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A Suitable Helper

The LORD God said, It is not good for the human to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. . . . but for the human no suitable helper was found. Genesis 2:18 & 20 In the past, people have had a very narrow view of the meaning of the word helper which is used in reference to the first woman. So much so, that many people have thought that the word basically implied that the first woman and all women in general was designed by God to be nothing more than a domestic servant whose role it was to take care of the family and the house, and, in particular, to cater for the needs and demands of the husband.[1] Why this narrow and lowly view of the word helper in reference to Eve? In English, the word help has a broad range of connotations. Help can refer to a simple, modest act or it can refer to something much more significant. An example of significant help is the assistance and counsel provided by professionals such as doctors or lawyers, etc. In Hebrew, the word for helper used in Genesis 2:18 and 20, is ezer, and it is always and only used in the Old Testament in the context of vitally important and powerful assistance. According to R. David Freedman, the word ezer is a combination of two roots, meaning to rescue, to save, and strength.[2] Ezer is used only 21 times in the Old Testament. Twice it is used to refer to Eve, 3 times it is used to refer to nations that provided military assistance to Israel, and the other 16 times it is used in reference to God as a helper. All of these verses are talking about a vital, powerful and rescuing kind of help; yet when ezer is applied to the first woman, Eve, its meaning has been diminished to fit with traditional and cultural views of womens roles. In Exodus 18:4 it says that Moses named one of his sons Eliezer, which in Hebrew means: God is my helper. This verse goes on to explain why Moses named his son Eliezer: not because God had done Moses laundry (no disrespect intended), but because God had delivered Moses from Pharaohs sword! Ezer describes aspects of Gods character he is our strength, our rescuer, our protector and our help! And ezer was the Holy Spirits choice of word to describe the first woman. Eve was someone who would provide valuable and vital strength and assistance to Adam. (Please see endnote 3!) The Hebrew word kenegdo, usually translated as suitable in Genesis 2, gives the meaning that Eve was designed to be a corresponding companion and partner for Adam. There is no sense of subordination stated or implied, or even hinted at, in this passage in Genesis 2, whatsoever. (See endnote 4.) Ezer kenegdo a suitable helper is used in reference to Eve without any prescribed limits, narrow qualifications, or carefully crafted cultural restrictions. In other words, it does not state anywhere in Genesis 2 how the first women was to express and apply her strength and help towards her husband. Unfortunately too many people have just assumed that the womans role was to be subservient. These people have read Genesis chapter 2 with narrow, preconcieved notions and have not seen the wonderful expressions of equality, affinity and unity in this passage. Women: In what ways can you be an ezer - a valuable strength - in your family, in your church, at your work place, in your community?

Endnotes [1] At the time that Eve was taken out of Adam (Genesis 2:21-23), Eve did not have children and may not even have had a household to run. [2] The Hebrew word ezer is a combination of two roots: `-z-r, meaning to rescue, to save, and g-z-r, meaning to be strong. R. David Freedman, Woman, a Power Equal to a Man, in Biblical Archaeology Review 9, 1983, pp56-58. Quoted in Hard Sayings of the Bible by Walter Kaiser, et al. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996, p93. I recommend reading the relevant passage here. [3] It has been said by some that Eve was provided to help her husband, but not vice versa. Surely to suggest this one-sided goes against everything we know from New Testament teaching on human relationships (e.g. Eph 5:28-29). [4] The whole purpose of the Creation of Eve narrative in Genesis 2:21-24 is to emphasise the unity and mutuality of husband and wife. To read it any other way is to miss the point and distort its meaning and purpose! Eve was quite literally taken out of the first human being (23b). Before her creation, Eve was already a part of Adam, in some way. When Adam looked at his new partner he exclaimed that she was flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone! A profound expression of equality. There is no hierarchy here! But to further emphasise the point, verse 24 says that when a husband and wife join in marriage, they become one flesh a point which Jesus also highlighted (Matthew 19:4-5; Mark 10:6-7). Men and women together are made in Gods image. Gods ideal at creation was that the husband and wife be completely equal and rule over nature together (Genesis 1:26-28). Complete gender equality is the Godly ideal we should aim for. I have included the following verses so that you can see the context of every Bible verse where ezer is used. Be encouraged! The LORD God said, It is not good for the human to be alone. I will make a helpersuitable for him. but for the human no suitable helper was found. Genesis 2:18 & 20 For [Moses] said, My fathers God was my helper. Exodus 18:4b Hear, O LORD, the cry of Judah; bring him to his people. With his own hands he defends his cause. Oh be his help against his foes. Deuteronomy 33:7 There is no God like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you, and on the clouds of His majesty. Deuteronomy 33:26 Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Deuteronomy 33:29a May He send help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. Psalm 20:2 We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and shield. Psalm 33:20 Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer Psalm 70:5 I have bestowed strength (ezer) on a warrior; I have exalted a young man among the people. Psalm 89:17 O house of Israel trust in the LORD He is their help and shield. O house of Aaron trust in the LORD He is their help and shield. You who fear Him, trust in the LORD He is their help and shield. Psalm 115:9-11 I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2 Our help is in the Name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 124:8 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God. Psalm 146:5 Though they have officials in Zoan and their envoys have arrived in Hanes, everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help not advantage Isaiah 30:5 I will scatter to the winds all those around him his staff (ezer) and all his troops and I will pursue them with a drawn sword. Ezekiel 12:14 When they fall they will receive a little help Daniel 11:34 You are destroyed, O Israel, because you are against Me, against your helper. Hosea 13:9

