Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

helper ezer Genesis 2 Eve helpmeet

A Narrow View of “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 poor understanding of the word “helper” which is used in reference to the first woman. Many people have thought the word implied that the first woman, and all women in general, were designed by God to be nothing more than auxiliaries, or subordinate assistants, to men. Moreover, it was widely thought that this assistance was limited to taking care of the family and the house, and catering to the needs and even the demands of the husband.[1]

Why this narrow 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 vital and significant. An example of vital help is the assistance provided by doctors. In Hebrew, the word for “helper” used in Genesis 2:18 and 20 is ezer (pronounced “ay-zer”), and it is always and only used in the Old Testament in the context of vitally important and powerful acts of rescue and support.[2]

How ezer is used in the Old Testament

The noun ezer is used twenty-one times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Twice it is used in the context of the first woman. Three times it is used of people helping (or failing to help) in life-threatening situations.[3] Sixteen times it is used in reference to God as a helper.[4] (Scroll down to see every Bible verse that contains ezer.) Without exception, these biblical texts are talking about a vital, powerful kind of help. Yet when ezer is applied to the first woman, its meaning is usually diminished to fit with traditional and cultural views of women’s roles.

In his commentary on Genesis, John Walton has this to say about the word “helper” (ezer) in the Old Testament.

The word “helper” is common enough as a description of someone who comes to the aid of or provides a service for someone. It carries no implications regarding the relationship or relative status of the individuals involved. In fact, the noun form of the word found in this verse as used elsewhere refers almost exclusively to God as the One who helps his people. If we expand our investigation to verbal forms, we find a continuing predominance of God as the subject, though there are a handful of occurrences where people help people. In this latter category we find people helping their neighbors or relatives (Isa. 41:6), people helping in a political alliance or coalition (Ezra 10:15), and military reinforcements (Josh. 10:4; 2 Sam. 8:5). Nothing suggests a subservient status of the one helping; in fact, the opposite is more likely. Certainly “helper” cannot be understood as the opposite/complement of “leader.”[5]

Robert Alter highlights the implicit strength in the word ezer. In a comment on Genesis 2:18 in his translation of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible he writes, “‘Help’ is too weak because it suggests a merely auxiliary function, whereas ‘ezer elsewhere connotes active intervention on behalf of someone, especially in military contexts, as often in Psalms.” And he translates ezer kenegdo as “sustainer beside him.”[6]

In Exodus 18:4 it says that Moses named one of his sons Eliezer, which in Hebrew means “My God is my helper” (Eli = “my God”; ezer = “helper”). This verse goes on to explain why Moses named his son Eliezer: because God had powerfully delivered Moses from Pharaoh’s sword!

Ezer describes aspects of God’s character: he is our strength, our rescuer, our protector, and our help! And ezer is the word God used to describe the first woman. Eve was someone who would give vital strength to Adam.[7]

A Suitable Helper, helpmeetThe word ezer in Hebrew.
The letters, reading from right to left, are ayin, zayin, and resh.
Ezer is pronounced “ay-zer.”

Not just an ezer, an ezer kenegdo

The word ezer is qualified by the word kenegdo in both Genesis 2:18 and 20. Kenegdo, sometimes translated as “suitable for him,” gives the meaning that Eve was designed to be a corresponding and equal partner for Adam. There is no sense of subordination stated or implied, or even hinted at, in this passage in Genesis 2.[8] (More on kenegdo here.)

Ezer kenegdo—”a helper suitable for him”—is used in reference to the first woman without any narrow qualifications, prescribed limits, or cultural restrictions. It is not specified anywhere in Genesis 2 how the first woman was to express and apply her help towards her husband. Presumably, it was to alleviate the man’s “alone-ness” and partner with him in their joint commission given in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”

Unfortunately, too many people have presumed that the woman’s role was to be subservient. These people have read Genesis chapter 2 with narrow, preconceived notions, and have failed to see the wonderful expressions of equality, affinity, and unity in this passage.

Footnotes

Scroll further down to see every Bible verse that contains ezer.

[1] At the time that Eve was formed, she did not have children and may not even have had a household to run. So her help cannot have been related to household chores. More about Eve’s help here.

