Marie Curie (Maria Sklodowska) was born in Warsaw, Poland in the second half of the nineteenth century. Even from a very young age she showed vast academic promise, but was not allowed to attend university because she was a young woman – and these were the days when women weren’t to work in such areas. That wasn’t true everywhere, so she relocated. First diving into studies secretly, she eventually moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne in the open in a society that allowed her to pursue her passion. She excelled and earned advanced degrees in both mathematics and physics. Within a short time after she was noticed by the French academy, she met an impressive scientist named Pierre Curie, and the two fell in love and were married. Not a normal husband and wife, they formed a unique partnership in scientific study – each helping the other in projects and experimentation. Over the years of her work, Marie Curie organized disciplines of study and essentially is credited with largely assembling what today is dubbed “atomic physics.” In a paper, she coined the term “radioactivity” as her description of atomic phenomena observed in the collective lab work they did, along with the work of other contemporary scientists. Pierre and Marie discovered together two radioactive elements: polonium (named after Poland) and radium. In 1903, Marie Curie’s work was recognized internationally when she became the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in physics. After Pierre died in 1906, Marie took over his position as a university professor, becoming the first female professor at the Sorbonne. Later, in 1911, Marie was recognized again in a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry. To this day, Curie is the only woman to win two Nobel Prizes. She is one of many incredible historical figures, explorers, artists and brilliant minds that dot the landscape of human history.
What is clear to anyone who has truly studied history is this: women contributed in dramatic ways throughout human history. They still do, and they will until time gives way to eternity. In this lesson, we want to look at the design and purpose of God’s creation of woman.
In our study of Genesis, we found two important (and intentionally densely worded) truths:
• In the prologue of Genesis 1:1-2:3, we learned in the “story of the seven days” that God made everything according to His desire, ascribed each creation its only true purposes, and is (by virtue of creation) the absolute Owner of all of the universe.
• In the first of four stories in the scroll of “What Went Wrong” (2:4-4:26) God made man and placed within the design MORAL AGENCY, thereby opening the possibility of sin and destruction – because it suited Him to tell His story in such a world.
We noted there are three more stories of the “What Went Wrong” scroll.
Last time we looked at the “creation of man.” This time we will examine the “creation of woman.” As we look at the passage, I want you to notice yet another foundational truth that helps explain how “things went wrong.”
As man was designed to be a moral agent, so woman was designed with very specific purpose. Within the statement of her purpose there is more than just a pedantic story of “Adam gets a helper” – as the children’s storybook version suggests. Her purpose was disclosed as part of the story of how things went wrong in the cosmos. If you read the passage carefully, I believe you will see that the woman was created with purpose, and then (as you knit the account into the scroll from which the story was taken) you will see this truth…
Key Principle: The enemy exploited the unique design for man and woman to use their own purposes against them.
Go back to near the beginning of the human story…The fall of angels had already happened, and a rebellion was afoot by the time man was first placed in the garden. The “morning stars” that sang at creation were now divided into two groups – one following God and one in mutiny against God. When God placed man in the garden, He moved forward with a story the entire cosmos could observe. It is the story of Who our Creator truly is.
Genesis 2:18-25 is the primary text that described the creation of woman by God. The passage can be cut into three natural parts:
• The first part supplied the background: it teaches about man before her creation and his needs to set the stage for her introduction into the story.
• The second part offered the “essential substance” of the story: God brought forth the woman.
• The final part included an important note about the basic building block of human society – the formation of the nuclear family.
All of it ties into a larger story of how evil and trouble entered our world.
The First Part: Genesis recorded the following about man and his needs:
Take a moment and examine the background setting in Genesis 2:
Genesis 2:18 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.
From the first part of the record, ironically we learn four essential truths about man, before the woman is on the scene in the garden:
First, man was not only designed for organization, administration, service (work) and guardianship of God’s estate, but also intimate relationship with others (2:18).
Look again at the simple statement:
Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…
It may be hard to tell when you look at the behavior of some men in your life, but men were originally designed to crave relationship and connection. “Alone” was not a description of what was BEST for man.
Consider two important observations that we learn from this simple sentence:
First, the twisting of a God-given desire for companionship, including physical contact, was one of the most effective weapons Satan could invent by twisting it from its natural shape. He isn’t creative; he is an impostor. He steals what God made and warps it to help us mutiny still more. The man’s inherent created desire for connection, when twisted, becomes his inordinate attention to sexual expression and physical relationship. He was made to DESIRE TO CONNECT. In his lost state, that connection of heart is all too willingly traded for self-pleasure.
