Sexuality and Gender

What Made Eve “Suitable” for Adam?

Author Tim Barnett Published on 10/14/2016

In the debate over what the Bible teaches about homosexuality, there are important verses that must be considered. There are six passages that usually come up: three in the Old Testament (Gen. 19:1–9; Lev. 18:22; 20:13) and three in the New Testament (Rom. 1:26–27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10). I believe that each of these passages can be used to adequately demonstrate that God condemns all forms of homosexual behavior. But the Bible has more to say on this issue than these verses.

I’ve recently been reading People to be Loved by Preston Sprinkle. In this book, Sprinkle provides an insight I’d never heard before. It comes from a term used to describe Eve in the creation narrative. Consider Genesis 2:18–21 (NASB),

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.

Sprinkles’s argument concerns the word translated suitable. This is the Hebrew word kenegdo. Kenegdo is hard to translate into English because it is a compound word made of two parts. The first part is the word ke, which means “like” or “as.” The second part is the word neged, which means “opposite” or “against.”

Taken together, the word kenegdo literally translates “as opposite him” or “like against him.” Eve is a suitable helper because she is both “like” Adam and “opposite” Adam. She is “like” Adam because she is a human being, not an animal (cf. Gen. 2:20). But she is “opposite” Adam because she is female, not male (cf. Gen. 1:27).

Some have argued that Eve was suitable merely because she was a human being. But if being a human being were all that mattered, then the text would have used the Hebrew word ke (“I will make a helper like him”) instead of kenegdo. But Adam needed someone not just similar to him, but also dissimilar from him. From the context, the only difference or otherness in view is Eve’s femaleness (cf. Gen. 1:27).

Therefore, a straightforward reading of the term kenegdo indicates that both partners display sexual difference in marriage. That is, there is a prescribed design of marriage that has universal application for all times. In fact, Genesis 2:24 says,

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

This is a strange verse given the fact that Adam didn’t have a father and mother to leave. Clearly verse 24 isn’t merely describing the marriage between Adam and Eve; rather it is prescribing marriage for all time. The author of Genesis is saying that from this point forward marriage would be between a man and a woman. This is why this verse is quoted by Jesus and Paul in the New Testament to ground marriage.

You might be thinking, “What does a biblical passage on marriage have to do with homosexual behavior?” Biblically designed sex is always in the context of biblically designed marriage. Conversely, sex with someone other than your spouse is always condemned by God. But we have just demonstrated that the suitable spouse of a husband is designed to be both like him (human, not animal), and opposite him (female, not male). Therefore, this rules out same-sex marriage and homosexual behavior with it.

Building a biblical case from the word kenegdo alone may not be a persuasive argument to everyone. After all, we probably don’t want to base an entire teaching on a single word. However, the Bible has a lot more to say about homosexual behavior, and it’s always negative. I think this exegesis of kenegdo can be used to strengthen the biblical cumulative case against homosexual behavior.