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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, [highlight]opposite to[/highlight]

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. [highlight]equal and adequate to himself,[/highlight] 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.

A Suitable “Helper”

A Suitable Helper | RachelShubin.com

A strong help in time of need indeed! Think Eowyn. (Also, first commissioned drawing from my daughter Trinity!)

 

What does the Bible mean when it says Eve was created as Adam’s “helper”? Well, to find out, let’s take a look at the passage itself, and then we will look at how the word translated “helper” or sometimes “helpmeet” is used elsewhere.

Genesis 2:18-25 (ESV)
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a [highlight]helper[/highlight] fit for him.”
19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a [highlight]helper[/highlight] fit for him.
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

So, what does “helper” mean? Here is a list of every place this word is used in the Bible. The first two instances are the ones quoted above, so make sure you don’t quit reading before you get to see how the Bible uses the word in almost every other case. Doesn’t really give you the impression God was giving Adam someone to make sure his socks had no holes in them, does it?

◄ 5828. עֵ֫זֶר (ezer) ►
Strong’s Concordance
ezer: a help, helper
Original Word: עֵ֫זֶר
Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
Transliteration: ezer
Phonetic Spelling: (ay’-zer)
Short Definition: help

Strong’s Hebrew: 5828. עֵ֫זֶר (ezer) — 21 Occurrences

Genesis 2:18
HEB: אֶֽעֱשֶׂהּ־ לּ֥וֹ עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ׃
NAS: I will make him a helper suitable
KJV: alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
INT: to be alone will make A helper suitable

Genesis 2:20
HEB: לֹֽא־ מָצָ֥א עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ׃
NAS: there was not found a helper suitable
KJV: there was not found an help meet for him.
INT: not found A helper suitable

Exodus 18:4
HEB: אֱלֹהֵ֤י אָבִי֙ בְּעֶזְרִ֔י וַיַּצִּלֵ֖נִי מֵחֶ֥רֶב
NAS: of my father was my help, and delivered
KJV: of my father, [said he, was] mine help, and delivered
INT: [highlight]the God of my father was my help and delivered the sword[/highlight]

Deuteronomy 33:7
HEB: רָ֣ב ל֔וֹ וְעֵ֥זֶר מִצָּרָ֖יו תִּהְיֶֽה׃
NAS: he contended for them, And may You be a help against
KJV: be sufficient for him; and [highlight]be thou an help [to him] from his enemies.[/highlight]
INT: his hands be sufficient help his adversaries become

Deuteronomy 33:26
HEB: רֹכֵ֤ב שָׁמַ֙יִם֙ בְעֶזְרֶ֔ךָ וּבְגַאֲוָת֖וֹ שְׁחָקִֽים׃
NAS: [highlight]the heavens to your help, And through the skies[/highlight]
KJV: upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency
INT: rides the heavens to your help his majesty the skies

Deuteronomy 33:29
HEB: בַּֽיהוָ֔ה מָגֵ֣ן עֶזְרֶ֔ךָ וַאֲשֶׁר־ חֶ֖רֶב
NAS: Who is the shield of your help And the sword
KJV: the shield of thy help, and who [is] the sword
INT: [highlight]the LORD is the shield of your help and sword[/highlight]

Psalm 20:2
HEB: יִשְׁלַֽח־ עֶזְרְךָ֥ מִקֹּ֑דֶשׁ וּ֝מִצִּיּ֗וֹן
NAS: [highlight]May He send you help from the sanctuary[/highlight]
KJV: Send thee help from the sanctuary,
INT: send help the sanctuary Zion

Psalm 33:20
HEB: חִכְּתָ֣ה לַֽיהוָ֑ה עֶזְרֵ֖נוּ וּמָגִנֵּ֣נוּ הֽוּא׃
NAS: [highlight]for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.[/highlight]
KJV: for the LORD: he [is] our help and our shield.
INT: waits the LORD is our help and our shield Him

Psalm 70:5
HEB: חֽוּשָׁ֫ה־ לִּ֥י עֶזְרִ֣י וּמְפַלְטִ֣י אַ֑תָּה
NAS: to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer;
KJV: [highlight]unto me, O God: thou [art] my help and my deliverer;[/highlight]
INT: God Hasten are my help and my deliverer O

