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The Wife As “Helper” – A Handy Chart

The Wife As "Helper" - A Handy Chart | RachelShubin.com

Which set of arrows describes your marriage? Which set do you think God put forth in Genesis 1 & 2?

Which side of the chart describes how you think the relationship between husbands and wives should work (or describes your relationship with your own spouse)? Does a wife primarily serve God by helping her husband with his God-appointed tasks or does she serve God by doubling the manpower for dominion work in general? These often overlap but frequently a wife feels called toward something that doesn’t directly help her husband. What then? Here are a couple things to consider:

 

Genesis 2:18 (NKJV)
18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

 

All the animals had gendered counterparts, male and female, but Adam did not. He was alone. So God knocked him out, pulled him apart, and made him a female counterpart out of his bodily stuff. She was equal to himself because she came from himself. This parity is reflected in the dominion mandate itself:

 

Genesis 1:26-28
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

 

Dominion over the whole earth was given not just to Adam, but to both Adam and Eve. The work of filling and subduing it was given to both, and both are created in God’s image. There is no role or hierarchy distinction here whatsoever.

 

Comparable in Gen. 2:18
Going back to Gen. 2:18, what about that word “comparable” or “suitable” as it is frequently translated? What does that mean? Here’s what Strong’s has to say:

 

5048. neged
neged: in front of, in sight of, opposite to

Original Word: נֶ֫גֶד
Part of Speech: substantive; adverb; preposition; adverb; preposition
Transliteration: neged
Phonetic Spelling: (neh’-ghed)
Short Definition: before

 

And here is the Brown-David-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon definition:

2 With prepositions:

a. כְּנֶגֶדaccording to what is in front of =corresponding to, Genesis 2:18 I will make himעֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֺ a help corresponding to him i.e. equal and adequate to himself, Genesis 2:20 among the animals there was no עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֺ. **Note that in Late Hebrew מכנגד = in front of, Ber 4:5; 9:5; Ab 2:10, מכנגד פני Git 7:7 and elsewhere.

I’d put in all the references, but there are 150+ and most of them are used as prepositions to denote location (e.g. “in front of the mountain”). Personally, I like the way the King James translates it, “I will make him an help meet for him,” but since no one uses the word “meet” this way anymore, modern readers tend to hear it as “help mate” which implies the wife’s purpose is to help her mate. What “meet” actually means here is closer to “perfectly fitted” or “apt.” It is an adjective describing the type of help she provides, not a noun. Eve is Adam’s counterpart, his equal, and is perfectly suited to fill and subdue the earth with him so that he won’t have to do it alone (the filling part would be tough to do alone anyway).

Helper in Gen. 2:18
What about the word “helper”? Hehe. I looked up every instance where the Hebrew word is used in the Old Testament, and it does not mean “head sock darner and diaper changer.” Neither of those things are bad, of course. Both are necessary, and if that’s what you feel called to do, you should definitely do it  with gusto (well, darning may not be necessary, but buying new socks occasionally is good). However, the word “helper” in Genesis 2:18 oddly carries no connotation of domestic help.

The most common usage of the Hebrew word is of a strong force coming to someone’s aid in battle. Often the helper who is coming to deliver someone out of trouble is the Lord himself. That’s the kind of helper God designed Eve to be. Not only a passive encouragement or support personnel, but an active participant and help in the real work of life. Adam and Eve were both designed to image God. Want to see the research? I have it posted here: A Suitable Helper

Why Was Eve Created?
The real question was what was Adam’s problem? Was his problem that the job was so big that he needed an assistant? The job was and is huge, but that’s not what Genesis 2:18 says was problem. Adam’s problem was that he was alone. God, being a Trinity, knew the value of equal companionship. The animals weren’t going to cut it; they weren’t equals. So God made Adam a counterpart.

Did he make her out of dirt? Nope. Adam couldn’t claim she was made of different dirt from his and therefore completely other from him. Did he make her from his feet? Nope. He couldn’t claim he was over her. Did he make her from his head? Nope. She couldn’t claim she was over him. God made Eve from Adam’s side (not just a rib, by the way), the spot that houses almost all the important guts and interior workings of the body, the softest part, the very center. Eve was part of his very body, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, the only instance of human asexual reproduction in history. This is the rending that marriage re-unites. This is the fit help. One becomes two; two become one.

~ Rachel

P.S. If you are a happy complementarian in a good marriage, then more power to you. I think there is room in the Bible and in Christendom for both positions, and I admire many couples of both types. If this post has completely confused you or you are wondering how that fits with Ephesians 5, I have a three part (so far) series on that herehere, and here. If you are curious about egalitarianism and how that can possibly be Biblical, please check out my friend Marg’s excellent post here.

Rachel Shubin

Critical thinker, obsessive reader and writer (not just on this blog), Bible-studier, church-goer, Jesus woman.

5 Comments

  1. I’ve been stalking your blog for a while now but this is my first comment (yay?) This post was inspiring. Excellent research. Only objection is the chart, which doesn’t seem fair to complemantarians. This appears to imply the wife’s only connection/mission to God is through her husband, which most complemantarians would deny. You addressed this more fairly in the post but the chart feels a bit incendiary….

    I also read Marg’s post and have to disagree with her views on women in leadership roles in the church. It seems significant that God presents Himself to us in male pronouns and came to earth in the form of man, and appointed males to priestly roles throught the Bible. Too often I feel like that fact is minimized or forgotten. If gender, sex, and sexuality are all God’s way of revealing to usHis nature and plan of salvation, what is He trying to say to us through gendered description of Himself? Through the church’s description as female? This is always what jumps to mind when I read about women in pastoral roles. Any thoughts on that Rachel?

    Of course I would love to talk about this whole subject in person some time. 🙂 Aforementioned blog stalking has lead to some good thinking/researching of my own.

    • Lauren, I didn’t know you’ve been stalking my blog. How wonderful! Actually, I do have thoughts on every single thing you asked including the chart; but I’m going out of town tomorrow morning, and it’s 10pm now, so I won’t get a chance to post any kind of coherent response to you (which I will do) until next week. Just didn’t want you to think I was blowing you off. 😉 I’m delighted that you commented and would live to chat about this stuff sometime.

  2. I’m 56 y/o and raised in reformed theology and Christian schools. ALWAYS did the men and boys open and close prayers as if it was irreverent for a female of any age to do so. It is very apparent that complimentarianism practices women are to approach God through men.

    • Yes, I’ve seen that too. What a loss to the priesthood of all believers and the body of Christ.

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