Many preachers have used Genesis 2:18-25 as a selected passage to read at weddings. On a number of occasions I have heard a pastor talk about the fact that God selected a “rib” in Gen. 2:21 to use to “fashion” the woman. I have heard several pastors claim that there is significance for the selection of the rib and wanted to ask you if there is any exegetical support for the “rib?” The pastors I have heard would usually point out the fact that God did not select a bone from the head that might suggest that a woman was “above a man” nor did God select a bone from the foot suggesting that a woman was “beneath a man.” Could you share any exegetical insights that support or refute this claim that so many Christians have adopted? In the course of doing a great deal of thinking I thought that perhaps God may have selected a “rib” because the function of the rib protects and conceals the heart of man. By taking a rib the man’s heart has been exposed and as a result the man’s heart has been made vulnerable. Or to say it another way, “the heart of a man is revealed by a woman.”
That which was used to make the woman was a portion of Adam’s side. It included both bone and flesh. Therefore, it is correct to understand the reference to a rib or portion of a rib (or ribs). Preachers making a point about woman being out of the side to be equal (as opposed to out of the head or the feet) is something passed on from a long time ago (all the way back to Matthew Henry, who may have gotten it from an even earlier source). In my thinking it is certainly possible that these truths might be implied by God’s choice of the part of Adam He employed for making the woman, but I don’t see it as an exegetical necessity. I suspect it goes all the way back to the ancient rabbis. It appears to me to be just a slight rewording of what is found in the Genesis Rabbah 18:2 (dating back before 425 A.D.). It is a Jewish Midrash on the book of Genesis.
As for your concept of protection, that is possible, but has as much exegetical support as the other–none. Think of it this way:
If out of the head, Adam might be severely damaged and harmed.
If out of a limb (arm or leg), he would be severely handicapped.
If out of the belly, there would be no bone.
The side is the best place so as not to cause severe damage, disfiguring, maiming, or killing Adam. This might be the only significance.