Second, anyone who counsels those who struggle emotionally and spiritually will easily testify that isolation is another one of the excellent weapons our enemy has formed against us from our design. As the father of deception, he pushes us to isolate ourselves with shame and guilt because we are most vulnerable and susceptible to his direction when isolated. That isolation is, perhaps, the area we need to guard most strongly against. We need to force ourselves to keep relationships solid when we are tempted to retreat. Think of it! There are a plethora of “one another” commands in the Scriptures that suggest that in our fallen state we will not naturally connect and care for one another as we ought without a push from God.
Second, man needed a specific kind of companion (2:18b).
Genesis 2:18 “…God said…“I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
Though animals can bring both comfort and companionship, the true relationship man lacked deep inside was intentionally designed to be something MORE. It included a helper SUITABLE (neh-ghed) for him. The term means “conspicuous” or “obvious” for his needs (2:18b).
Don’t get distracted by the word “helper” (Hebrew: ay’-zer). Clear in the text is the notion that God made for man a woman as a helpmate, someone who would help him fulfill God’s assignment for his life. Yet, we can make a terrible error here. Does “helper” imply that the woman was made strictly as a servant to the man? Not at all!
Helper is not synonymous with assistant, servant, minion, or subordinate.
Indeed, the Hebrew word “helper” is often used for God as a helper of man (cp. Ex. 18:4). The term doesn’t presume lesser value in and of itself, as it may denote in the English. Rather, it focuses on the end result – assistance to the one needing help.
God helps man, but He is not man’s servant – His desire is for the man’s success and so aid is offered.
The term “helper” is unrelated to any claim of worth or value – the idea is entirely separate. To be clear, one cannot argue from this term that woman was simply created to serve man – rather she was created to complement man on his mission before God and help him succeed to that end. Her purpose is obviously tied to his – but not in any way that makes her less valued by God. She offers man much needed assistance without which man would fall short of his Creator’s desire.
Furthermore, the Hebrew word translated “suitable,” kenegdow, carries much more meaning than simply “fit” or “appropriate.” This word also means “opposite or contrasting.” This implies that the two beings were designed to work and fit together perfectly, not just physically, but in all ways.
In many ways, the strengths of each compensated for the weaknesses of the other.
It was “not good” for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18), but, together, Adam and Eve became something far stronger and more able than either of them could have been alone. Adam lost a bit of tissue from his side, but he gained so much more!
We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk. – Thomas Moore
There were times in the history of the church (and of the West) where even Jesus followers became sloppy with our Holy Writ and adopted prejudices and attitudes that are not actually defensible from the Word at all. In some instances, we held women back from things like a vote for elected officers, etc. that are well outside of the reasoning of Scripture. You cannot find a place in the Bible where it defends inequality in access to education or personal development. In the Word, there is no question that God made women equally intelligent and quite able to cast a vote with discernment equal to men. Any argument to the contrary seems hostile, not simply to our culture, but to the text of God’s Word.
At the same time, we must face the fact that we live in a highly feminized environment, with some cultural ideals that have been openly developed as HOSTILE to God’s Word. We can easily see that some of the highest values of God’s Word (the inherent dignity of human life, the wondrous and exalted place of motherhood, etc.) stand in direct conflict with some of the loudest voices in our culture. Be careful here.
God called women “suitable helpers” and DID distinguish between the man and the woman in terms of spiritual culpability – but NOT in terms of worth. In the Law, specifically in Numbers 30, a woman was restricted from making a DIRECT VOW before the Lord. That wasn’t because she was undiscerning – it was because she was created FROM MAN, in an indirect creative work of God. Paul made that argument in the 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2. That is a difficult to understand argument, and it deserves time (perhaps later) to dissect. At the same time, I would be remiss if I didn’t openly point out that God’s Word is structured around two creations – man and woman – equal in value by different in how they approach and serve God. I have no interest in holding anyone back from serving as they choose – provided it fits inside what the Scripture expressly allows.
A third important truth: man isn’t the first to recognize his needs. (2:19-20).
Look at the end of the short sentence in Genesis 2:20.
Genesis 2:20 “… but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.
In the story, God clearly knew the need man had of a companion and helper, but He desired that man feel that need as well. This is one simple example of how God may bring us through a times of LACK to help us understand our own needs – even the ones He is filling (or longing to fill) in our lives. That lack is not a punishment; it is a school (Gen. 2:19). God knows your needs before you do, but may bring you through a series of circumstances simply to help YOU see your needs (2:18-25). Adam needed a helper – God knew it (2:18) but Adam had to discover it (2:20). Only after Adam felt the loneliness, did God take care of it. Perhaps the reason this detail is included is to help us understand something of the nature of the man that needed the assistance of the woman.
