Linda asked the women “what comes to mind when they hear the word ‘helper.’”

– Assistant
– Support
– Help Carrying out Man’s Vision

It went like that until one woman piped up, “I’m probably the only Roman Catholic in the room but my Catholic Bible doesn’t say “helper” it says “partner.” On queue her friend sharing the rocker with her said, “Well, I’m Baptist and my Baptist Bible says “helper.” It cracked me up. Literally, no pun intended.

But what’s not so funny is how confused we are over what it means to be a “suitable helper.” Here are two friends sitting next to each other and their Bible translations are different. What’s a woman to do? How are we to know what it means to submit if we don’t even understand the context for which that submission sits?

When we talk about submission we have to go back to the garden. This is where the argument starts. Does woman submit because God made man the leader or authority over her in the garden? Did the fact that God made Man first, had him name the animals then used the term “suitable helper” point to Man’s leadership? Or did it point to something else?

In Genesis 2:18, TheLord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” First we must look at what “helper” means. To do so we look for other usages in the Scriptures. What we find is the usage of the word “helper” most often refers to God himself. Take a look at just a few of the references.

Helper Refers to God
Ex. 18:4 … saves from Pharaoh’s sword
Deut. 33:29 … shield, helper and glorious sword
Psalm 20:1-2 … in distress, protection
Psalm 70:5 … provider and deliverer
Psalm 89:19 … strength of a warrior
Psalm 115:9 … help and shield
Psalm 115:10 … help and shield
Psalm 115:11 … help and shield
Psalm 121:1 … protection
Psalm 121:2 … protection

When’s the last time you’ve heard it said that “helper” means woman protects or provides? Aren’t those words usually associated with masculinity – the male role in the home? I saw a few furrows on the foreheads of the women as we walked through the Scripture references to “helper.” One gal announced, “Why have I never been told this before?”

Why is that?

But that’s not all. We need to look at the whole term, suitable helper, (ezer kenego) and understand it in its context. So here’s what I see. God forms Man, tells him “it’s not good for you to be alone” then brings animals his way to name. “Go a head Man start naming. I want you to realize something- come to know something- understand your need.” So the animals came and man went. Surely the whale wasn’t brought to him, he must have had to go to the water. I’m just speculating but, he’s wandering around naming animals for as long as perhaps as some have suggested, a hundred years. Can you see him? “Frog, your name will be frog.” Therefore I’m not a frog. “Dog, your name will be dog”. I’m not a dog. “Pig, your name will be pig”. I’m not a pig. As he names the animals he comes to know more and more who he is not. But he still doesn’t fully know who he is.

Now some say the naming of the animals was God’s way of giving Man authority – leader. Perhaps, but I just can’t see Man thinking that. And since God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone” –leader doesn’t seem to be where God is pointing him. The fixing of being alone isn’t becoming leader. The fixing of being alone is to be known, to enter into community.

Can’t you see his face when God brings Woman, face to face (that’s what ezer kenego means face to face or face to face opposition.) I believe the idea of opposition is crucial to our understanding. She’s face to face with him and now he gets himself because of her presence. She doesn’t tell him “Hey I’m like you.” He sees her and knows it. She is most like him than any other creature. But…she’s also slightly different. (We can argue about what those differences are but I believe they are less than we make them out to be.) The idea behind “face to face opposition” is the emphasis on sameness This is not a frog! Woman is like me but there is a slight difference, enough difference that it forces me out of myself (seeing the world from their own perspective) and into community.

Time Magazine’s edition, “The Science of You” made this statement, “In a country like the United States that thrives on its citizens’ individualism and competitive spirit, empathy is often seen as a luxury or a frill- a personality trait that is admirable, sure, but far from essential. In fact, the ability to understand the mind of others and then care about what the world looks like from their perspective is a fundamental building block of normal personality, not to mention crucial to attaining happiness and staying healthy.” (P. 17) That’s just science continuing to prove more and more about our creation. Perhaps that’s not their intention but there is it, science-enforcing theology. God made man and woman because community with sameness, but slightly different helps us know ourselves, and God. I mean after all, he’s triune right, three in one? Fundamentally the Trinity is in community, relational, therefore in order to image him we must too. What if that is what is being communicated in the garden story?
I think it is. I know we want to infer leadership and or authority but I see something way more mysterious and magnificent than boss and assistant.

How about you?