[2] According to Rabbi David Freedman, the word ezer is a combination of two roots, meaning “to rescue/to save” and “strength.” 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”, Biblical Archaeology Review 9 (1983): 56-58. Quoted in Hard Sayings of the Bible by Walter Kaiser, et al.  (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 93. The relevant passage can be read here.
Dr Martin Shields (Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies, University of Sydney), however, disagrees with Freedman on this. In an informal online conversation, Martin told me, “It has long been recognised that behind the Hebrew ʿzr stood the common Semitic root ʿḏr meaning “to help, aid.” This root is attested in Ugaritic, Aramaic, Arabic, and old South Arabic. In biblical Hebrew, the Semitic consonant merged into z, accounting for the form of the word in Hebrew. Thus it is clear that the meaning ‘helper’ is basic to the Hebrew word עזר, and this meaning is not, as Freedman suggests, a later meaning derived from the merger of two earlier meanings.”

[3] (1) In Isaiah 30:5, the Egyptian forces are useless and are unable to help.
(2) In Ezekiel 12:14, God promises to scatter to the wind the Prince of Judah, his helpers (his bodyguards?), and his troops. Without his helpers and his troops to protect him, the prince will be destroyed.
(3) Daniel 11:34 is about the lethal power of Antiochus Epiphanes IV who wreaks havoc on the God-fearing Jews in Judea. During this time of persecution, the Jews will receive a little help, or deliverance. (Some have suggested that it is the Maccabees who are the helpers/deliverers.)

[4] Some Christians have been taught that the word “helper” (ezer) somehow refers to the Holy Spirit. If you look at the verses in the section below, you will see that not one of the “helper” references singles out the Holy Spirit. (Check here also.) I’ve written about Eve and the Holy Spirit as helpers here.

[5] John H. Walton, Genesis (The NIV Application Commentary; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 176.

[6] Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004) 22. (Google Books)

[7] It has been said by some that Eve was provided to help her husband, but not vice versa (cf. 1 Cor. 11:9). This suggestion goes against everything we know from New Testament teaching on human relationships (e.g., Eph. 5:1-2, 21, 28-29). All of us are to love and care for one another, as well as help and serve one another. [A short article on 1 Corinthians 11:9 is here.]

[8] The whole purpose of the Creation of Eve narrative in Genesis 2:21-24 is to emphasise the unity and mutuality of man and woman. To read it any other way is to miss the point and distort its meaning and purpose. A significant part of the first woman was “taken out” of the first human (Gen. 2:23b). 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!” This is a profound expression of similarity and 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 (Matt. 19:4-5; Mark 10:6-7). God’s ideal at creation was that man and woman be equal and rule over nature (and not each other) together (Gen. 1:26-28). Mutuality, or equality, is also God’s ideal in the New Creation which, as his redeemed children, we are already a part of.

Ezer Verses in the Hebrew Bible

Here are all the Bible verses that contain the noun ezer.  

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

For [Moses] said, “My father’s 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

© 8th of March 2010, Margaret Mowczko

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Postscript May 11, 2020: “Indispensable Companion”

The NET Bible translates ezer as “companion” and gives this explanation in a note.

The English word “helper,” because it can connote so many different ideas, does not accurately convey the connotation of the Hebrew word עֵזֶר (ʿezer). Usage of the Hebrew term does not suggest a subordinate role, a connotation which English “helper” can have. In the Bible God is frequently described as the “helper,” the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs. In this context the word seems to express the idea of an “indispensable companion.” The woman would supply what the man was lacking in the design of creation and logically it would follow that the man would supply what she was lacking, although that is not stated here.

Read the full note, 57, here. I recommend notes 56 and 58 also.


Related Articles

“A Suitable Helper” (in the Greek 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?
Three Scholars with Two Views on Eve’s Role as Helper
The Holy Spirit and Eve as Helpers
Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2
Teshuqah: The Woman’s “Desire” in Genesis 3
More articles on Gender in Genesis 1-3

artigos em portugues sobre igualdade entre homens e mulheres no lar e na igreja

31 thoughts on “A Suitable Helper (in Hebrew)

  1. Very well said. I like your article! 🙂

    1. Many people talk of things in the Bible and really don’t know what in the world they are talking about. But I love the way you study the Hebrew root words to find out what was really being said to us from the Hebrew perspective. I read every word, and am totally in agreement with everything you have said. Keep up the good work in the name of our Heavenly Father Yehovah and His Son, Yehoshua!

