I love reading about the first instance of matchmaking in world history. It can be found in Genesis 2:18–24. And yet, this first marriage has often raised a few questions for me (and, quite frankly, the church at large — but that’s another story).
Let me give some context: Adam has been created, but Adam is single. I don’t have very much sympathy for Adam because if Adam and Eve were both created on the same day as Gen 1:27, 28 tells us, then Adam was only single for a few hours before he met Eve — and not single for years like many people today.
With everything God created, He said that it “…was good” (Gen. 1). But when He looked at the first human, the first man, He saw that there was something that was not “good.” Adam was alone. It was not good for Adam to be alone. So God set about making a help meet suitable for him (Gen 2:18).
As a side note, I’ve noticed that men don’t do too well when they’re alone. For one thing, they tend to get themselves into trouble. This is not to poke fun at men — I’m actually serious (for once). When I look at divorcees or widows, many of them seem to fare better and even thrive when compared to divorced men or widowers. Perhaps this explains why many divorced men or widowers remarry quickly after dissolution of marriage or death of a spouse. More often than not, I’ve noticed that women fare better by themselves than men do.
Sometimes God works in some bizarre ways. God said, “You need a wife.” (Gen 2:18). God’s solution? “Let me give you some animals to name.” (Notice he didn’t immediately send a wife).
Hasn’t that happened to many of us? You ask God for one thing and He gives you something else to do — something that seems completely unrelated to the request? You ask Him for a spouse and He makes you finish school, find your calling, or, worse yet, gives you a job?
Don’t you just hate when God does that?
Naming the animals was to prepare Adam for his help meet. God gave Adam work before He gave him a wife. He gave him a mission before He gave him a mate. Our motto ought to be, “No mission, no mate.” I think you need to be working so that God can give you someone to complement your work. The wife is supposed to be the “help meet.” If you’re not working, why do you need help? You only need help if and when you are actually doing something that requires aid.
I believe God, after remarking that Adam needed a help meet comparable to him, wanted Adam to name the animals to highlight the fact that none of these animals were comparable to him and emphasize Adam’s uniqueness and “alone-ness.” Adam needed to notice and realize his lack and sense his need for companionship so that when the much anticipated wife came she would be appreciated. I think God allows us to go through times of lack so that when the blessing after which we sought finally comes, we’ll appreciate it. Going without and being in need allows future appreciation to germinate. Absence is the breeding ground for appreciation. It’s a sad, sad event when blessings cannot be enjoyed because they are not appreciated.
God performs the first recorded transplant by taking a rib from Adam to create, build and form Eve. Taking the rib from the side was intentional and symbolic. Ellen White, in Patriarchs and Prophets (pg. 46) writes that Eve was “to be by his side as an equal, to be loved and protected by him.” Matthew Henry says it this way:
“Women were created from the rib of man to be beside him, not from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be trampled by him, but from under his arm to be protected by him, near to his heart to be loved by him.”
This brings me to the point of my post. I’ve often wondered why God put Adam to sleep (Gen 2:21). To say that He needed to perform sanctified surgery on Adam like a Surgeon making an incision into an anesthetized body seemed too simple an answer for me. I mean, God doesn’t always put people to sleep. Sometimes He spits in mud and uses His salvific saliva to make a blind man see. Sometimes He just tells the lame person to get up and walk. And when He formed this whole world, He called everything into being, stopping only to stoop down and create Adam from the dust of the earth. So why put Adam to sleep? After pondering this for a while, I’ve had the following revelations:
God Put Adam to Sleep So That He Could Work
Sometimes we try so hard in life — and oftentimes too hard. We insist on stumbling and floundering and fighting all by ourselves. We want autonomy. We want to be independent. We don’t need no help we say, with an attitude. We got this. We can do bad all by ourselves. We want to do this our own way. Go away God. And yet we struggle under the sheer weight of our burdens. In those times, I can imagine God standing by the wayside, in the wings, backstage, behind the scenes, wanting so very much to jump in but — true to His nature — never wanting to intrude. I can imagine God just looking at us in pity, asking, “You done yet? I want to help you. Can I help you now?” In our fatigue and frustration, we finally and begrudgingly surrender, letting go of the reigns, and God, with the ease of… well… God, brings about the blessings for which we had been struggling all this time.
I think sometimes God waits for us to get tired so that He can get to work. That’s, perhaps, one reason why He put Adam to sleep — so that God could work on his behalf. If Adam had been awake, I can imagine that he would have just gotten in God’s way. He may have tried to tell God what to do and to meddle in and interfere with what God was trying to do. “Uhhh…God? Why is her hair so short? Can you give her longer hair please? Oh, yaaassss… You’re now working on the boobs… *nods head in approval* Hey?! Why are her boobs so small? At least go up two cup sizes… Huh? I don’t like that waist. If she has such a thick waist now, imagine when we start having kids?” I think God could really do without all of Adam’s possible commentary. So He put him to sleep.
