Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

A Suitable Helper (in Hebrew)

A Suitable Helper in Hebrew

This article is available in Spanish, Urdu and Sindhi.

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the human to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.” . . . but for the human no suitable helper was found. Genesis 2:18 & 20

In the past, people have had a poor understanding of the word “helper” which is used in reference to the first woman. Many people have thought that the word implied that the first woman, and all women in general, were designed by God to be nothing more than auxiliaries (i.e. subordinate assistants) to men. Moreover, it was thought that this assistance was limited to taking care of the family and the house, and catering to the needs and even the demands of the husband.[1]

Why this narrow view of the word “helper” in reference to Eve?

In English, the word “help” has a broad range of connotations. “Help” can refer to a simple, modest act, or it can refer to something much more vital and significant. An example of vital help is the assistance provided by doctors. In Hebrew, the word for “helper” used in Genesis 2:18 and 20 is ezer (pronounced “ay-zer”), and it is always and only used in the Old Testament in the context of vitally important and powerful acts of rescue and support.[2]

The word ezer is used twenty-one times in the Old Testament. Twice it is used in the context of the first woman. Three times it is used of people helping (or failing to help) in life-threatening situations.[3] Sixteen times it is used in reference to God as a helper.[4] Without exception, these biblical texts are talking about a vital, powerful kind of help. Yet when ezer is applied to the first woman, its meaning is usually diminished to fit with traditional and cultural views of women’s roles.

In his commentary on Genesis, John Walton has this to say about the word “helper” (ezer) in the Old Testament:

The word “helper” is common enough as a description of someone who comes to the aid of or provides a service for someone. It carries no implications regarding the relationship or relative status of the individuals involved. In fact, the noun form of the word found in this verse as used elsewhere refers almost exclusively to God as the One who helps his people. If we expand our investigation to verbal forms, we find a continuing predominance of God as the subject, though there are a handful of occurrences where people help people. In this latter category we find people helping their neighbors or relatives (Isa. 41:6), people helping in a political alliance or coalition (Ezra 10:15), and military reinforcements (Josh. 10:4; 2 Sam. 8:5). Nothing suggests a subservient status of the one helping; in fact, the opposite is more likely. Certainly “helper” cannot be understood as the opposite/complement of “leader.”[5]

In Exodus 18:4 it says that Moses named one of his sons Eliezer, which in Hebrew means “My God is my helper” (Eli = “my God”; ezer = “helper”). This verse goes on to explain why Moses named his son Eliezer: because God had powerfully delivered Moses from Pharaoh’s sword!

A Suitable HelperThe word ezer in Hebrew.  The letters, reading from right to left, are ayin, zayin, and resh.
Ezer is pronounced “ay-zer”.

Ezer describes aspects of God’s character: he is our strength, our rescuer, our protector, and our help! And ezer was the Holy Spirit’s choice of word to describe the first woman. Eve was someone who would provide valuable and vital strength and assistance to Adam.[6]

The Hebrew word kenegdo, usually translated as “suitable” in Genesis 2, gives the meaning that Eve was designed to be a corresponding and equal partner for Adam. There is no sense of subordination stated or implied, or even hinted at, in this passage in Genesis 2.[7]

Ezer kenegdo—”a suitable helper”—is used in reference to the first woman without any narrow qualifications, prescribed limits, or carefully crafted cultural restrictions. In other words, it is not specified anywhere in Genesis 2 how the first women was to express and apply her help towards her husband, but presumably it was to alleviate the man’s “alone-ness” and partner with him in their joint commission, given in Genesis 1:28.

Unfortunately too many people have just presumed that the woman’s role was to be subservient. These people have read Genesis chapter 2 with narrow, preconceived notions, and have failed to see the wonderful expressions of equality, affinity, and unity in this passage.


[1] At the time that Eve was taken out of Adam, Eve did not have children and may not even have had a household to run. So her help cannot have been related to household chores. More about Eve’s help here.

