Time: The dawn of human history
Lesson Aim: To recognize that God made us for relationships.
Imagine the difference between automobiles in a new car showroom and a junkyard. In some ways, life is comparable to that. God, as it were, hands us the keys to a brand-new car and then says, “Here’s how to drive it and take care of it.”
That’s what we find in Genesis 2, when all of life was brand new. We discover that God created Adam and Eve to be in a mutually loving and caring relationship with each another. It’s appropriate for us to wonder about what God told them, to consider what plan He had for them, and to ask whether it is still possible to achieve today.
As we reflect on that passage, we learn that driving our lives God’s way is the only approach to find value, meaning, and purpose in our relationships with one another. In God’s Word, we discover His driving manual. Its utility has been proven many times over, so heed it!
I. Adam’s Need for a Suitable Companion: Genesis 2:18–20
A. The Isolation of Adam: v. 18
Genesis is the book of beginnings. Here we find the beginning of the material universe, human life and sin, divine judgment on human sin, covenant promises, and the Israelite tribes.
Starting with Genesis 2:4, we have a second account of Creation. The material, unlike what precedes it, focuses narrowly on the first humans and the special place God prepared for them.
The Hebrew noun rendered “account” is one of 10 literary markers indicating the major sections of Genesis. The first three accounts pertain to the pre-Flood world, while the last seven deal with the post-Flood period.
“Lord God” is also significant in that this is the first place in Scripture where these two terms appear together. The Hebrew noun, Elohim, which is rendered “God,” is the same term used in 1:1. The plurality of the name emphasizes God’s majesty and power. Beginning in 2:4, Elohim is combined with Yahweh, which is rendered “Lord.” This is the personal name for God used by His covenant people, the Israelites (Exod. 3:14–15).
Genesis 2:5 reveals that initially, when the sovereign Lord created the heavens and the earth, He did not send any rain. Also, there were no people to tend the soil. Consequently, such vegetation as grass and grains were not growing anywhere.
Verse 6 states that the planet was watered from a mist rising up from the ground. It was at that time that the Creator formed the body of a man from the elements of the soil and breathed life into him.
Verse 7 contains a number of interesting details worth considering. First, adam is the Hebrew noun for “man” used here, while adamah is the noun used for “ground.” The idea is that the man’s physical elements came from the soil of the earth.
Second, the Hebrew verb rendered “formed” was commonly used for a potter’s work (Isa. 45:9). The idea is that God was like a potter, and the first man, being formed from the dust of the ground, was like a pot made from clay (Rom. 9:20–21). The Hebrew noun, adam, might be translated as “earthling,” since the Lord fashioned this clay figure out of moist soil of the earth.
Third, the man was formed out of the ground like the rest of the animals (compare Gen. 2:7 and 19). He became “a living being” (v. 7) just as all the animals became “living creatures” (1:24)—the same words are used in Hebrew.
All this goes to show that, in regard to his earthly body, Adam was much like the animals. Yet, he was also different from the animals because he was made in the image of God (1:26–27). Like the first man, we also owe our very existence to the Lord, and it is for His glory that we live (1 Cor. 10:31).
God had lovingly prepared a home for Adam. This was a garden occupying a locale called “Eden” (Gen. 2:8). The name “Eden” (v. 15) comes from a Hebrew root meaning “fertility” and refers to an enclave filled with lots of vegetation.
Moses clearly meant for his readers to understand Eden as a real area, since he provided many geographic details (vv. 9–14). The fact that the dwelling place was “in the east” (v. 8) suggests that the garden was eastward from where the author was writing, but the exact location is not given. The biblical text merely says the garden was located in the land of Eden.
The landmarks that are mentioned in the Bible identify Eden with four particular rivers: the Pishon (v. 11), the Gihon (v. 13), the Tigris, and the Euphrates (v. 14). While the location of the latter two rivers are known, the identity of the Pishon and the Gihon are not certain. Some scholars think the Gihon was the Nile, while others speculate it was a Mesopotamian irrigation canal that has long since disappeared.
One of the more popular traditions says that the garden of Eden was located in southern Mesopotamia, near where the Tigris and Euphrates empty into the Persian Gulf. However, if “Cush” (v. 13) refers to a place in Africa, then the entire Middle East (namely, from Africa to Iran) may be in mind.
In any case, Eden was a fertile area with abundant resources; but Adam’s stay there was no vacation. God expected him to tend and care for the garden. The fact that Adam was given this assignment prior to the Fall implies that work is part of God’s original design for humanity and was not one of the consequences of sin.
Moreover, Adam’s work enabled the garden to bear fruit. In short, the man had the responsibility of acting as a steward of God’s creation. Adam’s duties included tilling the field and tending the garden. From this we see that the man’s role was primarily that of a caretaker who used his aptitudes and abilities to enable God’s creation to flourish.
