Made for Each Other

Read: Genesis 2:4b-25

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Genesis 2:18 NRSV).

You don’t hear the word “helper” much anymore. Hamburger Helper comes to mind, but a quick look at the nutrition label is enough to raise questions about how much of a “helper” that product really is. I recently praised my 3-year-old granddaughter for being a “good helper” when she showed me how she could harvest cherry tomatoes. This praise may have been premature, since she was picking the green ones, too. But she was definitely some kind of helper.

All of this is to say, we may not have much context when we come to the verse in Genesis 2 where God sets out to make the first man a “helper.” We may have a lot of assumptions, though, and these can quickly get in the way.

The first thing to notice is that God is seeking to make the man a helper “as his partner.” This sounds like a pretty egalitarian thing, so maybe we should say goodbye to any assumptions about subservience on the basis of this phrase alone. There is an even better reason to do so, however. If we look at the Hebrew word behind “helper,” we’ll find that it is often used to describe God. For instance, Psalm 30:10 says, “Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!” I think it’s safe to assume the psalmist is not suggesting that God take a subservient role!

The Genesis story goes on to describe how the LORD God creates “every animal of the field and every bird of the air” and brings them to the man. The man watches the parade and gives all the creatures a name. While some of these animals may prove to be good company, none of them really rise to the level of “a helper as his partner.” So, God puts the man into a deep sleep and creates a woman from one of his ribs. “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” the man declares.

Problem solved. They live happily ever after…or at least they do until Genesis 3.

What are we to make of this ancient story?

It seems to me that it’s not so much whether this story is true as how it is true. We don’t need to believe that God literally performed surgery on a guy in a garden to get something out of the story.

If myths tell us deep truths about ourselves, our world, and our God, then part of what this story seems to be telling us is that we were made for each other. I don’t mean this in a fairy tale sense, but in the sense that we were created for relationship. I have to believe that God had more in mind than just how much work there was to be done in the garden when God observed that “it is not good that the man should be alone.” If the pandemic has taught us nothing else, it is that we need one other.

The second thing the story seems to be telling us is that relationships should be marked by equality and mutuality. If the story has been abused to read otherwise, that’s not the story’s fault. To be a “helper” is to be a partner in every sense of the word. To be a good helper is a goal—not just for my granddaughter—but for all of us.

Ponder: How should we read this story in light of what science tells us about the gender spectrum?

Pray: Help us to be good helpers in all the relationships you give us.

Story Time

Read: Genesis 1

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness….” (Genesis 1: 26a NRSV).

Imagine for a moment that you are one of the Hebrew exiles living in Babylon in the 6th century B.C.E. Perhaps you are preparing dinner for your family when your young daughter bursts into the kitchen, full of excitement about what she learned at her local Babylonian preschool.

“We heard the BEST story today!” she announces, throwing down her back-pack and helping herself to the chocolate chip cookies on the counter. For the next several minutes—in between bites—she regales you with an action-packed tale about a Mesopotamian mother goddess who declares war on her children because they are making too much noise. Just when you’re thinking that the story has real potential as a cautionary tale, it takes a gruesome turn. The children fight back, splitting their mother in half. (OK, so now it’s a cautionary tale for mothers….) There’s more to the story—about the creation of all the elements of the world, for instance. But finally, your daughter finishes both the cookies and her story with a flourish—her eyes wide with this final detail: “Then the tears from the mother goddess’s eyes became the two great rivers—the Tigris and the Euphrates!”

“Isn’t that the COOLEST story you’ve ever heard?” she demands.

This situation calls for parental diplomacy. It’s clear that she’ll be hurt if you don’t share her enthusiasm. There are some things about the story that make sense to you, but other details don’t quite ring true. Not to mention the story’s style. Surely, the creation of the world deserves a bit more dignity.

Keeping these thoughts to yourself, you give your daughter a hug and say, “It’s a VERY COOL story, honey. Maybe after dinner I’ll tell you another story about how the world was created….”

Anachronisms aside, this made-up story about an exilic preschooler does reflect some facts—or at least some probabilities. The Hebrew exiles almost certainly learned the Babylonian version of the creation story when they were living in Babylon during the exile. The story was a thousand years old by the time they heard it, and they seem to have liked some aspects of it because the creation story we know as Genesis 1 reflects some features of the Babylonian story. The order and number of the things being created are the same. But the exiles also made some very important revisions—revisions that say a great deal about how they thought about things.

