In a previous post, we learned that God cuts Adam in half and uses his entire side to create the woman. But how did God split Adam without killing him? Assuming Adam’s survival, does he keep only half of his body after Eve’s arrival?
According to Genesis, “The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his sides” (2:21). For modern readers, Adam’s “deep sleep” (תרדמה, tardemah) connotes a hospital patient’s sleep via anesthesia. However, the practice of anesthesiology was unknown in ancient Israel; Genesis does not have modern medicine in mind. Rather than physical sleep, tardemah denotes a visionary trance. Later in Genesis, when the “word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision… a deep sleep (tardema) fell upon Abram” (15:1, 12). In the midst of Abram’s tardemah, he becomes a covenantal witness of God’s unconditional promise of Canaan (15:13-21).
As with Abram, when Adam goes into a “deep sleep” he actually goes into a visionary trance. In fact, the ancient Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, translates tardemah with ἔκστασις (ekstasis)—literally “standing outside oneself” (cf. the English word “ecstatic”). The Jewish Greek translator of the Septuagint understood the Hebrew tardemah to indicate Adam stepping outside of himself in a trance and having a vision of his body divided into two equal parts. Instead of splitting Adam physically, God provides him with a vision to show him the meaning of the relationship that he will have with his wife: a fully equal partnership with a person who constitutes his “other half.”