The ancient Eden orchard was filled with trees, but two of them were special. One of these was the “tree of life” (Gen. 2:9). We only find brief references to this tree in Eden’s garden (3:22, 24), but the tree of life reappears in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:2). Some theologians have suggested that if Adam had remained faithful and obedient to God, He would have used the tree to confirm eternal life for the human race.
In the New Jerusalem, the tree will bear 12 different kinds of fruit, with a new crop appearing each month of the year. The fruit gives life, and the leaves are used as medicine to heal the nations. The presence of healing leaves does not mean there will be illness in heaven. Rather, the leaves symbolize the health and vigor that believers will enjoy in eternity (Ezek. 47:12).
The other special tree in Eden conferred the “knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17). The meaning of latter tree’s name has been disputed. It probably has something to do with the tree’s ability to impart moral discernment.
Yet, the most important fact to note about the tree is that it was forbidden. God permitted Adam to eat freely from the fruit growing on any of the trees, except for the tree that gave the ability to discern the difference between moral right and wrong. This tree was God’s tool for testing the faith, loyalty, and obedience of the man.
Accordingly, the Lord gave Adam only one restriction. If he ate from this tree, he would suffer death (both physically and spiritually). As revealed in Genesis 3, the man did eat from the forbidden fruit. The fact that Adam had so many alternatives to choose from makes his eventual disobedience of God even more condemnable.
At first, God made only one human—Adam. Yet, the Lord never planned for Adam to be a loner, that is, the only one of his kind. All along God intended to make a woman for Adam. So, marriage and the family were part of God’s plan from the start.
The Hebrew noun rendered “helper” (v. 18) can also be translated as “companion” or “partner.” “Suitable” renders a term that conveys the idea of close correspondence. In this case, Adam needed a mate who would complement him.
While it’s true that Eve was created to be Adam’s “helper,” there is nothing in the language to suggest that this made the woman in some way inferior to Adam. On the contrary, the same word is used elsewhere to refer to the kind of help God provides (Pss. 30:10; 121:2). Consequently, even though Eve differed from Adam, she was not less than he was. Eve was Adam’s feminine counterpart, colleague, and co-laborer.
B. The Naming of Earth’s Creatures: vv. 19–20
God wanted to prepare Adam for the change that would come into his life. Yet, because the man had not ever known another creature of his kind, Adam needed to learn that there was a void in his life.
Consequently, to have Adam recognize his need for a woman, God had Adam name the creatures roaming the land and flying in the sky, all of which the Lord had formed from the soil of the earth (Gen. 2:19). God then listened to what Adam named each creature.
The naming activity had at least a couple of purposes. First, it was a way for Adam to exercise his God-given dominion over the rest of creation (see 1:26, 28). Just as the Creator had named day and night and other basic features of creation, so Adam named the cattle, birds, and wild animals (2:20).
Second, the naming was a way for Adam to review the whole of the animal kingdom (so to speak) and discover at the end what God already knew. Specifically, Adam was alone as a human being. There was no one else like him. Indeed, not one of the animals was a suitable companion for the man to complement and complete him.
The phrase rendered “suitable helper” (which also appears in verse 18) more literally means “a help as opposite him.” Of course, the latter could only be a woman. As was noted earlier, the idea is that the man and the woman would closely correspond to one another. They would also complement and complete each other. To be a helper in this sense is a noble calling.
II. God’s Creation of Eve: Genesis 2:21–25
A. The Formation of Eve: vv. 21–22
Now that Adam knew he needed a mate, God caused a “deep sleep” (Gen. 2:21) to come over him. The Hebrew verb rendered “made” (v. 22) also means “to build” or “to construct.”
We learn that God did not create the woman from the dust as Adam had been. Instead, God formed Eve from one of the man’s ribs, that is, a part of Adam himself.
The Hebrew noun translated “ribs” (2:21) can also rendered “side.” For example, in Exodus 25:12, it refers to the sides of the ark of the covenant. Such usage has prompted some to suggest that God took more than a rib from Adam when He made the first woman. The Lord may have taken some flesh along with some bone.
Regrettably, in ancient times, women were sometimes viewed as being inferior to men. Scripture, however, sanctions a radically different view. In fact, the Genesis account of woman’s creation is the only complete narrative of its kind found in ancient Near Eastern literature.
From the Bible we learn about the importance that God placed on women—even when the prevailing culture often did not. For instance, by sharing the same life as the man, Eve was fully a part of the human race God had started. Eve, along with Adam, bore the “image of God” (1:27).
Down through the centuries, theologians have debated what it means for humans to bear God’s image. Three common views focus on human reason, ethics, and dominion.
Some experts say humans are in the image of the all-knowing God because we have high mental abilities. Others claim people reflect God’s image when we behave morally, as God always does. Still others maintain we are in God’s image because we rule over the rest of creation, just as God rules over all creation.
Regardless of which view is preferred, Scripture clearly reveals that the image of God in humans was defaced through sin. Yet, Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9 suggest that all people still bear God’s image to some degree.
