10/4/2015 9:29:24 AM
A reflection on Genesis 2:18-24: Creation and Helpers.
Posted under: Commentary Hebrew Scriptures Old Testament Genesis
Our First Reading is Genesis 2:18-24.
If you were going to name all the animals, what names would you come up with?
I love the story of creation because of the details. At first glance, the story of Genesis seems to be focused on the creation of the universe but the meat of the story is in the details. In the first account of creation (Genesis 1), God makes the earth, the sky, the animals, and humankind and God calls each thing, person, or creature good. All the parts of creation are related to God and grounded in a relationship with God. And this idea of relationship continues into Genesis 2, which is a second account of how creation happened.
When I read Genesis 2, I focus on God's relationship with what is in the world. In verse 18, "man" isn't a full enough translation of what is happening here. Gender and sex haven't been created yet. Instead, we just have one earthling, who is on the earth. God notices this earthling and wants this earthling to have a "helper." The word helper tends to mean "assistant," someone who isn't quite as talented, clever, or as high up on the corporate ladder as the one who will be helped. When we see helper, our minds might jump to some kind of hierarchy. But that's not the full story here because, throughout the Old Testament, God is described as the helper. When God seeks to create a helper for the original earthling, God isn't seeking an assistant. God wants the earthling to have a partner in a mutual relationship of trust, love, and understanding. So God brings all these different kinds of animals to the earthling and the earthling names them. But the earthling doesn't find the partner that they need. They need an equal so God makes an equal partner out of the earthling.
It's easy to see in this text our concept of marriage but this text is a model for all our relationships. In our relationships, with our spouses, children, parents, friends, or coworkers, we aren't all equal in talent in all things. But, in God's eyes, we are all equal in a need for relationships that are grounded in mutual respect, love, and trust. A relationship that only takes isn't healthy nor is it what God desires. The same relationship God has with humankind and with creation is the same kind of relationship we should have with each other.
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