Friday, July 13, 2012

Why tell us that Eve was made out of Adam's rib?

18 And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten, that it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him….
 21 And I, the Lord God, caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and he slept, and I took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh in the stead thereof;
 22 And the rib which I, the Lord God, had taken from man, made I a woman, and brought her unto the man.
 23 And Adam said: This I know now is 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. (Moses 3:18, 21-25)

I’ve always thought the rib story was odd; in particular, the words Adam says puzzled me.  Because God made Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs, Adam says, “This I know now is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.”  It’s like Adam woke up, saw Eve and says, “Hey!  That’s my rib!  We’re ‘sposed to get married and stay together; I can’t have my rib wandering around without me!”  Why would Adam think Eve had one of his ribs?  And why would he decide the whole of her was his bone and his flesh because of this?

President Spencer W. Kimball taught that Eve was not literally created from Adam’s rib. He said: “The story of the rib, of course, is figurative” ( “The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 71).   But if the rib story is figurative, then why is it in there?  Harold B. Lee said:

Marriage is a partnership. Someone has observed that in the Bible account of the creation woman was not formed from a part of man’s head, suggesting that she might rule over him, nor from a part of a man’s foot that she was to be trampled under his feet. Woman was taken from man’s side as though to emphasize the fact that she was always to be by his side as a partner and companion. At the marriage altar you are pledged to each other from that day to pull the load together in double harness. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], p. 109)

This might describe why the rib is used and not some other part of the body, but why say that Eve was created from part of Adam at all? 

One idea that occurred to me was that maybe Adam didn’t have any way to communicate the abstract principles of soul synchrony and personality compatibility.  Maybe the rib story was meant to communicate that.  If I couldn’t use those abstract words, I might resort to saying an equivalent of Adam’s words, something like, “My husband’s got a piece of me in him.  God must have taken a part of me out while I was asleep and made him out of it.” 

Biblical culture considered the reins (the kidneys) to be the center of feeling and the heart to be the center of thought.  (Seems kinda odd, but once you realize that, a lot of things start to make more sense, like phrases like, “his bowels were moved with compassion.”)  So saying that Eve had one of Adam’s ribs would be like saying, “She and I think a lot alike.”  (Adam couldn’t say, “She’s got my heart,” because that would be like saying, “She does all the thinking for me.”)

If we see the rib story teaches about Adam and Eve’s compatibility as partners, then the statement about how a man should cleave to his wife and be one flesh with her teaches about taking compatibility and creating a relationship of unity.  (We know from D&C 121:41 that it is to happen with persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and pure knowledge.) 

Although it is Adam who says, “This is bone of my bones,” I think Eve had to realize Adam was bone of her bones too, otherwise she wouldn’t have gone along with it.  She probably felt like the Lord took a piece of her and made Adam with it, and Adam just gets the glory of giving the account from his perspective.  

Verse 22 has another neat thing in it.  And the rib which I, the Lord God, had taken from man, made I a woman, and brought her unto the man” (emphasis added).  That says to me that it is the Lord that brings a couple together so they can meet and marry. 

When you think about it, this teaching about taking compatibility and making a united marriage is a pretty amazing message to put at the beginning of the scriptures. 

If you are married, how did you meet your spouse?  At what point did you discover your compatibility?  What kind of compatibilities did you discover?  

I met my husband at BYU's Electronic Engineering Technology Department where we both worked as student employees. The first point of compatibility I discovered with him was that our senses of humor were very similar and he seemed to make me laugh really easily. I liked that he seemed to have similar media viewing standards to me and he was committed to the gospel.

How about you?


J Vogler said...

OMGosh, where did you come up with this? This is pure genius!! I'm going to print this up for my husband to read and maybe a couple friends from church. We were just talking about how the creation story is very figurative, but I couldn't really see it myself. I LOVE Adam's comment of "Hey, that's my rib! Don't want it walking around w/o me!" Haha!!

Lynden said...

I read an interesting catholic quote a while back (from several hundred years ago) that took this literally. They claimed the reason the woman was subservient and disobedient was because she was made from a crooked rib. Good resources though, I never knew that SWP said that.

Michaela Stephens said...

Jean, I'm glad it helped you! Can't claim credit for it though; every good thing comes from God. :-)

Onhech, interesting theories they had several hundred years ago. That's like saying spiritual status arises from physiological causes, an unhallowed principle, as Joseph Smith would call it.

Heather@Women in the Scriptures said...

Oh, I love the idea that Adam didn't have a word to describe "rib" correctly. In fact, I wonder if that is one word that just doesn't translate from Adamic at all-- that rib is the closest idea that we have to what you are getting at-- unity. Perfect unity.