Is it possible this account was included to remind men they need to be open to another set of eyes on “what they need?” I suspect that is the case.
Men, listen to this simple truth: You need a better perspective than you can provide yourself. In the home, you need a wife who can tell you what you didn’t see. At work, you need a team mate to make sure you are learning to perceive what is happening around you. We don’t have all the tools in our toolbox because we were made for relationship.
By the way, don’t fuss about lack. Lack can help you learn to see more clearly. A periodic sense of profound weakness can produce a life of intense strength. Constant fullness and elated bliss isn’t healthy. One writer put it this way:
Never have I seen so many young, privileged, people trying so hard to be happy. There are countless articles written about it, blogs named for it, workshops attending to it. Who ever said we’re supposed to be happy all the time, anyway? We’re not. And the pressure to do so might be what’s making us unhappy to begin with. It’s OK if you’re not completely content with your life twenty-four hours a day. Can you imagine what a boring person you’d be if you were? Going through … storms, feeling uninspired, hating the way you look and having guilt over not accomplishing enough are just some of the things that make you interesting, relatable and human. ..This is not to say that people shouldn’t strive to better their positions in life, however it seems like so many of us are no longer content with a regular amount of happy, yet dead-set on being maniacally jubilant, all of the time. -Kelly Rheel (blogger).
Fourth, it is also important to note that man named things to symbolically show his responsibility for them (2:20).
Don’t skip the detail in verse 20:
Genesis 2:20 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.
Giving a name was more than authoring a dictionary; it was about taking the assigned responsibility over the environment. One cannot manage what one does not distinguish and name. For some people, they can’t eat an animal after they named it. They feel a sense of betrayal.
Adam needed to wade out into his job and take responsibility for what God designed him to accomplish. He needed to take on life and own the work before him. The only way you truly fail at life is if you retreat from participation in your calling. Don’t miss that he was busy FOLLOWING GOD’S DIRECTION before God entrusted a mate to him.
Let me say this: Don’t expect God to take one of His best and most precious creations and drop them into your life BEFORE you are willing to show Him you desire to obey His direction!
The second part of the narrative examines the actual creation story of woman:
We have seen the first part of the story – that man had true needs and God was about to fulfill them. Now comes the FUN PART if you have discovered (as I have) a happy marriage…
First, God deliberately and intentionally designed woman without consultation from man (2:21).
Consider the words of Genesis 2:21:
Genesis 2:21 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.
Take a look at the fact that woman was formed while man was in “a deep sleep” (tar-day-maw’) which is a term for “deeply sedated” or even “comatose.” Her “formation” (baw-naw’) was the term for “constructed” and is sometimes used for building, but also used for the term of what happens inside the womb as a baby is formed. It can even be used of God “building up a house” by adding children to the family.
• You may never have considered the difference between how God made man and how He made woman. Remember that Genesis 2 revealed that God “formed Adam out of the dust of the ground.” The Hebrew term “yawtsar” meant “to mold or shape as in a potter shaping clay.” The word is one that denotes the making of a pot by a potter – the shaping of a substance for USEFULNESS.
• In the case of the woman, the term “bawnaw” denoted she was “fashioned” not simply “shaped.” That term was used of a complex structure, such as a temple, palace or perhaps a “work of art” would have been. Most scholars would agree the terminology implied that the woman was meant as both a companion, and an aesthetic work, a design for pleasant appearance.
It may also be worth noting that she was not only designed to be aesthetically pleasing (which became obvious by Adam’s response to her), but to be more aesthetically sensitive – it seems she was designed to CARE about appearance more. Consider this:
Researchers note nearly one of ten men are color blind (actually 8%), but a mere one out of two hundred women share that malady. Some think this implies God built into women a greater capacity to be aesthetically sensitive, though with the Fall it is hard to know for sure.
Now consider how the enemy took advantage of the way God made man and woman.
• In the case of the woman, she could (if led away) become overly concerned with appearance to the point that it distracts her away from helping the man complete the God-given mission. She could get caught up in how she catches his eye, rather than how she helps his heart.
• In the case of man, he could (if led away) become obsessed with her beauty to the detriment of his own mission. He could care more about capturing her affections than following God’s will.
It isn’t difficult to imagine either of those issues, but they are part of the twisting of God’s original design of each. That is part of the reason God took the time to explain the creation of each.
Second, woman was formed out of the tissue of man (2:22).
Keep reading, and the technical side of her creation is exposed.
Genesis 2:22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
The word for “rib” (tsay-law’) is actually a term that can refer to the side of a structure, or the side wall of a terrace. It simply refers to the location from which the tissue was extracted by God, but not necessarily the technical piece of bone itself. In effect, the text simply reveals that man was used as the “starter tissue” to form woman. She was not taken directly from the ground, but was taken from already living tissue that came from man after he was already a living being. That fact will have important implications later in the Bible.
