Establishing the Boundaries of a Biblical Worldview

Gen. 2:18

What is the relationship between man and the ‘helper’ God gave him?

I did not have to be married for very long to realize that married life was going to present its challenges. I had a wife who was not only a source of comfort and encouragement, but one who often opposed some of my most cherished ideas. Such activity did not sit well with my idea of good wifely behavior. Whatever happened to submission?

Submission, as it is generally understood, means a person hands over his/her will to the will of another. He/She is to align his/her will with the will of another in perfect union. Thus, in the illustration of St. Paul, there is mutual submission of husbands and wives. But as he explains this in detail he describes the husband’s submission as love for his wife as Christ loves his church. A wife, on the other hand, is to submit to her husband in the same way the church is to submit to Christ. (Eph. 5:21ff)

However, it is possible to read too much into these texts if they are abstracted from everything else Scripture teaches you about man-woman relationships. And the Bible starts in Genesis 2:18 with a recognition that although God created everything ‘good’, it was not good for man to be alone. So God made him a helper. The word in the older English translations is helpmeet. But neither ‘helper’ nor ‘helpmeet’ capture the not-so-subtle connotation of the Hebrew, `ezer kenegdo (עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ). This literally means ‘help against’, or ‘the help that opposes’, and has also been translated ‘the helpmate opposite him’. Or, in many translations, it appears as ‘helper suitable’ for him.

You can immediately see why ‘helpmeet’ and ‘helper’ are really inadequate translations, neither of which capture the “opposition” contained in the word kenegdo which means against, or opposite. It is suggested by some scholars that the ‘opposition’ can be likened to left hand be opposite to right hand. This connotes some kind of complementary relationship, but I don’t think ‘kenegdo’ in the sense of ‘opposition’ denies the complementary relationship. It seems to be tring to sharpen the meaning of the relationship.

And if the answer is negative, then men have substituted repression for love.

But you can also see why so many husbands get opposition from their wives. They were designed by God to oppose him. But their opposition is to be when he strays from the Word of God and begins to falter in carrying out the God-mandated activities in his life. “Have dominion”, said God. And here’s your helper to oppose you every time you steer away from this.

Continue reading