      1. Mila lives in Israel and is fluent in Hebrew.

        But I think you may be addressing me. If so, thanks Marvin.

    2. God bless this special day of discovery. Thank you so much for opening my eyes through your knowledge. it is amazing how you used the scripture to explaine the word Helper as used by the Almighty God to define Eve. This a great article. Am glad to have chanced it.
      Thank you.

      1. Hi Vivian, I’m happy this article was useful to you.

  2. This is amazing, how eye opening to see that the word ‘helper’ – ezer was used in reference to the help God provided. In no way was He subservient to those He helped!

    Thank you for using your knowledge to explain the Scriptures in an unbiased, educated way.

    And how exciting to see that our role as women, wives and mothers is empowering, and not demeaning. 🙂

  3. Hi Emma,

    Did you read A Suitable Helper (in the Septuagint)? I’m MUCH more comfortable with the Greek, so for me it is even clearer in the (Greek) Septuagint that God created the first woman to be a vitally important and compatible help for the man, and that the expression “a helper suitable for him” has nothing whatsoever to do with domestic duties. (Even though domestic duties are a necessary part of life.)

    Sill, it is not overly clear in what way Eve was to help or rescue Adam, my guess is that she was designed simply to supply compatible, human companionship. More on this here.

    It is interesting that in Ephesians 5:21-33 Paul uses the relationship between Christ and the church as an analogy or model of husbands and wives, with Jesus Christ being the saviour and selfless giver. (In case we take the analogy too far, Paul makes it clear in 5:32 that he is primarily talking about the mysterious relationship between Christ and the Church.) Yet in Genesis 2 it is the woman who rescues the man. There are actually plenty of stories in the Bible were brave women were doing the rescuing.

    I also believe that being a wife and a mother should be seen as an empowering and authoritative role and position, in no way less important or less authoritative than a husband or father’s role and position in the family.

    I really believe that God’s ideal is that families are led by a mother and father together.

  4. The reason why people find Eve and her descendent females falling into a subservient role, despite referring to to Genesis 2:18, is because The Lord God says unto her in Genesis 3:16- I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

    1. Genesis 3:16 is a curse, not a command. The way to break free of curses is to follow in His Way.

      A word to the wise is sufficient.

  5. You’re exactly right, Rod. God effectively tells the woman that from now on, because of sin, things are going to be different. The rule of man over woman is a result of sin in society. Thankfully, Jesus has redeemed us from sin.

    1. The rule of man over woman is not because of the curse, woman was made for man, man named woman. Also the bible says the head of the woman is man. I don’t know why we think the man and woman not being equal (They are equal in personhood, status and importance) is seen as worrying. We are not equal to God yet He treats us beautifully and the same can and should be done between christian men and women.

      1. Hi Abby,

        The only things God cursed in Genesis 3 was the snake and the ground. Thankfully, God didn’t curse the man and the woman. Like you, I don’t believe the rule of man is a result of “the curse”, but I do believe it is a consequence of sin spoiling relationships, as per Genesis 3:16.

        In Genesis 1:26-28 we are told that men and women have the exact same status and authority and purpose, and that this authority and purpose is to rule God’s created world as his stewards. We are not told to rule other human beings, however.

        In Genesis 2 we are told that the first woman was indeed made for the first (hu)man. The first (hu)man was alone and couldn’t fulfil God’s plan on his own. He needed help! So the woman was made for him. But she wasn’t created as an assistant, or side-kick, with the man as the boss. Rather, she was made as a vital partner who was perfectly equal and compatible with the first (hu)man and able to share together with him in fulfilling God’s commission.

        The first woman was made out of a part (or side) of the first (hu)man which beautifully illustrates just how similar they were: “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”. They were made of the same stuff.

        I can’t see how anyone who permanently rules another person, one who is permanently expected to obey that rule, is equal. There is no equality in the status of “ruler” and “subject”. And most people regard leaders and rulers as more important because they are the ones who make the decisions that affect the welfare of those below them. There is no equality in importance and there is no equality in status in the paradigm that all men (including inept, unintelligent, and unstable men) are leaders and all women are not. This system is utterly unequal. It is also utterly unjust especially if the people themselves are intrinsically equal in value or “personhood”.

