This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh … You surpass them all.
Who is woman? A question asked by men and women alike and that is applicable to all generations. A question I ask myself, as a woman. A question all too often defined by her form and function. But we cannot isolate her from man to answer the question, because the answer to who she is lies in her relation to him. And often the answer seems to be not really an answer at all. She is completely similar to him, yet utterly different; she is equal yet not interchangeable; she is of the same flesh and bone yet a different person completely; she is comfort and challenge.
There is no substitute suitable for woman to man. Being “bone of [his] bones, flesh of [his] flesh” she is his perfect helper; and she is God’s first act of intervention on the behalf of man. The best answer I can give to “Who is Woman?” is: she is the first gift of Grace. She would not only alleviate man’s loneliness, drawing him up and out of himself toward another, but would also be the means by which God would consummate His relationship with him — with them as one. Without her, there is no relationship between God and man; without her, loneliness prevails and the Bridegroom is left standing at the altar. Through her creation, God demonstrates to the whole of creation His love for this curved-in man who cannot help himself, who is stuck in his loneliness and isolation by bestowing to him this wonderful gift of Grace.
The word used in Gen 2:18, “Helper”, is the same word often used of God throughout the Old Testament. In her creation, in her name (“helper”), the themes of protecting, supporting, shielding, sustaining, delivering, comforting, giving hope, and blessing are ever present. As God gently nudges Adam awake, and brings her to the man, Adam is delivered out of loneliness into communion; he is given hope, comfort, and is blessed by her. She imputes to him that which is intrinsically hers and that which he lacks: glory; she is his glory (cf. 1 Cor. 11:2-16). Apart from her, the story ends too early.
Paul says in Ephesians 5:32 about the union of man and woman, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” The very characteristic demonstrated here in the creation of woman as man’s helper, will reverberate through the books of the Old Testament and into the ears, hearts, and minds of the New Testament audience as well as into our’s. We were, like Adam, isolated, lonely, hopeless, and helpless. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5). In Jesus, through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, God demonstrates Himself to be our true helper. What is intrinsically His (righteousness), he imputes to us; we were estranged, yet He entered into the midst of it and called us and brought us into communion with Him at His expense. We live because He, being merciful and taking pity on our estate, died.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now: like Adam, we’ve been saved by Grace.
I wrote the above entry for the Mockingbird Devotional (buy it here) on Gen 2.