The First Marriage

Genesis 2:18-25 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 So out of the ground the LORD God 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.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

INTRODUCTION

Our passage for this morning is profound on many levels. It is profound in that it provides the basis for marriage. The very first marriage of all time is described here and presented as the paradigm for all future marriages. In other words, this passage tells us a great deal about what our marriages are and are meant to be. That’s pretty significant in itself. But there’s even more.

This passage is also profound in that it is the basis for a great deal of the New Testament’s teaching on what it means to be a man and woman. It is directly quoted or referenced in Matthew 19:3-6 and Mark 10:2-9 (where Jesus explains divorce to the Pharisees in terms of the leaving, cleaving, and one flesh), 1 Corinthians 6:15-16 (where Paul prohibits sexual immorality, again on the basis of the one-flesh nature of marriage), 1 Corinthians 11:7-9, 12 (where Paul establishes his understanding of the relationship between husbands and wives in light of the created order), Ephesians 5:28-32 (where Paul describes the manner in which husbands should love their wives in light of leaving, cleaving, and one flesh), and 1 Timothy 2:11-13 (where Paul explains how the created order effects the role of men and women in the Church). Again, that’s pretty significant too. But there’s more still.

This passage is profound in that it provides one of the clearest metaphors for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Of this marriage, and all that followed it, the Apostle Paul later wrote, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

We won’t be able to get to all of that this morning, but I share them here to give you a glimpse into the great glory contained in this short passage. Please pray with me, then, that God would wake us up to the profound nature of this passage in order that we might live profoundly for his glory.

THE FIRST MARRIAGE

Weddings and marriages are so common among us today that it can be easy to forget where they came from. Actually, in my experience, many people in and out of the Church have never really given it much thought. What’s more, in our current culture many of those who have thought about the origins of marriage believe that it is nothing more than a social construct; something people made up at some point in the past to help continue the species. It’s for that reason that so many today believe that we are free to tweak the meaning of and participants in marriage to fit our interests.

Well, where did marriage come from, what is it for, and how do we know? Is it merely a tradition we’ve inherited or is it something more? Marriage, as we will soon see, came from God and is for His glory and the good of all mankind (more on both below), and we know these things from the bible. In Genesis 2:18-25 we find the very first marriage, instituted by God, between the very first man and woman.

As I hope to make clear in this sermon, this is not merely a point of theological interest. It is extremely practical as well. Indeed, getting our heads and hearts around this passage is vital for us to have God-honoring, truly fulfilling marriages. To help you see all of that let’s look together at the text.

Man Was not Made to Be Alone

The opening line of this passage immediately captures our interest.

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.”

Man’s aloneness is the first thing in all of creation explicitly said to be “not good”. But what does that mean? We find clues to the answer earlier in Genesis and then later in the NT.

Why was it not good for man to be alone? There are at least two reasons. The first reason is stated clearly in the text: because God made man for companionship and with the need for help. It was not good because man, by himself was incomplete. In other words, we find here a statement of God’s design for human beings: We are made for community and fellowship and for a purpose that we cannot complete by ourselves. It is not good, then, when we lack those things.

The second reason it is not good for man to be alone, which we don’t find out until the NT, is that God made marriage, in part, to put the gospel on display. Ephesians 5:22-33 describes many aspects of a godly marriage. All of it is meant to be a living picture the gospel. Why is it not good for man to be alone? Because by himself he paints an incomplete picture of the sacrificial love Jesus has for his people. God didn’t design marriage simply for its earthly benefits—life-help, procreation, friendship, etc. He also designed marriage to help the world to see in advance the salvation he would offer to sinners. This, of course, makes the way we view marriage and act within it of utmost significance. Why we enter into marriage (or don’t), what we expect out of marriage, the way we love and forgive and serve, all paint a picture of the gospel; either one that is good, beautiful, and true, or one that is a lie.

Man was not made to be alone for at least these two reasons.

Man’s Companion and Help Was Not to Be Found Among any Previously Created Thing

The next thing to see in this passage is that man’s companionship was not to be found among any previously created thing.

