Having only been married for a year and a half, I do not claim to be an expert on marriage.
Far from it. Ask my wife.
Much has been said about marriage—its makeup, its role, and significance. Many books in the Christian realm have recently been written on this subject. And marriage is even one of the hot button topics of society in America. Traditional roles in marriage are seen as archaic. Young adults are waiting longer to get married than ever before in our nation’s history showing that marriage is not necessarily a valued step into adulthood as it once was for our society.
But what does the Bible have to say about marriage? As Christians our worldview cannot be conformed by society’s mold (Romans 12:1-2), instead we ought to live by a different standard.
Genesis 2:18-25 shows God's standard for marriage—His creation of the first marriage. If one is to learn about biblical marriage, it is necessary to understand the marriage that God forged with His own hands.
This passage comes on the heels of God’s first five and a half days of Creation. Light and dark, the ocean and the sky, the birds and the fish, the plants and the animals—the entire cosmos was created by the words of the Lord. Then the Lord decides to create “man in His own image” (1:27). Different than the rest of Creation, man was not called into existence but he was formed from the dust (2:7). This man was given dominion over Creation and freedom to part take of the fruits of his labor in the Garden of Eden.
Everything was good except for one thing. Man was alone (and every single man said, Amen!).
THE PERFECT FIT
Originally, the Lord had stated that His Creation was good—very good, in fact (1:31), but there was one thing that the Lord proclaimed as not good, “that the man should be alone” (2:18). The Lord’s solution to this dilemma was to create “a helper fit for him” (2:18). The NIV translates this as a “suitable helper.” God is not just looking for a quick fix of the man’s companionship problems—a dog could have just fixed that—but He is looking for the perfect fit for the man.
This fit was not found in any of the animals (2:19-20). The man went through every animal that God had created, naming each one of them. Although names were found for these animals, a suitable helper was not found for the man. To understand what the Lord was looking for, one must examine the term “suitable helper.” This term implies a complementary aspect, such as a “partner” or “counterpart."
The obvious reality is that an animal would never have made a complementary partner for the man. Pets are fun for a while but the conversation is a little one-sided. Luckily for Adam, God had a better solution in mind.
After being placed into a deep sleep, the man awoke to his perfect partner, a woman. The Lord had taken “one of his [the man’s] ribs…and the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man” (2:21-22). She was the perfect fit because she was handcrafted by the Lord from the man for the man.
The narrator of Genesis begins the conclusion of this passage with the saying, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (2:24). The narrator is not necessarily making a sociological mandate, that men always need to leave their families to join their wives, but the point is that they are to become their own unit—“one flesh.” This verse shows that what had happened between the man and woman of Genesis 2 was mankind’s first marriage.
The man who was formerly alone—the only part of creation that had been declared "not good"—had found a wife, and they completed each other, forming one perfect, cohesive unit.
The narrator describes the first marriage by ending this passage with the conclusion, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (2:25). This verse is contrasted, where innocence is lost, shame is found, and nakedness covered.
To be naked and unashamed was to exemplify a relationship with nothing to hide themselves from. I do not believe that this means they were unaware of their sexuality because their sexuality is tied into fulfilling the divine mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” (1:28) and also their sexuality is the physical manifestation of the two becoming one flesh (2:24).
What this does mean is that their sexuality was not something to be ashamed of because there was no sin within their sexuality because it was within a sinless marriage; it was sexuality being expressed as God intended it to be.
BRIDGING TO TODAY
Why was it not good for the man to be alone? John Walton states, "When something was ‘good,’ it was functioning as God intended it to function. Thus the statement that ‘it was not good for the man to be alone’ is one of non-functionality."
Basically men, we need a wife because we cannot function on our own (and all the wives said, Amen!).
Our "non-functionality" goes far beyond cooking only Top Ramen and never doing laundry. Because man was created in the image of God, man was created to be in a relationship, a relationship that could not be fulfilled with a non-image-bearing creature; he needed a partner who was like him and who could complement him and complete him (a suitable helper).
Instead of the man being able to find his partner on his own, the Lord steps in and fashions the God-intended companion for the man, a woman. This becomes the prototype marriage. A man, a woman, brought together by God and united together without any sin or shame to hinder them.
What this means for those of us who are married: Continue to tear down the barriers that would keep you from being unashamed with your spouse. This means continually repenting of sin to each other. Continually asking for forgiveness.
What this means for those of you who are single: Seek Christ. Get plugged into a church. Seek to become the right spouse instead of seeking for one. And men—grow up.
Do that and you never know, you may not be alone for long!