        Conversely, there is justice (and practicality) in a system where individuals with superior talents, and who work very hard, are at a higher social and political rung than others. We want capable people in those higher positions. We don’t want inept men as rulers just because they are men.

        Paul was the person who said, “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (1 Cor 11:8-9). He followed up this statement with, “Nevertheless (or, except that), in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God” (1 Cor 11:11-12).

        In Paul’s teaching here and elsewhere, he says that men and women are interdependent: we need each other. As you say, we are not equal to God who is our ultimate ruler and who is not a created being. God is also our ultimate source. He is the one we are to obey even if the first man was the head (i.e. origin or source) of the first woman. (More on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 here.)

        I am married, and my husband and I “in the Lord”, like the people Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 11:11. I am submissive to my husband, but my husband is not my ruler. He is my partner. (More about Greek word for “head” Paul used in 1 Corinthians 11:3 here.)

        Also, “naming in scripture is a way of determining the essential character or identity or purpose of something or someone. This is why we have the frequent formula in the Old Testament: a person or thing is called or named something because …” Naming something is not indicative of authority. (More on this here.)

        Hagar gave God a name, a name that has been recorded in Scripture, but she had not authority or rule of God (Gen 16:13).

        The fallen world is patriarchal, and the culture of society in biblical times was patriarchal, but God nowhere states that only men, and not women, should be leaders.

        My paradigm is the New Creation and the implementing of Jesus’ kingdom principles, not the “curses” or consequences of the Fall. In Jesus’ kingdom we are all brothers and sisters with, again, the exact same status, authority and purpose. We are all agents of Jesus, empowered by his Spirit, to continue his ministry on earth according to the gifts we have been given. And, broadly speaking, gender doesn’t come into it. (More on the means of ministry here.)

    2. The main point is the scripture. “Thou shall not have any dominion over a man”. Based on this scripture how do you think that men and women have the same authority in the eyes of God to be priest or bishops. Let’s just face it men and women don’t have equal authority. Yes men and women are equal in value and importance. But in authority,no. You and other women are simply just lying to yourselfs. It’s not about rather or not she can understand the scriptures,nor is it about equality or gender discrimination. It’s just simply the fact that men and women were created with different purposes and different roles in the eyes of God.

      1. Hi Ariana,

        Where is the scripture, “Thou shall not have any dominion over a man”? I don’t know of it. However, no Christian should have dominion over a fellow Christian. Jesus warned against this kind of harmful behaviour. (See here.)

        Dominion or domineering has no place in relationships among brothers and sisters in Christ.

        Are you referring to 1 Timothy 2:12? There is no “thou,” and there are no plural nouns, in this verse. 1 take Timothy 2:11-15 literally. This passage is about a woman and a man in the Ephesian church. And this passage refers to a situation that is occurring several millennia after the story recounted in Genesis 2. I’ve written about 1 Timothy 2:11-15 here.

        Genesis 1:26-28 indicates that God has indeed given men and women the same status and the same authority and the same purpose. Men and women were to exercise dominion as God’s image bearers and regents, but they were not to exercise dominion over other humans. This changed after the fall. But we are now living after Jesus’ redemptive death and resurrection, and after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18). We are redeemed, New Covenant people, and while ethnicity, social status and gender remain, it has no bearing on our status before God and should not affect our status within the community of God’s people, the church.

        In the New Covenant, there is again the possibility of the mutuality and equality between the sexes that existed before the fall.

        Did you know that neither God or Jesus or Paul or Peter ever tell husbands to rule or lead their wives? Not once. The only times the word “rule” is used of husbands is in Genesis 3:16, immediately after the fall (male rule is a consequence of sin in the world, it is not God’s ideal), and “rule is used in an edict by King Xerxes (Esth. 1:22). New Covenant people should not be taking their clues for relationships from the fall or from pagan kings.

        So which part of the article about ezer kenegdo did you disagree with? If you leave any further comments, please make them in response to the article. Also, just because you have a different view of things doesn’t mean that either of us are lying.

        In case you’re interested, here are some biblical roles for women: https://margmowczko.com/25-biblical-roles-for-biblical-women/

        Also, in the creation account in Genesis 1, it shows that men and women were created with the same status, the same authority, and the same purpose (Gen. 1:26-28).

