The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen.2.18, NIV)
Could it be that there was lack of “goodness” in God’s first creating? How might we come to terms with this notion? What does it even mean that something was “not good” when we as readers have heard the repeated refrain of “good/very good” in Genesis 1?
The “not good” of Genesis 2.18 seems to be about incompleteness for the man functioning as intended. In Yahweh’s response he brings the creatures before the man who names them (recognizing them for both what they are and what they are not). The man knows there is no counterpart to him. Yahweh then creates a co-equal “helpmate” for the man from the man. This will lead to the “very good” of the end of the creative week (1.31; noting that chapter 2 reads like a recapitulation to the creative week of chapter 1) as creation is sufficiently formed and filled toward fruitfulness.
It is striking to me that this “not good” could be enjoined upon the man as a participant with his creator in coming to know what is properly good in the “other” created from him even as he can know the good of the creatures that are not his partner.
Further, we should consider the knowing of good that is offered in Genesis 2-3. The relation to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil at the center of the garden is that it was not for those created in the divine image to lay hold of for themselves, but to only always receive the “knowledge of good (and evil?)” as gift of God through abiding faithfulness to the word of God. The command to “not eat” was good. To obey was to know this good as the gift of God’s word faithfully enjoined.
How might we think of the “not good” in relation to “death” since one may wonder if there was any notion of death prior to the rebellion of the man and woman? If we were trying to force “good/not good” to pertain to “death” prior to the rebellion of the man and woman in chapter 3 then we would have to wrestle with their categories in relation to ours. There would have to be “death” as we describe it in our modern context. This is necessitated by plant life being given for food which requires something we classify as “living” to “die” as part of its consumption. Further, cycles of life are set for functioning in the first chapter suggesting seasons that would lead to death and rebirth of creation in its annual cycles. However, ancient categories of “life” and “death” would not likely be such. It seems more likely that only things with the “breath of life” would be deemed properly “living” and thus no death present prior to the rebellion of chapter 3.