Moreover, Paul wrote that believers are having the image of God restored in them as they become increasingly Christlike (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:9–10). Hebrews 1:3 declares that the Son is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” Put differently, the Messiah bears the image of God perfectly.
B. The Suitability of Eve: vv. 23–25
When Adam woke after his operation, God led the woman to the man. Judging by the fact that Adam’s enthusiastic declaration on this occasion is the first piece of poetry in the Bible, Adam was overjoyed to see Eve.
The man exclaimed, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). Adam completed his naming activity by calling the new human “woman.” In Hebrew, the noun rendered “woman” is similar in sound and form to the word translated “man” that’s found here in English. From this we see that these terms reflect the basic similarity existing between the first two humans.
In Ephesians 5:31, Paul quoted Genesis 2:23 to show how a married couple are joined. This illustrates that the bond of marriage is strong. In fact, the Greek verb translated “united” (Eph. 5:31) literally means “to glue upon.” Paul’s implication was that a man must love the woman to whom he is joined (in a manner of speaking) by marriage.
“For this reason” (Gen. 2:24) reflects the truth that God made men and women for each other. In the case of the first two humans, Eve alone was truly comparable to Adam and so a perfectly suitable companion for him.
In light of the preceding truths, the Creator declared that it was appropriate for a man to leave his parents, be united to his wife, and be physically intimate with her. The reference here is to a man leaving one household—namely, that of his parents—to establish a new one with his wife.
In the case of Adam and Eve, they were married from their first moment together and remained united for life as husband and wife. Their union set a pattern for the marriages of their physical descendants.
Verse 24 is quoted by Jesus (Matt. 19:4–6; Mark 10:6–9) to provide a description of what God originally intended marriage to be like. In relation to the prevailing culture at the time Moses lived, Genesis 2:24 is distinctive in what it declares.
Specifically, in biblical times, a wife was often not considered an equal partner with her husband, but one of his many possessions. In contrast, the above verse places the spotlight on the man taking the initiative to separate from his parents to join with his wife, not the woman departing from her parents to become something the man owns. Such an emphasis is unique in ancient Near Eastern literature.
Genesis 2:24 has a dual implication. People have always known that it refers to the relationship between husbands and wives. Yet, only after the Savior’s coming to earth did some realize that it also refers to the relationship between Jesus and the church. That’s what Paul meant when he called it a “profound mystery” (Eph. 5:32)—a deep secret that had been revealed through the Messiah.
In verse 33, Paul summarized his instructions to husbands and wives. Husbands are to love their wives as they love themselves, and wives are to respect their husbands. The lordship and example of Christ is the basis for such a mutually loving and submissive relationship.
Genesis 2:25 notes that at dawn of the human race, the husband and wife did not need any clothing. The implication is that at first, Adam and Eve were characterized by innocence and integrity.
The Hebrew verb rendered “shame” denotes the presence of feeling humiliated and degraded, especially as a result of being maltreated and exploited. From a theological perspective, sin had not yet entered into the human race, bringing with it a sense of guilt and disgrace. The emergence of sin not only disrupted the fellowship Adam and Eve enjoyed with God, but also the presence of sin dealt a tragic blow to the unity and harmony experienced by the first human couple.
We are not told how long the two enjoyed the environment in which their fellowship with God and each other was unhindered by sin. The dire state of marriages today is enough to make one wistful, thinking of all that sin has cost the human race.
Why was I born?” “What’s the purpose of human existence?” Teenagers, unsure of their identities and feeling alone may ask the first question. Rabbis, theologians, and philosophers have discussed the second. Both queries reflect a basic human desire to find some meaning to life. You, too, undoubtedly have pondered whether God has any purpose for you. This week’s lesson addresses these issues by stressing that God made us for relationships.
1. LAVISHING PROVISION. The Creator placed humanity in a world with provision to nourish bodies and beauty to nurture spirits. Note that God’s provision is sufficient when we take care of the garden that is this beautiful planet.
2. LEARNING PARTNERSHIP. Genesis 2 opens the subject of the relationship of the genders. An entire lesson, of course, could be spent on marriage and male-female relationships. The basic point, though, is mutual caring, not domineering by either gender. The man and the woman in a marriage must consider one another as a partner.
3. LIVING IN OPENNESS. God’s intention for us as humans is that we live in trust with Him and one another. Humility, not haughtiness, should characterize every aspect of our lives, especially our dealings with our fellow human beings.
4. LIMITING FACTORS IN RELATIONSHIPS. Relationships are gifts from God to be cared for and nurtured. All good relationships need two main ingredients: love and truth. Sometimes, however, relationships get damaged in the process of living. These require forgiveness and healing. Other relationships may grow strained or distant through neglect. These require renewed care and attention. Still other relationships are a continual joy and we hope they will never end. These require prayer for wisdom.