Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Sixty-three words on the perfect marriage (Gen 1:1-2:25)

I started this blog four years ago, in 2013, to take a stab at answering my curiosity about what it means for me, from God's perspective, that I am a woman. I didn't get very far then, (see the previous 2 posts from 2013) but here I am again, so clearly the question is still on my mind! I am going to try again this year to make my way through the Bible looking for hints about what it means that God created us male and female. I hope to find out more about God by looking at the order he created and also learn about how, as a female, I should live in his world.

It was fun to look back and see what I observed when I made my first start in Genesis, but to refresh myself and put down my current thoughts, I'm going to start again in the beginning.

Genesis 1-2 tell the creation story. Genesis 1 gives an overarching summary of how God, day by day, formed different realms of creation. The last day before he rested, he "created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them, male and female he created them."

This first creation story strikes me as more poetic than scientific. It seems to show the world being created form low to high, completely, but from nothing, with human beings created at the very end, with authority to rule the rest of creation- to fill and subdue it. This story has human beings as male and female together, doing both filling and subduing. The next story in chapter 2 has much more to say about the first man and woman distinctly.

This second story has Adam being created before the plants and animals. (The fact that the chronologies of these two stories conflict is one thing that tells me that chronology is not their point.) God forms him from the dust and then breathes life into his nostrils. The man is put in a garden God has planted for him, which includes the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. The four rivers described are real rivers, so this story happens on earth in a tangible way.

God gives the man the command about the forbidden fruit, then proclaims that he is alone and needs a helper. The animals are formed next and prove not to be suitable as helpers for him.

God's description of the woman he is making is important to consider. He has her in mind as "a helper suitable for him." I recently read Susan Hunt's book "Becoming Eve" which makes the argument that since woman and man are made in the image of God, woman is a helper in the same sense that God is a helper throughout the Bible using the same word. I think she has a good point. As I think of these uses in the Bible, I wonder if this "helper" means sort of a benefactor, like someone who helps him succeed, who brings him blessing, who does not harm him, but makes his life better.

God anesthetizes the man and creates woman from his rib. Why is Eve made from the rib? This detail is so familiar to me, having learned it from preschool age. But I would love to know it's significance. I will probably not get anywhere on that question without knowing a lot more about ancient Jewish literature than I do. Anyone want to help in the comments?

The next few verses, are almost all we have to go on about marriage and men and women together before the fall:

"At last," the man exclaimed. "This one is bone from my bone and flesh from my flesh! She will be called 'woman' because she was taken from 'man'" This explains why a man leaves his father and is joined to his wife and the two are united into one. Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. (Gen 2:23-25)

Sixty-three English words describe the only perfect marriage we will ever be able to peek into! Taking the little we've got, what can we learn?

The man is excited! "At last" is a bit ironic, since this was the very beginning of creation, and the very first woman or even other person the man has ever seen. But apparently it seems like too long that he has been alone when he finally meets the woman. What excites him is that she is made from him, from the same stuff. It reminds me so much of what I felt like saying when I laid eyes on my first child. Did Adam have that feeling about Eve? It was almost as if he did birth her (under anesthesia, but that's how some births go!).

Then we have marriage described as a man leaving his parents and being joined to his wife, becoming one with her, a new unity. Why does he leave his parents rather than she? Maybe it's that they both do, but the story is focusing on the man as the protagonist. Or perhaps that she now cares for him the way his parents did? But no, this is a different concept than parent-child love. The sentence uses three unity words in my translation: "joined," united," and "one," so it seems the happy marriage is about unity. And probably unity with a spouse as superceding other family ties. 

Both the man and "his wife," no longer just "the woman," are naked, but not ashamed. So much in that sentence, brief though it is. I have heard many messages about the importance of being metaphorically naked and not ashamed, in marriage, and in Christian relationships in general. The idea I've heard taught is of complete openness and complete acceptance, which of course is not so hard if everyone is perfect! This passage actually gives us nothing at all about human relationships other than marriage before the fall, except that a man leaves his parents to join his wife. Would everyone have been naked and unashamed in a perfect world, or just spouses? A redeemed relationship of openness and acceptance despite true sin being present is a whole different animal. It's something I believe the rest of the Bible does call us to, but it's so much more challenging in our current state. Redeemed humanity may turn out to be even loftier than pre-fall, in that sense.

But back to the nakedness of marriage. The man and the wife are naked, unadorned, everything in the open. [[Strange to note that sex is not mentioned as part of this happy marriage. Just implied? Though no children are born before they are born in the difficulty of the next chapter's curse, surely they would have been . . . how would that have gone?]] But there is no shame. Without the self-centeredness that is so much of the essence of our sin, perhaps they just didn't even think to judge themselves, or each other. They were just receiving the gifts of a sparkling new world and a sparkling new soulmate. Shame is such a killer of true love in marriage and in other relationships. I would reach out, . . . but what if they don't like me, if I'm not worthy, and am rejected?? Or taken advantage of?? Better just stay safe over here by myself. The opposite of unity.

Last time I started this blog, I flew straight through these chapters into the story of the fall. And there is a lot of interesting stuff that happens during story of the first sin, but before the curse, from which we could learn more about a perfect world. But I will have to save that for the next post!

Takeaways from Genesis 1-2:

  • Male and Female together are the crown of creation, charged to fill the earth and subdue it.
  • The woman is created as a helper suitable for the man.
  • Pre-fall marriage was about unity, and nakedness without shame.

Questions for the comments:

  • What do you think "helper suitable for him" means?
  • Why the rib??
  • Why does the man leave his parents to join his wife and not the reverse?

No comments:

Post a Comment