SEPARATED BUT NOT DIVIDED
by Roger Wyatt | 16th June 2021 | more posts on 'Covenant'
Photograph: Sindre Strøm - Pexels
The theme of separation features heavily in Genesis 1. After the introduction of light into the world, verse two records that ‘God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness’ (Genesis 1:4), וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים (wayyaḇdel Elohim lit. separated Elohim). Then, in day two, God separates the waters to create the firmament: ‘So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so’ (Genesis 1:7) - וַיַּבְדֵּל בֵּין הַמַּיִם (wayyaḇdel ben hammayim lit. divided between the waters). Even the creation of the sun, moon and stars is described as serving the purpose of separating: ‘And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night”’ (Genesis 1:14). Finally, although not explicitly described as such, following his creation, the first man would himself be divided - rather abstractly however, it was a separation that would result in a new kind of unity and the very dawn of human relationship.
Verse seven of chapter 2 records, ‘Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being’, הָאָדָם (haadam lit. the human). The Hebrew does not leave room for any other conclusion, but that God’s first human creation was male; in Genesis 2:15 Adam is identified as a ‘he’ - the verse reads that Yahweh put him in the garden, וַיַּנִּחֵהוּ (wayyanniḥehu lit. and set him down). However, it is not until after the creation of Eve that a distinction is made between ‘man’ (אִישׁ îš) and ‘woman’ (אִשָּׁה iššah): ‘she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man’ (Genesis 2:23), לְזֹאת יִקָּרֵא אִשָּׁה כִּי מֵאִישׁ לֻקֳחָה־זֹּֽאת (lezot yiqqare iššah ki meiš luqoḥah-zot lit. this one shall be called woman for from man was taken this one). The suggestion that it was a “rib” צֵלָע (ṯela) from which Eve was formed, of course, has been disputed and commentators have often preferred to translate the word as “side” – and certainly, if translated so, the strong inference of the verse is that the woman was fashioned as one of the two sides of what it means to be human. Moreover, the use of צֵלָע elsewhere in the Hebrew canon strongly infers that side denotes some sense of symmetry and parity between two halves; the word is used repeatedly in the context of the furnishings described in the building of the tabernacle - for example, in Exodus 25:12 the word is employed to describe the rings used for carrying the ark, found on its opposite sides: ‘Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other’.
And so, the text of Genesis 2 implies that God took a man, and from him fashioned a woman, who was not created as a subordinate, but as a fellow custodian of the earth, under the same commission and blessing as Adam. Such an idea is also strengthened in the next chapter when the consequences of the fall are explained to Adam and Eve – Eve is informed that the man would misuse and misdirect the authority he had been given to rule, and that she would suffer as a result: ‘he will rule over you’ (Genesis 3:16). In short, if the domination of women was a consequence of the fall, it by a priori means that before the fall, she was man’s equal.