Psalm 89:19
HEB: וַתֹּ֗אמֶר שִׁוִּ֣יתִי עֵ֭זֶר עַל־ גִּבּ֑וֹר
NAS: [highlight]I have given help to one who is mighty;[/highlight]
KJV: I have laid help upon [one that is] mighty;
INT: and said have given help unto who

Psalm 115:9
HEB: בְּטַ֣ח בַּיהוָ֑ה עֶזְרָ֖ם וּמָגִנָּ֣ם הֽוּא׃
NAS: [highlight]in the LORD; He is their help and their shield.[/highlight]
KJV: thou in the LORD: he [is] their help and their shield.
INT: trust the LORD is their help and their shield O

Psalm 115:10
HEB: בִּטְח֣וּ בַיהוָ֑ה עֶזְרָ֖ם וּמָגִנָּ֣ם הֽוּא׃
NAS: [highlight]in the LORD; He is their help and their shield.[/highlight]
KJV: in the LORD: he [is] their help and their shield.
INT: trust the LORD is their help and their shield that

Psalm 115:11
HEB: בִּטְח֣וּ בַיהוָ֑ה עֶזְרָ֖ם וּמָגִנָּ֣ם הֽוּא׃
NAS: in the LORD; He is their [highlight]help and their shield.[/highlight]
KJV: in the LORD: he [is] their help and their shield.
INT: trust the LORD is their help and their shield he

Psalm 121:1
HEB: מֵ֝אַ֗יִן יָבֹ֥א עֶזְרִֽי׃
NAS: [highlight]From where shall my help come?[/highlight]
KJV: from whence cometh my help.
INT: where cometh shall my help

Psalm 121:2
HEB: עֶ֭זְרִי מֵעִ֣ם יְהוָ֑ה
NAS: [highlight]My help [comes] from the LORD,[/highlight]
KJV: My help [cometh] from the LORD,
INT: my help from the LORD

Psalm 124:8
HEB: עֶ֭זְרֵנוּ בְּשֵׁ֣ם יְהוָ֑ה
NAS: [highlight]Our help is in the name of the LORD,[/highlight]
KJV: Our help [is] in the name of the LORD,
INT: our help the name of the LORD

Psalm 146:5
HEB: שֶׁ֤אֵ֣ל יַעֲקֹ֣ב בְּעֶזְר֑וֹ שִׂ֝בְר֗וֹ עַל־
NAS: is he whose [highlight]help is the God[/highlight]
KJV: of Jacob for his help, whose hope
INT: is the God of Jacob help hope is in

Isaiah 30:5
HEB: לָ֑מוֹ לֹ֤א לְעֵ֙זֶר֙ וְלֹ֣א לְהוֹעִ֔יל
NAS: profit them, [Who are] not for help or profit,
KJV: [highlight][that] could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit,[/highlight]
INT: profit cannot help cannot profit

Ezekiel 12:14
HEB: [עֶזְרֹה כ] (עֶזְרֹ֛ו ק) וְכָל־
NAS: are around him, his helpers and all
KJV: all that [are] about him to help him, and all his bands;
INT: who are around[highlight] help all his troops[/highlight]

Daniel 11:34
HEB: וּבְהִכָּ֣שְׁלָ֔ם יֵעָזְר֖וּ עֵ֣זֶר מְעָ֑ט וְנִלְו֧וּ
NAS: a little help, and many
KJV: with a little help: but many
INT: fall will be granted help A little will join

Hosea 13:9
HEB: כִּֽי־ בִ֥י בְעֶזְרֶֽךָ׃
NAS: [highlight]O Israel, That [you are] against Me, against your help.[/highlight]
KJV: thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me [is] thine help.
INT: Israel for your help

(From BibleHub)

So, what does “helper” mean? This word is used multiple times in the Old Testament, and almost every  instance refers to the kind of help that would fight with or for you in battle, and often it refers to the Lord being the helper. This is not the kind of help that trails behind you polishing your armor and picking up your helmet. This is not the one who helps by saying encouraging things and then staying home while you fight. This is the strength that stands beside you in battle. This is one who toils beside you in the face of a monumental task. This is practical, eminently capable aid. That’s what a “helper” means.