“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, […] all things must needs be a compound in one…” (2 Nephi 2:11)
There is a binary aspect to everything in God’s work; light and darkness, good and evil, heaven and earth, male and female, etc. As I read the end of Genesis ch. 2 this morning, these things came to mind again.
The Hebrew word for covenant briyth (ber-eeth) means to cut, and then we have this word “cleave,” a single word that has two opposing meanings: “To part or divide by force” or “To unite or be united closely in interest or affection.” It is a bit paradoxical, but I think there is a pattern of interest concerning dividing and uniting things.
In the creation account, the creative act occurs as things are divided from one another:
- Light from the darkness.
- Waters from the waters.
- Water from the earth.
- Plants from the earth.
- Day from night.
- Animals from the sea and land.
- Woman from man.
It is the last division that I want to explore some more. The creation account, while perhaps allegorical in many instances, contains principles and patterns that are eternal and significant.
Immediately after Adam is created and shown the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God states that “It is not good that the man should be alone…” and so God determines that this “help meet” is necessary for him. The words “help meet” fit in well with the idea of complementary opposition when you consider their meaning:
“Putting all of this together, the phrase עזר כנגדו (ezer kenegedo) literally means “a helper like his opposite.” In my opinion this means that Eve was to be his “other half,” like him, but with the opposite attributes.” (What is a “help meet?”, Jeff A. Benner, www.ancient-hebrew.org)
Just like the complimentary opposition we have seen in creation up to this point, the same pattern appears as the flesh and bone of Adam is divided to form a woman. Eve then stands before Adam, and he has some very profound things to say.
As I looked at his first words regarding Eve, I took some time to look into the original Hebrew words, and I noticed something that didn’t make sense. I did a little research, and I found this:
Something odd is happening in this story about the first man. Up to this point, the word used for “man” is adam. God formed the adam from the dust of the ground. God breathed life into the adam. The adam was placed in the Garden. The adam walked and talked with God in Eden. God gave the adam the first commandment. God recognized that it was not good for the adam to be alone. But when the adam woke from God’s formation of woman, he (the adam) said, “This is now bone of my bones . . . she shall be called ishshah because she was taken out of ish.” What?! How did the word ish get in there? Everything up to this point is about adam, not ish. The first occurrence of ish is in the mouth of the adam. Why? And even more puzzling, when we come to the principle verse about marriage, the very next verse, the word used is ish, not adam (“an ish shall leave his father and mother and cling to his ishshah”) but the next verse switches back to adam (“and they were both naked, the adam and his ishshah”). […]
Ishshah is not a linguistic derivative of ish. It is simply a word play. But that doesn’t make it any less crucial. The adam realizes that he needs the ishshah, and when he expresses this need, he calls himself by a word that connects him to her. Think about that for just a moment. He could have said, “She shall be called ishshah because she came from ha-adam” and he would have been correct. But he doesn’t say that. Instead, he alters the description of himself to fit her existence. He changes who he is because of her. Adam becomes ish because there is an ‘ezer kenegdo who is ishshah. Men, do you see what this means? Have you changed who you are because of her? Isn’t that what the next verse, the verse about marriage, is all about. We men are to be transformed into unity with our wives because they are our wives, because of who they are not what they do. We change in order to become one with them. Right? (Switch, Skip Moen, Hebrew Word Study)
Adam sees that Eve is a part of him and unless he cleaves or unites with her, he must remain as “one body” and effectually “remain as dead, having no life neither death” (2 Nephi 2:11). Adam would “have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of [his] creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.” (2 Nephi 2:12).
The Hebrew word play that is unfortunately lost in the English translation illustrates the connection between man and woman. Adam sees that the only way to become “one flesh” again is to unite with the woman. In doing so, they become co-creators and can generate new life together, posterity, allowing for God’s work to move on and the covenants to continue. Note that Adam said that man must leave his father and mother, again, complementing the pattern being illustrated.
In Jesus’ ministry he quoted these words again in his own way:
“From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:6-8)
Because God makes us male and female, we leave our parents and cleave unto our complementary opposites becoming one flesh. I wonder if this is why women take the last name of men traditionally, to pay tribute to the idea of Eve being received back into Adam and their becoming one flesh again.
When you have cut something into two pieces, what can put it back together? Depending on what it is, we may use glue, thread, or duct tape, but when it comes to men and women, God unites them through covenant. This is the covenant of marriage and this is the primary purpose of marriage, to make Adam and Eve, male and female, one flesh.
The Proclamation on the Family eloquently reaffirms these patterns and principles in our day, just as Jesus did in his:
“WE, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. […]
THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)
This is the reason we are here.
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;” (Abraham 3:25)
It is important to note that nobody is born into this world programmed to automatically accept and receive all of God’s commandments with perfect understanding and with a complete desire for full compliance. What is easy for some may seem impossible for others, but that’s part of life; we are here “to see” what we will do.
In Lehi’s vision (1 Nephi 8), it begins with him seeing large field that could have been a world. He sees numberless people all looking for the path that leads to the tree. Note that of this vast multitude, they are all converging to a single path, a strait or narrow way. It isn’t enough to simply walk the path though because these mists of darkness come that blind the people trying to reach the tree. You have to also hold on to that iron rod, the Word of God, the scriptures, revelations and the Spirit in order to not lose your way.
Then you reach the tree, you partake of the fruit and you enjoy the sweetness and fulness of joy – but that is not the end. God is still watching, we still have choice and what will we do now? Will we focus on that joy or listen to the shouts from the great and spacious building? Do we turn our attention to the fruit and inviting others to come and partake, or are our necks turned toward that building and our hearts desirous to avoid the ridicule of the masses even though they float aimlessly with no foundation?
No matter where we started or where we are, the same question is before us all: “What will we do?” Suffering and sacrifice are built into the journey, but fear not, there is peace in the path, there is confidence in the rod, and there is joy in the fruit of the tree. Our eye must be single to the glory of God, to heed his commands, to trust in his wisdom, and to become one and receive a fulness of joy.
However life may spin our compasses, we are all endowed with the power to orient our will to divine patterns and purposes.