER FIT FOR HIM // VERSE 18
The fact that God declares something to be not good is an unsettling change of mood for the creation account. Until now, everything that God made was declared good, and with humanity added into the mixture, it was very good. Now we see that there was apparently a moment before humanity was deemed good, a time when the state of mankind was not good. The culprit apparent behind this less than ideal condition is loneliness. However, this form of loneliness does not merely stem from the lack of companionship; rather, it reflects an element of incompleteness with the man. God has given him life, a garden, and work to do, yet something is missing within the equation. Thus, God declares that He make a helper for the man. This implies that Adam, the original man, was not yet sufficiently equipped for working and keeping the garden until he was given a partner, and he was even less able to multiply and fill the earth without his counterpart.
Obviously, as we will see in verse 22, the helper that God creates for the man is woman, and because her role as helper is specifically mentioned here, I will take a few moments to discuss the female gender role. First, the woman was created to be a helper to the man, which naturally implies an assistive and supportive role. Though the rise of feminism has increasingly caused conflict and the church over this issue, there is nothing demeaning about the biblical concept of womanhood. The Bible simply does not use “helper” to denote inferiority. In fact, the term is most often used as a descriptor of God with Scripture. Instead, a helper gives strength in an area that is lacking. Thus, a helper is intended to describe one who is stronger in certain areas. The creation of woman was a necessary complement to man, so that together they would successfully do the work that God had given them.
Along with the role of helper comes the most infamous marital command of the Bible: submission. In present days, many Christians try to overlook this biblical edict, yet because it is given in every major New Testament section on marriage, we must face it directly.
First, it only is applicable to wives with their husbands. There is no biblical decree for all women to submit to every man.
Second, submitting does involve being under authority. Though some may argue that the headship of husbands in marriage does not necessitate authority, the submissive role of woman certainly does. Husbands are clearly called to be the authority of their families; however, they are to do so through selflessness, sacrifice, patience, and love. “If the Bible gives husbands a crown in marriage, it is a crown of thorns, for it calls for giving up rights and accepting responsibilities.”
Third, submission is a fundamental trait of all Christians. Christians, whether male or female, are meant to live in complete and total submission to Jesus Christ and to our leaders.
Fourth, God is still the primary authority. For all the times that wives are called to submit to their husbands, there is never one recommendation for men to demand submission, and to do so is a clear indication of domineering and unloving heart. The following of a husband into sin and the willingness to receive abuse are not biblical ideas of submission. God is the ultimate authority. Therefore, our submission to Him comes before any other form of submission.
Finally, it is worth noting that though differences between men and women are discussed most often, there are actually far more similarities than distinguishing characteristics.
NAMING THE ANIMALS // VERSES 19-20
In a display of man’s dominion over the animals, God brings the animals before Adam to be named. Throughout the days of creation as described in chapter one, God exercised His authority over creation by naming it. Since man was created to bear the image of God, Adam now demonstrates his God-granted authority by naming the animals. God’s authority is absolute, and He is thereby able to name light, stars, and heavens. God gives man’s authority in stewardship, so he is only able to name the animals because they are under his dominion. This serves to remind us once more of humanity’s position as being greater than animals but not gods.
Apparently, there was also an ulterior motive for Adam’s naming of the animals: to find his helper. The man must have also realized that he could not do the work that God had given him without assistance, so as the animals pass by, he makes mental note of any that might be a good fit. Unfortunately, no animal was able to meet Adam’s need. The words “fit for him” imply a certain degree of likeness. There was no helper like him. I have heard many preachers speculate that Adam’s desire for someone like himself may have come from seeing the animals pass by in pairs. He would therefore notice that every creature had male and female, except him. Yet such is pure speculation. Finally, this is also the first time that the man is named. The name, Adam, is very similar to the Hebrew word for earth, which is fitting since Adam was formed from the earth and given dominion over it. Following this pattern, it was very common for Hebrew names to reflect an aspect of the one’s character.