19 So out of the ground the LORD God 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.

In each previous situation of incompleteness in Genesis, God immediately acted out his plan to bring it to completion. As soon as it was acknowledge that there was no light, God made light. As soon as it was acknowledged that there was no dry land, God spoke and there was dry land. Every time, God spoke and it was immediately so. Here, however, there is a delay. God recognized a problem (that the man was alone), but didn’t immediately remedy it. Instead, God put on a parade for Adam. He brought every animal (or every kind of animal) before Adam for him to observe and name. We sort of get the sense that God intended Adam to keep his eyes open as the rest of the creatures were presented to him to see if there could possibly be a helper for him among the lot. And yet, for a second time it is said, “There was not found a helper fit for him.”

The drama builds as we’re left wondering where this helper would come from and what it would be like.

Man’s Companion and Help Was a Woman

Fortunately, we don’t have to wait long. We find our answers in the next two verses.

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.

Because it was not good for man to be alone and because no helper was found among anything already created, God would need to create something else for Adam if things were to be good. And so, the LORD God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep—the first anesthesia. While in that deep sleep God took out one of the ribs of Adam and from it fashioned Adam’s companion and helper—a woman.

In this sense, this woman was made from man and for man. By himself Adam was incompetent and incomplete. So God made a woman to remedy both. Far from a slight on women, then, God’s design is anything but an expression of inferiority. Indeed, God himself is frequently referred to as helper (Exodus 18:4, Deuteronomy 33:7; 1 Samuel 7:12; Psalm 20:2, 46:1), and perfectly provides for us what we lack. This first woman—and all since—was created equally in God’s image, in value, and in worth to this first man. And yet, having been made in a complimentary way, she was created distinct in role. God made woman “fit for” man. Literally it means “According to his opposite”; it’s like a bolt and a nut, or a key and a lock. What Adam lacked, this woman supplied. Man’s companion and help was a woman.

Marriage Bound the Man and Woman Together

But what, specifically, would be the relationship between this first man and woman? In what context would the woman be a help and companion to the man? The answer is husband and wife, and the door to that relationship was marriage. The first marriage of all time is recorded in Genesis 2:22-23.

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.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

God brought the woman he’d made from Adam and for Adam to Adam, and Adam gladly received this gift from God. This was a remarkable and simple wedding. It was also, as I mentioned at the beginning, a remarkably profound one. As is often the case when it comes to things this great, mere words, mere narrative cannot do it justice. Something more than merely stating the facts and details is necessary. For that reason, to help his people understand the glory and gravity of situations like this one, God created poetry and music. You’ll notice that in v.23 the text of your bible is indented differently. That is to signify that it is a poem, which is to signify that it is truly significant. In fact, I want to point out ten remarkably significant aspects of this marriage (for the most part, I’ll simply name them here and expand on them at another time).

  1. It was designed and instituted by God. It was not the idea of the man or woman and it was not defined by the man or woman. It was God’s idea and God alone defined it.
  2. It was covenantal. This is implied by two terms in v.24 (“leave” and “hold fast”). By the time God’s people received Genesis they had been charged to leave all other gods and hold fast to Yahweh (Deuteronomy 10:14-21). This covenant language would have been clear to them.
  3. It was heterosexual. The marriage was between a man and a woman.
  4. It was human. There was no suitable wife found among the animals.
  5. It was exclusive. The marriage was between one woman and one man who were to elevate it above all other earthly relationships (leave and hold fast).
  6. It was permanent. The two were to become one flesh. Becoming one flesh describes a physical and spiritual melding that cannot be undone in life.
  7. It was, as we’ve seen, complimentary. The marriage was to supply what each of the participants lacked individually.
  8. It was hierarchal. While equal in value, worth, and image bearing, the man and woman were distinct in role and one of the man’s roles was to be the head of his wife. This becomes clearer in chapter three when God goes to Adam as his family’s representative, and clearer still in the NT. But it is clear enough even in this passage as God brought the woman to Adam to be named. There’s a lot more to be said about this, but there’s not less.
  9. It was honorable and holy. The fact that Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed (and that they were naked and ashamed after their sin) shows the goodness and purity of this marriage.
  10. Finally, it was paradigmatic. That’s a fancy word that simply means this marriage was a model for all marriages. And that leads us to the last point—a further unpacking of this point.

