Why I Don’t Use the Words “Help Meet”

September 23, 2012

in the generous life

Years ago, I spent some time mutzing around in several passages in the Word. One of those passages was the creation of mankind in Genesis. What I found was at first somewhat confusing and then a bit surprising. Mostly I found that Hebrew doesn’t always translate into English very cleanly and that the words said of Eve, “help meet,” (sometimes folks say “help mate”) are a very, very poor translation.

The words “help meet” are ezer kenegdo  in Hebrew.

EZER

Ezer  does mean “helper,” but it doesn’t mean helper in the sense of “I’ll sit here and hand tools to you while you fix the car.” The word is used several time in the Old Testament in reference to someone who is very strong and capable coming to the rescue of another in serious trouble! (Most of the references are about God being the help of His people in battle.)

Eve’s creation reflects a kind of strength and was a rescue for Adam. All of creation was “good” and “very good,” but there was one thing that was “not good” … Adam was alone and God’s solution was an ezer kenegdo.  One couldn’t be found (in the rest of creation), so God made one. He put Adam into a deep sleep and used some of his flesh and bone to create Eve (Genesis 2:23b, the word translated “rib” more likely means “side”). 

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  Genesis 1:27 NIV

Together male and female reflect the image of God. They are both “mankind,” made of the same substance, but Adam would also reflect the more “masculine” characteristics of God and Eve the more “feminine.”

Eve was not created to be “the little helper.” She was created to walk with Adam and fulfill God’s directive.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  Genesis 1:28  NIV

She was created to be a strong kenegdo.

KENEGDO

Unfortunately, the word Kenegdo  doesn’t show up anywhere else in scripture but in Eve’s creation. Those who study the Hebrew language translate kenegdo  as “what is in front of, corresponding to,” or “facing opposites.” This actually makes fairly good sense. Male and female are counterparts reflecting the full image of God.

I think my favorite word picture for this concept is my own two hands. They are very alike. They each have four fingers and a thumb, they move alike and function alike in many ways, but there are some differences too. They are a mirror image of each other, one hand is slightly stronger and one has somewhat better dexterity. So very much alike and yet with some differences.

Eve was created to be half of a strong partnership that had a divine purpose.

So where am I going with this?

I am deeply opposed to the attitudes and actions in the body of Christ that make women … small.

And, honestly, I think words like “help meet” add fuel to this problem. The words imply that women were created as an afterthought solution because men needed an assistant. That is not what scripture says and it is often used to limit women instead of making room for them to be the partner that they are designed to be and the lovely reflection of God that they are, functioning as a member of the body of Christ.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am definitely for loving and serving your spouse. I have seen the fruit of generous living and it is sweet. Serving others is a calling on all believers and I do understand the joys of those things that have come to be associated with the term “help meet” ~ marriage, parenting and making your house a home.

But …

It is a tragedy when half of the body of Christ is diminished by the misuse of scripture. We are delightfully made. We are 100% of a human being and not just an appendage for a husband, like an extra arm. We are meant to be strong partners. We are needed in the body of Christ to help reflect the image of God to a world in desperate need of a Savior. We are not somehow inferior or less than. We are made of the same substance as “man” but fashioned a little differently. Not better, not worse, just delightfully different.

Yes, this is a rant. I’ve just heard one too many stories of a woman being shut down, because “after all, she’s a “help meet” for her husband. That’s her role, she shouldn’t step out in any other sphere.” I know of girls who are not being educated past 8th grade or so, because their world will only be their role as “help meet.” I’ve seen ministries shut down because people (let’s be real) were jealous and they used the term “help meet” to send a woman home. And on and on.

I am heartbroken …

… please know that you were created for more. 

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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My thoughts on authority and submission ~ The Submission Series 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Uriel June 30, 2016 at 7:30 pm

Well put.

I just learned today that napolean was tall relative to the society he lived in. Meanwhile, we think that he’s short. We have a problem of viewing the past through the eyes of the present. This is probably an example of that.

But you don’t need to appeal to the original language. The freakin’ guy was lonely. So God created a best friend for him, I.e. an equal. Incidentally, that’s also good criteria for finding a good spouse…an equal that complements you and is your friend.

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Debbie August 6, 2016 at 7:43 am

God bless you – YES! I am in the process of creating a business (or non-profit) with the express purpose of communicating to women the inherent value we have as God’s creation, and have done a lot of reading about Ezer Kenegdo the last few days. This was beautifully said!

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