‘Becoming One Flesh’ = Family

In Genesis 2:23 Adam says the following about the woman that God had just made for him: This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh… (NASB). After Adam’s statement, Scripture comments on it: For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh (NASB). In the context, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,” “leaving parents,” a man being “joined” to his wife and becoming “one flesh” all go hand in hand. People sometimes think that becoming “one flesh” primarily refers to sexual intimacy. However, it means more than that. It also means “family” as can be shown from other Scripture. In fact, the NET Bible translates Genesis 2:24b like this: “…and they become a new family.” I appreciate how the notes in the NET Bible explain this:

The retention of the word “flesh” (בָּשָׂר, basar) in the translation [of 2:24b] often leads to improper or incomplete interpretations. The Hebrew word refers to more than just a sexual union. When they unite in marriage, the man and woman bring into being a new family unit (הָיָה + לְ, hayah + lamed preposition means “become”). The phrase “one flesh” occurs only here and must be interpreted in light of v. 23. There the man declares that the woman is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. To be one’s “bone and flesh” is to be related by blood to someone. For example, the phrase describes the relationship between Laban and Jacob (Gen 29:14); Abimelech and the Shechemites (Judg 9:2; his mother was a Shechemite); David and the Israelites (2 Sam 5:1); David and the elders of Judah (2 Sam 19:12); and David and his nephew Amasa (2 Sam 19:13, see 2 Sam 17:2; 1 Chr 2:16–17). The expression “one flesh” seems to indicate that they become, as it were, “kin,” at least legally (a new family unit is created) or metaphorically. In this first marriage in human history, the woman was literally formed from the man’s bone and flesh. Even though later marriages do not involve such a divine surgical operation, the first marriage sets the pattern for how later marriages are understood and explains why marriage supersedes the parent-child relationship.

Gordon Wenham says something similar in his commentary on Genesis 2:24b:

“They become one flesh.” This does not denote merely the sexual union that follows marriage, or the children conceived in marriage, or even the spiritual and emotional relationship that it involves, though all are involved in becoming one flesh. Rather it affirms that just as blood relations are one’s flesh and bone…, so marriage creates a similar kinship relation between man and wife.

I just wanted to mention this because it is something I’ve been looking at this week while studying Genesis 2:24. One of the results of marriage is a new family: husband and wife – and, if the Lord wills, children. A man and a woman leave their parents, get married, and start a new family. It’s part of God’s good plan for this world. And, of course, it points us to the greatest union, that between Christ and his bride, the church. All who follow Christ are part of the church, the family of God – the greatest family ever!

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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