Sexual Differentiation, Pt. 2


We spent our time last week on Genesis 2:18 and its statement that God made woman a helper suitable or corresponding to the man. That is, we said, men and women, equally bearers of the divine image, are nevertheless different from one another, different in ways that complement and fulfill their natures and God’s plan for their lives.  We indulged in some polemics on this assertion of unity in consequential differentiation because that point, throughout human history virtually universally assumed as fundamental to an understanding of human life and society, is now widely denied, especially in the academy, government, and the courts. We asserted it again, however heretical in our elite culture – what really important social idea trumpeted as a special insight by our elite culture has ever been true? – in this class because it is the differences between men and women that form the basis of virtually the entire sexual experience of mankind.


But we move on now to consider the remainder of this account of the creation of the woman and, therefore, the creation of the sexual life of mankind.



Text Comment



The Lord has pronounced his creation incomplete and inadequate – “not good” – and we expect him to act immediately to perfect it. But there is a delay.



v.20

Naming is an act of sovereignty or authority. Man’s authority over the animal kingdom is indicated by the fact that he names the animals.  Man subdues and controls in large part by language.  All education, in a way, is subduing by language. We control by labeling or naming, which indicates that we understand a thing’s properties or nature.  In whatever discipline you find the measure of dominion indicated by the extent and the specificity of the labeling or naming that is done. This is as true in literature as it is in chemistry or physics.  It is this fact that explains the vast jargon specific to each area of human learning, whether “metaphor,” “NACL,” or “e=mc squared”.  A university is, in a very basic sense, a name factory. So Adam’s naming Eve is a more important piece of history than we might at first suppose.


The end of v. 20 indicates the purpose of the assignment the Lord had given Adam. He was not yet aware of his need. Imagine his situation…  In order to appreciate the gift God was about to give him, he put him to naming the animals. Now Adam knows that he is alone!


v.22

Since Peter Lombard, the medieval theologian, it has been pointed out:


“Mulier de viro, non de qualibet parte corporis viri, sed de latere eius formata est, ut ostenderetur quia in consortium creabatur dilectionis, ne forte si fuisset de capite facta, viro ad dominationem videretur preferenda; aut si de pedibus, ad servitutem subjicienda.” [Sent. L. II, Dist. xviii: de formatione mulieris]


Matthew Henry gives Lombard an English Puritan twist. The woman “is not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” [In Waltke, Genesis, 89]


We have learned in reading Genesis over the last generation to notice more subtle indications of the narrator, such as we have here. The first marriage is founded upon a unity of persons, an intimacy, a sharing of life. We’ll have more to say about this, but already we are getting the idea that the sexual life of mankind is going to be rooted in an intimate and permanent relationship.


God brought Eve to Adam. This marriage, as the narrator is going to make emphatically clear in a few verses, was not simply the first human marriage, but the archetype of all subsequent marriages. We will see in what ways this is so. But here we have already been given one of them: God is the matchmaker. Remember Jesus will apply this point to all marriages in Matthew 19 and make it the fundamental premise upon which is rested the indefectibility of marital vows. He said, “Whom God has brought together, let not man separate.”Marriage is a relationship God has created – both as the one who ordered marriage for the life of mankind and ordered it by his law; but as the one whose providence brings particular men and particular women together as husband and wife – and therefore we must serve his interest in it.


v.23

Now” The NIV fails us here, the ESV is better: this at last is bone… [Other uses of the same word in Genesis are always translated with a view to the passage of time. The importance of an accurate translation here is that it conveys the pent-up anticipation and the sense of wonderful fulfillment in Adam’s words.  He knows this gorgeous creature is what he needs, what he has been looking for, the one who will make up what is lacking in his life.  He sees her and he breaks into poetry! In Ezekiel 24:16 the wife is called “the delight of her husband’s eyes.” Adam too celebrates both the unity and the differentiation that marks his life and hers.


Bone of bones…” It’s usage in Hebrew as the equivalent to our “flesh and blood”; its meaning here as both literal and paradigmatic.  The great significance of marriage: it creates a family!  It does objectively and psychologically


The fact that the man names the woman indicates his authority over her.


See how the cord is being drawn around the sexual life of man and woman. The one flesh does not mean sexual union per se, as people sometimes think, it means the same thing as “flesh and blood” or “family,” but, of course it is precisely the fact that marriage is and creates a family that the sexual life is limited to this sphere. It is husband and wives that make love because such a physical relationship (with its attendant consequences) is defined and shaped by the bond that makes the man and woman a family. This is further indicated by the comparison of 1:28 (“be fruitful and multiply”) and 2:23 (the man and the woman are one flesh and create the same with their children).


The woman, notice, is named in relation to the man.  [Singleness provided for in the Bible, to be sure, but not the usual calling or situation of human beings. It is provided for differently. 1 Cor. 7 It is certainly significant that single humanity, though approved and blessed in Holy Scripture, does not appear in the creation account.  The central story of mankind is found here. Tim Keller’s recent article in the Redeemer newsletter.]


v.24

The entire biblical doctrine of marriage in a nutshell (cited everywhere else!).  Again, Adam and Eve are both the first husband and wife and the archetypical husband and wife; theirs the first marriage and every marriage in principle. Both passion and permanence.  “…united to…” is the word “stick to.” Shechem’s heart stuck to Dinah in Gen. 34:3. And one flesh is permanence: one of life’s injustices is that you don’t get to choose your relatives! Because families are permanent. [Our changing divorce laws have created a social phenomenon more like ANE concubinage than marriage.]


v.25

Now, explicitly and strikingly, the sexual nature of man and woman and their relationship is introduced.  The woman is still being viewed as the man’s partner, not explicitly as the bearer of children, but now that partnership is described in overtly erotic terms for the first time. They were naked but without shame. That is they were visible to one another in precisely that sexual way that is now hidden or, at least, veiled. Their persons were sexual in the sense of erotic attraction – the sense of nakedness without shame – but they experienced that in complete openness and trust and without the exposure to temptation or vulnerability that would come with sin. In virtually any culture in which the Bible ever was or is now read, the thought of the man and woman naked provokes thoughts of a sexual nature. [J. Collins, Genesis 1-4, 139]


So we are given to think of marriage, here at the foundation of marriage, as a sexual relationship that is part of an intimate partnership of life.



