18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
As we work through Genesis 2 we are building a case for the social realities of human beings as revealed by scripture. We began by noting the fundamental fact of the social nature of human beings as evidenced by God’s words in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” We will now consider the maleness and femaleness of humanity. We will next consider the specific reality of marriage and all of its astonishing implications.
As we turn to Genesis 2:18-23 I am struck by the fact that probably for the first time in the history of the church are pastors in any widescale sense having to say the things I am going to say today regarding the human sexes and gender. There are few areas where there is more confusion and more hostility and more outright attacks on biblical truth than in this area. We may thank God, then, that He has not been silent on these vitally important issues.
When God created human beings, He made us either male or female.
Our text presents us first with the occasion for the creation of woman.
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
The creation of woman arises, first and foremost, from God’s announcement that man’s aloneness “is not good.” The occasion for Adam’s realization of and acceptance of this fact arises from his task of naming the animals. B.H. Carroll, the great Baptist commentator and educator from yesteryear, made this observation:
The animals in pairs passed before the man and he noticing that they were all in pairs—a lion and a lioness, a tiger a tigress, and so on—thus suggesting the thought to him that these lower creatures had mates, and he had none, but further suggesting that because of his difference in nature, he being in God’s image and infinitely above any lower animal, he could not find a mate among them.
Carroll argued that God paraded the animals before Adam, at least in part, to “[prepare] man’s mind to see the necessity of a companion.”This is helpful, if perhaps a bit speculative. Regardless, Adam realized his own need and the truth of what God had already observed. Thus, God moved to create Eve.
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Is it not beautiful and telling that the first recorded words of man in all of history is an expression of amazement at the existence and awesomeness of woman? In particular, he is amazed that now there is somebody like him. She is different from the animals. Adam sees Eve and realizes that they are of the same substance. Robert Alter, after observing that “the first human is given reported speech for the first time only when there is another human to whom to respond,” notes that verse 23 is a “form of verse, a naming-poem” and translates it thus:
This one at last, bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh
This one shall be called Woman,
for from man was this one taken.
Here we find the basic foundation of all anthropology: human beings are male or female.
Our being male or female is an act of divine intent and is neither arbitrary nor a social construction.
Yes, human beings are male or female. Furthermore, contrary to a growing chorus of voices saying otherwise, our being male or female is an act of divine intent and is neither arbitrary nor a social construction. What we see in Adam and Eve is an equality of essence but a differentiation in role.
Genesis 1 and 2 reveal the fundamental equality of the sexes. We see this in Genesis 1 when both men and women are shown to be created in and bearing the image of God.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
One can assert the inferiority of women only by doing great damage to the text.Victor Hamilton is correct when he writes:
…what God creates for Adam will correspond to him. Thus the new creation will be neither a superior nor an inferior, but an equal. The creation of this helper will form one-half of a polarity, and will be to man as the south pole is to the north pole.
This point unfortunately needs to be made even within the church. On two occasions over the years I have heard Christian men make the rather startling assertion that women’s bodies belong to men in marriage in such a way that men can do whatever they want whenever they want. I once encountered this after preaching on Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 7, a passage that clearly teach the exact opposite idea:
4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
Clearly Paul is holding up an amazing equality of essence in marriage. At the time when my handling of this text elicited the unpleasant response mentioned above, I made the point that nobody in the ancient world was making statements like this and that what Paul said in that verse, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was shockingly countercultural. Christianity upholds the biblical notion of the equality of women and women. In response, I had a gentleman tell me that this is not what Paul meant and that man has authority over his wife’s body whenever he feels the desire to have his wife’s body. I responded that such an idea should be utterly foreign to Christian men who are enjoined by scripture to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25).
No, while scripture does indeed speak of a differentiation in role, it speaks clearly of an ontological equality of essence.
Within this ontological equality we do find a differentiation. Adam is depicted as being the leader of the first family. We can see this, for instance, in the fact that Adam was created first. Paul makes this point in 1 Timothy 2:13: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”
We can see it also in Eve’s role as a helper of Adam.
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
Commenting on our text, the Old Testament scholar Ken Mathews does an admirable job of highlighting both the equality of the male and female represented in the text as well as the differentiation in role and the leadership of Adam. He writes first of the equality:
The woman is deemed by the divine mind “a helper suitable for him.” “Suitable” (kenegdo, lit., “like what is in front of him”) indicates a correspondencebetween the man and the woman. The focus is on the equality of the two in terms of their essential constitution. Man and woman share in the “human” sameness that cannot be found elsewhere in creation among the beasts. In every way the woman shares in the same features of personhood as does the man. In 1:26–28 this equality of the man and woman as image bearers has priority over their differences in sexual roles, although both were crucial in realizing the intended blessing…
…God creates the man first and derives the woman from the man to insure that she is his equal in substance and to maintain the unity of the human family. Thus they enjoy a unity despite their sexual difference, and this interdependence is explicit in the expression “one flesh.”
Even so, Mathews argues that within this ontological equality there is a differentiation of roles.
We make only this point: the idea of hierarchy is inferred in 1:2—2:3, and the Eden narrative that ensues is not fundamentally at odds with it…[L]eadership-followship is a creation ordinance that is well attested in Genesis 2—3 despite recent protestations…We cannot exchange the roles of the man and woman as though they were equal without undoing the narrative’s texture.
