“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” – Genesis 2:18, KJV
My Bible – an English Standard Version – reads “a helper fit for him” but my King James roots still chime in my mind.
You were created to be a help meet.
Which, growing up, meant that I would be a helper to my one-day husband (Because good Christian women get married, right? Because that is half of the highest calling on our lives as women – to be a wife – right?)
Help meet. Make the home, cook the meals, keep up with your husband’s schedule, a secretary for life of sorts, right? This is God’s plan for women, or so many of us have been taught.
In John Piper and Wayne Grudem’s iconic collection of essays Reclaiming Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Dorothy Patterson, professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary writes:
“Keeping the home is God’s assignment to the wife, – even down to changing the sheets, doing the laundry, and scrubbing the floors.”
But I can’t help but wonder…
Man and woman were created and placed in a garden to live, correct? A perfect, flawless, garden.
Man and woman were created naked and lived shamelessly so before the fall.
This is what the Genesis narrative describes for us.
Eve was the first woman. The first wife. God’s ultimate designs and desires for a woman must be applicable to her life just as God’s ultimate designs for man must be fitting for Adam as well.
If it doesn’t work in Eden, it won’t work now.
How in the world then could God’s high calling – God’s “assignment” for a woman be to changing sheets, doing laundry and scrubbing floors?!
No beds. No sheets. No floors.
Not a whole lot of laundry required for that one.
Not that I’m condemning housework or homemaking by any means – so please don’t read that into things. Equally, I’m not condemning women who are homemakers – who find their delight and the fulfillment of their calling from God in their work (because it is work) within their home.
What I am saying is that there is more going on in this text.
There has to be.
This is not about God’s “assignment” to women, as if divvying up a chore list or household roles. This is about the essence of being a woman. Married, single, widowed, divorced what is a woman’s purpose.
Because, you see, “wife”, “mother” and “homemaker” while wonderful stations in life to hold appeal to a very small segment of society. Not all women are married, nor will they marry – and that is okay! The number of years in which a woman can bear children is small, and the number of years in which she will actively be raising children is even smaller. Children grow up. As a mother, I will always be a mother, but my daughter will not always need me the way she does right now. Moreover, for a very large number of women in this world the idea of being a full-time homemaker is a joke. For the Mama’s in the third world, walking miles to the nearest source of potentially-clean water with their babies strapped to their backs – are they worried about scrubbing their (dirt) floors? Is this God’s assignment to them? For the women tired and dripping from 18 hour shifts in a sweatshop, barely making enough to feed themselves – is keeping their home on their minds? For the rejected teenage runaway, living on the streets, trying to find herself and then her way home – does a call to wash the sheets woo her to her Creators heart?
There is something else going on here.
We must learn to think bigger.
Humanity was made to reflect God’s image to God’s creation.
“In the Image of God God created them.
Male and female God created them.”
We cannot, however, portray the Image on our own. No single gender can advance or clarify the image of God to this broken and hurting world without the partnership of the other.
The man needed “a helper.”
The word for “helper” here is the Hebrew word ezer. Ezer is not an uncommon term; it appears numerous times in the Hebrew Scriptures as well as in the New Testament.
In the prophets – Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel – ezer is used in reference to military help. Reinforcements in the heat of battle, the soldier next to you in the foxhole, the Ezer here is a strong warrior that comes alongside and helps you fight your battles.
Not just the one who washes your armor when you come home.
Sister Ezer, it is time to reclaim your strength.
Remember your sister Deborah who went with Barak into battle, and routed an army of 10,000 (Judges 4-5).
Remember your sister Jael who, when King Sisera fled that battle, finished off the mighty king when he lay resting in her tent.
Sister Ezer, rise up.
“The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation
And by it’s great might it cannot rescue…
Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our Ezer and our shield.”
Or this very familiar passage from Psalm 121:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills from where does my help – my ezer – come?
My help – my ezer – comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”
Sister Ezer, it is time to reclaim God’s image within yourself.
Without you, the world only sees half of who God is, hears only half of what God would say to us.
You were made in God’s image. You mirror half of that image to the world. Without your presence at the table, your voice in the dialogue, we see an incomplete picture of who God is.
Sister Ezer, rise up.
Later in John, Jesus talks about the Ezer:
“I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper (Ezer) to be with you forever…The Helper (Ezer) – the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:16, 26)
Sister Ezer, it is time to reclaim your life-giving, light-shedding, prophetic voice to our churches, our families, our society.
As the prophet Joel wrote in ages past: daughter – it is time to rise up and prophecy!
Speak the truth, call to light things that would rather stay in the shadows, cry out for the voiceless, shout it from the rooftops. God’s Spirit lives in and through you.
Sister Ezer, rise up.
The second part of the phrase that the King James rendered “help meet” is the word kenegdo, it literally means “in front of” and has this connotation of opposition almost. Commentator Victor Hamilton describes Kenegdo as similar to polarities. Woman is to man as the North Pole is to the South Pole. Woman is the balance, the opposing force to the man.
It’s kind of like the poles of a tent. Each end must be rooted and reaching up, pressing against the other side for the tent to stand. If either end of the pole has more force or is given prominence, your tent won’t stand. If either end is broken the tent won’t stand. Both ends must be perfectly aligned, pressing in equal opposition to the other for the tent to stand. And so it is with woman and man. When one side pushes harder or is given more prominence, when one side is broken and bent, the tent in which God’s Spirit is to dwell and God’s image is to be revealed comes crashing down.
The evidences of this collapsed image are prevalent in the world today. So many have come to view God as angry or abusive or removed or judgmental. Women and children are being enslaved and trafficked at alarming rates. Brokenness in secular and in Church systems abounds.
The answer is simple: where is the Ezer?
Secular non-profits, non-government organizations (NGO’s) and even the U.S. State Department are discovering this more and more. When women in a community are empowered, given equal voice and equal rights, granted equal educational and economic opportunity then the whole community flourishes. Research tells us that when you educate and empower a girl she will reinvest 90% of her potential future earnings into her family, as opposed to only a 35% investment from an educated boy.
They call it The Girl Effect.
And while these non-profits, government agencies and NGO’s are just now discovering this, it has been God’s plan all along.
The Ezer Effect.
Because it is not good for a man to be alone.
Not because he needs someone to cook his meals, make his bed, and scrub his floors.
(Although, as stated earlier this can certainly be a part of Ezer life, and I certainly enjoy cooking dinner for my opposing force!)
It is not good for man to be alone because alone the Image of God is incomplete. It is not good for man to be alone because this job of ruling, subduing, and caring for Creation is a big and complex one…too big and complex for one person and one gender.
So God made the man an Ezer.
The Ezer is strong. The Ezer brings light and hope and revelation. The Ezer is the prophetic voice that stands in front of the man on equal footing and reminds him whose Image they bear together.
Sister Ezer, rise up, the Church needs you. The world needs you.
Reclaim your strength. Reclaim your light. Reclaim your voice.
“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an Ezer Kenegdo .”
Carolyn Curtis James and Rachel Held Evans have both done wonderful work on this subject. For further reading please check out their blogs, Rachel’s book A Year of Biblical Womanhood and Carolyn’s book Half the Church.
U.S. Army Korea (Historical Image Archive)
all via Flickr