Today I want to celebrate women. I know it’s Mother’s Day, and therefore mothers are included in this, but I want to go beyond mothers. I want to speak to the gargantuan value of women – a value that world history has never grasped, and one our current world still has lots of ground to cover. But it’s something the Bible affirms with absolute conviction! Sadly, many have misunderstood the Bible’s perspective. Let’s begin rectifying this, shall we?
In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” These two words—“helper” and “suitable”—are bursting with meaning. Let’s start with “helper.”
When we hear the word “helper” in our twenty-first-century Western world, we generally think of it in terms of a subordinate role. As if the one who bears the title is functioning at a lesser level and must serve the one who is higher up. However, when it comes to the biblical notion of “helper,” nothing could be farther from the truth.
The word translated “helper” is the Hebrew word ezer. Ezer means “helper, aid, and/or strength.” It carries the idea of doing for another what they cannot do for themselves. Ezer is most often used in the Scriptures in connection with what God does for His people. God is the ultimate ezer. Thus, ezer is not a word that means subordination or lesser than. It is a strong, edifying, praiseworthy word that connotes the indispensableness of the individual who bears the title. In the case of this Genesis passage, it’s the woman!
What’s interesting (and heartbreaking) is that this passage has been used throughout history to demean the essence of the woman in relationship to the man—as if she’s lacking something. Yet the presence of ezer in connection to the woman doesn’t indicate she’s lacking. It indicates he’s lacking. (And all the women say, “We’ve known that!”) He needs her, and he needs her to be an ezer for him. But the need is reciprocal. Yes, he needs her, but she also needs him, and she needs him to be an ezer for her. They’re both lacking and need each other to do what they cannot do for themselves.
As with “helper,” the word translated as “suitable” doesn’t accurately convey the nature of the Hebrew word. “Suitable” is the Hebrew word kenegdo. Kenegdo is a bit tricky to translate because it is a fusion of three words (which is typical of Hebrew). However, when understood holistically, and in its proper context, kenegdo means “one who stands in front of or opposite to.” It’s the idea of someone who stands before you, facing you, opposing you, not simply allowing you to go whichever direction you choose. It’s a word picture for how one is to relate to another. In more practical terms, we could say a kenegdo is someone who questions, confronts, challenges, and holds another accountable.
Fused together, an ezer kenegdo is someone who questions, confronts, challenges, and holds another accountable, in love, for the purpose of aiding and strengthening the collective whole so together they move forward in a healthy and growing relationship, doing for each other what they’re unable to do alone. Talk about a strong, life-giving, and beautiful partnership!
And because of the nature and functionality of ezer kenegdo in connection to the woman, R. David Freedman states that a more faithful translation of ezer kenegdo in Genesis 2:18 is “a power equal to man.”
Genesis 2:18 wasn’t intended to establish hierarchy. It was intended to establish partnership.
Women, we need you to be who God has created you to be. Continue to give us your voice. Continue to give us your strength. Continue to give us your wisdom. Continue to give us your leadership. Continue to give us your energy. Continue to give us what only you can give to this world. We need you. We love you. You are indeed a power equal to man!
(This article was adapted and modified from Chapter 5 of my book, Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong. To learn more about Make Your Mark and how to thrive in our humanity, please visit https://walkingthetext.com/the-writing.)