Let’s Start at the Beginning
Through much of my life I’ve had questions about who I am and what it is to be a woman.
When I became a Christian, a few of the “who am I?” questions got answered, but most of womanhood questions didn’t. Instead, I found myself in the middle of a battle of theologies.
So, I decided I would take the time to study it out myself. I dug into the Bible, learned a bit about the OT Hebrew and NT Greek languages, learned to use a number of study tools, and read numerous books from varying theologies about gender.
I’m glad I took the time to do this (and continue to do so). The tools and helps are great and very much needed! The books by various authors and scholars are interesting and I look at them as an invitation to study. Being a student of the Word is ongoing and challenging work!
This is where I am so far in the journey.
Let’s start at the beginning …
In the beginning God created a whole mess of stuff. He called His creation “good” and “very good,” but there was something that was “not good.” Adam, a man, was “alone.”
Now Adam was surrounded by marvelous creation and spent time with God Himself, so I’m thinkin’ that God is talking about “alone” in the sense of “singular,” he was the only one of his kind.1 God had a plan and a purpose for mankind and He didn’t want Adam walking that path “alone, all by himself.”
God’s solution to this problem was to create an ezer kenegdo in the form of a woman. God put Adam into a deep sleep and used some of his flesh and bone to create Eve.2
They were both “mankind,” made of the same substance, both reflecting the image of God,3 but Adam would also reflect the more “masculine” characteristics of God and Eve the more “feminine.”
So, what is an ezer kenegdo?
Ezer is usually translated “help or aid.” Because of this, many Christians have taken the position that a woman is to be a “helper,” essentially an assistant, to her husband, but this is not a correct understanding of what ezer means. The word is used several times 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).4 While this can be translated “helping,” this is more specifically about the ability to save or rescue another at a time of trouble, not about an ongoing role of assistance.
Eve was fashioned in a way that enabled her to rescue Adam in his time of trouble (his “not good” aloneness). Now he had someone to walk with in fulfilling 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
Unfortunately, the word kenegdo doesn’t show up anywhere else in scripture but in Eve’s creation. Those who study the Hebrew language (of OT times) 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.
In much the same way, Adam and Eve were alike, but with some differences. They were counterparts, meant to come together, to partner in a unique relationship.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 ESV
So what do we know:
Men and women are created in God’s image. They are very much alike, but they have some differences too (and this is all good and needed).
God’s original plan was for man and woman to be a married couple,5 make babies, and learn to govern the rest of His creation, sort of like “journey mates” on a special God adventure.
We don’t have a lot of information about how that would be lived out practically (well, except the baby making part), because, before we can learn anything more in the Genesis story, something tragic happens.
Next Article: And Then the Fall …
Images courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net and © Igor Kolos | Dreamstime.com
1 The Hebrew word “bad” is translated “alone.” While being alone could cause loneliness, the word seems to be used in the sense of singular, the only one, alone, etc. God values community, so being alone would be a bad thing.
2 The Hebrew word “tsela” is usually translated as “rib,” but may also be translated as “side,” a more likely choice because Adam mentions both bone and flesh. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;” Genesis 2:23a ESV
3 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 ESV
4 The word ezer is used 21 times in the Old Testament; twice in reference to the creation of woman (Gen 2:18,20), 16 times used of God’s ability to rescue of His people and 3 times about the non-existent or weak help by other peoples (Ex 18:4, Deu 33:7,26,29; Ps 20:2; 33:20; 70:5; 89:18; 115:9,10,11; 121:1,2; 124:8; 146:5; Is 30:5; Ez 12:14; Dan 11:34; Hosea 13:9). Because the word help is consistently used in terms of rescue, I have to conclude that Eve’s “help” was a rescue of Adam in his difficult “alone” situation. The “helper” theology is built on an English connotation (to aid or assist) of an English word (help), rather than the Hebrew understanding (save or rescue) of the Hebrew word (ezer).
5 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered,“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:3-8 ESV