  6. You have no idea how blessed I’ve been by your blog! I read the Bible daily and consider it of the upmost importance for every Christian’s life. As a single 21 year old college student though, you can imagine the doubts that creep in when reading the seemingly misogynistic verses in the Bible. Even though I was raised a Christian and I love God deeply, I was still troubled by these verses. Many of my fellow students criticize the Bible a lot for this as well. So you can imagine how refreshing it’s been to read your articles. I’m going to keep studying the topic of Biblical womanhood profoundly. Thank you for an excellent starting point and for sharing your insights through this platform. God bless you and your family! 🙂

  7. Adrienne, Thanks so much for leaving such an encouraging message.
    I’m glad this website has been useful to you.

    You might like this article: https://margmowczko.com/portrayal-of-women-and-biblical-inspiration/

    Blessings!

    1. Hi Ma, I love your blog, it is so amazing. It is clear that the woman or mother as “help” isn’t just a simple word. You did a great job of emphasizing the true roles of women as helpers. I agree with you there. Men and women together are made in God’s image. God’s 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. IF you don’t mind I will share your blog with a group I belong to, to give them an idea of what it really means when it says that woman is a helper of man. It will help them to realize that women have a right to be ordained as pastor, because God made them they are coequal with men.

      1. Hi Kaila,

        I’m so glad you are sharing this article. I hope your group enjoys it.

        You might want to take a look at this article on the word “suitable” in Genesis 2:18 and 20 too: https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/kenegdo-meet-subordinate-suitable-or-similar/

        Blessings to you!

    2. I too am very grateful for this insight, and will be praying for God to bless me to study it over and over again. Even though I was in this ballpark of understanding, this insight makes things so bright and illuminating. I also will be praying for both men and women who are blind to God’s word that you explain with such passion and humility. Thank you.

  8. Hi Marg, I don’t know how you like that I comment on an old post, but since you have highligted this one yourself, I am taking the chance.

    Lately I have been wondering if maybe a discussion about what kind of helper Eve is, is misguided. Is she a superior, inferior or equal helper? Maybe none of them. Maybe she isn’t a helper at all. I found an interesting article here:
    http://www.cwgministries.org/who-is-the-helper
    I am not able to evaluate the claims made about hebrew words in that article. But just from the story itself, it seems to make more sense that God is the helper. After all, the story mentions nothing about what Eve is to help with. One could perhaps take it as implied that she would help in tending the garden. And it isn’t unreasonable to also think that she would help with procreation, Adam certainly cannot procreate alone. But nothing of this is explicitly said. On the other hand, we do see God doing a lot to help. God notices that there is a problem, declares that it isn’t good, and is very active to solve it. Doesn’t that make God the helper?

    It seems to me that rather than being a helper, Eve is the help that God gives. God solves Adam’s problem. Eve does nothing to solve the problem, instead she is the solution.

    Then there is the matter of the rib. I have seen that you are not as enthusiastic about translating «rib», and I cannot say how well this mathces the hebrew. But at least if one translates «rib» – meaning a whole rib, not just a bone – then some very interesting symbolism appears. Eve then «has» the one rib, and Adam is left with the other. They are then towards each other as two ribs. And what is most striking when comparing the two ribs is their mirror symmetry, how they are counterparts to each other, how they mutually complement each other in an equal way. Maybe this should be understood as a physical comment on the word «kenegdo». What is Eve? Maybe she isn’t a helper, but a counterpart to Adam. Maybe one should translate something like «I will give him help in the form of a counterpart to him» and «no help in the form of a counterpart to him was found».

    Hope you find that interesting.

    1. Hi Knut AK,

      I’ve closed comments on a couple of my posts but I don’t mind at all you commenting here. 🙂

      God made Eve to be a help or helper. She helped just by showing up and alleviating Adam’s aloneness. (More on this here.)

      In a way, God was the help or helper because he made Eve, and yet the text says that Eve was a “suitable” (equal and compatible) helper for Adam. The Hebrew word kenegdo (really a prepositional phrase) makes is fairly clear that Eve was neither inferior nor superior, and that she was a helper or help to the first human. Ezer can be translated as either help (as a noun) or helper.

      I like the word “counterpart”, but I can’t see the difference if just a bone or rib was taken out of the first human and given to the first woman, or if a chunk or side was taken out. Either way, it’s interesting.

