What ‘Capable Assistant’ Means and Doesn’t Mean
My father’s occupation was in the auto repair industry. I used to adore spending time with him at his store when I was a kid. The honest truth is that I probably did more harm than good. My ability to handle a torch, however, is something I have mastered.
Even at the young age of five, the satisfaction of contributing significantly to the repair of a malfunctioning car was palpable. I was certain that dad wouldn’t have been able to finish the work if I hadn’t been there to hold the flashlight.
Since being alone wasn’t ideal, God promised Adam in Genesis 2:18 that “I will make a helper suited for him.” This passage is often misunderstood.
If women are meant to be supportive partners, what does that entail? Does it mean more along the lines of “flashlight holder extraordinaire,” or something else entirely?
When Used Together, What Do “Ezer” and “Neged” Signify?
What comes to mind when you hear the word “helper?” A helper or an apprentice comes to mind.
Teenagers are frequently enlisted as VBS “helpers,” with the idea that they will be responsible for tasks such as dabbing glue on crafts, cutting out images, and monitoring disruptive youngsters to ensure they pay closer attention.
The “assist” is not typically viewed as the course’s primary instructor. In light of this, the term “helper” in Genesis 2:18 might be understood as “aid to the man.”
“helper” in Hebrew is ezer. Let’s look at a couple of the occurrences of that term in the Bible:
According to Exodus 18:4, one of Moses’ sons was named Eliezer. Why? Simply put, “the God of my father was my ezer and saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.”
Psalm 10 is an imploration to the LORD for aid in a time of adversity. In verse 14, he says, “to you the helpless devotes himself; you have been the ezer of the fatherless.”
God is called the ezer in Psalms 27:9, 40:17, and 118:7. The Genesis story is referenced in Psalm 118:7, which states, “The LORD is by my side as my ezer.”
The LORD is depicted as a helper in a position of close closeness to the man, much as the woman was removed from the man’s side as a sign of unity and connection.
God is more often referred to as “ezer” than people are. The LORD is taking on a trait, which is commonly assigned to the woman, in other places in Scripture, but it would be more appropriate to state that in Genesis 2:18, the woman is given a name that is usually credited to God.
To paraphrase Philip Payne:
“The Old Testament term [ezer] employed here does not mean “servant” but rather “help,” “savior,” “rescuer,” and “protector,” as in the phrase “God is our assistance.” The word “help” is used only of superiors or equals in the Old Testament, never of inferiors; it conveys the idea that women are a source of strength to men and are instrumental in their salvation.”
So, what would it entail for her to act as a savior for an appropriate protector? The Hebrew word neged means “appropriate” in English. A term with connotations of “in front of,” “on the face of,” and similar senses.
It is a common linguistic device in formal speeches. This might mean “contrary to” or “in contrast to.” “stand proudly opposing to” is how Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon translates it. Reading it, one could get the impression that the first pair was arranged to fight.
You can’t expect things to shift if you keep operating under the assumption that nothing needs to change.
In this instance, and specifically in reference to Adam’s naming assignment, I interpret it to imply “something which you have never seen before, completely different from anything else.”
When we compare it to the divine likeness, we can see this more clearly.
The question is how this relates to the concept of God.
To which the speaker adds, “And it was good….”
That statement echoes throughout Genesis chapters 1 and 2. When the LORD God says, “that is not good,” like in Genesis 2:18, it should shake the ground beneath your feet. That’s a fall-in-preview proclamation. Not everything was as it should have been. That…what was it? That lonesome feeling was all his own doing.
To alleviate Adam’s feelings of isolation, a “appropriate assistance” is the best solution. The question is, “What does that even mean?” Is the only reason she seems to be “helping” him because she senses his loneliness? Did it have anything to do with making babies or having intimate relationships?
Did Adam observe groups of animals and realize he was missing out on companionship? All the other animals were coupled up. As a group, they were fertile. However, Adam does not fit this description. Does he have an insatiable appetite for sexual contact that makes it unhealthy for him to be alone?
Certainly, Adam is deficient in some respect. Also, all of those things might be necessities for Adam, but they aren’t the full solution.
Genesis 1:26 and 1:28 provide the foundational argument for why it is not good for man to be alone. Let us mold man after our own likeness. Adam needs help from God since he was given the command to have children and multiply.
Adam cannot adequately represent God by himself, putting in jeopardy the creation mandate for him to be fruitful and increase and to labor and manage the Garden.
There is no way for one man to serve as a role model for the Trinitarian fellowship. (That’s not a dig at single people. That both sexes are required for an accurate representation of God is a point being made.
She does not “assist” him in the sense that she was made for that purpose. She was built to be his equal in service. She serves a salvific purpose in the world; Adam requires her in order to answer God’s call to mankind.
Where Does This Represent the Gospel?
Adam needed assistance. In order to accomplish his mission, he need God’s assistance (there it is again). That was too much for him to handle on his own. God provides for the necessities of his people. What Adam should have learnt from Eve’s creation is that he needed to be more like her.
A deceitful snake, however, only a few paragraphs later, manages to trick the first couple into thinking that God has been hiding something from them. The word from the serpent was that they weren’t being taken care of. Get that piece of fruit in their mouths and consume it if they want to be healed.
Once the first couple fell for the deception that God wouldn’t provide for them, evil and death quickly followed.
Sin, disobedience, and death would now spread over the globe rather than God’s praise. The Garden was taken away from them, and they were unable to maintain their cultivation of it. That would ruin God’s plan for them and mar the splendor of God’s creation.
There are some encouraging undercurrents as Genesis 3 draws to a conclusion. Some believe that the lady will give birth to the savior of mankind. And there’s a clear image of God’s provision for humanity once more.
Adam and Eve used fig leaves as a makeshift covering for their bareness. As an illustration of what the human state would not involve, such as atoning for one’s sins and providing for one’s own needs instead of looking to God, this scenario is problematic. God, however, intervened and provided a garment that was sufficient.
The first couple needed a proper covering for the same reason that Adam needed a good assistance. However, that disguise wasn’t permanent. What the world really needed was a proper sacrifice.
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was the perfect offering. In other words, he’s the one who comes to the rescue. As far as atonement for sin is concerned, you could even argue that Jesus Christ is our best ally. Certainly, Christ and the man have something in common in other respects.
However, the same may be said of Christ and women. Christ has delivered us both and reinstated our original purpose for being here. And in our own special ways, we may each imagine the awesomeness of God.
To fulfill God’s mandate for humanity—to be fruitful and multiply, to work and to keep the Garden—the woman is restored as a suitable helper in Christ.