The Hebrew version has only one God, so that’s the most obvious edit. But the creation of human beings is also dramatically different. In the Babylonian creation story, Enuma Elish, human beings are created as slaves for the capricious family of gods. In Genesis 1, on the other hand, human beings are created in the image of God. That’s quite a promotion!

So much of the contemporary conversation that swirls around Genesis 1 seems to focus on whether creation occurred in six literal days. In my opinion, this obsession is unfair to the story itself. This story is not science; it is myth. Far from being false, myths are stories that testify to deep truths. We don’t have to take them literally to take them seriously.

When we put Genesis 1 beside Enuma Elish we can see some of the ways the Holy Spirit has inspired some very significant changes. The assertion that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the most important. What would it mean if we were to take that change seriously—both for how we see ourselves and for how we treat one another? What would it mean if we tried to read this ancient story on its own terms?

Ponder: How do you feel about the idea that Genesis 1 may reflect aspects of another ancient creation story? How would you respond to the claim that myths are some of the truest stories ever told?

Pray: Creator God, help us to hear the truths in this ancient story.

 

True Stories Series

 

I have a recurring nightmare. In the dream, I am walking into a classroom, prepared to take a test on Shakespeare. I settle in, fairly confident that I know my stuff. But when the professor hands out the tests, I discover that the test is actually on calculus—something I have never studied. Things do not go well.

Sometimes I feel like this is what we do when we insist on quizzing the early chapters of Genesis for scientific detail. “Not fair!” I can hear the chapters crying. “This isn’t the test we’ve prepared for at all!”

What have we missed in our obsession with science? What wonders might these ancient stories reveal if we asked questions they were prepared to answer? In this series we are going to try to do just that.

If Genesis 1-11 aren’t science, then what are they? I believe they are myths, and that only when we read them as such will they yield the deep truths they were designed to tell.

Wait, you may be saying. If something is a myth, doesn’t that mean it’s a lie?

No. Myths are not lies. They are some of the truest stories ever told. I believe that the myths in Genesis 1-11 have been shaped by the Holy Spirit to teach us deep truths about the character of God, humanity, and all creation.

Want to see what I mean? Read the series!

Carol M. Bechtel

Vacation Bible Peanuts #9

I have been a fan of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic strip my whole life. If you’re a fan, too, you’ll know how often the strip includes quotations from the Bible. Over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favorites.

I’m calling this series the “Vacation Bible Peanuts” because it’s high time I took a vacation. I’ve been posting a weekly Bible study blog since the end of 2017. That’s 183 blogs and counting! I’ll be back with more reflections next week. In the mean time, enjoy the Bible through the eyes of Peanuts.

Carol M. Bechtel

 

 

 

 

 

Fair Use Copyright Disclaimer:

This site contains copyrighted content not authorized for use by the owner, but its use falls under the guidelines of fair use (see Section 107 of the Copyright Act). The nature of this use is solely for non-profit educational purposes.

Vacation Bible Peanuts #8

I have been a fan of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic strip my whole life. If you’re a fan, too, you’ll know how often the strip includes quotations from the Bible. Over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favorites.

I’m calling this series the “Vacation Bible Peanuts” because it’s high time I took a vacation. I’ve been posting a weekly Bible study blog since the end of 2017. That’s 183 blogs and counting! I’ll be back with more reflections in September. In the mean time, enjoy the Bible through the eyes of Peanuts.

Carol M. Bechtel

 

 

 

 

 

Fair Use Copyright Disclaimer:

This site contains copyrighted content not authorized for use by the owner, but its use falls under the guidelines of fair use (see Section 107 of the Copyright Act). The nature of this use is solely for non-profit educational purposes.

Vacation Bible Peanuts #7

I have been a fan of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic strip my whole life. If you’re a fan, too, you’ll know how often the strip includes quotations from the Bible. Over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favorites.

