Lamentations

A few really good ones and a great many so-so commentaries.

First-rate: Renkema (this is the single best; in the HCOT), Berlin, Hillers (2nd. ed.), Dobbs-Allsopp, Provan, Westermann, Dearman, Ryken

Second-rate: Harrison, Huey, O’Connor (NIB)

Forthcoming: Hubbard (NICOT)

None of these are all that liberal, even Westermann, who is usually off his rocker liberal. In fact, Westermann is one of the best here. But Renkema is the master here. Some are moderate: Berlin, Hillers, Dobbs-Allsopp, and O’Connor. the rest are pretty conservative.

Adam and Eve

Genesis 2:18-25
Picture this scenario happening in a home you know well. The husband-farmer comes in from the field, exhausted, but cheerful. His wife is sullenly preparing dinner. He comes into the house, goes straight to the TV with hardly a word to his wife. Dinner is served, and a short devotional follows. Then they both sit at the TV until bed-time, when they go to bed, maybe or maybe not kissing before they turn the light out and go to sleep. The next day is a repetition of the previous day. This goes on and on for years and years. It becomes comfortable, in a way. He is happy in his work, and she goes off and does her own thing, whether it is her job, or the kids, or her family, or friends. They grow gradually apart, because they do not know each other anymore. They never talk, they are never intimate, and they think they know one another, when in fact, they are drifting along, hoping against hope that the marriage will last, and yet losing all hope of happiness at the same time. They know that they should not get a divorce, and yet they are for all practical purposes divorced already.

This scenario is equally common and unbiblical. God wants husbands to love their wives, and He wants wives to love their husbands. This means an intimate relationship in which deep dark secrets can be told without fear of rejection, a relationship in which forgiveness rules, and in which knowledge and understanding of the other person tells the spouse how to love that often unlovable person. How does one start to repair what is broken, or strengthen what is starting to fall, or make better what is already good? We are going to make an attempt. The first thing we need to do is to see how marriage got started, and what God’s purposes for marriage are.

So, to start out, how did marriage start, and what does God mean by giving us this gift? We saw last time how Adam had been appointed as priest of the sacred space of the Garden of Eden. God had richly provided everything that Adam would need to worship God, and guard the garden from the likes of Satan. However, there was something missing.

Up till now, we have seen how everything had been so good. It is repeated seven times in chapter one how good everything was, and in verse 31 of that chapter, God says that everything was very good. So nothing really prepares us for the shock of vs 18, when it says, “not good.” This is emphatic in Hebrew: it is not just a lack of something good, it is actually the opposite of something good. Man’s loneliness is the opposite of good. Why? Because God himself lives in communion with Himself in the Holy Trinity. Furthermore, God wanted to exist in relationship with mankind. So, for man only to have a relationship with God, and not have anyone on his own level was not good. Adam needed someone to help him to conquer this world of chaos, and reduce it to order. He needed someone to help him to expand the Garden of Eden until it filled the entire world. He needed, in short, a helper. And he needed one suitable for him.

Notice the curious way in which God starts to fill this need. God parades in front of Adam all these animals, none of which were suitable as a partner. We should not think of this procedure as some kind of trial and error process on the part of God. No, rather what God was doing was two things: giving Adam his rightful place as master of creation, in his capacity as ruler; and secondly, showing Adam his need for a partner. We can just imagine what went through Adam’s mind as all these animals paraded in front of him: “OK, gazelle, check, ostrich, check, hippopotamus, check, that’s funny. They all come in pairs. Where’s my other half? None of these will do, because they are not my size, and not my type at all. I would have a hard time holding conversation with giraffe, since my neck would start to hurt. Besides, none of these birds can respond to me with words. I need something different than this.” No suitable helper was found.

So then God caused a deep sleep to come upon Adam. This kind of sleep is not our normal sleep at all. The word means something almost like a coma, and is always something that God brings upon someone. For that reason, I do not believe that this is simply some sort of anesthesia. What God is doing I mysterious. I am sure all of us men do think that women are mysterious creatures. Well, that’s natural. Even her creation was mysterious to Adam. He couldn’t see what happened. God also wanted to heighten the effect on Adam when he woke up. If Adam couldn’t see what was happening, and then hey presto, there’s a woman standing before him, his surprise would be complete.

