Kenegdo suitable helpmeet equal Genesis 2:18 2:20

Image is a screenshot taken of Google Translate™ translating gelyke into “equal”.

I thought the following snippet of information was worth sharing.

My internet friend Retha, who blogs at Biblical Personhood, is South African and her native tongue is Afrikaans. I recently read a short post where she mentions the translation of the Hebrew word kenegdo. This word occurs in Genesis 2:18 and 20—in the context of the creation of the first woman—and is translated into English as “suitable for him” or “meet for him”, etc. Retha, however, comments on how kenegdo is translated in Afrikaans. The following information is adapted from Retha’s post and from a conversation I had with her.

In Genesis 2:18 of the 1983 Nuwe Afrikaanse Vertaling (New Afrikaans Translation), kenegdo is translated as sy gelyke, which means “his equal”. (Retha tells me that the Nuwe Afrikaanse Vertaling is a widely read translation, and without a particular egalitarian agenda.)

Here is Genesis 2:18b and 20b in the Nuwe Afrikaanse Vertaling (underlines added.)

Genesis 2:18b: Ek sal vir hom iemand maak wat hom kan help, sy gelyke.
Translation: “I will make him someone who can help him, his equal.”
Genesis 2:20b: . . . maar vir homself het hy nie ‘n helper, ‘n gelyke, gekry nie.
Translation: “But he did not find a helper, an equal, for himself.”

Some may be surprised to see the word “equal” plainly used in connection with the creation of the first woman, but the understanding that kenegdo means “equal to him” is not novel. The reputable Hebrew lexicon Brown-Driver-Briggs, focusing on kenegdo, translates Genesis 2:18 as “I will make him a help corresponding to him i.e. equal and adequate to himself”. (Underline added.)[1]

The meanings of kenegdo are “similar to him”, “corresponding to him”, and “equal to him”. The woman was neither superior nor inferior to the man; their relationship was one of equality and mutuality. The Nuwe Afrikaanse Vertaling explicitly conveys this meaning with the use of the word gelyke (= “equal”). It’s a shame most English Bibles do not convey this meaning more clearly.


[1] Francis Brown, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Hendrickson, 2007), 617.

Related Articles

A more detailed article on kenegdo is here.
An article on the Hebrew word translated as “helper” or “help” in Genesis 2:18 and 20 is here.
All my articles on gender in Genesis chapters 1 to 3 are here.