I’m calling this series the “Vacation Bible Peanuts” because it’s high time I took a vacation. I’ve been posting a weekly Bible study blog since the end of 2017. That’s 183 blogs and counting! I’ll be back with more reflections in September. In the mean time, enjoy the Bible through the eyes of Peanuts.

Carol M. Bechtel

 

 

 

 

 

Fair Use Copyright Disclaimer:

This site contains copyrighted content not authorized for use by the owner, but its use falls under the guidelines of fair use (see Section 107 of the Copyright Act). The nature of this use is solely for non-profit educational purposes.

Vacation Bible Peanuts #6

I have been a fan of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic strip my whole life. If you’re a fan, too, you’ll know how often the strip includes quotations from the Bible. Over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favorites.

I’m calling this series the “Vacation Bible Peanuts” because it’s high time I took a vacation. I’ve been posting a weekly Bible study blog since the end of 2017. That’s 183 blogs and counting! I’ll be back with more reflections in September. In the mean time, enjoy the Bible through the eyes of Peanuts.

Carol M. Bechtel

 

 

 

 

 

Fair Use Copyright Disclaimer:

This site contains copyrighted content not authorized for use by the owner, but its use falls under the guidelines of fair use (see Section 107 of the Copyright Act). The nature of this use is solely for non-profit educational purposes.

Vacation Bible Peanuts #5

I have been a fan of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic strip my whole life. If you’re a fan, too, you’ll know how often the strip includes quotations from the Bible. Over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favorites.

I’m calling this series the “Vacation Bible Peanuts” because it’s high time I took a vacation. I’ve been posting a weekly Bible study blog since the end of 2017. That’s 183 blogs and counting! I’ll be back with more reflections in September. In the mean time, enjoy the Bible through the eyes of Peanuts.

Carol M. Bechtel

 

 

 

 

 

Fair Use Copyright Disclaimer:

This site contains copyrighted content not authorized for use by the owner, but its use falls under the guidelines of fair use (see Section 107 of the Copyright Act). The nature of this use is solely for non-profit educational purposes.

Vacation Bible Peanuts #4

I have been a fan of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic strip my whole life. If you’re a fan, too, you’ll know how often the strip includes quotations from the Bible. Over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favorites.

I’m calling this series the “Vacation Bible Peanuts” because it’s high time I took a vacation. I’ve been posting a weekly Bible study blog since the end of 2017. That’s 183 blogs and counting! I’ll be back with more reflections in September. In the mean time, enjoy the Bible through the eyes of Peanuts.

Carol M. Bechtel

 

 

 

 

 

Fair Use Copyright Disclaimer:

This site contains copyrighted content not authorized for use by the owner, but its use falls under the guidelines of fair use (see Section 107 of the Copyright Act). The nature of this use is solely for non-profit educational purposes.

Vacation Bible Peanuts #3

I have been a fan of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic strip my whole life. If you’re a fan, too, you’ll know how often the strip includes quotations from the Bible. Over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favorites.

I’m calling this series the “Vacation Bible Peanuts” because it’s high time I took a vacation. I’ve been posting a weekly Bible study blog since the end of 2017. That’s 183 blogs and counting! I’ll be back with more reflections in September. In the mean time, enjoy the Bible through the eyes of Peanuts.

Carol M. Bechtel

 

 

 

 

 

Fair Use Copyright Disclaimer:

This site contains copyrighted content not authorized for use by the owner, but its use falls under the guidelines of fair use (see Section 107 of the Copyright Act). The nature of this use is solely for non-profit educational purposes.

Vacation Bible Peanuts #2

I have been a fan of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic strip my whole life. If you’re a fan, too, you’ll know how often the strip includes quotations from the Bible. Over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favorites.

I’m calling this series the “Vacation Bible Peanuts” because it’s high time I took a vacation. I’ve been posting a weekly Bible study blog since the end of 2017. That’s 183 blogs and counting! I’ll be back with more reflections in September. In the mean time, enjoy the Bible through the eyes of Peanuts.

Carol M. Bechtel

 

 

 

 

 

Fair Use Copyright Disclaimer:

This site contains copyrighted content not authorized for use by the owner, but its use falls under the guidelines of fair use (see Section 107 of the Copyright Act). The nature of this use is solely for non-profit educational purposes.