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What does it mean that it is not good for a man to be alone (Genesis 2:18)?

translate not good for a man to be alone

Genesis 1:27 recounts that God created humanity with binary gender as male and female. At the end of the creation week, God declares that all of His creation was very good (Genesis 1:31). Because God designed gender binarity and because He called it very good, it is clear from the Genesis narrative that the distinction between male and female is important. But we might not recognize just how important until we read the more detailed, zoomed-in account of how God actually created the first man and woman in Genesis 2. It is in that context that God declares it not good that the man should be alone (Genesis 2:18). This is the first time anything is ever said to be not good. The first bad thing ever recorded is that woman wasn’t on the scene yet! That speaks volumes about how important the woman is in God’s design.

Genesis 2:7 describes how God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life, bringing Adam to life. After Adam was created, God placed Him in the lush Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). God had designed that Adam would cultivate and care for the garden. To this point, Adam was still the only human in existence, and God’s creative work was not yet complete. God acknowledges the incompleteness of the work—even though He had created all but one thing, the remaining deficiency was great. God states that it was not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).

Earlier, God had stated that He would create humanity and that they would rule over His other creatures (Genesis 1:26). God used the plural pronoun (they), meaning that there would be more than just the one man. In the design God had planned, one man couldn’t do the job. After Adam’s creation God remarks that Adam wasn’t enough. It wasn’t good—it didn’t fulfill His design—for Adam to be alone. In Genesis 1:27, when God did create humanity, He created them to be male and female.

Halfway through that project, on the sixth day, God notes that the job was unfinished, and what needed to be accomplished to ensure the work was good was for God to create an opposite who could help Adam fulfill God’s intention for humanity (Genesis 2:18). One man couldn’t do that alone. But before God met Adam’s need for a female counterpart, He showed Adam that every kind of animal had its counterpart—there was male and female in the animal world as well (Genesis 2:20), but to that point Adam was still alone. The Genesis narrative doesn’t tell us why God showed Adam the deficiency before resolving it, but it would certainly make sense that Adam needed to understand how important a female counterpart would be—without her, God’s entire design for the function of humanity would fail. There would be no “they” to govern creation as God had intended.

So God put Adam to sleep and performed a surgery of sorts, removing one of his ribs and then healing the wound (Genesis 2:21). From that rib God fashioned the first woman (Genesis 2:22). When God brought her to Adam, Adam recognized her value (perhaps because he was first shown that he was alone). Adam understood that she was from him and that they were uniquely joined (Genesis 2:23). While equal in value, they were distinct in design. God had completed His creative work, with woman as the final brush stroke, and the fundamental ingredients of gender, sexuality, and marriage were begun (Genesis 2:24–25). God had designed the man and woman to be equal and yet very different. In a sense they were opposites, and both were needed to fulfill His design.

The Genesis narrative of the origin of man and woman is historically accurate according to other biblical writers (for example, Paul discusses extensively Adam and Eve and their impact on those who would come after them in passages like Romans 5 and 1 Timothy 2). In recent times, however, the historicity and therefore the design implications of the creation week have been increasingly questioned. As societies move away from recognizing God as their Creator, they also move away from recognizing the design of the Designer. One result of that departure is an increasing gender confusion. As we are less and less familiar with our origin and design, we can forget our identity and search to forge our own path rather than fulfilling His design for us. While that kind of independence from God may sound appealing in some ways, in pursuing independence from our Creator and His design we can lose sight entirely of who He made us to be and what He made us to do. It is far better to recognize the beauty of His creation and pursue His design for us—to pursue fulfillment in being who He created us to be and to embrace His design.

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Questions about Genesis

What does it mean that it is not good for a man to be alone (Genesis 2:18)?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022