And the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him.” Genesis 2:18, NLT
Words convey powerful images, and once that image is fixed in your mind, it’s difficult to attach picture or meaning to it. Take, for example, the word, “helper.” Say, a painter’s helper. The helper carries the bags, lays out the paints, cleans the brushes, does the dirty work. OK, a good helper may even do some preliminary sketches for the artist, but let’s face it, the helper is an inferior. OK, both may be artists but there is a pecking order and it is the artist who puts the finishing touches on any palate and signs his name in the corner claiming ownership. Never let it be thought that the helper is an equal.
That’s exactly the mental image you get when you read Genesis 2 and discover that Eve was “a helper suitable for him”—meaning, Adam. OK, it looks like Adam is the boss, and Eve is the—yes, “helper!” And that has been the mentality of men for centuries, described as male chauvinism today.
Want to get married in Papua New Guinea? You can buy your bride. The cost? Fifteen to twenty pigs. It’s still done in the tribal areas where women are considered chattel. And what do the women do in that culture? Three responsibilities: work the garden, do the cooking and cleaning, and have children, which, of course, means she’s available on demand.
But is this what Moses intended us to know of God’s purpose for Eve? May I be so bold as to say, “No way! Not in the least!” “OK,” you may be saying. “You just knocked down centuries of tradition. Tell us what it really means.”
First, notice that God didn’t make man, take a look at him and say, “I think I can do better than that,” making woman on the second try. He made man, saw his loneliness, and saw that something was missing, something tremendously important—someone to whom he could relate, who understood him and would love and care for him. From flesh and bone taken from Adam, God built a woman (which, incidentally, is a literal translation of what Moses wrote).
Remember, she is of the same substance as Adam—neither better nor inferior. Now, if you would, please remember that God is repeatedly called man’s helper, which is a position of honor, not weakness. It is the image of a father helping his son across a difficult ravine, or a mother helping her child learn his letters. God certainly is not on man’s level, and man isn’t equal to God—though some really think they are. As Katharina Penner says: the issue is “not in status and strength, endurance or preparedness for the difficulties of life, but in the fact that a human needs help and that God wants to fulfill that need.”
Adam recognized Eve—as an equal, as part of himself, one who stood alongside him, who would walk hand in hand with him—not as an inferior, a servant to do his bidding.
Forget about the notion that helpers are inferiors—way down on the social scale. God’s intention was this woman whom He created was to complete the male and he, in turn, would cherish her, honor her, and love her with all his heart.
Together they would meet each other’s needs, each possessing what the other lacked, and as “one flesh”—to use the term found five times in the Bible—they would reproduce themselves in a family. God’s intention was that together they would form an indissoluble union, standing against the winds of changing cultural ideas and difficulties.
Marriage is a living relationship, not simply an agreement two people make signing a paper called a marriage license, but a covenant that keeps our world sane.
Resource reading: Genesis 3.