Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

13 Dec 2016

“Bone of My Bones”: A Theology of Marriage in One Sentence


The very first recorded words of Adam have sometimes been the stuff of jokes—the words of a lovestruck fellow who has seen a beautiful woman for the first time: “Look what became of my bone!” he seems to say: “Whoa, Man!” But on closer look, Adam’s words communicate something far more significant than first meets the eye.

When Adam describes Eve as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” Adam is not making a simple statement of fact, but drawing attention to the theological import of the means God used to create her: she was of Adam, and as such she vaults immediately to the place of greatest responsibility in his vast realm. Victor Hamilton, among other commentators, goes so far as to suggest that this pair of phrases expresses a statement of covenant commitment that make it a formal vow. He observes in 2 Samuel 5:1, after Saul dies and David claims the throne, that the new king calls the tribes together and demands their loyalty. They gather and make a curious statement: “We are your bone and flesh,” a statement that David apparently accepts as a formal fealty oath. If this later event can be connected with Genesis 2:23, then the very first words from the mouth of Adam are nothing less than a wedding vow, effectively, “This woman is part of me, and I hereby take unconditional responsibility for her.” Far from being the love-dumb prattle of a starry-eyed bloke, these words are, at least in terms of secular life, the very most significant words that any man can utter and to which any woman can respond. No words are more important than these.

Adam then continues in verse 24 by establishing marriage as the backbone of human society. For this reason (i.e., because of the vow in v. 23), a man should break away from the family unit into which he was born, and upon reciprocal action from his wife, create a new unit that is expressly described in permanent terms: they adhere so inextricably to each other that they effectively become one—not a mixture of distinguishable and ultimately separable substances, but a fusion so complete that the original substance is lost and a new compound created. Her bone and flesh become his; his bone and flesh become hers—so much so that, at the risk of being a bit crass, nakedness becomes routine (v. 25). Within marriage is none of the vulnerability, weakness, or embarrassment that causes us ordinarily to disrobe and, say, shower alone, for the man and the woman are now effectively one.

It is an extraordinary picture that Adam paints and a stunningly rich one. Indeed, we can only say with all the earnestness we can muster, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

6 Responses

  1. Interesting and enlightening article. I will incorporate some of its principles in my adult Bible study class at my church. I particularly like the value and vow equation.

    This “bone of my bones” and its relating to Israel does leave some implications for the justification of race-based kinism in the development of social orders, though. Something to consider.

    I do take issue with the way marriage or the new unit is qualified, “they adhere so inextricably to each other that they effectively become one—not a mixture of distinguishable and ultimately separable substances, but a fusion so complete that the original substance is lost and a new compound created”, because this is simply not true. It is an over-qualification.

    Even as it own unit, the divine institutions of the self must remain in tact, even within that new divine institution of marriage and this reality is borne out in our answering, as Adam and Eve did, for our own lives lived even within the marriage where neither answered for the other or for a collective decision but their own, individual, contributions.

    Yes, within the new unit of the divine institution of marriage certain expressions of the divine institution of the self acquiesce to the newly contracted roles and offices but to say it is “not a mixture of distinguishable and ultimately separable substances, but a fusion so complete that the original substance is lost” is certainly to, at best, interpret through reading into, what Adam was saying but is not supported by Scripture when, in fact, the two parts, man and woman coming together, can be separated. It reads as a romanticizing of what Adam said rather than the substance of what he said which, to your credit, was much more contextual when you cited his relating his substantive genetic connection.

  2. Steve Drake

    What indicators in the text lead you to believe that verse 24 was a direct quote by Adam, and not a continuation of the historical narrative from verse 22 back to the beginning of Chapter 2?

    You make claim that Adam said “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh”. In the NASB, only verse 23 is indented with the words ‘And the man said…”, but not verse 24.

    I’m curious why you think this was Adam’s thought, and not God’s verbally inspired words to the human author of this chapter.

  3. Steve Drake

    As a follow on to my post above, the claim that verse 24 of Gen. 2 were Adam’s words, seems to be contradicted by Christ Himself in Matthew 19: 4-5. Christ attributes these words “For this cause…” to the same one who created them from the beginning male and female in 19:4.

    I’m curious as to your reason for deviating from the historical norm on this.

  4. Mark Snoeberger

    Steve, The words of verse 24 are certainly not part of the vow proper, and rhetorically speaking resume a more narrative flavor. Whether verse 24 reflects Adam’s words or Moses’s is debated. I’ve not thought the matter of great significance, as in either case, the words carry divine authority.


  5. Steve Drake

    Here’s my question, an important one I think. Were the words of verse 24 in Genesis 2, God’s words, Adam’s words, or Moses’ words as the inspired editor and author ? Is this distinction important to Biblical textual fidelity?

    Christ seems to indicate in Matt. 19: 4-5 that they were either His words as the agent in Creation (Col. 1: 16), or the words of God the Father Himself.

    Paul in 1 Cor. 6:16 seems to indicate they are the words of Christ Himself.

    In neither case do Christ or Paul attribute those words to Adam.

    Is this distinction important?

  6. Mark Snoeberger

    The words were of course God’s words in some sense–they’re part of the Scriptures. God may have spoken directly, he may have spoken through Adam, he may have spoken strictly through Moses. I’m not sure that we have enough textual data to be absolutely certain (and the commentaries reflect this uncertainty). Try as I might, I don’t see any theological significance to the question.