Quite often our summaries of the creation story make it sound as though Eve was created because Adam was lonely. The common telling is that Adam was naming all the animals and realized that all of them had companions (male and female) but none were suitable companions for him. This made Adam sad and lonely. Then God recognizing Adam’s loneliness put him to sleep, took his rib, and fashioned Eve.
The summary above sounds plausible because it contains a number of true elements but it is an oversimplification that unfortunately makes it seem as though the creation of Eve was merely a response to Adam’s needs. As we will see, this is an unhelpful summary of the events that misses some key points in the narrative.
There are certain truths that this kind of summary calls attention to. It is true that the Bible teaches that Eve was made for Adam (1 Cor. 11:8). She was to be a companion and helper to him (Gen. 2:18). None of the previously created animals would be suitable (Gen. 2:20). Adam was very happy to see her and his language “at last” indicates that he was, in fact, waiting for such a companion (Gen. 2:23).
None of this, however, demonstrates that Eve’s creation was primarily a response to Adam’s desire for a companion. I do not doubt that Adam came to desire such a companion but that God is responding to a desire that initiated within Adam is unlikely based upon what the Bible actually says.
In the first creation account in the first chapter of Genesis we see that on the sixth day God creates livestock, creeping things, and beasts of the earth.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
(Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)
First, notice that both Adam and Eve were created on the same day. In his unfallen state it is doubtful that Adam could have experienced loneliness in the way we do. Even if he could Adam would only have been lonely for one day and it was not a day of sitting around reflecting upon his situation. God kept Adam busy on that day. The more detailed account of the creation in the second chapter of Genesis explains that
Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field…
(Genesis 2:19-20 ESV)
Some have argued that this cannot be understood to be a literal day because there is no way that Adam could name all of the animals in one day. While the chronology of the early chapters of Genesis is hotly debated and can become somewhat complex I would like to just point out two things that may be relevant to this criticism. First, the text does not say that Adam named every single creature on the planet. He gave names to the livestock, the birds, and to the beasts of the field. The authority or “naming rights” are clearly his and are not limited to this one day where he apparently names the creatures that were in the garden. Second, we need to remember that Adam did not have a fallen mind and so we do not know what kind of capacity he had for such work.
If we pay close attention to the passage we will notice that Adam’s desires do not drive God’s activity in creating Eve. The passage above is enclosed in an envelope structure. Verse 18 says,
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
This is followed by the passage above where Adam names the animals and concludes in verse 20 with,
…But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
The naming of the animals is framed within these “bookends” where God declares that it is not good for man to be alone and then the confirmation that he is indeed alone. There are a lot of things going on in this text but for our purposes we can see that Adam is unique among the creatures and he is given dominion (implied by the naming rights). Of course he does become aware of his lack of a companion through this process. Verse 18 is the first mention in the scripture that it is not good for man to be alone and it comes not from Adam but from the mouth of God. This is prior to any record of Adam looking at the animals and coming to any conclusions about his singular position.
Adam says nothing about loneliness to God. We do not know if he felt lonely prior to God organizing the parade of animals or not. It is clear that God intended to create Eve before the naming of the animals because He says back in verse 18 “I will make him a helper fit for him.” In displaying the animals God brings Adam to recognize there is none who are suitable to be his helper. The creation of woman was part of the original perfect plan of creation. Adam was to be fruitful and multiply as commanded by God and by marching the animals before Him God is showing Adam the reason for the upcoming (already planned) special act of creation and preparing him for the very intimate culmination of His creative activity. The flow of the narrative is not that Adam looked around, didn’t find anyone to keep him company, expressed his loneliness and then God intervened to correct the situation. Instead, we see God working through the process of granting dominion to Adam, bringing him to understand his uniqueness and thus the uniqueness and the significance of the wife that will be provided.
After Adam has reviewed the animals it seems that Adam has become aware of his uniqueness and that there was no other like him. All of this sets up the final and most intimate act of initial creation.
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:21-22 ESV)
Unlike all of the other creatures who have been created from dirt the woman is taken from the side of the man. She does not come out of man in the sense of springing forth but is taken from a living and vital part of the man. No two of any other creatures shares this kind of intimate connection. God then brings the woman to man and he names her. Her name recognizes the profound connection between the two.
Then the man 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
(Genesis 2:23 ESV)
The phrase “This at last” does have the sense of “finally… what I have been waiting for” which may be the reason why so much emphasis seems to be put on Adam’s being lonely and desiring to have a companion. Certainly, we can imagine him wondering if a suitable companion was going to be found as he worked through the naming of the animals. Eve was not, however, the result of God reacting to a desire or request from Adam. Rather, God prepared the man and allowed him to participate in an intimate way in the final creative act that ultimately served as a blessing to him.
The scripture says that Christ is the lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). This means that even before Adam and Eve were created God was acting with sin and redemption in mind. Through Eve will come the savior (Gen. 3:15). The savior will save for Himself a people (1 Pet. 2:9). It then follows that the relationship of Christ to His church should be in view even as we read the early chapters of Genesis (Eph. 1:3-5). We therefore need to realize that even this first marriage between Adam and Eve is intended to represent the profound mystery of the union of Christ and His Church (Eph. 5:32).
Eve was not created just because Adam was lonely. She is an important part of God’s plan of creation as well as His plan of redemption. Adam certainly came to understand that there was no suitable companion for him among the animals but it was God who brings about the circumstances where he comes to see this. We should be careful not to minimize her importance by only thinking of her in terms of Adam’s loneliness.