[2] According to Rabbi David Freedman, the word ezer is a combination of two roots, meaning “to rescue/to save” and “strength”.[2]The Hebrew word ezer is a combination of two roots: `-z-r, meaning “to rescue, to save,” and g-z-r, meaning “to be strong.”
R. David Freedman, “Woman, a Power Equal to a Man”, Biblical Archaeology Review 9, 1983, 56-58. Quoted in Hard Sayings of the Bible by Walter Kaiser, et al.  (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996) 93. The relevant passage can be read here.
Dr Martin Shields (Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies, University of Sydney), however disagrees with Freedman on this. In an informal online conversation, Martin told me, “It has long been recognised that behind the Hebrew ʿzr stood the common Semitic root ʿḏr meaning “to help, aid.” This root is attested in Ugaritic, Aramaic, Arabic, and old South Arabic. In biblical Hebrew, the Semitic consonant merged into z, accounting for the form of the word in Hebrew. Thus it is clear that the meaning ‘helper’ is basic to the Hebrew word עזר, and this meaning is not, as Freedman suggests, a later meaning derived from the merger of two earlier meanings.”

[3] (1) In Isaiah 30:5, the Egyptian forces are useless and are unable to help.
(2) In Ezekiel 12:14, God promises to scatter to the wind the Prince of Judah, his helpers (his bodyguards?), and his troops. Without his helpers and his troops to protect him, the prince will be destroyed.
(3) Daniel 11:34 is about the lethal power of Antiochus Epiphanes IV who wreaks havoc on the God-fearing Jews in Judea. During this time of persecution, the Jews will receive a little help, or deliverance. (Some have suggested that it is the Maccabees who are the helpers/deliverers.)

[4] Some Christians have been taught that the word “helper” (ezer) somehow refers to the Holy Spirit. If you look at the verses in the section below, you will see that not one of the “helper” references single out the Holy Spirit. (Check here also.)

[5] John H. Walton, Genesis (The NIV Application Commentary) (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 176.

[6] It has been said by some that Eve was provided to help her husband, but not vice versa (cf 1 Cor. 11:9). This suggestion goes against everything we know from New Testament teaching on human relationships (e.g. Eph. 5:1-2, 21, 28-29). We are to love and care for one another, as well as help and serve one another. [A short article on 1 Corinthians 11:9 is here.]

[7] The whole purpose of the Creation of Eve narrative in Genesis 2:21-24 is to emphasise the unity and mutuality of husband and wife. To read it any other way is to miss the point and distort its meaning and purpose. The first woman was “taken out” of the first human being (Gen. 2:23b). Before her creation, Eve was already a part of Adam in some way. When Adam looked at his new partner he exclaimed that she was “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone!” This is a profound expression of similarity and equality. There is no hierarchy here. But to further emphasise the point, verse 24 says that when a husband and wife join in marriage, they become one flesh – a point which Jesus also highlighted (Matt. 19:4-5; Mark 10:6-7). God’s ideal at creation was that the husband and wife be completely equal and rule over nature (and not each other) together (Gen. 1:26-28). Complete gender equality is the Godly ideal we should aim for.

I have included the following verses so that you can see the context of every Bible verse where “ezer” is used.  

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the human to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.” …but for the human no suitable helper was found. Genesis 2:18 & 20

For [Moses] said, “My father’s God was my helper.”  Exodus 18:4b

“Hear, O LORD, the cry of Judah; bring him to his people. With his own hands he defends his cause.  Oh be his help against his foes.”  Deuteronomy 33:7

“There is no God like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you, and on the clouds of His majesty.”   Deuteronomy 33:26

Blessed are you, O Israel!  Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD?  He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword.  Deuteronomy 33:29a

May He send help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.  Psalm 20:2

We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and shield.  Psalm 33:20

Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God.  You are my help and my deliverer…  Psalm 70:5

“I have bestowed strength (ezer) on a warrior; I have exalted a young man among the people.”  Psalm 89:17

O house of Israel trust in the LORD – He is their help and shield.  O house of Aaron trust in the LORD – He is their help and shield.  You who fear Him, trust in the LORD – He is their help and shield. Psalm 115:9-11

I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

Our help is in the Name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 124:8

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.  Psalm 146:5

Though they have officials in Zoan and their envoys have arrived in Hanes, everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help not advantage…   Isaiah 30:5

I will scatter to the winds all those around him – his staff (ezer) and all his troops – and I will pursue them with a drawn sword.  Ezekiel 12:14

When they fall they will receive a little help… Daniel 11:34

You are destroyed, O Israel, because you are against Me, against your helper.  Hosea 13:9

© 8th of March 2010, Margaret Mowczko


Related articles:

