In my last post, I briefly discussed how the aloneness of Adam signified an intentionally incomplete aspect of God’s creation. God purposefully made Adam alone with a goal in mind. In this post I want to begin the discussion about how God met that goal with the creation of Eve by addressing the meaning of “suitable helper” in Genesis 2:18.
Genesis 2:18: In the second half of the verse, God makes the statement, “I will make a helper fit for him,” which has been heavily debated during modern times. However, throughout history the passage has been orthodoxly interpreted as Eve being Adam’s perfect counterpart but not inferior to Adam in any sense. I think when we look behind the language and at the context of the verse, this is easy to see. Let’s take a look.
What is meant by “suitable”
In Hebrew this is the word neged. In this context, it means “comparable to” or “corresponding to.” So one possible translation would read, “I will make a helper comparable to him.” This is in fact exactly how the NKJV translators rendered the verse. There’s nothing in the Hebrew that suggests the woman is in any way inferior to the man. If anything, the language suggests the high esteem and value of the woman. Before Eve, nothing in creation compared to Adam. Nothing corresponded to him. Nothing met the standards needed to fix his aloneness. The trees and flowers in all their beauty did not compare, nor did any of the marvelous and wonderful animals. Only the woman, created in her perfect and beautiful feminine form, could compare to Adam. The animals were not suitable to Adam. They were inferior to him, but Eve was not. She was his match, his perfect counterpart, and she suited him perfectly and exactly.
It’s also worth noting that God did not create another man as Adam’s suitable helper. Presumably this was in the realm of possibility but was not part of God’s design and intention, which was that Adam and Eve would physically become “one flesh” and multiply on the earth. By this context one can understand the complementary reproductive functions of the man and woman, as well as the physical characteristics by which men and woman are attracted to each other by the design of God.
What is meant by “helper”
In the Hebrew this is the uncommon noun ezer, which simply means “one who helps.” There is no use of this word in the context of the helper being inferior to the one being helped. David in fact uses this word repeatedly in reference to God as our helper. (cf. Psalm 33:30, 70:5, 115:9, etc.). This truth is further supported by the man and woman becoming one flesh. Can something be inferior to itself? No. The man and woman are the same. They are one. They are assigned different roles, but they are equal in person and value. The one leads and protects the other as his own body, the other helps in this cause.
Putting it together
Paul reveals some of the hidden meaning concerning the “one flesh” doctrine in Ephesians 5 when he says,
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:28-33 ESV)
Notice that the husband is to love his wife as his own body. This critical truth must be stressed, because it crushes any notion of verbal or physical abuse, as well as overbearing or dominating leadership. As husbands do we look to take care of ourselves? Do we seek food, proper rest, sources of encouragement, and ways to nurture ourselves for our own development? Absolutely. Then as husbands we must do the same for our wives. As husbands do we speak kindly to ourselves? As husbands of proper mental health do we love ourselves with positive thoughts and actions? As husbands are we patient with ourselves and prone to overlook our faults? Absolutely. Then as husbands we must do the same for our wives. As husbands we are over our wives, but only as they have been put in our charge to be protected, cherished, and loved. It’s such a beautiful relationship that our sin too often hinders. May God help us as husbands and wives to be caught up in this wonderful and mysterious sacrificial and role-specific love.
In my next post I want to address some of the more specific and wonderful ways in which a woman perfectly fits as the man’s suitable helper.
Recommended Reading: John Bunyan’s Family Duty