The Original Hebrew Meaning of ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’ – When Romance and Linguistics Meet…

After God created the woman in the Garden of Eden, the Bible tells us the following well-known story:

“So 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 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. 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.” (Genesis 2:21-24)

In the original Hebrew, the word ‘rib’ appears as ‘Tzela.’ {צלע} This Hebrew word (‘Tzela’) can be found in the Hebrew Bible in its other – more common – meaning which is ‘side.’ For example, from the account of erecting the Tabernacle as can be found in the Book of Exodus :

“Also make crossbars of acacia wood: five for the frames on one SIDE of the tabernacle…” (Exodus 26:26)

The fact that this Hebrew word can mean a ‘rib’ but also a ‘side’ plays a crucial role in understanding the rest of the story which has an idea that can ONLY be seen and appreciated through the original Hebrew text – because it speaks about the Hebrew language itself.

In the last part of the verses above, man said: “she shall be called ‘woman, ‘ for she was taken out of man.”
Now would be the perfect time to mention that in the original text this is the FIRST time the Hebrew word for ‘man’ appears!


Before that, the original Hebrew ALWAYS uses the word ‘Adam’ {אדם} to describe ‘man.’  But now, after the woman was created – the Hebrew Bible uses the word ‘Ish’ {איש} which is ‘man’, and this goes together with the Hebrew word for a ‘woman’ ‘Ishaha.’ {אישה}

In other – more poetic – words, before the ‘woman’ entered the picture, the ‘man’ was not a man but rather simply a ‘human being’ according to the original Hebrew.

If we connect all the dots, we will notice that the original Hebrew describes a very unique situation in which the ‘woman’ stands on the opposite ‘side’ of the ‘man’ and yet completes him.

While most of you think now about romance… I, as a Biblical Hebrew scholar, also think about the linguistics of this situation.

This biblical description fits perfectly with the Hebrew language grammar pattern – that contains TWO grammatical genders: masculine and feminine – by laying out precisely the Hebrew grammar structure for formatting the masculine and feminine singular forms:

“She shall be called ‘woman, ‘ for she was taken out of man.”

Or as it appears in Hebrew: “L-zot Yikare Ishah Kee Me-Ish Lukechah Zot’

{לזאת יקרא אשה כי מאיש לקחה זאת}

And that means ‘Ish {איש} (‘man’) is the masculine singular form, and in order to create the feminine form one simply adds the Hebrew letter ‘hey’ {ה} at the end  ‘Ishaha’ {אישה} – exactly as the Hebrew Bible explained!