Genesis 2 – Marriage, complementarity, sexuality, or equality?

Genesis 2 is not about material creation. It is not about God making Adam from dust, but about Adam being mortal (out of dust). It is not about making Eve out of Adam, but about Eve being human, and filled with value and dignity just as Adam is (bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh…and the two shall be one flesh.) The Garden of Eden, though a literal place, is established as the temple of God: where God will dwell. God built a place so that man could dwell with him and fellowship. It’s an archetypal sanctuary—a place where God dwells and where man should worship him. The presence of God was the key. The man is taken from the everyday realm of human existence and placed in a specially prepared habitation as a blessing. God provides for them there (as he will in heaven). The Garden of Eden was the focal point of God’s presence.

The Tree of Life was there, as well as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Four rivers were there.

The humans were given work to do there: they are priests in God’s temple, caring for sacred space. Their job was to do whatever necessary to preserve the sanctity of God’s temple, including the environment itself as well as the purity of the people there. They are to preserve its holiness and its character. But this is far more than just landscaping; they were participating with God in the ongoing task of ruling and subduing the earth, and bringing and maintaining order instead of chaos. Though literal and historical, the main emphasis is archetypal: serving God in sacred space, maintaining our own holiness and the order of the environment.

Primarily, service in sacred space as priests pertains most significantly to maintaining a relationship between God and people as we dwell in his presence.

Since Gen. 2 is not about material creation, we know that Eve was with Adam all along. What we are learning in vv. 18-25 is that Eve is Adam’s equal, standing next to him in dignity and value as together they rule the earth and subdue it as co-priests in his temple. The text is archetypal in its design. She is his partner in every substantial way, and she corresponds perfectly to him. Nothing is said about marriage, sexuality, or childbearing. The point of the text is that she stands right next to him with a value equal to his as they maintain sacred space from their divine commission.

The deep sleep of v. 21 is a spiritual vision where God instructs them of what is going on in the spiritual realm: the nature and identity of the woman. She is related to him in essence—of the same “stuff.” They stand as equals before God in being and worth. In calling her “woman” he indicates what category she belongs in: HIS. “She is human, as I am.” As God’s image they serve together in God’s temple. “She was taken out of man” is a statement of her nature as fully human and sharing in the divine image, not one of chronological order, or even much less subordination.

V. 24 (“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”) is not about marriage, sexuality, or complementarity. It’s about equality. It means she is the same nature as he is, even though different in sex. The point is FUNCTION, harkening back to Gn. 1.27: they are both in the image of God to fulfill the divine mandate. This verse shows that God’s creation is a fully functioning system, and He (God) has ordained priests to care for his temple (the earth), and their priesthood will continue through all generations.

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