THE CREATION OF WOMAN // VERSES 21-22
After Adam was sufficiently convinced no animal was suitable as a helper for him, God proceeds to create woman. First in the process is God rendering man unconscious. This can be seen as a display of grace and love because God spared Adam from any pain or discomfort. Also, Adam’s rest during the creation of Eve could be to emphasize that God alone did the work. While Adam is asleep, God takes one of his ribs and forms it into the woman. The significance of the rib has long been the subject of speculation. Some have said that it emphasizes that woman is to dwell close to the man’s heart. Others have suggested said that since the rib is always covered modesty should be a primary virtue among women. My personal favorite is that it reinforces the notion that the woman is supposed to be alongside the man, not before him or behind him. However, regardless of why the rib was chosen, the fact that woman was created from man’s flesh is of the most importance. While Adam and Eve were quite literally one flesh, verse 24 (along with Paul’s citation of it in Ephesians 5) will apply this principle to every marriage. Thus, because God considers the man and woman in marriage to be one flesh, it is unthinkable that a husband would abuse his wife. We are called to love our spouses as we do our own bodies.
That woman was taken from man no more implies the inferiority of woman to man than the taking of man from the ground (‘adam from ‘adamah) implies the inferiority of man to the ground.
He lost, therefore, one of his ribs; but, instead of it, a far richer reward was granted him, since he obtained a faithful associate for life; for he now saw himself, who had before been imperfect, rendered complete in his wife. And in this we see a true resemblance of our union with the Son of God; for he became weak that he might have members of his body endued with strength.
THE FIRST WEDDING // VERSES 23-25
The final phrase of verse 22 initiated the first wedding ceremony in human history. Having just created the woman, God brings her to her husband. In many ways, God was the first father to give away His daughter in marriage. Furthermore, this lends much weight to the sanctity of marriage since God alone authors such unions. Adam responds to the meeting of his wife by reciting poetry for her. The first transcribed words spoken by a human are a man’s love poetry for his wife. This clearly sets a pattern for men to follow. No, every man does not need to be a poet, but every man should take great joy in his wife. Adam rejoices because he has at last found someone who is like him. This woman is the complement that Adam needed from verse 18.
The presence of the word “therefore”, in verse 24, creates a sort of shock in the flow of reading, and it appears to be very intentional. While the past two chapters have mostly been theologically centered history with much subtle application, Moses now seems to write for his present audience with blatant application. If there is one message that we are meant to draw from the past several verses, it is the three-step pattern for marriage as listed in this verse.
First, a man must leave his parents. This does not mean that a man must completely abandon his family; however, a man must be able to financial provide for his wife apart from his father and mother. Also, the man should understand that his primary responsibility is towards his wife and their newly formed family.
Second, he is to hold fast to his wife. After leaving his parents, he then cleaves himself to his wife. This shows the primary importance of the wife in the life of the man. As partners, they are now to consider one another before all others.
Third, the two shall become one flesh. This displays the work of God within marriage. He is the one who unites souls in covenantal union. While it is the responsibility of the man to cling to his wife through every storm of life, ultimately God sustains and ordains a marriage.
It is also important that we note the agents involved in biblical marriage. There is only one man, one woman, and God. This serves as a direct refutation of polygamy, homosexuality, and fornication.
First, polygamy may be found within the Bible, but it is never endorsed or commended. Adding more people to the marriage union disrupts the complementarian partnership between one man and one woman.
Homosexuality is always condemned in the Bible. The union between two women or two men is not able to achieve the union of differences that heterosexual marriage displays.
Finally, fornication is labeled as sin because it does not hold the act of holding fast to one’s spouse as necessary. God created sex to be good within the context of deep and committed love between a man and a woman. Fornication upholds the physical pleasure of sex while discarding the covenantal commitment of marriage. Marriage is far more than a physical union. It is a holistic and steadfast joining of image-bears that directly reflects Christ’s relationship with the Church.
Nakedness, in verse 25, is not merely a reference to their physical state, but rather it represents the blissful innocence of the pre-fallen world. Their ignorance of nakedness indicates the beautiful simplicity of their souls. They were bare before one another, both physically and emotionally. It is only after the advent of sin that Adam and Eve would find their nakedness to be shameful. Then they would hide their nudity from one another.
 Gen. 1:31
 Merrill. p. 19
 Calvin. Chapter 2, verse 21