God takes a rib from Adam in order to build this woman. At this point I can no better than to quote Matthew Henry: “Eve was made not out of Adam’s head to rule over him, nor 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.” And just a little later, he related the theological significance of this fact: “In this Adam was a figure of him that was to come; for out of the side of Christ, the second Adam, his spouse the church was formed, when he slept the sleep, the deep sleep, of death upon the cross, in order to which his side was opened, and there came out blood and water, blood to purchase his church and water to purify it to himself.” I would highly recommend Matthew Henry on any passage of Scripture as a devotional. But on our passage this morning, Henry has no equal. What he is saying here is that Christ was the second Adam, and that Christ got his bride in much the same way as Adam got his. Sleep and an opening of the side was important in both cases.

What happens next is that God brings her to the man. This sounds much like a betrothal service where the father of the bride presents the bride to the groom and gives her to him. God, the Father of Eve, gives away His daughter to be wedded to this man Adam.

Then we get quite a reaction from Adam. It is important to note just how emotional Adam was in this reaction. Think of it: he had seen many, many animals pass before his eyes, and had seen how unsuitable they were for him. Now, finally, at last, this is it! This is what he had been waiting for! He says, in effect, “This is my own flesh and blood.” He had never seen anything in the world as beautiful as this creature was. She is like him. She looks like him, she can answer intelligently to him. This is a creature who is like him in every way that’s important. He invents the first pun in honor of Eve. She is called “Ishah” because she was taken out of “Ish.” Those are the Hebrew terms corresponding to woman and man, respectively. Even in our language this works fairly well. The word woman actually came from womb-man.

The excitement that Adam shows is the reason for the following commentary by Moses (vs. 24). It was and should be only the strongest inducement that could lure a man away from loyalty to his father and mother. Marriage is of such importance that family ties are realigned. A new family starts. It starts because a man is lonely in his soul and body, and needs companionship. The man and the wife become so close that they are one flesh.

The last note of the chapter is actually a sad one. This comment would never have entered into Adam or Eve’s mind before the Fall. If you were to tell them that they should be ashamed of being naked, they would probably have just laughed. No, the comment on lack of shame already points us to the Fall in the next chapter.

Has the spark gone out of your marriage? Maybe you just plod along, hoping that things are all right, when there is a tight knot in your gut telling you that all is not well. Maybe you think that your spouse has all sorts of problems that you didn’t know about when you got married, and that you would not have married him or her if you had known about them. Maybe you have grown to go into opposite directions because of work, and your life together has grown stale or faded. Maybe you feel like you have to put on a show of having a good marriage in front of all your friends, when you feel like a hypocrite inside. Maybe you feel disappointed in life in general, and in your spouse in particular. Every marriage has problems. To expect marriage to be perfect in this life is think unbiblically about marriage. But sometimes our expectations are subconscious, and we hold our spouse to these unfair expectations. Then we are disappointed when they do not meet those expectations. Know that the answer starts here in Genesis. We must stop comparing the current state of our marriage with some idolatrous marriage state of our own manufacturing, and start comparing it with not having marriage at all. That was Adam’s state. He did not have anyone, and then not only did he receive a partner, but she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. God had richly provided for his need. God has richly provided for our needs as well. It does not matter how unlovable our spouse is at times, having a spouse at all is a rich gift from God. There is therefore no reason why we could not regain some of that excitement that we had when we were first married. It will require us to be honest with each other, not telling the other person what we think they want to hear, but actually communicating to them who we are, and how we think, how we need to be loved. It will require us to confess sin to our spouse, such that healing can take place. It requires humbleness in how we relate to our spouse, considering our spouse to be better than we are.

Jesus Christ does not consider himself complete without the church as His bride. She is imperfect and blemished, spotted and stained. However, He loves her anyway, and gave himself as a sacrifice to save her from her sin. If anyone had a right to be angry with His spouse, it was Jesus. Instead He loved her with an unbelievable love. Should we not strive to follow that example? There is a chance to regain that unashamed feeling that we had when first married. We are all being built up into that heavenly Jerusalem that will come down, dressed as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband, and she will be spotless, unwrinkled, unstained, cleansed from every sin by the blood of the Lamb, who purchased her with that water and blood that came from his side, when he slept the deep sleep. Hallelujah, what a Savior!