Genesis 2:18 provides the foundation for marriage, it states, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” The institution of marriage is viewed as a good thing, it is the opposite of being alone, it is intimate companionship. It is also God-ordained since God Himself not only created man and woman, but also marriage itself. Therefore, marriage must be viewed as theocentric through the lens of the covenant God who ordained it, and not based upon anthropological foundations. A primary part of that fact involves understanding marriage as a covenant. The doctrine of marriage is vital for both single, married, and engaged Christians to understand. This fact is true especially because believers are united to the bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, and are called to bear fruit for Him.1 By possessing a deep understanding of the marriage covenant, Christians not only learn about the relationship of husband and wife, but also of Christ to His church.
Understanding The Covenantal Relationship
The first aspect to note about the marriage covenant is to see the woman is made to be a helper to the man. In Genesis 2:18, the woman is identified as ezer, which means helper. The woman is different from the man since she is created to bless and serve him by helping him fulfill the mandate given to him from the Creator.2 Far from being a derogatory term, the word ezer is actually used in reference to God in Exodus 18:4 and essentially means to be an aid.3 Consequently, the distinction of roles in the covenant of marriage is laid at the very beginning. The woman was created for the man, and the man is to lead her and provide for her by caring for her as his own flesh. The covenantal relationship is one with separate roles and boundaries, both man and woman equal in the sight of God, but both having two separate roles before him and towards each other.
A second characteristic of marriage which must be noted in this passage is the fact that the man and woman have a special relationship different from the rest of creation. In Genesis 2:19-22, Adam names all of the livestock, and no beast is found to be a suitable helper for him. Therefore, the woman is created from the rib of the man in verses 21-22. This truth means just like the man, the woman is distinct from the rest of creation since she is made in the image of God. Male and female human beings are the only two creatures who are made in God’s image. As such, they not only have a different relationship with God than the rest of creation, but they also have a different relationship with each other. The man should not treat the woman as though she was just a beast like the rest of the animals. The woman should not act as though the man is just another animal. Rather, they should embrace each other as the crowning glory of God’s creation. Since humanity is made in the image of God, they are made to be great, beautiful, and creative.4
As such, the marriage covenant should be viewed as a relationship where the man leads the woman to bring the most glory to God by bearing his image with excellence. At the same time, the woman should help the man to create, take dominion, and be productive in the earth as God’s image-bearer. Essentially, the marriage covenant should be viewed as two individuals fulfilling two unique roles propelling each other to fulfill their ordained functions before God in the way most glorifying to Him. They are accomplishing this task together in a way no other member of creation can do except for humanity.
The last principal area which must be explored in relation to the marriage covenant as found in Genesis 2 is the concept of the closeness of the husband and wife. The woman is made from the rib of the man, and the man calls her “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” in verse 23. A greater and deeper union cannot be found anywhere in creation than in marriage. They are to be one, unified together in every sense of the word. In verse 25, it is said they “were both naked and not ashamed” thereby showing physically they are even one. Everything about the creation of the woman shows the depths of her relationship to the man. This union is of one-flesh, and as such it is meant to last for life. The Hebrew word for “hold fast” in verse 24 is dawbak which references an intimate cleaving together.5 This concept of cleaving is also found in Deuteronomy 10:20, where the Israelites are told to cleave to God. Christians are called to pursue God, so also, husband and wife are to pursue each other. This term references the profound oneness and binding nature of the marriage covenant.
The intimacy of the husband and wife as being one-flesh is a living, breathing illustration of the union between Christ and his church.6 By way of implication, this truth means the example for marriage is Christ and his bride. The husband and wife must seek to pattern the union of Christ and the church. It is a union where Christ purchased the bride with his own blood, and the church is counted as one with him. So also, the husband and wife must see each other as one. Genesis 2 lays the groundwork for understanding not only marriage, but also Christ and the church. Christ and his church provide the illustration for how marriage should function. The husband should affectionately love his wife and care for her own welfare as he does for his own body.7 Taking these themes together, one can easily see the binding nature of the marriage covenant and the depths of the intimacy which is to be expected. The husband should lead, serve, protect, and provide for his wife. At the same time, the wife is expected to help her husband, to serve him, and to fulfill her primary duty, which according to Titus 2:5 is mainly in the home. There are clearly two different roles, but they come together in a one-flesh union both physically and spiritually, complementing each other for the glory of Christ during their entire lives in this marriage covenant.
The Implications of The Marriage Covenant
Currently, the culture is embracing the complete blurring of male and female roles in every possible way, especially with the rise of transgenderism.8 Men are urged not to be leaders, women are commanded to bow at the altar of career, and both sexes are told to abhor any gender distinctions. In contrast, the marriage covenant of Genesis chapter 2 commands the husband to be a biblical man, and the wife to practice biblical femininity. They both have equally important but different roles to play. A wife is not to usurp her husband’s authority, nor is the husband to abuse his leadership. The man is not to be passive, but courageous and strong in protecting and leading his wife. As Rod Dreher has said, “The essence of modernity is to deny that there are any transcendent stories, structures, habits, or beliefs to which individuals must submit, and that should bind our conduct.9 However, the always relevant ancient paths of biblical Christianity urge men and women to see their binding duty before God both in life as a whole and specifically in the marriage covenant. Marriage is a call to Christ-centered sacrifice, and each spouse must see this reality.
Another implication of the one-flesh covenantal union of marriage is the fact that it is the binding relationship for male and female. If a man and woman desire to pursue a romantic relationship, it should not be towards to concept of living with each other, but with covenanting togethering in marriage. This institution was not ordained by popular opinion, by the state, nor by the church, but by God. Since marriage is God-created, that fact means it is to be pursued by everyone, except those called to singleness. The goal of pursuing someone of the opposite gender is to covenant with them in marriage as portrayed in Genesis. Understanding the covenantal nature of marriage allows for a deeper comprehension of how to pursue someone prior to being married. A Christian should not have casual “recreational” dating relationships in their life as recommended by the culture. Instead, courtship should be a pure endeavor seeking to find someone to covenant with till death parts the couple. Genesis chapter shows the intimacy of the covenant of marriage, this fact must be understood when pursuing others for marriage.
1 Francis A Schaeffer , The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: True Spirituality, vol. 3, p. 276.
2 Owen Strachan, Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind, p. 135.
3 Jay Green, The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew – Greek – English; with Strong’s Concordance Numbers above Each Word, H5828.
4 Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: Back To Freedom and Dignity, vol. 1, p. 384.
5 Jay Green, The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew – Greek – English; with Strong’s Concordance Numbers above Each Word, H1692.
6 Voddie Baucham, Family Shepherds, p. 97.
7 John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians, p. 301.
8 Owen Strachan, Reenchanting Humanity: A Theology of Mankind, p. 167.
9 Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies (New York: Penguin Random House, 2020), p. 115.