After the wonderful self-discovery adam experienced through naming the animals, he still found himself in crisis, alone and without a partner in this beautiful new world. And the Lord God confirms it saying, “it’s not good that he be alone.”
We tend to understand this name “adam” as if it were a personal name like Bob or Suzy, but it is more akin to a surname or even like Elohim in the first creation story. Recall that Elohim is not the personal name of God, it simply refers to a divine being. We don’t see the personal God until story two when YHVH Elohim is revealed. I believe this is how the first man is to be understood, until God puts him into a deep sleep and performs a divine operation.
Up until Gen. 2:23 the word used for man is “adam”. It is used as either a common or proper noun; but in 2:23 it changes. Let’s see how this works; the words in () parentheses are the Hebrew word.
Then the man(adam) said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman(iššâ), because she was taken out of Man(îš). Therefore, a man(Îš) shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife(iššâ), and they shall become one flesh.
Adam becomes iššâ and îš. (Pronounced “ish-shaw’” and “eesh”)
What is the point?
In the early verses of Genesis man is not identified personally. Adam is not a personal name, just as Elohim is not a personal name. It is only after YHVH Elohim performs divine surgery on him and woman is formed that adam becomes iššâ and Îš. The narrator then steps in and tries to give us some understanding of what just happened.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Think about how we grow and develop for a moment. As man grows, he is connected to his family of origin, specifically his parents. His circle extends out from there to neighborhood and community. At some time, he must break free to discover his own destiny. This is good and necessary, but it comes with a cost. For he loses his sense of connection, his oneness with family and community. Man is now disconnected from his “source” or family of origin but still longing for that sense of connection. Where do I come from, to whom am I connected, and to what group/tribe do I belong? This is what iššâ provides to îš.
This is what I believe the narrator is saying in verse 24 above. This seems to be a driving force for the man as he is seeking in companionship in marriage. He has a need to be completed, connected and integrated with the world. But iššâ does much more than helping to integrate and connect the man. For another tremendous promise lies in the words of YHVH Elohim.
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone;
I will make him an help meet(ʿēzer) for him. Gen. 2:18
Why did the man need a helper and what kind of help would this be? The Hebrew word for “help meet” is ʿēzer. ʿēzer is a fascinating word used to describe what iššâ will do for îš. ʿēzer means to provide help, support or to surround someone especially in times of hardship or distress. It is the same word used to describe the Lord’s help in verses such as:
Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield… Ps. 33:20
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth… Ps. 121:2
If I were to attempt a summary at this point, it might go something like this. The man îš is a lot like Elohim in story 1, he is strong and powerful, bringing order to the world but somewhat disconnected. iššâ like YHVH Elohim in story 2, brings a sense of oneness, integration and meaning to the man. As a “mini-creator”, the world which man creates doesn’t make sense apart from her participation with him in it. But iššâ also helps in times of hardship and difficulty and so there is to be both protection and defensiveness built into the relationship.
Occasionally the qualities of iššâ will be more evident in a man and îš more evident in the female. Regardless how these qualities are distributed, it is important to recognize the value and cherish the grace extended through the attributes of both îš and iššâ.
- What implications does this have for our lives?
- Will this understanding affect any of your relationships?
- As you look ahead, how might the snake seek to exploit the strength of this relationship?