Addendum: In supporting a contrasting interpretation of Gen. 2:20-22, I am not attempting to prove that this is the only way to interpret it or even the best way, but merely suggest that it is one way. There are simply times when there exist two opposing interpretations and we don’t know which is right. I think we have to live with that. It changes how we view inspiration and the perspicacity of scripture, of course.
Here are two other examples,
- Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
By faith Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he F47 considered him faithful who had made the promise.
I think we have to have a category for passages whose meaning we simply can’t resolve.
- But none of them proved to be a fitting companion, so YHWH made the earth creature fall into a deep sleep, and while it slept, God divided the earth creature into two, then closed up the flesh from its side. YHWH then fashioned the two halves into male and female, and presented them to one another.
I believe that the power of the English translation is so strong that the reader, even a reader who knows Hebrew well, has difficulty seeing past the typical Tyndale-KJ tradition to the original. Here is a more literal translation of this passage structured on the Tyndale-KJV tradition,
- but for earth creature (adam) there was not found an adequate protective companion for it.
21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon earth creature (adam), and it slept: and [God] took one of its sides, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
22 And made the side, which the LORD God had taken from earth creature (adam), a woman, and [God] made her come to the earth creature.
23 And earth creature (adam) said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, (isha) because she was taken from Man (ish).
24 Therefore shall a man (ish) leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
This is the bare bones of the passage. Here is what I notice first off.
1. “Fitting companion” is perfectly appropriate for ezer kenegdo, although “adequate protective partner” is closer to the use of the word elsewhere.
2. Adam is best described as a neuter “earth creature” since we do not know what it means beyond that. All else is conjecture. There is no reason to translate grammatical gender.
3. “Side” is a more appropriate translation than “rib.” There is no information that this meant the literal rib.
4. There is no male (ish) until after woman (isha) has been taken from ish. It only says “from” not “out of.”
5. This is the only translation that makes sense of why man and woman are “one flesh.” Surely man does not miss one rib so much that he cannot feel whole without it. It is his “other half” that he misses so much.
I find that the Inclusive Bible rendering for this verse varies from the Hebrew in minor ways, but not as much as the Tyndale-KJ tradition. In fact, it is only by reading translations that vary from our favoured tradition that we can get new insight into the original text.
Now we can understand the force of the word “cleave.” Man is not seeking to put his rib back in place, to absorb woman back into himself, but to attach himself back onto to his other half. It all makes so much more sense. Please tear this apart if I have misunderstood the Hebrew.
I suppose some may see this as a knee jerk reaction but there is a long tradition which argues for an androgynous earth creature. Don’t be put off by the title – there is a good pedigree for the kind of interpretation which says that man and woman are two sides of earth creature, not a man and a lost rib.