In this account of creation, we look more closely at the events and in so doing we see that there are distinctions between man and woman. They are not the same.
2:7 Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
2: 18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19. So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air 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 cattle and to the birds of the air and to every animal of the field. But for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 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 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; this one shall be called Woman, for out of man this one was taken.” 24. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
First, notice that the man was created first, and that it was clear from the very beginning that by himself things were “not good.” In verse 18 God announces he will make a “helper” for him. This is a good translation, but there is a strong connotation (in my mind) of something very unhelpful with the word “helper.” If you want to occupy a 4 year old child, you might say, “Would you like to be my helper today?” Or, you might compliment the same child by saying, “You’re such a good helper!” That is not the meaning of this word in Hebrew. This is the idea that we discussed at the beginning about the language difficulties. This word is used most often of God himself. As in, “the LORD is my helper I will not be afraid, what can anyone do to me?” (Heb 13:6). Similar ideas can be seen in Ps 30:10, 54:4 etc. This is a kind of help coming to alleviate some sort of deficiency. In other words, God created a woman because the man needed her. In God’s sight, man needed help even before the fall . . . before sin entered into the world. We all need community, not because we are sinners, but because we are human beings.
In Verse 23, the man names the woman. We understand a little bit today what this means. In the time when this was written (and for most of human history), it would be clearly understood that this act of naming signaled that the man had authority over and responsibility for the woman. She does not name him in return. He was not taken out of her body, but she was taken out of his. There are some clear distinctions, even if we don’t know exactly what they are quite yet. Finally, notice that there is great intimacy, harmony and peace between them.
This is where the gender roles get all mixed up and we begin with the problems. Sin enters the world. We should note that the man and woman sinned together for the first time. When God comes to them, he calls for Adam, not for Eve. The curses given to them are certainly for all of mankind, but there is a difference in emphasis between the curses given to the man and those given to the woman. For the man, God talks about the difficulty of his work. 17-19. ‘And to the man he said, because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘you shall not eat of it’, cursed is the ground because of you. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall bring forth for you and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground. For out of it you were taken. You are dust and to dust you shall return’.
For the woman, he talks about the difficulty of her relationships, especially with her family (husband and children). 16. ‘To the woman he said, I will greatly increase your pangs in child bearing. In pain you shall bring forth children. Yet your desire shall be for your husband. And he shall rule over you’.
It is this very commandment that prevailed until the death and resurrection of our Lord. The arrival of the Lord changed it drastically and man and woman started to be equals in the basic sense as much as it was possible to be seen in the beginning, but with a different notion towards gender roles.