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Adam gets a help meet as Genesis gives us a good ribbing

Australian fires. African locusts. Worldwide plague. Do we live in Biblical times or what? If the world really is ending, we thought it was time to prepare properly for Armageddon. By, you know, reading the damn thing. The Bible, that is. (Go back to the beginning here.)

Yesterday, God seemed to lay a big fat trap for Adam in the garden. Let’s see what he has for him today…

Genesis 2 King James Version (KJV)


18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2 New International Version (NIV)

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

So hang on, let us make sure we understand the situation here. Adam has been breathed to life what, some ten minutes ago, and despite the obvious bewilderment he would be experiencing, he’s expected to provide names to a parade of animals brought before him? And how did that happen, exactly — were these creatures led by leashes in front of him, and was that done by the Big Guy himself, or did the animals just sort of saunter on their own in front of this new man, who instantly had enough of a vocabulary to come up with monikers for all of these beasts?

But we love that detail about the “true names,” which is very revealing if you think about it. Because the narrators here, what they’re really doing is acknowledging (or bemoaning) the actual situation, which is the arbitrariness of human language. There’s nothing more cow-like about the word “cow” than, say, “vaca,” or even the utterance “monkey.” We have actually known people who find this obvious fact, the arbitrary nature of language, deeply disturbing. They like to think that at some level, words carry some link to the things they describe, and so this “Just-So Story” in Genesis certainly feels like an obvious sop to that anxiety. Whatever language Adam spoke in the Garden of Eden, his words had a real link to the things he described. It’s a cute notion.

Anyway, that all fades in comparison to the next fable here, the extremely presumptuous suggestion that Eve was pulled out of Adam’s rib cage, and was created to keep him company. Well, at least it provides some explanation for why men have one less rib than women do.

What’s that? It isn’t true? You say men and women have the same number of ribs? Oh well, for heaven’s sake what is even real any more.


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Posted by Tony Ortega on April 1, 2020 at 12:00


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