  9. Hi there,

    I want to thank you for your article.
    I have found your article in a moment of real need.

    Very much appreciated.

    There is a cry in me that communities of Christ will embrace truth and seek to understand the intent of the Lord. A lot of ignorance is causing that women are being shut out or denied to embrace the appointment that God has for them. And understanding that we are the Body of Christ, women and men not fulfilling their role are like body parts that are not functioning. We need to start looking at One another as God intended.

    1. Hi Eunike,

      It is a tragedy, and it hurts, that women continue to be shut out and shut down. Churches and families are missing out because women are not allowed to use all their gifts. As you say, ignorance, based on faulty interpretations of the Bible as well as a misunderstanding of God’s gracious and generous nature, is to blame.

  10. Hey Marg!

    I was reading 1 Chronicles today, and I was shocked at how many men have “Ezer” in their name:
    Eliezer (mentioned many times in 1 Chronicles as being one of three great men helping David in battle…1 Chronicles 11:12, etc. and who had many descendants but no sons);
    Hadadezer (1 Chron 18:9);
    Romamti-Ezer, a musician and prophet who guided his children to also be musicians and prophets;
    Abiezer, the Anathothite who was the head of his army division. That just reinforces that Ezer is a strong word for military help, an aide, an equal.
    Tucked into 1 Chroncles is 7:24, a woman who you’ve written about: Sheerah. She built Lower and Upper Beth Horon and Uzzen Sheerah. The town was named after her. There’s definitely significance there in having a town named after someone. She stood out in the hundreds of names of men listed in 1 Chronicles.

    Anyhow, thanks for your articles. You inspire me to study the Bible more, and to keep falling in love with Jesus.

    1. That’s a cool observation about how common ezer is in men’s names. The related verb azar also pops up in names.

      Sometimes the name means “My God is helper” (Eli-azar and Eli-ezer), “My father is helper” (Abi-ezer), “Yah is helper” (Azar-iah), “The Lord is helper” (Azar-el), “My Lord is helper” (Azri-el), so it may not be referring to the strength of the man with the ezer/azar name.

      Here are some biblical names of people (all men!) I found: Abiezer, Ahiezer, Azarel, Azariah, Azriel, Azrikam, Azzur, Eleazar, Eliezer, Ezer, Ezra, Ezri, Hadadezer (called Hadarezer in one verse), Iezer, Lazarus, Romamti-ezer. Ebenezer and Jazer are names of places. Why no women’s names? 🙁

      Your last sentence is the best compliment ever!

      1. I had never thought about “azar” as being related to “ezer.” Lazarus!! And Ezra! Wow, thanks Marg!

  11. Chouraqui translated 2:18 “Je ferai pour lui une aide contre lui” in a more literal translation. If my memory serves me, there’s a face a face notion that you are not expressing. I’ve not been totally satisfied with English translations…

    1. Hi Keith,

      I’ve read many articles and book chapters, and looked at all available Hebrew lexicons, concerning the meaning of ezer and of kenegdo. And I understand why some think there is a nuance of “face to face” in the Hebrew word neged, a component of kenegdo.

      I discuss the meaning of kenegdo here.

      I’m not totally satisfied with English translations either, but, in my opinion, Chouraqui’s translation isn’t any better. On the other hand, I love the Septuagint’s translation of ezer kenegdo. See here.

      Robert Alter, a prominent Hebrew scholar, translates kenegdo as “a sustainer beside him.” And he makes the comment,

      “The Hebrew ’ezer kenegdo is notoriously difficult to translate. The second term means alongside him, opposite him, a counterpart to him. “Help” is too weak because it suggests a merely auxiliary function, whereas ’ezer elsewhere connotes active intervention on behalf of someone, especially in military contexts, as often in the Psalms.”
      Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary (New York, NY: WW Norton, 2008), 22.

  12. Excellent point. Your intellectual honesty is very refreshing. I plan to use your article in teaching my teenage daughter about the honorable role a wife has in being her husband’s helper. So much powerful meaning attached to that word once we understand its true import. Thank you!

    1. That’s great to hear, Tracy. I do think Adam was to help his wife also, however. Helping one another is the loving thing to do.

  13. Beautifully said, well written and really brought clarity to me regarding this topic. Thank you.

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