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

Genesis 1—2 describes God's creation of the universe, with Genesis 2 being a more focused look at God's creation of humanity on day six. In Genesis 1, the narrative takes on a rhythm. God says "let there be," "and it was so." Beginning with day three, God "saw that it was good." At the culmination of the sixth day, "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1:31).

However, in Genesis 2:18 we discover that something was "not good" before God's work on the sixth day concluded. God created Adam, the first man, and "put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it" (Genesis 2:15). He gave Adam all of the trees for food, with the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God told Adam he was not to eat from or he would "surely die" (Genesis 2:17). "Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'" (Genesis 2:18). Man was not physically alone, as he had animals and even communion with his Creator. But God knew that was not enough. The man needed someone like him, someone on the same level who saw, experienced, and learned the same way he did. So, God created the perfect match for the man. He created the woman (Genesis 2:22).

It is interesting that, before God created the woman, He first brought to Adam all the living creatures He had made. He gave Adam the job of naming them, so Adam had productive work and life purpose (Genesis 2:19–20). But through the process of naming all the animals, it became obvious that there was nothing comparable to Adam—"there was not found a helper fit for him" (Genesis 2:20). From the beginning there was a clear distinction between humankind and the animal kingdom.

The word translated "alone" can also mean "separate" or "segregated." Adam was in a category all by himself, and God knew that this was not good. God already had a plan in mind. He put the man to sleep and, out of his ribs, formed the woman. Both Adam and Eve—and all men and women today—are made in God's image (Genesis 1:26–27). Being an image bearer of God is unique to humanity. Yet even though men and women are the same type of being and equal in worth, they are distinct from one another. The inherent differences in men and women serve complementary roles. The world needs both men and women, not only for reproduction but for societal flourishing. Humans are gendered and interdependent beings, by design. God Himself is triune; He is one God and three persons. We see in Him unity and diversity. In gender distinction we see echoes of this concept of unified diversity.

When God brought the woman to the man, Adam said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man" (Genesis 2:23). The author of Genesis adds, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). This marital union is a reflection of unified diversity; there are two and yet one, distinct and yet intricately connected.

It is important to note that community in general is key to God's design of humanity. In human community we also see unity and diversity as unique individuals form interdependent bonds. The New Testament often speaks of the church in familial terms, calling us to brotherly love (Hebrews 10:24–25; 13:1; John 13:34–35; Galatians 6:9–10). Friendships are vitally important avenues through which we can actively love and serve others and by which many of our relational and emotional needs are met. Marriage between one man and one woman, however, is a different type of bond. Many think of sexual intercourse as the distinguishing feature between friendship and marriage; however marriage is much more purposeful than that.

Many experience the same type of loneliness Adam did before God's creation of Eve, and God's provision for them is marriage. Others experience this loneliness and a sense of longing for marriage, and yet God leaves that desire unfulfilled. Some never desire to marry. Individual feelings around marriage and sexuality vary greatly; there is space in God's family for all who call on Him as Father. There is also space to deal honestly with unmet longings, whether related to marriage, children, or something else. Our currently unfulfilled desires can prompt us to draw nearer to God, serve as a reminder of the devastating effects of sin in our world (Genesis 3) and the abundance of God's grace in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3–14; 2:1–20), remind us that this world is not ultimately our home (Philippians 3:20), and point us toward the hope we have in Christ (Romans 8:18–30; Revelation 21—22). We can take our longings to God in honesty and ask Him to comfort us and enable us to endure (1 Peter 1:3–9; 5:7; Hebrews 4:14–16; 12:1–2; Philippians 4:4–8; Psalm 22; 73).

The Bible speaks highly of both marriage (1 Corinthians 7; Ephesians 5; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Peter 3:1–7) and celibate singleness (1 Corinthians 7:7, 28, 38). Both celibate singleness and heterosexual marriage are good and valid biblical options. Our marital status does not change God's primary calling on our lives—to love God and others (Matthew 22:37–40), to share the gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:19–20), to do all things for God's glory (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17), to love one another (John 13:34–35), to walk in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16–26), to abide in Christ and obey Him (John 15:1–17). Whether married or single, all who believe in Jesus Christ are part of His family and are called to engage in that fellowship and to treat one another with brotherly love (John 1:12; 13:34–35; Galatians 3:26–29; Hebrews 10:24–25; 13:1). We are all called to spiritual fruitfulness. Not only that, but all who are in Christ have the indwelling Holy Spirit who is with them forever (John 14:16–17; Ephesians 1:12–14). Married or single, no child of God is ultimately alone.

Those who desire the partnership of marriage should pursue it, recognizing that the primary purpose of marriage is not to fulfill one's own needs, but to join together in sacrificial love for the glory of God and the benefit of the other. The union of two lives is a serious matter (Mark 10:6–9), so be sure the person you are considering as a spouse is someone with whom you can grow and serve the Lord. Prayer and wisdom are needed. If you are already married, work to maintain your intimacy and to love one another well. God can heal even the most broken of relationships and bring beauty out of it.

When God said that it was not good for the man to be alone, He meant that Adam could not reach his full potential by himself. Only with Eve could God's mandate to, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28) be met. He needed someone like himself for companionship and intimacy. He needed a wife before he could become a father. He needed another perspective as he journeyed through life because no one can see everything all the time. He needed a "helper fit for him" (Genesis 2:18). Marriage was God's solution for the aloneness that Adam felt. For many of us, marriage is still the provision God gives. For all of us, human community is necessary and beneficial for connection and spiritual fruitfulness.

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