One of the most fundamental principles articulated in the Bible is that God created the universe and that within this grand cosmos, a focal point was given to a small globe predominately covered in water – the planet earth. It is upon this planet that God organized the elements for human habitation over a period of six days (Exod 20:7). During the sixth day, the uncaused Creator made humanity (Gen 1:26-27)
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness […] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:26a-27)
When God created humanity, the Scriptures show that he also created the first marriage, and consequently the first family. The narrative of this origin is the foundation for a godly marriage. The current study is a brief look into some of the vital lessons found in the creation of the human family – and first marriage.
The Historical Setting
In Genesis 2, the sixth day of creation is elaborated upon (2:4-25). There is a common literary device in the book of Genesis that perhaps is obscured by the English translation to which we call brief attention. It usually is styled the Toledoth formula, and is often translated as “these are the generations,” “this is the family history,” “this is the account,” or some other formulation (Gen 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, 11:10, 11:27, 25:19, 36:1, 9, 37:2).
Attention is given to this literary device for two reasons – though several other thoughts could be developed. First, it is one of the clearest features in Genesis that displays to biblical students the “structure intended” by the author. Second, this series of episodes throughout the book both provides a strong sense of unity and harmony within its narrative, and indicates a “historical impulse” to be understood while reading Genesis.
These narratives are not mere “fairy-tales” given for ancient religious and philosophical contemplation. Instead, the biblical material is styled in such a way to make it obvious “the author intended it to be read as a work of history that recounts what has taken place in the far-distant past.”
Therefore, in Genesis 2:4, when it reads, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth […],” we are beginning a historical – albeit theological – pilgrimage that starts with the historical creation of our forefathers made in the “image of God” (1:27).
Humanity – The Pinnacle of Creation
Heaven’s joy in creating humanity is perhaps seen quite clearly when we compare how God assessed the situation when humans come into the picture. In general, God saw His creation as “good” – “And God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). The Hebrew word for “good” in Genesis 1 (Heb. tob) has many applications in the Old Testament, employed by different authors as many times as 741 times.
In the Creation Account, “good” anticipates the theme of the fall of Adam and Eve, but at the same time demonstrates that the Creation as God intended was an ideal place for the well-being of its inhabitants. Consequently, at the close of the sixth day, after the creation of humanity God surveyed his handiwork, and saw that “it was very good.”
Perhaps our Creator observed that all the pieces to his creation were now in place, and so now the planet was a very good place to live – God’s ideal world realized. Though not in contradistinction, perhaps we are reading a phrase of great emotion and tenderness, as the only creation made in the Imago Dei (“image of God”) now walks the earth. Furthermore, humanity is entrusted with sovereignty over the animals and with the planets overall care (Gen 1:26); humanity is thus the crown of creation.
The sweet psalmist of Israel (2 Sam 23:1) sets forth a beautiful hymn of praise to God for His creative acts, but most importantly, for his emphasis upon the human family. A segment of the 8th Psalm is as follows:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet. (Psa 8:3-6)
No doubt as King of Israel, David had pondered over the Creation Account several times (Psa 19). Perhaps he became more intimately involved in its study since it was his duty as King to be a Scribe of the Law as well (Deut 17:18-20).
God Created the Family
Returning to Genesis 2:4, we see a narrative serving much as a prism fragmenting a beam of light into many unique colors of spiritual insight. We may focus upon many of them as we have done above, but here attention is drawn to one in particular. When God created humanity, he also created the fundamental building block of human society – God created the family.
God employed His sovereignty and created a human community on the sixth day made up of one male and one female. Genesis 1:27 abbreviates the day, but 2:4-25 reiterates and expands upon the sixth day, a common feature in Old Testament narration to focus upon a critical moment that pushes the story forward. We find Adam created from earthen materials, and fashioned into a “living soul” with the “breathe of life” given to him (2:7); however, he was alone, and that was not good for the well-being of the creation (2:18).
One of the aspects of being made in the image of God is that humans are by-in-large social beings. God is a trinity; in other words, God is a community of love made of the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Pet 1:2, etc.). Should it be all that surprising that the Imago Dei is likewise a social being? Hardly, and God saw the loneliness and incompleteness Adam felt and addresses the matter.
In what appears to be an animal parade of potential companions organized by God, Adam still finds no animal that would be a “a helper fit for him” (2:18-20). In other words, “a helper corresponding to him,” suggesting Adam’s deep need to have another person just like him to help fulfill his responsibilities of governing the creation. A companion was needed to work side-by-side, another person like Adam to continue the human family, another person to create a community of love made in the image of God.
Consequently, when no animal met those criteria, the Lord caused a great sleep to fall upon Adam. When Adam awoke, God had created a new being that corresponded to him; someone who would help him in this new world. God presented this person to Adam and he named her Woman (Heb. ‘issah), which is the logical result since she was taken out of man (Heb. ‘is 2.22-23).
Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., makes a very important point here worthy to be reflected upon:
Unlike the animals – indeed, unlike the man himself – she did not come up from the ground below but out from human flesh, putting her alone at the man’s level.
