Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Marriage in Genesis 2

In an earlier post, we saw from Genesis 1:26-28 that humanity - created male and female in the image of God - is given a mandate to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it, and that this task is especially given to married couples. Men and women share this task in common, but as we move to Genesis 2 we find that men and women approach this task differently. And here we will focus on how they relate to each other in marriage, although these natural differences have relevance in all of life.

A common view today is that man and woman are equal and that marriage is subordinate to their pursuit of their (individual) dreams in which each has the same role in the marriage. (Even as I write this at the local library I hear a mother reading to her daughter the "Feminist ABCs" where D is for dreams and E is for equality.) This makes sense in an individualistic worldview where each person is their own maker, creating their identity and purpose out of thin air. But all this changes when we view the world through the lens of Scripture.

In Genesis 2, we find that man and woman were created by God, and that they were created differently. God made Adam from the dust and His breath (Gen. 2:7), while God made Eve from Adam’s rib (2:22). They had unique purposes behind their creation: Adam was created to work the ground and keep it (2:5, 15), while Eve was created to help Adam with this task (2:18, 20). Neither one of them was independent of the other, but they depended on each other differently. The ultimate end for both of them was the creation mandate, but Adam found the task and therefore received a helper, while Eve found the man and therefore received the task.

The fact that Eve was formed from Adam gave them unity. When Eve was brought to Adam, he saw that she was from his flesh, and so they united in marriage as one flesh (Gen. 2:23-24). Woman was taken from man, and ever since they have desired to become one again, a desire which is designed for marriage. Companionship, friendship, love, romance, and physical union thus play an important and natural role in marriage. And this union of affections and bodies also promotes their original calling to multiply and subdue the earth: it naturally leads to childbirth and it unites them closer so that they might work together as one.

Some have claimed that God's primary intent in marriage is not to make you happy, but to make you holy. But I'm not sure that marriage made Adam any more holy - it did, though, make him quite a bit more happy (Gen. 2:23). In our fallen state, marriage is supposed to make you holy as well as happy, and neither of these exhaust the purposes of marriage (since it's not all about you). Because of sin, marriage sometimes does not achieve its purpose, but this does not alter its purpose and design.

This one-flesh unity shapes the rest of the marriage relationship. Marriage is designed so that husband and wife work as one and treat each other as part of his or her self. The husband does not treat his wife as an external force to be conquered, but as his body to be directed and cared for. The wife does not see her husband as a conquering invader to be resisted, but as her head to be supported and obeyed. John Calvin commented on this chapter that “something was taken from Adam, in order that he might embrace, with greater benevolence, a part of himself. ” He says, “In this manner Adam was taught to recognize himself in his wife, as in a mirror; and Eve, in her turn, to submit herself willingly to her husband, as being taken out of him.”

We see from Genesis 2 that neither man or woman is independent - they both need each other - but they depend on each other differently. Adam helps as a head by directing and caring for Eve in love as His flesh and helper. Eve helps as a body by respectfully following and extending Adam’s leadership. As Calvin comments, “women, being instructed in their duty of helping their husbands, should study to keep this divinely appointed order. It is also the part of men to consider what they owe in return to the other half of their kind, for the obligation of both sexes is mutual, and on this condition is the woman assigned as a help to the man, that he may fill the place of her head and leader.”

Much more could be said on the topic, but from this chapter we can draw the following applications (in line with Scripture's own commentary on this passage in places like 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, 1 Timothy 2:8-15, Proverbs 31:10-31, and Ephesians 5:22-33):

Both Husbands and Wives: love and desire the other as one’s self. Seek your spouse's good and be close to your spouse in soul and body. Both should seek to help the other and promote God’s glory and fulfill His mandate together. Your marriage serves more than your respective needs - it is so much bigger than you.

Husbands: view your wife as your body. You provide and protect your body, so protect and provide for your wife. You direct your body for purposeful ends, so give her direction and instructions for purposeful ends. You train your body, so teach your wife as an intelligent human and co-heir of grace. You treasure your body, paying attention to what it communicates about its pains and needs, so value your wife and be understanding towards her. You honor your body before others since your body is you, so do not degrade or disgrace your wife before others.

Wives: view your husband as your body, particularly as your head. Even as your body works in unity with the head by following its direction, so help your husband by working according to his direction as one. As the body furthers and implements what the head intends, so take initiative to further your husband's mission by being faithful over your charge. Represent and reflect your husband, working as a faithful steward over his house.

For more on this topic, see my recent sermon "Marriage and Sexuality."  

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