“A Suitable Helper” (in the Greek Septuagint)
Kenegdo: Is the woman in Genesis 2 subordinate, similar or similar to the man?
Do women have a special obligation to be helpers?
Teshuqah: The Woman’s “Desire” in Genesis 3
Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2
The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”
More articles on Gender in Genesis 1-3
Leading Together in the Home
Protecting the Weaker Sex
Mutuality in Marriage: 1 Corinthians Chapter 7

Posted March 8th, 2010 . Categories/Tags: Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Marriage, Gender in Genesis 1-3, , , , , , , , , , ,

Unkind, judgemental, bizarre, and off-topic comments will be deleted.

59 comments on “A Suitable Helper (in Hebrew)

  1. Mila says:

    Very well said. I like your article! 🙂

  2. Emma Mc says:

    This is amazing, how eye opening to see that the word ‘helper’ – ezer was used in reference to the help God provided. In no way was He subservient to those He helped!

    Thank you for using your knowledge to explain the Scriptures in an unbiased, educated way.

    And how exciting to see that our role as women, wives and mothers is empowering, and not demeaning. 🙂

  3. Marg says:

    Hi Emma, 😀

    Did you read A Suitable Helper (in the Septuagint)? Since I’m MUCH more comfortable with the Greek, for me it is even clearer in the (Greek) Septuagint that God created the first woman to be a vitally important help. And that the expression “A Suitable Helper” has nothing whatsoever to do with domestic duties. (Even though domestic duties are a necessary part of life.)

    Although it is not clear in what way Eve was to help or rescue Adam, my guess is that she was designed simply to supply compatible, human companionship.

    It is interesting that in Ephesians 5:21-33 Paul uses the relationship between wives and husbands as being an analogy of the beloved Church and Jesus Christ as her saviour and selfless giver. (In case we take the analogy too far, Paul makes it clear in 5:32 that he is primarily talking about the mysterious relationship between Christ and the Church.) Yet in Genesis 2 it is the woman who rescues the man. There are actually plenty of stories in the Bible were brave women were doing the rescuing.

    I also believe that being a wife and a mother should be seen as an empowering and authoritative role and position; in no way less important or less authoritative than a husband or father’s role and position in the family.

    I really believe that God’s ideal is that families are led by a mother and father together.

  4. […] not seen the wonderful expressions of equality, affinity and unity in this passage.” (See the source, that supports my […]

  5. […] Abigail was a smart, strong young woman who helped her husband by going against his wishes. She initiates a potentially dangerous meeting with David, and speaks to him with great diplomacy. God used Abigail to help David and encourage him with her prophetic words.

  6. […] The word used to describe the woman as “helper” in Genesis is the same word used in other parts of scripture to describe God helping Israel. Check out some of these verses: Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:20; Psalm 70:5; Ezekiel 12:14; and Hosea 13:9. 4  There are about eleven more references in addition to these verses.  And most praise God as being the active defender and helper of Israel. The women is the protector of the man! […]

  7. […] This article was first published at newlife.id.au here […]

  8. John Joshua says:

    Dear Marg ma’am

    Glory to GOD for this wonderful post. You are absolutely right in mentioning the exact role of the helper. I also mean the same thing in my post. May be the word helper may seem to demean womenkind. Man is not perfect or complete without the indispensable helper women. If I am wrong in my view please mention.

    Thanks ma’am

    John Joshua R

  9. […] For example, Augustine (354-430), a highly influential Christian theologian, wrote:

    . . . the woman together with her own husband is the image of God, so that that whole substance may be one image; but when she is referred separately to her quality of help-meet, which regards the woman herself alone, then she is not the image of God; but as regards the man alone, he is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman too is joined with him in one.
    Augustine, On the Trinity. Book 12 7.10


  10. […] in the Bible (Psalm 70:5, 115:9, 10&11).  The biblical authors use the same Hebrew word “ezer” to describe both God and Eve.  Evidently, “help” does not indicate inferiority after all.  […]

  11. Will says:

    I can’t believe what I just read. And ghat the comments agreed! How deceived can you get? God very clearly stated that the MAN needed the WOMAN and that He will make her for him. How can you not see that she is, indeed, under his authority? God through Paul us clear that the wife sumits to her husband as the Church submits to Christ, that the order is God–Christ–the man–the woman (1 Cor 11:3), and that it was the woman who was deceived, not the man. And so herein this post is a woman deceived.

