For the purposes of this article, the main thing to grasp is the creation of humanity in two distinct components: male and female. Together they will rule over and fill creation with other divine image bearers like themselves. There is absolute equality, dignity, and worth in both male and female since they both bear the image of God. Neither one is more important than the other, and neither can exist without the other. However, this passage raises the question: How will they order and fill the creation together?
Genesis 2 quickly responds to that concern. God forms man from the dust of the earth and puts him into a specially ordered place within the creation to enjoy the presence of his Creator King (2:5–15). After the Lord enters into a special covenant with the man (vv. 16–17), we read something that should shock us. After almost every day of the creation week, the statement is made, “And God saw that it was good” (e.g., 1:4, 10, 12, 18). After the creation of mankind on the sixth day, God saw that it was “very good,” signifying that man and woman are the crown of creation (v. 31). But when God puts the man into the garden in Genesis 2, the Lord God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (v. 18, emphasis added). This first negation of the term “good” in the Bible pertains to the man’s being alone. What? How could God’s evaluation of His good creation contain a negative expression?
The narrative of Genesis 2 intends to show us that without woman, mankind and creation itself are incomplete. In His wisdom, the Lord shows this to the man. He does so by bringing the animals before Adam to name them, but that is not all God is doing. The Lord is revealing to the man that the animals exist in pairs (male and female), but he does not have a “helper” suitable or fit for him. Notably, God shows the man his need so that when God meets that need, he will glory in the creation of woman. It is crucial to understand that the Hebrew term for “helper” (2:18, 20) does not convey inferiority or servitude; it conveys need. Man needs someone to help him carry out God’s creation mandate. The same term occurs elsewhere referring to God as the “helper” of Israel (e.g., Hos. 13:9). So instead of the notion of being a slave or servant, woman as helper means she occupies a place of honor and purpose. Man needs help, for he cannot fulfill his mission alone. As Yahweh creates the woman out of the rib of the man, He shows that she fulfills the needs of man. She wonderfully corresponds to the man and brings to completion the creation of humanity. She is the same as him and yet beautifully different. Adam sees this right away as he speaks the first recorded words of humanity in the Bible (Gen. 2:23), and it is a love poem. After this marriage, verse 24 provides a decree: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This has always been understood as the institution of the marriage ordinance. As the first established relationship within the social construct of humanity, marriage serves as the foundation of all human communities. Without this ordinance, there would be no foundation for united societies or for the carrying out of the creation mandate. Human beings actually subvert God’s purposes for mankind and creation itself when the institution of marriage is undermined.