‘Ezer Kenegdo’ – A Woman’s Role
God created the woman as a ‘help meet’ for man to encompass him all around guiding, protecting and leading him towards God while also being dependent on man for she was a part of him.

‘Ezer Kenegdo’ – A Woman’s Role

    The All-knowing God created the woman as a ‘help meet’ for man so that both could then join together in the spiritual battle that they were to face. Because of various reasons and the urge to dominate the other has not only spoilt the balance of this relationship but has also led them away from God. Did a scholar like Apostle Paul also misinterpret God’s command and control structure to place restrictions on women? Apparently neither the Creator nor His Apostles did anything that could be demeaning for a woman.

        Role and responsibilities of the woman – After finishing the work of creation, God looked at His own work and indeed it was very good’ (Genesis 1:31). However after all the animals, birds and other created beings were named by man God declared the completed work as not good enough and that more was needed for the creation up to that time did not fulfill the purpose God intends for them. This negative evaluation by God suggests that creation is not in static terms but in terms of an evaluation process and God’s response to what has been created leads to further development. ‘Very good’ evaluation does not mean perfect though human beings are created in the image of God but they are also to be the image of God and that is their role. At the end of every stage of creative process of things God declared all as good, but not so after creating man, rather He looked at everything in totality to say it was very good.

       Hebrew word ‘tov’ is translated as good but it also means ‘to be in harmony with something or someone’. Thus on final inspection by God, man was not found to be in harmony with God when alone. As per Brene Brown, human beings are created for connecting with others, animals, birds and other beings as well as with God. God found man was alone and part of connection with others is voluntarily being vulnerable to the other for without this there is only parallel isolation, which the society is experiencing today. Man was alone despite being surrounded by all the other living beings that he had named. Lonely people suffer from addictions and the cure for addiction is connecting with others. Present day social media is not connecting but isolating for it is a copy of true presence which is flesh and blood. This is creating parallel isolation and addiction numbs that isolation.

       A human being must have some spiritual and community or social connection because the hole of isolation cannot be filled with connection with God alone also. This effect is visible in the lives of monks, hermits or mystics for they also have something missing in them. Man needed his help meet or ‘ezer kenegdo’ and she needed him as much since their becoming one is not only about joining forces with each other but also to fulfill their task ‘to subdue the earth’. It is through this union that they become one with their own self also. Ish or man could be himself only when he found his ishah, the help meet, a part of himself as his ‘ezer kenegdo’.

        Meaning of ‘ezer kenegdo’ – A woman was created to be a man’s ‘help meet’ and the Hebrew word is ‘ezer kenegdo’. Word ezer is used 21 times in the Old Testament and it is always and only used in the context of vitally important and powerful acts of rescue and support. Ezer is a warrior and kenegdo means ‘opposite as to him or corresponding as to him’. Out of 21 times word ‘ezer’ is used for woman 2 times, nations 3 times and for God 16 times as help. Psalm 33:20 and Hosea 13:9 depict God as a help. Thus firstly, a woman is to help man see and understand God so as to bring harmony in the relationship and secondly she is supposed to be his support and rescuer in times of distress. There may be opposition to this viewpoint but this is probably the reason why women outnumber men in the church and she encourages the family in their spiritual growth and maturity.

       On meeting her, the man declared ‘she would be called woman or ‘ishah’ for she was made out of man ‘ish’’. There were no names yet and it is about spiritual life. Satan’s act of reaching out to her through the serpent was out of realization of her role for man could not be directly coerced or convinced. The result of the sin of eating the ‘Forbidden Fruit’ was ish blaming his ishah and God declaring the resultant pain they would suffer as a consequence. The pronouncements of God to man in the three verses genesis 3:17 to 19 ‘dust you are and to dust you shall return’ made man realize of his mortality and that he will no longer be there one day. It was due to this realization of their mortality that men joined up to ‘let us make a name for ourselves’ by erecting the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4). The Hebrew word ‘shem’ means ‘name, memorial, reputation, fame or glory’.

        We try to defeat death by writing our ideals on the hearts of our children or attempting to fulfill our dreams through their lives. God commanded for a widow’s marriage to the younger brother of her deceased husband and the first child thereof was to perpetuate her first husband’s name (Deuteronomy 25:6-7). Adam remembered God’s words to the woman about bearing a child and until then he treated the woman as a mere helper and not as an equal. She was called ‘ishah’ for being taken out of man ‘ish’ and she was and even today is considered an extension of man. Adam realized that man could not produce children to have a share in eternity without her and it was only then that for him she became a person in her own right, even more than man, for she would give birth, bringing a new life. in this she was thus more like God, for only God could bring new life into the world.

       With this realization recrimination ended and nakedness was no longer a shame but a spiritual connection to create giving them the proper understanding of being in the image and likeness of God to be part of Divine creativity. And only then did he call her as ‘chavah’ meaning ‘she who gives life’. He had given her no name before that for she was called ‘ishah or ‘woman’ which is a generic noun and not a proper noun. Even he himself also did not have a proper name till then and was called ‘ha-adam’ or the man which appeared 21 times before this. Man finds completion in woman and he came to be called Adam thereafter and only then could he experience God as YHWH. And only then did he find his real role for being in the ‘image and likeness of God’ for they are supposed to be His image before all of creation which becomes complete with the woman being a part of it.

