Seminary president: Genesis text is not about ‘male and female’ but instead ‘human isolation’

covnetlogoEditor’s note: The Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC), the publisher of The Layman and The Layman Online, does not support same-sex marriage. Instead, the PLC “believes with Scripture that God ordained the lifelong marriage of a man and a woman in the very order of creation and that Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, blessed and sanctified this relationship. The article here was posted as a news story about the Covenant Network’s 2013 conference on “Marriage Matters.”


CHICAGO, Ill. — McCormick Theological Seminary President Frank Yamada said that the “take-away” from Genesis 2:18-25 is not about “a man and woman, but that God has figured out a way to take away isolation from human beings.

Yamada’s sermon, “Becoming one flesh, one body,” was given during Thursday night’s worship service at the Covenant Network’s 2013 conference, “Marriage Matters.”

The Scripture text read:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 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. 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. 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.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. 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.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Yamada said that at the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Big Tent event held Aug. 1-3, in Louisville, Ky., he gave a sermon on the event’s theme, “Putting God’s first things first.” As a sermon illustration, he told a story about how his dog gets very focused when he gets gummy bears. Following the service, a member of the audience came to him, asking him about feeding his dog gummy bears.

“That was this guy’s take-away,” said Yamada, adding that as a preacher he is often struck by what a person’s take-away is from one of his sermons.

“When I read Genesis 2, and I hear what others take-away from this text, I scratch my head,” he said. When someone reads this “beautiful, moving text,” and the take-away is “man and woman,” Yamada said he wonders, “What text are you reading? Is that all you got from this text — man and woman?”


McCormick Theological Seminary President Frank Yamada speaks during a worship service at the Covenant Network’s “Marriage Matters” conference in Chicago, Ill.

So, starting in Genesis 1, Yamada summarized the story: God created all things good and the first time that something was “not quite right in creation” is in Genesis 2 — not Genesis 3 with the fall.

“It starts with Genesis 2:18 when the Lord says it is not good that the human should be alone. Read this text sometime, because right after this, after the perfection of the beautiful world around him  … one thing is wrong. Man is alone, so the first thing God created is animals. God’s first solution is the animals but that doesn’t satisfy him, so God puts Adam to sleep and pulls the rib.”

When Adam was presented with the woman he said, “Indeed this is flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.” So Yamada concluded that the “take-away” is that God removed human isolation.

“Isn’t there a longing, a threat of being alone in the world? … Doesn’t Genesis 2 seem to address this dilemma? It is not good for the human being to be alone. It seems to be that is the much greater take-away that speaks to the human condition …  indeed in these life-giving partnerships with those who we recognize as flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, from our side, by our side … I recognize a companion, a partner, an ezer, a help mate.”

Yamada continued that that the take-away doesn’t just apply to individuals, but to groups as well. People may feel different, he said, whether it is racism, sexism or heterosexism, … the truth of Genesis 2 echoes clearly that it isn’t about a man and a woman but that it is not good for human beings to be alone.

The Lord gave a helper to Adam because of human isolation, he said, but it’s not “the gender of the partner but to have someone beside you … the grace from this text is the holiness of human relationships … the helper to help overcome the threat of living life alone … Life can be very good with an ezer who is very much like you.”

Yamada said that “God in Jesus Christ proclaims to a broken humanity that it is not good for the broken to be alone.” This is what Paul means in Galatians 3:38: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

“The good news is that when we gather at tables like this we practice the divine witness,” he said. “That indeed human beings are never intended to be and never will be alone … and thank God we have these relationships that teach us about God among us, God with us.”

Yamada is a Presbyterian minister and has been a member of the McCormick faculty since 2008. His doctrinal studies included Hebrew Bible with an emphasis in hermeneutics, feminist theory and culturally-contextual Biblical interpretation.

The Covenant Network’s 2013 Covenant Conference  — Marriage Matters — was held Oct. 31-Nov. 2 at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Ill.

Paula R. Kincaid