Posted in Mutuality

Mutual Marriage: Order in creation? (Genesis 2)

photo by jimforest on Flickr

photo by jimforest on Flickr

There is much debate these days on the topic of Genesis and the creation story. From the Answers in Genesis crew to the good folks at the Biologos Foundation, many well-intentioned people are discussing how to faithfully read and interpret the biblical creation story. While those conversations are fascinating and valuable, our focus here is the relationship between men and women. The question today is: Was a male/female hierarchy part of God’s original design in creation? The pertinent passages for our discussion are Genesis 1:27-28 and Genesis 2:18-24.

In Genesis 1 we see no explicitly defined hierarchy between male and female whatsoever. Male and female are created together “in the image of God”. The only hierarchy described in this passage is the authority of mankind, male and female together, over the rest of creation. Together they are instructed to fill, subdue, and rule over the earth. They are united in creation and responsibility. It is in Genesis 2, however, where many see a differentiation between male and female. They argue that the term “suitable helper” (“help meet” or “helpmate” in the KJV) implies a supporting rather than a co-equal role for women.

When it comes to the meaning of “suitable helper”, the original phrase in Hebrew is `ezer kÿnegdo. The word `ezer is used 21 times in the Old Testament and it never implies any sort of subordination. In fact it often seems to imply strength or power, a helper that is stronger than the one being helped. The word is most often used in reference to God himself. God is our `ezer, our helper. The NET bible translation notes prefer the phrase “indispensable companion” as an accurate translation of `ezer. The word kÿnegdo is a little more complex, but in this context seems to mean something like “perfect match”. In the truest sense, Eve completed Adam from a creation standpoint. In each phase, creation was complete when God saw that “it was good”. Adam was “not good” (i.e. incomplete, imperfect) without Eve. God’s original design for husband and wife was “one flesh”, a mystical union of two individuals into one entity. In this respect the marital unit may echo the Godhead, where Father, Son, and Spirit are inexplicably three yet one.

So where did idea of the subordination of women come into the creation story? In Genesis 3:16. Here we see that the domination of men over women is part of the curse, a consequence of sin. It is not a part of God’s original design or intention. Since Jesus has redeemed us from the curse, I believe we should not be perpetuating it through male/female hierarchy but instead should be modelling God’s design and working to restore creation to God’s ideal: mutuality.

What do you think? Is the “one flesh” of marriage related to the oneness of the Trinity?

Further study:
Discovering Biblical Equality edited by Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Groothuis
Ezer Cenegdo: A Power Like Him, Facing Him as Equal by Joseph Coleson

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About Bob Mitton

Bob Mitton is an application development manager and teaching pastor at Central Church (Madison Heights, Michigan). He is co-founder of Permanent Passionate Partnership.