A Suitable Helper (in the Septuagint)


This Christmas one of my gifts was a copy of the Septuagint the (approximately) 200BC Greek translation of the Old Testament.[1] Thanks Mum! So far Ive skimmed through the book of Daniel, and Ive read Psalm 49, (for no other reason than the book fell open at Psalm 49.) This morning I decided to begin at the beginning, with the book of Genesis. In my reading I came across the phrase in Genesis 2:18 & 20 that is often translated into English as: a suitable helper for him. In the

Septuagint, this phrase literally says, a helper corresponding to (kata) him in Genesis 2:18; and a helper similar (homoios) to him in Genesis 2:20. While much can be said about the use and meaning of kata[2] and homoios here, I am particularly interested in the Greek word translated as helper in these verses: bothos. There is the same sense of strength and rescue in this Greek word, bothos, as there is with the Hebrew word for helper, ezer, used in the Hebrew texts of Genesis 2:18 & 20. (I have written about ezer in my first article on A Suitable Helper, above.) Bothos is a noun made up of two words which mean (i) cry out or intense exclamation and (ii) run. The verb of this word bothe means come to the rescue or supply urgently needed help. (From HELPS word-studies.) Perschbacher gives the meaning of bothe as to run to the aid of those who cry out for help . . . [3] The following is every verse in the New Testament where bothos (and its cognates) appear[4]: In Matthew 15:25 and Mark 9:22-24 the word is used where people were crying out to Jesus for help. In Acts 16:9, 21:28, 27:17 and Revelation 12:16 it is used where strong help and support were required. In 2 Corinthians 6:2, Hebrews 2:18, 4:16 and 13:6 it is used in the context of receiving divine help. There is nothing in these New Testament verses that imply servitude or domestic help.[5] Rather, all these verses refer to a strong, rescuing even a divine help. God is our helper, our ezer and bothos, but he is not subservient to those he helps. Still, Genesis 2:18 & 20 has been almost universally used to teach that women were designed to help their husbands in a subservient manner. And it is important to note that the Bible does not teach that a woman is to provide unilateral help and support to her husband without receiving mutual help and support.[6] There is nothing in the Genesis creation accounts that identifies specific roles of men and women;[7] neither do these passages suggest that women were (or are) in any way inferior to men. The pre-fall creation accounts actually contain some beautiful expressions of mutuality, equality and unity between the first man and woman (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:21-24, and 5:1-2). Moreover, contrary to the views of some Christians (Complementarians), there is nothing in the pre-fall Creation accounts which states that Adam was the leader[8] and authority figure and Eve the passive, submissive follower and domestic help. There is nothing passive, submissive, or domestic implied in the word bothos. Both the Greek and Hebrew texts of Genesis 2:18 & 20 relate that the first woman was designed by God to provide valuable and vital strength and assistance to her husband within a relationship of unity and mutuality.
Endnotes: [1] The Septuagint (abbreviated as LXX) is a Koine Greek translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew Scriptures. It also contains Apocryphal books, not contained in the Hebrew Bible. The Septuagint is thought to have been translated in Alexandria, Egypt, sometime (roughly) around 200BC. It was highly regarded and used widely by the Jews dispersed throughout the Roman (formerly Greek) empire. It was most likely used by the Hellenised Jews in Israel also. [2] Kata is with the accusative auton. [3] Perschbacher, Wesley J., (Ed) The New Analytical Greek Lexicon, Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990. [4] These are all the New Testament verses that contain bothos and its cognates that I could find. Please let me know if Ive missed any. Here is an exhaustive list of every verse in the Greek Old Testament that contains the word bothos. Note that the word is only used in the context of rescue, might and divine help. [5] There are plenty of other Greek words in the New Testament with the meaning of help or assistance that have a less lo fty, urgent or strong sense. [6] I have heard even young Christian men and women quote 1 Corinthians 11:9 with a mistaken view that women were made by God for men, for the express purpose of helping men, and not vice versa. Many Christians read Pauls words in 1 Corinthians

11:3-9 about men and women, but fail to take into consideration Pauls more complete and correct statement in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12. [7] The Bible simply does not command that women, and not men, should cook dinner, wash the dishes, do the laundry or clean the house, etc. The expectation that women should be homemakers is a cultural one. The closest thing to a biblical directive for women to keep house is Pauls instruction for the Ephesian widows to lead/manage ( oikodespots) their homes (1 Tim 5:14). Paul wrote this instruction primarily to keep the idle widows out of trouble. I dont advocate slovenliness. Keeping a clean and ordered home is very commendable, however, many women have useful and important talents and abilities other than housekeeping. I dont believe that women (or men) should keep their talents hidden simply because of preconceived or cultural gender roles. Let me add, I also dont think that men or women should follow their own interests and ambitions, however godly, at the expense of their family either. It is particularly important that children are cared for by parents who have quantity time and not just quality time to spend with their children. [8] The concept of a ruling husband came as a consequence of sin, and should not be regarded as the norm.