  12. Marg says:

    Hi Will,

    God said that it was not good for man to be alone, and so he made the woman to help the man. But he doesn’t say how the woman was supposed to help him. Which verse in Genesis 1 or 2 says that the woman is under the authority of the man?

    If you are concerned that the contents of this post may be misleading, the details regarding the meaning of ezer are easy enough to check in a Hebrew lexicon. Which part of the article in particular did you disagree with?

    Paul definitely does say that wives should submit to their own husbands in a few of his letters, but 1 Corinthians isn’t one of them. In 1 Corinthians 11:3 we are given the order of origin, not a sequence of authority. I agree with what Gilbert Bilezikian has said on this: “The sequence that links the three clauses [of 1 Cor. 11:3] is not hierarchy but chronology. At creation, Christ was the giver of life to men as the source of the life of Adam (“by him all things were created” Col. 1:16.) In turn, man gave life to the woman as she was taken from him. Then, God gave life to the Son as he came into the world for the incarnation.” From “I Believe in Male Headship”.

    Eve was deceived, but she didn’t stay deceived. I wonder what Adam’s reason was for eating the forbidden fruit. They both ate and both disobeyed God. Both were culpable but some people today still hold Eve responsible. Some even seem to blame women in general. This is ridiculous and unjust.

    Eve’s deception is never mentioned again in the Old Testament or by Jesus. Paul is the only New Testament writer to mention it; he mentions it twice.

    Paul mentions Eve’s deception in 2 Corinthians 11:2-4 where he warns both men and women about the danger of being deceived by people (mostly men) who were preaching a different Jesus and a different gospel to what Paul had preached. Paul did not give the women an extra special warning about being deceived. He believed that both the men and women of Corinth were putting up with false teaching too easily (2 Cor 11:4b). He also mentions it in 1 Timothy 2:13-14. I write about this here.

    Deception or being deceived is not a female trait; the Bible never states or implies this.

  13. Will says:

    Astounding that you want to believe this foolishness and propagate it. Your motivation is glaringly obvious while you refuse to acknowledge it. You don’t want to submit to a man and thus you continue to eat the forbidden fruit of ‘knowledge.’ The problem is that all this ‘knowledge’ makes you appear astoundingly foolish even while you smugly assume your superior intellect. You are truly deceived to your own peril.

  14. Marg says:

    Hi Will,

    I get that you think this post is foolish, but can you be a little more specific? Which part (or point) of the post or my comment seems foolish to you? Is it that ezer is used in the context of God’s help? Is it that the first woman’s help is not actually described in the text?

    Also, your assumption is incorrect: I do submit to my husband. And I have several posts on this website about submission which states this. I encourage submission (loyalty, deference, cooperation, consideration and humility) in marriage.

    You don’t know me, so please comment on my words and not on who I am as a person. If you knew me you would not say the things you’ve been saying. Please remember that I am your sister and that I seek to know God and his Word better, as I’m sure you do also. I am always open to constructive criticism.

  15. Rod says:

    The reason why people find Eve and her descendent females falling into a subservient role, despite referring to to Genesis 2:18, is because The Lord God says unto her in Genesis 3:16- I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

  16. Marg says:

    You’re exactly right, Rod. God effectively tells the woman that from now on, because of sin, things are going to be different. The rule of man over woman is a result of sin in society.
    Thankfully, Jesus has redeemed us from sin.

    • Samuel says:

      I’m having trouble interpreting this: “The rule of man over woman is a result of sin in society.”

      By no means do I want to sound like a sexist. I believe women should be treated equal to men. However the way I read the Bible and the way you interpret it don’t align.

      Jesus died for our sins but it doesn’t redeem us from it. We can still sin. Jesus died for us so that sinners may still enter Heaven. If sin still exists and we are still capable of sinning, how does this change the interpretation of women having a subservient role?

      In addition, the Christian interpretation is “conforming”. I would like to say that it is conforming to the majority’s modern belief of, for example, equality. Christianity has not always been fair to women. Historically, Christianity held women at a lower status. Women had to rally against inequality in Christianity and Civil Law. But who is to say that our interpretation today is more correct than the interpretation held in the past when inequality was more prominent?

