A few days ago, I was reading the book of Genesis in The Jewish Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) and came to a statement that I felt I had to share with others.
The introduction and the annotations to the book of Genesis were written by Jon D. Levenson, Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard Divinity School. Discussing the creation of the woman in Genesis 2:18-24, Levenson wrote:
The LORD’s creation of woman from man emphasizes the close connection between them and lays the groundwork for the understanding of marriage (and its association with procreation) in v. 24.
The creation of the woman after the man and from a part of his body need not imply the subordination of women to men. According to Ramban (Nahmanides, a great 13th-century Spanish rabbi), the point of v. 24 is that men are to be different from the males of the animal world, who mate and move on to the next partner: A man “wishes [his wife] to be with him always.”
Promiscuity is thus a degradation of God’s intentions in creating human beings male and female. It is interesting that although polygamy is amply attested in the Tanak, v. 24 indicates that the ideal, Edenic condition is monogamy (see also Mal. 2.14-16; Prov. 5.15-23).
In a society where promiscuity is a reality that defies moral values, and in a society which is struggling to understand the proper definition of marriage, Levenson’s words make a clear presentation of “God’s intentions in creating human beings male and female.”
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary