Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Equality in the Original Marriage Design - Part III

...continuing the discussion of the original design for marriage in Genesis 1 and 2 as it pertains to authority and hierarchy between the spouses.

Part I of this series explored the equality of the genders in the Genesis 1 creation account. Part II dispelled some arguments supporting an unequal relationship (an authoritarian hierarchy) within marriage. Now we move on to the more detailed creation account in Genesis 2. We will see that the shared and equal partnership which was alluded to briefly in the prior chapter now comes alive as God gives us the “rest of the story” of how and why “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Genesis 2 occupies only 25 verses. Yet within those few verses we have the quintessential “boy meets girl” story. The Genesis 2 account is full of intrigue, mystery, miracle, and romance. Most of all, it adds the necessary details regarding how mankind was to go about completing the God given tasks of filling and subduing the earth. We will approach this text in the way all great literature is approached (both documentary and fiction), by looking at setting, circumstances, characters, and plot.

Genesis 2:4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. 5 Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8 The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." 18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." 19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought {them} to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 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 the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (NASB)
The Setting

The story unfolds at the end of God’s creative “week”. The earth is divided into two regions: the vast majority is harsh and barren; and then there is this little pocket of perfect peace and sustenance, hidden deep within the wilderness, which God calls Eden. Genesis 2 takes place almost exclusively in Eden. But it is important that we know about the outside, for that is where the first family is exiled to in the sequel.

The Circumstances

Even with a perfect home, something is still rotten in Eden. Throughout the entire creation account, everything has been pronounced “good” by the Creator. But all of a sudden, “it is not good…” proclaims the voice of God. What can be done to fix this conundrum?

The Characters

Lonely Adam, a mysterious stranger, and “lions and tigers and bears, oh my”; and of course, God. The only thing missing is a really great villain. You’ll have to wait for the sequel for that as well.

The Plot

Adam comes to life in a barren and hostile wilderness. We don’t know how long he was there, probably only seconds, but he at least gets a glimpse of what lies outside of the home God has prepared for him. Once whisked into that new home, Adam finds it to be a relaxing, peaceful, and easy to manage environment. There is really only one rule, and the omnipresence of his creator makes for delightful conversation and provides for sufficient guidance in his work and behavior. But Adam has a yearning that he really can’t explain. Somehow, he feels that he is not complete. It isn’t that the work is hard or that he lacks for companionship, but still, something is missing. Little does he know that God already has seen his need and has a little surprise for him.

Just so Adam fully understands and appreciates his need and the gift yet to come that will fulfill it, God gives him a small task. Adam is instructed to name all of the animals he is contact with within his tranquil home. In getting to know each animal’s makeup (in order to find an appropriate name), Adam sees that none of them, regardless of their wonderful design, really turns his crank. Possibly a little frustrated and confused, Adam’s yearning grows even stronger. Maybe a good night’s sleep will refresh his spirit and bring clarity to his problem.

When Adam wakes up, he notices that something is “amiss”, namely part of his insides. Even while he is examining his perfectly healed surgery site, he hears a rustling in the bushes. Suddenly, another of his “kind” appears, guided by the easily recognizable presence of his friend and maker. But this new adam (Hebrew for human) is different, and exciting, and…well…different. More than anything, Adam instantly knows from his expertise learned in evaluating the other animals that this is the perfect compliment that he has been looking for. God fills him in on the conclusion of His creation work and, overjoyed, Adam cries out: “At last! This is finally one of my own kind; another just like me made from my flesh and bones. This is the perfect compliment I have been looking for. I will call her ishshah (woman), because she was formed from iysh (man).”

Immediately, a new and unique relationship is formed between just these two that neither of them will share with any other (and they know there will be others because that was part of God’s instruction to them). To this day, we call this God ordained covenant “marriage” and set it aside as different and better than any other human relationship because it is the only way in which a man and a woman can restore the one flesh that makes up these two equal but complimentary humans. And Adam and his wife walked off into the sunset to go consummate their marriage relationship. The end.

Whether or not you read the text straight from the bible (any bible), or read a romanticized version as above, there is one distinct truth that can’t be missed. Who is the boss in this new relationship? Is there any evidence that either the man or the woman “wears the pants”? Or is God indeed the real authority working in and through this new couple? As long as the couple stays in communion with God, is there any way in which they can screw up regardless of how their dominion responsibilities are distributed and regardless of who decides what as they go about their work of subduing and multiplying? Frankly, I envision Adam and Eve way too much in love and too appreciative of the contributions of the other to ever question whether or not the other should be making those contributions. I envision them being completely content and compatible partners as they fulfill their purpose. Certainly, that is the message of Genesis 2. Neither can make it alone, but there is nothing they can’t accomplish if they work in tandem with God as their only and ultimate authority.

But there is one final objection that is raised from Genesis 2. It comes not so much from the text itself but from another writer who makes some observations about this first couple. In the final segment, we will handle that last argument against equality, when we address the question: “but what about Paul?”

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