The book of Genesis relates how God created Eve: “The Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:21–22). The phrase for “one of his ribs” could be translated “a part of his side” (NET), but almost every English translation specifies the part as a “rib.”
Earlier, in making Adam, God used the “dust of the ground” to form his body and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). But, in making Eve, God did not go back to the dust; He used one of Adam’s ribs to form the woman. When she was brought to Adam, the man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man” (verse 23).
God used Adam’s rib to form Eve—He used existing tissue and did not “start from scratch”—to show that Adam and Eve were of the same substance; she was made from the same “stuff” and was a bearer of God’s image and likeness, just as Adam was (see Genesis 1:27). The woman made of Adam’s rib was designed to be a companion and “helper suitable” for Adam (Genesis 2:18). Eve, formed from a physical part of Adam, was truly his complement, an integral part of who he was. As such, she was a perfect companion.
Why did God use Adam’s rib? Interestingly, ribs have amazing regenerative powers. Portions of rib bone and cartilage removed in bone graft surgery will regrow in a few months’ time, as long as the rib perichondrium is left intact. This means that Adam’s loss of a rib was only temporary; he did not have to go through the rest of his life with an incomplete skeletal system.
When God brought Eve to Adam, they were united in marriage: the “woman” in Genesis 2:22 is called Adam’s “wife” in verse 24. The pattern for marriage, the first social institution, was thus established by God in Eden. The manner of Eve’s creation is “why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The unity of a married couple and the “one flesh” principle are based on the fact that God used one of Adam’s ribs to make the woman.
God’s use of one of Adam’s ribs to make Eve is a reminder that woman was created to be “beside” man. Together, the man and woman complement one another in marriage, and in Christ they are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7, NKJV).