This was indeed a public proclamation of her status as his only true companion in the garden.
Boy Meets Girl for the First Time
It is amazing to fathom how God collaborated with Adam to find a solution to his solitude. God orchestrated the events that led to the creation of Eve, and Adam knew exactly what he saw: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). We might respectfully paraphrase Adam as saying, “Finally, a person made just like me!” The event was quite literally that of a match made by Heaven.
Together, they were to share the dominion over the planet (1:26), and dwell in an environment objectively unaware of the evil uses of the sexual appetite – hence “they were naked and not ashamed.”
After Adam’s great announcement of finding his companion, the bedrock biblical principle of marriage is declared in terms of a logical consequence derived from the events of day six leading to the creation of womankind. Moses addresses his post-fall contemporaries, and places a prescriptive emphasis upon this pre-fall narrative: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (2:24).
There have been departures from God’s intent for marriage since the polygamy practiced by Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon (etc.), or whether it is the tolerated relaxation of the original marriage code in Genesis 2:24 allowed under the Mosaic system due to the “hardness of heart” (Matt 19:8).
Jesus appealing back to this Genesis narrative affirms that “from the beginning [of time] it was not so” (Matt 19:8). The marriage can only be severed on the basis of adultery, and while many pollute this teaching, the Lord is quite clear on the subject (Matt 5:32).
The “One Flesh” Aspect
Jesus addressed a much-needed foundational marriage issue, one that our contemporary culture is in dire need of emphasizing: divorce and remarriage is not for any cause.
When God created male and female, and gave them the garden for their home, reproduction as an aspect of life, and delegated the authority to them for the governance of the world and its other inhabitants, He joined Adam and Eve into one flesh (2:24; 1:26-28). Their example is designed to serve all subsequent generations on earth as the templar for the permanent nature of marriage (and its goals).
As we conclude this piece focused upon the first encounter between boy and girl – rather man and woman (Heb. ‘is and ‘issah respectively), it is vital to give some attention to the concept of one flesh. In doing so, there are three pivotal principles articulated by Ortlund based upon Genesis 2:24.
- Viewed negatively, marriage severs the strongest of human bonds – parental; and as such, “elevates the marital union above all other personal loyalties, under God.”
- Viewed positively, marriage is the context where the male “devotes his primary loyalty to his wife” emotionally, sexually, and socially.
- Likewise, “the new life [as one flesh] created by a marriage fuses a man and wife together into one, fully shared human experience, prompting mutual care, tenderness and love.”
These are beautiful principles that would enrich any marriage.
The teaching from Genesis 2:24 is set forth before the Mosaic and Christian covenant, and this means that its teaching applies to the entirety of the human race. God did not allow the creation week to end without the creation of humanity, and subsequently the family.
It was not consistent with the well-being of the creation for Adam to be alone, and God created the perfect companion to help him navigate through the world of Eden. This was the first marriage, and God designed marriage to be a permanent relationship of a “fully shared human experience” – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Human interference in the marriage is strongly warned against by Jesus (Matt 19:6, 9).
All we can do is ponder over these principles, find avenues in our lives to enact them, and allow the idealistic Edenic garden to be planted, cultivated, and blossomed in our marriages. As it is written in the Scriptures:
Awake, O north wind, and come O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits. I came to my garden, my sister, my bride, I gathered my myrrh with my spice, I ate my honeycomb with my honey, I drank my wine with my milk. Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love! (Song 4:16-5:1)
- All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
- Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman, III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 48.
- Dillard and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 48-49.
- Dillard and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 49.
- Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann, Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, trans. Mark E. Biddle. (1997; repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 2:491-92.
- William E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1984), 1:100.
- Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1981), 50-51.
- Clyde M. Woods, Genesis-Exodus (Henderson, TN: Woods, 1972), 9.
- Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Whoredom: God’s Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 19.
- Ortlund, Whoredom, 19.
- Woods, Genesis-Exodus, 9.
- Ortlund, Whoredom, 20-21.
- Wayne Jackson, The Teaching of Jesus Christ on Divorce and Remarriage: A Critical Study of Matthew 19:9, revised ed. (Stockton, CA: Christian Courier Publications, 2002), 2-8.
- Jack P. Lewis, The Gospel According to Matthew (1976; repr., Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 1984), 2:67. Some, however, attempt to use 1 Corinthians 7:15 as support for divorce for the cause of desertion, claiming Paul was applying the teaching of Jesus to a new situation. While the teaching of Jesus was certainly being applied to a new situation, there is no reason to assert that desertion in 1 Corinthians 7:15 serves as an additional allowance for divorce and remarriage. We recommend Wayne Jackson article, “What Is the Meaning of ‘Not under Bondage’ (1 Cor. 7:15)?” (ChristianCourier.com), in response to this viewpoint.
- Ortlund, Whoredom, 21-23.
- Cf. Jackson, The Teaching of Jesus Christ on Divorce and Remarriage, 5-6.
- Wayne Jackson, “What is Adultery?,” ChristianCourier.com (Accessed: 30 Mar. 2001).