From the series Breathing Life
A young student at co-op started cleaning my table before I’d finished eating. Realizing I wasn’t moving my food, she politely said, “Excuse me; I need to wipe this table.”
I scanned my area for the usual crumbs, and there weren’t any. I told her, “All clean here!”
She hesitated, the wet wipe hanging limply from her fingers. “But I have to wash here.”
I explained to her that it was her job to wash away dirt and food, but there wasn’t any dirt or food.
She nodded and walked away, but her expression told me she was still perplexed. She was supposed to wipe down the table, and she had not done that. What to do! What to do!
We humans tend to do things because we are told to do them. This behavior begins before we have the maturity to understand the reasons behind what we do. As we get older, we begin to study the principles and concepts we live by. (The sheep-like behavior remains only if we feel pressured to conform or lack impetus to change.)
This account of the first man and woman was not written to teach Adam and Eve; it was written to teach a people who were becoming a nation. They needed to understand where they’d come from and what was expected of them. So, the Author of Genesis 2 sets down a major principle immediately after Adam makes his observation about the woman God had made.
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24
Two relationships are mentioned here. Leaving father and mother refers to the parent-child relationship. The second relationship is a union between Adam and Eve.
The first man didn’t have a mom and dad to leave, and neither did the first woman. So, why does the Author record this rule right after Adam meets Eve? It’s a reminder to me that Adam and Eve are not the audience.
Every word expressed by a writer is made to say something. A writer’s challenge is to deliver a message or concept so that the reader can grasp it, examine it, and, hopefully, use it. The audience is always there in the back of the writer’s mind, the impetus for him/her to change and develop the approach to better communicate with the reader.
Reviewing what I know about the audience of Genesis 2 – a fledgling group of Hebrews who have escaped slavery in Egypt – I can gather they are undergoing a reconstruction. They are developing their own civilization, and the covenant between this first man and first woman is crucial. This marriage covenant is the cornerstone of their societal development. They are a nation establishing laws, rituals, and procedures that will be more advanced than any of the neighboring peoples around them for many centuries.
According to this passage, the marriage relationship takes precedence over the parent-child relationship. The Israelite nation under Moses was organized according to the twelve tribes of Jacob. Sons inherited tribal land from their fathers (and, in some cases, their mother’s first husband’s tribe). This land could be rented out but would always return to the family tribe. So, a son’s relationship with his father and mother was tantamount to his identity as a citizen of the nation. His relationship to his family was extremely important, but this passage makes it clear his relationship to his parents was not to eclipse the union of a man to his wife. This honor in the marriage relationship is depicted in Adam’s feelings toward Eve.
“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
She is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. She belongs with him as he belongs with her. She is his companion in life. (Parents are not a person’s life companions, though they hold an honorable position.) Knowing she is made the same as he, his natural behavior toward her would be to treat her as he would treat himself. Her flesh is to be his flesh, meaning he would not want to harm his own body, so he would not harm hers. He would not shame himself, therefore he would not shame her. He would not deprive himself of physical and emotional care; he would not deprive her of that same care.
It’s a basic understanding of a relationship that spans millennia, and that principle is expressed in two sentences. Amazing, isn’t it?
Writing Tip Recap: A writer communicates the message best when he/she keeps in mind the audience to whom it is being written.
This is the last of the Breathing Life series. You may wonder why verse 25 of Genesis 2 is missing. After studying it, I came to the conclusion it fits perfectly with the thought flow of Genesis 3. So, I will keep that for a future series.
For a list of the posts, check the “Breathing Life” page.
*Featured image by Keriography. Used by permission.