Genesis 2:18-24 tells the well-known account of how God created the first woman, Eve, by removing part of Adam’s body and fashioning it into the woman. Many Bible scholars have translated the passages to indicate that God used Adam’s rib to create woman instead of making her from the dirt of the land, as He did for Adam. The question also arises as to why God created woman out of Adam’s rib as He did, when He apparently had formed male and female animals individually.
God used part of the male to form the female to show that they were actually the same created being, two halves of a whole. The female was not created as a separate being, second to the male. She was formed as part of the initial man, in order to be a “helpmate” for the male. Eve was brought into being to strengthen and powerfully help the male, but she was made from the same “stuff” and she was every bit as perfect a creation as man and every bit as patterned after God’s image and likeness.
The word translated “helpmate” is not synonymous with assistant, servant, minion or subordinate. The Hebrew phrase, azer k’negdo in all other instances in the Bible refers to powerful and extensive aid and support. In most cases, the phrase was used to depict dominant military forces or armed men. Other scriptures, including Deuteronomy 33:29, 7 and Exodus 18:4, use the same phrase to discuss the potent interventions and deliverances of God Himself. Woman, therefore, was created as a complement to man, as an integral part of man, and as a powerful and influential companion for man, on an equal footing with him.
Furthermore, the Hebrew word translated “suitable” K’negdo, carries much more meaning than simply suitable or appropriate. This phrase also means “opposite or contrasting.” This implies that the two beings were designed to work and fit together perfectly, not just physically but in all ways. The strengths of each compensated for the weaknesses of the other. Together, they became something far stronger and more magnificent than either of them was alone.
Why did God use a rib? A closer examination of the Hebrew also reveals another surprising element of the story. The Hebrew word translated “rib” in Genesis Chapter 2 istsela. The only other instance of the word “rib” in the Bible occurs in Daniel 7:5, but the Hebrew word used there is different. In other scriptures where the Hebrew word or its variants are used, the word has been translated “side.” For example, in Exodus 25, 27,and 35, the words tselo (variant) and tselot (plural) are used to refer to the sides of the Ark of the Covenant or the sides of the altar. Jeremiah 20:10 refers to “fear on every side.” In Second Samuel 16:13, David encounters a cursing Shimei moving along the side of a hill. In all of these contexts, translating the word tsela as “rib” would not fit the context.
This raises the possibility that the Genesis 2 passage should actually be translated as Adam’s “side,” rather than his rib. If the appropriate translation is that God removed Adam’s side, how much of his side did God remove? It is quite possible that Eve was constructed literally from half of Adam. This brings new meaning to Adam’s declaration that Eve was “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” She was more than just his bone. She was out of his flesh and bone.
God created Eve in the way that He did to show that woman has equal status in creation to man and was created to complement and in some ways complete man in the integral union of marriage. Woman was created to be “beside” man, not beneath or above him. This does not speak to the roles of male and female in the home or church, however, but to equality of status in the kingdom of God. Man is no more “worthy” of salvation, and woman is no less a citizen of God’s kingdom. They stand side-by-side in the eyes of God.