Most English translations of Genesis 2:21-22 read, “The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up flesh in its place. And the rib that the Lord God took from the man he built into a woman.”
The description of the woman made from the man’s “rib” has led to the mistaken conclusion that women are inferior to men because they originate from one small part of the male anatomy. Yet the Hebrew word צלע (tsela) does not mean “rib,” but rather “side.” According to Exodus, for example, God told Moses to make four gold rings for the Ark of the Covenant, “two rings on one side (צלע; tsela) of it, and two rings on the other side of it” (Exod 25:12). Likewise, when God takes one tsela from the man to make the woman, Eve comes from an entire side of Adam’s body, not a single rib.
Adam’s own words clarify that Eve comes from one of his sides when he declares of his wife, “Finally, this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!” (Gen 2:23). Had Eve been created from the man’s rib alone, Adam would only have been able to say that she was “bone of his bone.” As Adam’s bone and flesh, the woman is the man’s “other half.” When man and woman cleave to one another and return to being “one flesh” (2:24), the two equal halves of humanity are brought back together. The primordial couple in Genesis represents God’s vision of equality and complementarity between the genders.