Christian LivingDoctrine

Locating Singleness in Genesis 2

Genesis 2 is about marriage, right?  Well yes – in part.  But it’s not just about marriage.  I wonder if we could even say it’s not primarily about marriage.  In fact, I would argue that if a single person comes to God’s word looking for truth and hope, they really can’t go past Genesis 2.  It’s a passage very much for them – whether or not they ever get married.  Let me explain.

Adam’s Aloneness

The explanation we sometimes hear of Genesis 2 is that it’s a story about a man who was very lonely.  And God knew that this man needed a spouse, a soul mate, and so he sends him a wonderful wife.  And he was deeply satisfied, and never lonely again.  

But of course that’s a very reductionist account of this great chapter.  And the key flaw in that reading is its failure to understand the unique nature of Adam’s aloneness.  As readers, we come to verse 18  and are shocked to discover that there is something in God’s breath-taking creation that is ‘not good’.  The man he made is ‘alone’.  Note that it doesn’t say he was lonely.  Verse 18 isn’t primarily describing a subjective experience of loneliness.  Rather, it’s describing an objective reality.  Adam was with God and that was deeply good.  But in terms of human companionship or society, he was on his own.  He was the only human.  This is an aloneness unlike anything you or I have ever experienced.  In fact, I would suggest it’s hard for us to even imagine it.  Even in these times of isolation and physical distancing, Adam’s aloneness was utterly unique in the history of the world.

God’s Answer to Adam’s Aloneness

But God had an answer for his aloneness.  It comes in the form of the woman God makes to be his helper.  Now, of course, the Bible does see this moment, not just as the beginnings of human relationship, but as the very first instance of a particular kind of human relationship[1].  It’s the first instance of marriage.  Verse 24 interrupts the flow of the story to reflect on this significant moment and to look forward to all future moments like this. It sees in this first marriage, a pattern for all future marriages.  But that’s not all that’s going on here.

Because even more fundamentally, what we see in Genesis 2 is God creating human fellowship and interaction – for the very first time.  This is the point at which we are introduced to the whole concept of society, community, and friendship. Adam is no longer alone.  In fact, Genesis 2 reminds us that the reason none of us have ever experienced the aloneness Adam did, is precisely because of what God did here.  So Genesis 2 certainly celebrates the gift of marriage.  But at a more basic level, what Genesis 2 celebrates is human relationships in general.  As such, this is a chapter not just about God’s provision for the married.  This is a chapter about the beauty and wisdom of God’s provision for all humanity.


I would say we’re pretty well versed in what Genesis 2 says to the married person.  But what does Genesis 2 say to the single person?  Of course it has many important things to say.  Chiefly it serves as a reminder of our fundamental purpose as humans – to live as obedient children of God in the world, and as faithful servants of his purposes.  But more specifically I see two things Genesis 2 says to us about the life of the single person.

Firstly, it dignifies the grief some single people feel in not being married, and affirms the desire many have to be married.  If the single person grieves not being married because they see what a good thing marriage is, and because they recognise within themselves a righteous desire for a husband or a wife, then we’d have to say that their grief makes perfect sense in the light of Genesis 2.  Moreover, this chapter teaches us that those who desire marriage desire a good thing that comes from the hand of God.

But secondly, Genesis 2 reminds us that marriage is only part of the answer to the aloneness Adam felt.  There are other parts of God’s answer too – other provisions of God which single people can and do enjoy.  This formative chapter teaches that the choice between marriage and singleness is not a choice between intimacy and loneliness[2]. Because Genesis 2 is less about marriage and more about what it means to be human. So it draws our attention not just to the blessings of marriage, but also to the blessings of family life, of friendship, of community, and, in God’s eternal purposes, to the blessings of community in Christ – the family of God.  These are all blessings for which every one of us should be deeply thankful.

In Mark 10:29-30, Jesus says this:  ‘Truly I tell you . . . no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life’.  That’s a stunning promise.  But it’s a promise that would never have been possible from the lips of Jesus if it were not for what we read in Genesis 2.

Marriage and singleness have been a particular interest for Simon in the last couple of years, and his reading and thinking found expression in the talks he gave last year at the MTS Mission Minded Conference- see:’.

[1] See Matthew 19 and Ephesians 5.

[2] See Sam Allberry, 7 Myths About Singleness, p.48.