Therefore their role is, first about the woman’s essential place in all of creation and second is the partnership of mankind in that process of creation. We are part of that process to further create, multiply and subdue the opposition; though right from the first verse in the Bible it is aptly clear that God is in total control.

       Word ‘ezer’ is used by the Psalmist to say ‘our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield’ (Psalm 33:20). God is called Yehovah Ezer and woman as ezer kenegdo is in that role of help, shield, guide, boundary keeper and spiritual guide. However the event of man naming her as Eve came to be recognized as man’s ownership over her and a woman of every age from child to old age became to be recognized with man and lost her individual identity. She came to be known as his daughter, wife, mother, widow or concubine and through this losing her personal identity and becoming a pawn in his hands to be traded as a commodity.

       Reasons for the woman’s loss of status – The exact position of man woman relationship is clarified in the creation process itself that a ‘man shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). This oneness despite being two individuals is about spiritual oneness of thought, word and deed to glorify God’s name. The pronouncements of God after sin are interpreted that man was created first and thus he has authority as priest, prophet and king in the household. Biblical view is hierarchy of order not authority where each partner has a role that is in harmony with each. This harmony with each other is for the good of the whole and that is how we glorify God. Elsewhere we find the Scriptural command for wives to submit themselves to their own husbands (Ephesians 5:22). This is again repeated and is about subjection to their husbands with instructions even about hair care etc (1 Peter 3:1-6). These verses have been quoted to bring a woman to subjection to man.

         Compared to this is the prophesy from God, ‘For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth – a woman shall encompass a man’ (Jeremiah 31:22). Here Hebrew word ‘sabab’ is used meaning encompass, go around or surround.  Joshua was given the command about capture of Jericho and to ‘go around’ the city for 6 days once and 7 times on the 7th day (Joshua 6:3-4). The same word ‘sabab’ is used to mean to encompass Jericho. Lord Jesus completed what was declared by Prophet Jeremiah to say that ‘I have come not to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfill’ (Matthew 5:17-20).

        How did Lord Jesus do it to restore a woman’s status? First, the period of darkness after Prophet Malachi and wait of 400 years for the Messiah ended by the word from angel Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:27-38). A woman was chosen by God to be the first to receive the message. Second, Lord Jesus revealed His Divine identity to the Samaritan woman on the well first (John 4:25-26). Third, Lord Jesus valued women’s fellowship, prayers, service, financial support, testimony and witness. A Canaanite woman was first to open Lord’s ministry doors to gentiles by seeking and receiving healing for her daughter (Matthew 15:21-28). Joanna the wife of Chuza (Herod’s steward), Susanna and many others provided for the Lord from their sustenance (Luke 8:3). Four, two women anointed the Lord with Spikenard, a very expensive perfume and He blessed them. Five, and the ‘women who had come with Him from Galilee followed Joseph and Nicodemus and observed the tomb and how His body was laid’ (Luke 23:55). These same women led by Mary Magdalene came early in the morning on Sunday with the spices to anoint the Lord’s body (Luke 24:1). Six,  Mary Magdalene became the first to see and meet the Risen Lord and become the harbinger of the Good News to the Disciples (John 20:15-17).

        Apostle Paul’s partnership with women in ministry – Apostle Paul whose words are used to suppress women’s role partnered with many of them.  Phoebe is introduced as a Deacon of the church in Cenchrea and as his and other missionaries’ helper and seeks help for her from the believers and Priscilla and her husband are introduced as fellow workers (Romans 16:1-3). Priscilla and her bhusband corrected Apollos, a missionary, ‘and explained to him the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26).  Apostle Paul mentions the two in his letter to Timothy and greetings are sent to the two (2 Timothy 1:2). He then mentions 

And greet Mary, ‘who labored very hard for you’ and laborer is a word used by him for ministers of the church. The same word, laborer is used for Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis who labored much in the Lord’ and then special mention was made of Andronicus and Junia who were in Christ before Apostle Paul and were imprisoned with him (Romans 16:6, 12 & 7).

          What does it mean today? We have to recognize and practice the purpose of ‘ezer kenegdo’ for she was created to guide, protect and provide spiritual awareness and be the one who sets the boundaries for God’s glory and our benefit. For this the woman has to be so close to God that her man sees God’s hand in her life and realize that he is blessed in her. Also a helper complements the other but is not to be treated as subservient and where this equation exists the family life is blessed. The Church also has to accept this help so that the the women realize their full potential. Lord Jesus emphasized that the harvest is ready and the workers are few and the role of women in outreach cannot be ignored. In any case the command of Great Commission is not gender specific and is meant for all.

       A house can be considered as blessed only where relationships are not judged and condemned but nurtured and encouraged in the love of God. Walking in the light of the Word of God is not only about loving God alone but to love each one of His creation. Filled with God’s love while encouraging and protecting each other we can march in victory for the glory of the Lord.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Ratnarekha

    Loved reading this! Thank you!

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