It has been fascinating for me to observe over the years as a pastor how often young women will tell me that they are praying for their husbands to become leaders. In my experience, it is not men clamoring for leadership. All too often men arerunningfrom leadership. Rather, their wives are praying for them to lead. Eve still wants Adam to lead and to do so lovingly while respecting her as an equal and a partner.
All of this is simply to say that the maleness and femaleness of a person are not accidental or incidental. Men and women are the same, but they are also different. Men are not women with different body parts. Women are not men with different body parts. I want to remind us of what earlier generations would have taken for granted: we are different, and those differences, while they can be trying to men and women at times, are beautiful and create a great complementarity between men and women.
I would like in particular to push against the modern notion that sex is biological but gender is social. While it is true that gendered behaviors can be greatly impacted by environment—i.e., boys raised as girls may take on feminine traits and vice versa—it is a myth that one’s gender is a totally separate reality from one’s biological sex. We must also lovingly reject the assumptions of the transgender movement that would argue, among other things, that it is healthy and good to physically alter one’s anatomy so that one’s body might correspond to what one feels is his or her true gender.
At this point it would be helpful to consider the comments of Dr. Paul R. McHugh, University Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. McHugh has pushed hard against a lot of the sacred cows of our modern sexually anarchic age, as the following illustrates:
Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, said that transgenderism is a “mental disorder” that merits treatment, that sex change is “biologically impossible,” and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder.
Dr. McHugh, the author of six books and at least 125 peer-reviewed medical articles, made his remarks in a recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal, where he explained that transgender surgery is not the solution for people who suffer a “disorder of ‘assumption’” – the notion that their maleness or femaleness is different than what nature assigned to them biologically.
He also reported on a new study showing that the suicide rate among transgendered people who had reassignment surgery is 20 times higher than the suicide rate among non-transgender people. Dr. McHugh further noted studies from Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic of children who had expressed transgender feelings but for whom, over time, 70%-80% “spontaneously lost those feelings.”…
“This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken – it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.”
The transgendered person’s disorder, said Dr. McHugh, is in the person’s “assumption” that they are different than the physical reality of their body, their maleness or femaleness, as assigned by nature. It is a disorder similar to a “dangerously thin” person suffering anorexia who looks in the mirror and thinks they are “overweight,” said McHugh…
The pro-transgender advocates do not want to know, said McHugh, that studies show between 70% and 80% of children who express transgender feelings “spontaneously lose those feelings” over time. Also, for those who had sexual reassignment surgery, most said they were “satisfied” with the operation “but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery.”
“And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs,” said Dr. McHugh…
Dr. McHugh also reported that there are “misguided doctors” who, working with very young children who seem to imitate the opposite sex, will administer “puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous – even though the drugs stunt the children’s growth and risk causing sterility.”
Such action comes “close to child abuse,” said Dr. McHugh, given that close to 80% of those kids will “abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated ….”
“’Sex change’ is biologically impossible,” said McHugh. “People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”
It is undeniable that we live in a fallen world in which there is not only a great deal of confusion but also a malady of both physical and mental disorders in the areas of gender and sex. We should indeed show compassion and offer prayer and presence to the parents of, say, hermaphroditic babies who are asked to make very difficult decisions about what they wish to raise their child as. We should recognize that such abnormalities, while rare, are a part of the physical fall and disordering of the world. We should also seek to be understanding and loving of those who genuinely suffer from the condition of gender dysphoria, those who truly feel deeply conflicted at what they perceive to be a disconnect between their biological sex and their gender identity. I would very much agree with Dr. McHugh that psychiatric help and counseling should be offered rather than the surgical mutilation of their bodies or amputation of sex organs. Above all else, the church should offer the support of prayer and love and encouragement, all within the bounds of scriptural truth.
Again, the world is fallen in every one of its dimensions, including in its physical and psychological dimensions, and this should caution the church against taking the world’s approach of calling “normal” whatever reality happens to be, either physical or psychological. The scriptures determine what is “normal,” and, believing as we do that the world is fallen as a result of sin, this means we must expect for the teachings of scripture to conflict with those who would seek to normalize disordered reality.
Biblically, we were created to be either male or female, and this is determined by our biological status at birth. How we respond to disordered realities in these areas must always be loving, redemptive, patient, and helpful, but also always biblical and clear.
Jesus affirmed God’s intent in making us either male or female.
It is important for us also to recognize the crucially important fact that Jesus acknowledged and taught the truth of the Genesis account of the creation of men and women. In Matthew 19, when Jesus was pressed on the question of divorce, He said:
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female
His remarks on these matters are even more pointed in Mark 10:
6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’
Yes, God made us male and female. These are the basic constitutive parts of the human family. This reflects God’s good intent for creation. Even though we have cast creation into disarray through the fall, these realities still hold. We must stand with Jesus against all distortions of these important realities.
B.H. Carroll, Genesis. An Interpretation of the English Bible. (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1942), p.83.
Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses. The Hebrew Bible. vol. 1 (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2019), p.15n.23.
Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1990), p.175.
Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1:11-26. The New American Commentary. Old Testament, vol. 1A (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, Publishers, 1996), p.213, 215, 220—21.