Man and Woman as Sacred Space in Genesis 2

“Rib” is the gloss used for the Hebrew word צלע (ṣēlāʿ) in Genesis 2:21,22 in nearly every English translation. Yet, of the 40 occurrences of this word in the Hebrew Bible, צלע (ṣēlāʿ) is not translated as rib again outside of these two verses but rather, predominantly as “side.” Hebrew has several other words for “side.” However, צלע (ṣēlāʿ) is uniquely used to refer to the side structures of sacred space in all but one of its occurrences, specifically: the ark of the covenant, the bronze altar, the altar of incense, the Tabernacle, and the side rooms of the Temple. The predominance of the special use of this word “side,” along with the employment of the verb “to build” in Gen 2:22, calls for a fresh look at the implications of its use in the context of the relationship of man and woman in Genesis 2 as the human locus where the presence of God is intended to dwell.

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