Who we are as Man and Woman
The Christian church has a long history of presenting a low—and unbiblical—view of women. Martin Luther wrote, “Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children.”
What does the Bible actually tell us about women? To answer that question, let’s start at the beginning of the Bible, with the creation of man and woman. Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” What this tells us is that it is not men alone or women alone who reveal the “image of God,” but the combination of man and woman. There is something vital about the person of a woman, and something vital about the person of a man, and something vital about the relationship of the two that reveals the “image of God.”
In Genesis 2:18, when it comes to the creation of woman in particular, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
There are a couple of matters that need to be clarified here:
The word “helper” sounds like God is deciding that a man needs a maid or a cook to take care of him, but such is not at all what this verse declares. The word translated as “helper” is used almost exclusively in Scripture to describe God as our Helper. The use of the word in Genesis 2:18 is not meant to look down on woman but to acknowledge that man needs her in his life like he needs God in his life!
The word translated as “suitable for him” literally means “in front of him” or “counterpart of him.” Woman does not stand below man or above him but in front of him, facing him. From a biblical perspective, woman is the one who meets man’s match. Man and woman are meant to go together.
The word translated as “woman” or “female” in Genesis 1:27 is the Hebrew word neqebah. The literal meaning of the word is “punctured” or “bored through.” In his book, Fully Alive, Larry Crabb explains, “Neqebah refers to something that has been opened and can now be entered. Is God wanting us to think of the way He designed a woman’s body? In sex, the most physically intimate act, the woman presents her body, opened by God, capable of being entered by a man’s body. The meeting is productive and pleasurable, and blessed by God if the man and woman are in covenant relationship, married, committed to each other for life, and committed to the other’s pleasure more than their own.
“A thought comes to mind: perhaps the physical shape of a woman’s body is a kind of parable, or picture, of the spiritual shape of a woman’s soul. Could femininity have something to do with a woman who is relationally opened to receive? Our likeness to God is not physical. God is a spiritual being, three persons who relate together not physically but personally. We reflect Him most clearly as we relate together as persons.
“A feminine woman is a woman who relates in a particular way; she is opened to receive others who come to her. And, pushing the image further, she warmly and pleasurably surrounds those whom she receives. She invites movement toward her and embraces the movement she receives.” (p. 44)
The openness and welcoming nature Crabb describes are vital aspects of the image of God. The qualities of a woman enable us to see more clearly the nature of God.
Here’s where the rubber hits the road for me: Many, many times over the years, my wife has sought to share with me her care, her compassion for others, her creativity, her spontaneity, her passion; she has sought to welcome me into this inner world of hers. But, in my pride, or stubbornness, or self-sufficiency, or obsessive-compulsive-personality-disorder, I have rejected her welcome. Not only have I hurt her, but I have hurt myself by missing out on opportunities to see more clearly and experience more fully the nature of God. Men need what women can reveal to us of the fuller understanding of the nature of God!
The word translated as “man” or “male” in Genesis 1:27 is the Hebrew word zakar. Crabb explains, “Zakar means ‘to leave a mark, to make an impact.’ In ancient Near East culture, the word referred to a king’s assistant, to a man charged with the important privilege of reminding the king of matters that required his royal attention. Zakar came to mean someone who remembers something important that moves him to do something important….
“Arsen, Greek for male, means ‘to lift, to carry.’ It points to the strength needed to move something from one place to another. Together arsen and zakar suggest the beginning idea that a man reflects God by remembering what is important and moving…with the strength to make an important difference.” (p. 67-68)
A man reveals the likeness of God as he leaves a mark in the lives of others, as he remembers what is important and moves to do something about it, helping to lift and carry others.
It is the combination of man and woman together that allow us to see the nature of God most clearly.