Sunday, August 31, 2008

Things Get Complicated

We last looked at the creation of man, Adam, from the earth (adamah in the Hebrew), and finished with God's command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The punishment for transgression was death, but the phrasing is interesting: Genesis 2:17 "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." — when you eat of it you you will surely die.

The phrasing suggests a natural outcome and not simply a punishment as a quid pro quo of a juridical law. But we'll leave that for now and go forward. In Genesis 2:18-25 we have the account of the creation of woman. God sees that it is not good for the man to be alone and creates all the animals, but they are not adequate companions for the man. So God casts Adam into a deep sleep and creates ishah from ish, that is woman from man. The words distinguished only by their endings. This is the same distinction between Adam and adamah only the formation direction is the opposite. Adam comes from the earth, adamah. Woman ishah comes from the man, ish. And in death both return to the earth.

If we look at the passage Genesis 2:22-25 we find that first God presents the woman to the man. The man acknowledges the woman as flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, and then we are told: Genesis 2:24 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." The prefatory phrase "For this reason..." has to go back and refer to something and it isn't Adam's acknowlegement alone but the fact that God has presented the woman to him. Just so, going forward, it is God that presents each man with the woman who will be bound to him in intimacy. We find the words of Geneses 2:24 on the lips of Jesus (Mark 10:3-10) rejecting divorce and St. Paul (Ephesians 5:25-33) when he explains the mystery of Christ's union with the Church.

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