I mean, it’s easier to save a person if he is yielded — any lifeguard will tell you that. Lifeguards will typically wait until a person has stopped frantically floundering in the water before they will help them, else the drowning person can take the lifeguard down with him.
So, for those who have tried and tried and prayed and prayed and still haven’t seen the providence of God, maybe God’s waiting for you to get tired so that He can do His thing or bring you your mate. Prayer is work, and work makes you tired. And since you’re tired, you can rest. You can even sleep. If God is taking care of everything, you can doze off. That’s what Jesus did when His ship rode into the storm with the disciples on board. And while you rest, you can dream. For what it’s worth, that’s what I think — it’s just a guess.
Sleep makes time pass more quickly. Sleep allowed Adam not to feel the surgery, with both Adam and Eve being operated on in the process. Perhaps it was out of the great mercy of God why Adam was put to sleep.
Sleeping allows you the privilege of not seeing what goes on. Sometimes I don’t think it would be helpful, or necessary, for a future husband to be a witness to the — albeit messy — formation of his future wife (and I’m not just talking about Adam here). I don’t think he needs to have been around for the whole formation of what makes you you. He doesn’t need to have been privy to all of the abuse, the heartaches, the triumphs, the failures, and the accumulation of your baggage. He just needs to be there for when you are ready to unpack and start life anew — together.
Which brings me to my next point:
God Wanted to Spend Some Time Alone With Eve
Has it ever occurred to you that you are single, alone with God, because you are being formed while your future husband is sleeping?
I don’t know how long Adam was sleeping, but maybe God wanted to spend some time with Eve, forming her, refining her character, allowing her to get to know Him as her Creator, before her precious time got eaten up (…umm…I mean…shared, of course…) by Adam.
He’ll wake up from his daze eventually. In fact, I’m willing to guess that many men are sleeping while their wives are being formed right in front of them. Just ask Heather Lindsey, ’cause that’s what happened to her.
It reminds me of a game I often play with my nephew who’s a toddler. We each take turns pretending to sleep and snore and then the other person shouts “Wake up!” in their ears. This would make my nephew bowl over in laughter. The game backfired one day when we were at church. It was intercessory prayer and I had closed my eyes to pray. The church was quiet, except for the voice of the person praying. Then suddenly, out of no where, my nephew screams to me: “Wake up!” during the prayer… My mom gave me cut eye. Oh when the lessons you teach your nephew go horribly wrong…
This situation makes me think of Adam, or your Adam or my Adam. It’s not your — our job — to wake Adam up. It’s God’s job. And you know what? I don’t know if we could even if we tried, because Adam was in a deep sleep. When he wakes up, if he’s the one God has for you and if he is connected to God, he’ll recognize you.
Adam’s Flesh Needed to Be Put to Sleep
Maybe if Adam hadn’t gone to sleep, he wouldn’t have recognized Eve. Likewise, if men especially don’t put their flesh to sleep, they won’t recognize their wife. Before sleep, she would’ve been just like the other animals. After sleep, Adam can see with new eyes and a clearer, refreshed vision and see her for who she really is. Maybe when you put your flesh to sleep (your carnal desires, your superficial wants), God has a chance to give you what you need.
Also, according to This is Your Bible, Adam’s deep sleep:
“…also pointed forward to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had to enter the “deep sleep” of death so that his bride, the church, could be created. When he awoke, he and his bride were joined together to live in the garden of Eden. Just so, Jesus having been raised from the dead, will, one day soon, be joined to his church when he returns to establish his Father’s kingdon on this earth. Then Eden will be restored and all the earth will be filled with God’s glory. (Numbers 14:21).
I tell myself that my husband — the right guy — will recognize me. I will not have to flaunt myself. I will not have to foist myself upon him. I will not have to prove myself to him. I can just be. I can just be me. I can just be me comfortably. And he will see me and recognize me. God gave men eyes for a reason. Just like Adam recognized Eve and Isaac recognized Rebekkah, he will recognize me.
How did Adam know Eve was his wife? How did he know she wasn’t a weird looking giraffe or a skinny elephant? Yeah, he was probably attracted to her, but he knew she wasn’t a giraffe because she probably looked like him. I think one of the major reasons why Adam was attracted to Eve was because she looked like him. The take home lesson for any of us who are single and looking is that maybe our husband will recognize us because we I look like him. But more appropriately, he recognized himself in her, just like Christ recognizes himself in the church. My husband should see himself in me.
The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary agrees with me, but says it more eloquently: “instinctively…he recognized in her part of his own being” (pg. 227). Perhaps our future husbands will recognize in us a part of their own being. I can say for myself that for any of the men to whom I’ve been deeply attracted it was because I recognized something of myself in them. It’s not enough to say that it was a similarity or a commonality, but more so that even as different people, we shared something beyond the ephemeral — whether it was a similar calling, a similar talent, or a similar life journey.
With all of that said, I humbly submit that’s why God put Adam to sleep — in large part to get done what needed to get done and show us how marriage ought to be done.