Friday, August 27, 2010

Genesis Has Something To Say About Marriage

The simple, moving picture of marriage at the end of Chapter 2 deserves quotation and reflection. The man has at last found his match, the one who is “one flesh” with him. The child is of course one flesh with the mother who bears him (or her). But now, a man “leave[s] his father and his mother and cling[s] to his wife and they become one flesh.”

Are the man and the woman really one flesh?—well no, this is an immensely powerful metaphor, but still a metaphor. (The child and the mother being one flesh is not a metaphor.) Adam, in his erotic exultation, beautifully overestimates the union with Eve. We see in Chapter 3 that the woman takes the leading role in the eating of the fruit; the man follows her lead. The instinctive character of this action—in which the woman first eats, then gives the fruit to the man, and he eats as she did—certainly testifies to the union. But it may portray the hazards of over-intimacy: of too close a union.

In any case, God breaks the union apart and reconstitutes it in Chapter 3. “And for your man shall be your longing, and he shall rule over you” (3:16). Earlier, we heard nothing about the woman’s longing (or the dependency that goes with longing)—only about the man’s longing for a sustaining partner. In other words, the woman was independent. Now, she is not only dependent but subordinate.

I am going back over this ground to prepare the way for our next portrait of a marriage: the union of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah. I’ll go on to discuss this in the next Profblog...

—David Mikics

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