Now, I want to elaborate that point in one specific, but I think, fundamentally important respect, a respect highlighted in the text itself. I always knew 2:23-24 was the Bible’s theology of marriage in a nutshell (cited elsewhere), but I have come to see that it is also the Bible’s ethics of marriage in a nutshell.  We are given a snapshot of a perfect marriage in the Bible – not a video, a snapshot – and what is it?  It is of a man, a husband, with his mouth open, praising and celebrating his wife.  In effect, what you have in 2:23 is worship: a man worshipping his wife, telling her what she means to him, how important she is to him, how delighted he is with here.  The first recorded speech of a human being and the only recorded human speech prior to the Fall is a man’s praise and celebration of his wife.


Now, I want you to consider this in context.



  1. The place of speech in human life;
  2. Its fundamental role as the creator, preserver of relationship;
  3. Hence Gen. 3:12
  4. Prov. 1;
  5. Everyone who marries wants to know: how can I have a deeply happy, romantic marriage? Everyone expects this, wants this, but many do not obtain it. How can I? Is the luck of the draw? Is it a rare confluence of hormones, personalities, backgrounds? How can I feel about my wife as I did when I was courting her – when I realized that I had only been half-alive up to that point and when life was so delicious for our love? How can I keep from losing that feeling.
  6. The Bible’s answer is: worship.  Why do we go to church one day every seven? So with every other relationship: work, parents and children, and, supremely, marriage.
  7. Prof. van der Linde.  My own experience.
  8. So we are shown a man worshipping his wife in our snapshot of a perfect marriage.


But, notice, it is the namer, the first person in the marriage, who is shown speaking. We spoke last time about how consequential are the differences between men and women. Well, here is the most consequential of all of them!  A man’s words have a creative power in a woman’s life that is not true in the reverse.



  1. Harvey Mansfield on the difference between men’s words and women’s: knows of no one who has ever been cowed by a woman’s words, but knows a great many who have been cowed by a man’s.
  2. But we are talking about love, romance, joy, and sexual fire. And woman are much, much more affected by the man’s speech than a man is by a woman’s. Simply a brute fact of human life.
  3. I can take Florence’s head in my hands…  She can take mine…
  4. So what is the effect of the Fall: in this instrumental way, a man’s words either dry up or are cruel and hurtful. The true nature of sin! (Like prayer! The testimony of any godly man! He knows what to say, how to say it, the good it would do…. As he knows to pray!)
  5. The woman is rarely so confined but her words do not have the same power or effect. Same, by the way men, with your children. Especially with your daughters!
  6. It is a man’s worship of his wife that creates the atmosphere, the ethos of a happy, joyful, romantic marriage.


Now, what is important about all of this is that the sexual life (intimated in v. 25 – no one thinks of the nakedness of Adam and Eve apart from its erotic connotations!) is part and parcel of this celebratory love expressed in words.  It is the separation of the one from the other that corrupts the sexual life of the world and of many even Christian marriages.  We say “make love”… But it is not love, not in the deeper, richer sense in which it ought to be.


We will come back to this point later in our series when we talk about the physical aspects of sexual love, but let me make this point here and now from Genesis 2 and its formative statements: the technique of sex in the Bible is love. In American schools today, all sex education is clinical; in the Bible it is all moral and spiritual. But you cannot have sex as an unmarried teenager with another unmarried teenager for this reason first of all: under those circumstances you cannot love the person you are having sex with. You can use them, but you cannot love them; in the nature of the case you cannot love them.


But, more than this, even for married men and women, love is the technique of sex. Let me illustrate that this way. It is a large subject and I can only, at this point, point to its implications.


But why does sex go wrong so often in marriage? Why does it so often fail to be the source of electricity in the relationship, the magnetic pull that excitedly draws husband and wife together? Why is it often a source of frustration, even despair, instead of joy and endless pleasure?


Well, men and women are very different from one another. Their sexuality, both physiologically and psychologically is very different. They are, in profound way, and remain in important ways, strangers to one another sexually speaking. Each will never and can never know what the other feels, how his or her body responds, what pleasures are produced by what? But sexually, and this is especially true of men, love-making occurs as if men and women were mirror images of one another, not the vastly different creatures that they are.



  1. Prostitution: men so superficial; not so women.
  2. Pornographic sex fundamentally dishonest.


We will say later, that there is only one way to overcome this barrier. The love that places the interests of the other ahead of one’s own.  One does not say this in a sermon in church, but this is to me one powerful demonstration that that the author of the book is the same one who make our bodies: the most intimate act of life doesn’t work as we want it to work, as we know it ought to work unless we love our neighbor as ourselves.


All of this comes at the outset and in the idea – what grace is to reproduce – an intimate companionship with the erotic dimension a fundamental part. You can ruin human life by making a marriage without the intimacy, loyalty, communion and delight and you can ruin the sexual life by divorcing it from that “sticking to” and “remaining with.”