Genesis 2:18 and 20 in the Septuagint
This Christmas, one of my gifts was a copy of the Septuagint, the circa 200 BC–AD 100 Greek version of the Old Testament. Thanks Mum! So far I’ve skimmed through the book of Daniel and I’ve read Psalm 49, for no other reason than the book fell open at Daniel and at Psalm 49.
This morning I decided to begin at the beginning and I started reading the book of Genesis. In my reading, I came across the phrase in Genesis 2:18 and 2:20 that is often translated into English as “a helper suitable for him.”
The phrase in Genesis 2:18 of the Septuagint contains the preposition kata and can literally be translated as, “a helper in accordance with, or corresponding to, (kata) him.”
The phrase in Genesis 2:20, however, is slightly different. It doesn’t contain kata but the adjective homoios, and can be translated literally as “a helper similar (homoios) to him.”
In another article (here), I look at the use and meaning of kata and homoios in these verses. In this article, however, I am particularly interested in the Greek word that translates the Hebrew word ezer (“help, helper”).
“Helper” in the Greek of Genesis 2:18 and 20
I was delighted to discover that boēthos (“help, helper”) is used in these verses. There is the same sense of “strength” and “rescue” in this Greek word as there is with the original word used in the Hebrew text of Genesis 2:18 and 20. There is also the same sense of urgency and necessity. (I have written about ezer in a previous article on A Suitable Helper.)
Boēthos is a noun made up of two words which mean (1) “cry out” and (2) “run.” Perschbacher gives the meaning of the related verb boētheō as “to run to the aid of those who cry out for help, to advance to the assistance of anyone, help, aid, succour.” (The LSJ entry for boēthos is here.)
The following is every verse in the New Testament where boēthos and its cognates appear.
In Matthew 15:25 and Mark 9:22–24, boēth– words are used where people are crying out to Jesus for help.
In Acts 16:9, 21:28, 27:17 and Revelation 12:16, boēth– words are used where strong help and support are required.
In 2 Corinthians 6:2, Hebrews 2:18, 4:16 and 13:6, boēth– words are used in the context of receiving divine help.
There is nothing in these New Testament verses that imply servitude or domestic help. Rather, all these verses refer to a strong, rescuing, vital, even a divine, help.
Genesis 2:18 and 20 is not about Gender Roles
God is our helper, our ezer and boēthos, but he is not subservient or subordinate to those he helps. Still, Genesis 2:18 and 20 have been almost universally used to teach that women were designed to help their husbands as assistants rather than as equal partners.
Furthermore, 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 herself.
There is nothing in the pre-fall creation accounts that identifies specific gender roles for men or for women. Nor do these passages suggest that women were (or are) in any way inferior to men. Rather, the pre-fall creation accounts contain beautiful expressions of mutuality, equality, and unity between the first humans (e.g., Gen. 1:26–28, 2:21–24, and 5:1–2).
Contrary to the views of some Christians, there is nothing in the pre-fall creation accounts that states Adam was the leader and authority figure while Eve was the submissive follower and domestic help. There is nothing submissive or domestic implied in the word boēthos!
Both the Greek and Hebrew texts of Genesis 2:18 and 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.
 The Septuagint (abbreviated as LXX) is a Koine Greek translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew Scriptures. It also contains some Jewish books not contained in the Hebrew Bible. The first five books of the Bible are thought to have been translated in Alexandria, Egypt, some time around 200 BC. Other books were translated in following years and decades. The Septuagint was used widely by the Jewish people dispersed throughout the Roman Empire and it was used by the Jews in Israel also. [More on the Septuagint here.]
 Wesley J. Perschbacher (ed), The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Hendrickson Publishers, 1990), 72.
 These are all the New Testament verses that contain boēthos and its cognates that I could find.
Here is an exhaustive list of every verse in the Greek Old Testament that contains the word boēthos. Note that the word is only used in the context of rescue, might, and divine help.
 There are plenty of other Greek words in the New Testament with the meaning of “help” or “assistance” that have a less lofty, urgent or strong sense.
 I have heard even young Christian men and women quote 1 Corinthians 11:9 with a mistaken view that women were made by God with the express purpose of helping men but that there is not a mutual obligation for men to help women. These Christians read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:2–9 but fail to take into consideration Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 11:11–12ff about the mutual interdependence of men and women who are “in the Lord.” More on 1 Corinthians 11:9 here.
Helping people is not a gender role. We are to help and serve each other. Paul, for example, tells the church at Philippi (his “yokefellow”) to help Euodia and Syntyche (two women), and he tells the church at Rome to help Phoebe. But he doesn’t use boēth– words in these verses.
 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 Paul’s instruction for the Ephesian widows to manage their homes (1 Tim 5:14). Paul wrote this instruction primarily to keep the idle, young, and relatively wealthy widows out of trouble. More on this, and Titus 2:4-5, here.
 The concept of a ruling husband came as a consequence of sin (Genesis 3:16b), and should not be regarded as the norm.
© Margaret Mowczko 2010
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A Suitable Helper (in Hebrew)
Every verse that contains boēthos in the Septuagint
Kenegdo: Is the woman in Genesis 2 subordinate, suitable or similar to the man?
Kenegdo = “Equal to Him” (Genesis 2:18, 20)
Ezer Kenegdo does not mean “a helper subordinate to him”
Do women have a special obligation to be helpers?
Is a Gender Hierarchy Implicit in the Creation Narrative of Genesis 2:4-25?”
All my articles on men and women in Genesis 1-3 are here.
All my articles on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 are here.