God explained that He used the man’s tissue to form the woman in order to show they were actually parts of the same created being, two halves of a whole. The female was created distinct from the male but both were completed in each other. In that way, the note on “one flesh” makes even greater literal sense. We use the term physically and spiritually, but it essentially means “putting the whole back together.”
There is a sense of completion that happens in the bonding of a good marriage. There is also a severe tearing that occurs in the breakup of a marriage. This isn’t simply a contract or a case of inane familiarity (i.e. “we are used to each other after this many years”). Anyone who lost their spouse to death can tell you it affects you on so many levels, you feel torn in half. It isn’t your imagination; it really is a tearing from one into two.
Third, woman was brought by God to the man (2:22).
Keep reading, and we will get to the relational part – where Adam first saw Eve.
Genesis 2:22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
Fortunately, the scene was a page before sin when the term “awkward” set in. God didn’t let Adam figure out an approach or “pick up” line. Considering his inexperience with females, anyone who ever observed a Jr. High dance will tell you it was good that God didn’t let him actually approach her to meet, or they might still be standing opposite the punch bowl in the garden looking at each other like cows in a field, deathly afraid to speak to each other.
No, this meeting took place when they were still unafraid of each other. The awkwardness didn’t come until the breaking of man’s self-image – and that came at the Fall in Genesis 3.
Fourth, when man awoke, he knew she came from him (2:23).
Genesis 2:23 revealed Adam KNEW where she came from in the beginning (and it wasn’t from Venus!).
Genesis 2:23 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.”
Here is the absolute first of a long series of “boy-meets-girl” movies. Adam said she is “bone” from me (eh’tsem), which refers to the frame, the limb or the strength of a man. The term (baw-sar) is the term “flesh” and literally means the “meat on the bone” (i.e. muscle, etc.) of her frame. He exclaimed that she was “taken” (law-kakh’) “extracted” from man. This isn’t incidental; it reveals that every part of her was taken from his design and from his tissue, but carefully constructed into a new related form.
Look carefully at the man’s exclamation: “She is from me, and I will name her as something additional to me.” He was called “man” (ish) while he called her “woman” (isha).
Adam’s first reaction, “She is one being with me”, is later strengthened in verse 24 by the phrase “and they will become one flesh.” It is as if he recognized from the beginning the single word that makes marriage successful: the word “ours.”
Look closely at the words “She shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” In them is the Biblical principle of headship, which was developed more in the New Testament. In the Bible, the man held ultimate culpability for the nature and character of the home, and was charged with the responsibility with exercising unique leadership as he followed God’s direction and purpose.
The third part of the narrative included a God breathed note dropped into the narrative about the nuclear family and its formation:
Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
First, a man’s commitment to permanent responsibility was the basis of the family structure.
Because woman was taken from man, brought to man and named by man – man was to take responsibility for the woman BEFORE they became the basic biological components to the foundational social structure – the nuclear family. The terms “father” and “mother” are used, as is a reference to biological reproduction in becoming “one flesh.”
The foundation of any marriage is a commitment to permanence. The man LEAVES home (and establishes his own desire to take self-responsibility, then CLEAVES to his wife. The Hebrew term “dabag” means, “to adhere as in glue.” Remember, this was written long before the glue of a “sticky note.” This was a word of intentional permanent bonding.
Second, a man and woman were made to engage life together without the need to cover who they truly are.
Genesis 2:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
The final words of the text speak clearly of openness and transparency between a man and his wife. Secrets kill a marriage; communication establishes it. Retreat and silence make a marriage shrivel; sharing together deepens the foundation.
We live in a culture where people share a meal reading the words from a screen and caring little for the person with which they are having the meal. Marriage isn’t just about longevity. People can endure torture for a long time – but that isn’t the measure of the experience. Honestly, the breakdown of communication with your spouse IS the breakdown of your marriage. The inability of a couple to love past surface differences and allow each to share without constant fear of judgment is the undoing of a marriage.
Can you see it?
The enemy exploited the unique design for man and woman to use their own purposes against them.
God didn’t build the world on nations. He didn’t build it on political parties or even types of government. God built the basic fabric of our society on a home. He built it on two people – a man and a woman – completing the mission God gave them.
I close with an observation about never underestimating a woman…
A police officer jumps into his squad car and calls the station.
“I have an interesting case here,” he says. “A woman shot her husband for stepping on the floor she just mopped.”
“Have you arrested her?” asks the sergeant.
“No, not yet. The floor’s still wet.” (Smile!)