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
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.
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
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.
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).
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
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).
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.
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.