This First Marriage Is a Paradigm for Every Future Marriage

Look again at vs.24-25.

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

That this first marriage is a paradigm for all future marriages is indicated in the phrase “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” It does not say “the man shall leave his father and mother…” as if this were a unique marriage between Adam and Eve. Instead, it says “a man shall leave his father and mother…”. In this first marriage, then, is the pattern for all to follow. Therefore, we can learn a lot about God’s intention for marriage in general (and our marriages in particular) by looking closely at this passage. I’d like to invite you to do that this week. Whether you are hoping to be married one day, are already married, or even as one with married friends whom you are called to care about and pray for, would you spend some time this week praying for the marriages of God’s people (present and future) in light of this passage? And if you are married, would you consider what you might do to strengthen your marriage in light of these realities of marriage?

CONCLUSION

Now that we’ve come to the end of Genesis 2, I want to conclude by drawing your attention to something very important. In just two short chapters we’ve seen the first act in the story we live in and the first part of the first part of the gospel. What do I mean by those things?

The story we live in, the story written by God, has four acts: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. Creation describes the fact that God alone made the heavens and the earth, and that insodoing God alone had the authority to assign meaning and purpose to his creation. The fall describes the fact that mankind almost immediately rebelled against his divinely appointed meaning and purpose and therein fell under the curse of death. Redemption is the part of the story in which God works to rescue his people from their self-inflicted curse by sending his one and only Son to be self-inflictedly cursed in place of those who would trust in him. And the final act of the great story of God, consummation, is the part when the fullness of God’s plan is unfolded. In it the faithless will be dealt with according to justice in hell where all the effects of sin are unleashed; and the faithful will be dealt with on the basis of grace in the new heavens and earth where all the effects of sin are entirely done away with.

Throughout the rest of the bible God’s creation is mentioned, referenced, and celebrated. And yet, Genesis 1 and 2, which we’ve now finished, contains the whole of the creation story; the entire first act. In just a few pages ¼ of the story of God has unfolded before us.

Knowing that story is critical in that we are able to live meaningful lives only insofar as God grants us the ability to know this story and our place in it. Without an understanding of the creation described primarily in these two chapters of the bible, we cannot know our place in this world or life.

Again, then, at the end of Genesis 2, we’ve seen the entire first act of the story of God. But that’s not all though. As I said, at this point in the bible, we’ve also seen the first part of the first part of the gospel.

Just as the larger story of God has four parts (creation, fall, redemption, and consummation), the gospel has four parts as well (God, man, Christ, and response).

The gospel is the good news that God is the creator/king and righteous/judge of the universe. It is the good news that God invited man into fellowship with Him for everlasting glory and joy. But (and you can see that there is some overlap between the larger story of God and the specific good news of redemption), it includes the bad news that all mankind is joined with Adam in his sin under the penalty of death. Back to the good news. The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ died as a substitute sacrifice for the sins of all who will respond to this good news in belief and repentance.

God, man, Christ, response. Getting each right is key to our salvation.

Again, then, in Genesis 1-2 we see the first part of the first part of this. We see that God is the creator-king of the universe. God made the universe and he reigns over it. It is critical for us to understand this because if that were not so, God would have no right to assign purpose to his creation or issue commands to it. It is because he is creator-king that God has the authority to tell us how to live, to rule over us, and to pronounce the consequences for failing to do so. And, again, it is first and mainly because of Genesis 1-2 that we know these things about God.

And so, Grace, look at this first marriage and see all that you are meant to see about your marriage and the marriages around you. Look at this first marriage and find answers to many of our societies questions and the source of many of her errors. And look to these first chapters of the bible and find the beginning of your place in this world, the beginning of the path of a life of purpose and meaning and satisfaction, and the beginning of hope for the sin and that entered the world in the very next chapter. Amen.