Against evident Scriptural disapproval, here is the basis of Rob Bell’s support of same sex marriage: “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness… Whoever you are, gay or straight….It’s central to our humanity.” In support, he cites Genesis 2:18: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Does the Genesis text support Bell’s argument? Ironically, Bell incorrectly uses a biblical text that actually gives unequivocal support for what he attempts to undermine, namely, God-designed heterosexual marriage.
There are two key terms in Genesis 2:18, “alone” and “[not] good” that need to be examined.
I took the time to examine the 204 occasions where the word “alone” is used in the Old Testament. I can confidently say that it is never used of psychological loneliness.
“Alone” is used of something that is distinguished from other things. In the story of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt we read: “They (the servants) served him (Joseph) by himself, literally “alone,” and them by themselves…” See also Gen 47:26 and Exodus 24:2.
“Alone” is also an expression of Old Testament monotheism: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth” (2 Kings 19:15). See also Exodus 22:20.
“Alone” means that which is separate or unique. This meaning well describes Adam, who, at the moment of speaking, was the only human being that God had then made. The Bible is not telling us that Adam was suffering from emotional isolation but that he was the only human being. Here, the term clearly does not mean psychological loneliness but ineffectiveness for a role he was called to play in the future. A perfect example of this principle is found in the ministry of Moses as judge of the people in Exodus 18:14–23 which contains both key words, “not good” and “alone.” Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, sees Moses toiling and not accomplishing his task. The text reads:
When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”…Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is ‘not good.’” (Exod 18:17)
Notice that it is the inefficiently-exercised function that is “not good.” That Moses is alone and unaided prevents him from doing his job correctly—with “not good” results. He is not psychologically lonely: he is unproductive and exhausted. Jethro adds:
You and the people…will certainly wear yourselves out…You are not able to do it alone…. [l]ook for able men from all the people,…and let them judge the people at all times….God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace. (Exod 18:17–18)
God provides “helpers,” “men able to judge,” to aid Moses in the task to which he was called. Similarly, to provide an “appropriate helper” for Adam’s present ineffectiveness, God goes to the trouble of creating not another human friend but a whole new human female, a complement to Adam, enabling him to do the specific job he was called to do, namely to fill the earth with sons and daughters. Only Eve could allow Adam to fulfill the creation mandate to multiply. That demanded heterosexuality, not same-sex companionship.
The creation account is replete with references to the “good. Seven times the word “good” is repeated, after every major creative act, and what makes everything good is the divine act of “separation.” Light and darkness, seas and dry land, the many “kinds” of plants and animals, are distinguished from each other, all producing a functioning, creative symphony of unity in difference. Where there is no separation, it is not good. The cosmos, “void and formless” (Gen 1:2) needed separation into useable forms. When such distinctions are in place, things are declared good. But something is holding back the final expression of goodness; something is lacking, not yet good. Adam is still “alone.”
In the final act of creation “God created man…male and female he created them…And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:27, 31). When male and female are in place, as the crown of this distinction-making creative process, the “not good” disappears and everything is not only good, but very good. As soon as Eve appears, “the mother of the living” (Gen 3:20), everything becomes “very good,” because the heterosexual binary constitutes the wholesome key to a functioning God-honoring, moral, gospel revealing cosmos.