      While there is strong evidence that Mary Magdalene played a prominent role in preaching and spreading Christianity, women are not allowed to become priests. Why? This stems from the word “helper.” Men’s leadership in the household carried over to the Church while women’s role as helper and keeper of the home kept her at home where her dominion lies.

      For those of you who are Roman Catholic, ponder this, the highest authority in the Church is the Pope, a male only role. The Pope elects cardinals, who elect the successor of the Pope. Cardinals have always been men. If men and women are made in the image of God, why are we subjugated to gender specific roles and why is the Church controlled by men?

      I would like to re-emphasize that I strongly believe that all men and women should be treated equally. I take from the Bible what I believe is right and wrong but I’ll admit that not all of it is definitive. People are taking excerpts from the Bible and justifying their modern belief. The same verse you elect to support, for example, gender equality today, was probably the same verse used centuries or even decades ago to promote gender inequality. We see the same debate going on now with same-sex marriage. It is the opinions that ring loudest in church that we magically “correct” our interpretations of the Bible.

      So the takeaway I would like to end with is that maybe the Bible doesn’t want men and women to be equal. Maybe it does. Should we use an originalism approach – an interpretation of the original intent by viewing the events closer in time to the creation of the Bible – or do we take a contemporaneous approach – an interpretation of the Bible in the context of today. Note that if we use an originalism approach, we would lessen translation errors and faulty narrow/broad interpretations as this article suggests if we look to how people acted in accordance to the Bible during their time period. Also since originalism is the better approach in finding original intent, then as it was historically, shouldn’t women be treated as less than man?

      • Marg says:

        Hi Samuel, I actually disagree with a few of your premises.

        I believe that Jesus’ death does redeem us from all sin: past, present, and future sin. While we have yet to see the full effect of that redemption, as followers of Jesus we can endeavor to walk in the fullness of Christ and his Holy Spirit, and live out Jesus’ kingdom ideals as much as possible. We are a new creation! (2 Cor. 5:16-17).

        You say that men and women should be treated equally, but then you say that only men can be priests. This means that even if a woman is fully capable and gifted for ministry she is disallowed simply because of her gender. That is not equality. Also, the New Testament never calls ministers priests. We have one priest, the High Priest Jesus Christ.

        I think you have a mistaken view of the word “helper” in Genesis 2. If you see how the Hebrew and Greek word for “helper” is consistently used in the Bible there can be no way this word can be used to say women cannot be ministers.

        We are not to conform to modern beliefs but to the will of God. I believe the will of God for us is best demonstrated in the Bible, in the period before the Fall and after the Holy Spirit came.

        I encourage you to take another look in this article at the Hebrew word “ezer” and see what it truly means.

        • Samuel says:

          I understand your points.

          When I discussed that women cannot be priests/bishops/deacon or whatever they are called (Book of Timothy), I wasn’t speaking from personal belief. Let me say it again, men and women should be equal.

          I grew up Catholic and went to a Catholic school. I did attend another Christian Church for a short while because I was joining my friend at his Church. I don’t know the denomination of your Christianity but in the Catholic Church there is still a disparity between men and women. Women take a backseat to men in the Patriarch (e.g.: Pope, Cardinals, Bishops).

          Also, I agree with you that we should conform to the will of God from the teachings in the Bible. But like many great debaters (and lawyers), people may be picking their conclusions before finding the facts to support it.

          Now regarding gender equality in the Bible, I’m not saying you are wrong nor am I fully agreeing with you that you are right. I’m just saying that maybe it’s not clear as day. There are many like you, me, preachers, etc. that are swayed by personal belief and raised to believe in a certain way.

          I’m confident that centuries ago, an honest Christian leading an ideal life as blueprinted in the Bible, who went to Sunday school and was taught the Bible, would not blink an eye if he was told that in order for a woman to be a good Christian, she must stay at home and be loyal to her husband. I’m confident that there are Christians that recited the Bible without fault in their argument to oppress people based on color, gender, and sexuality.

          Also, you are merely repeating the proposition made by Dr. R. Freedman and taking his side. This is his proposal and interpretation. He is countering the original translation of the Bible with his own interpretation. I’m not saying who you should believe, an original translator or a translator centuries later, but I take what Freedman says with a grain of salt. He even added that the word fit was not even appropriate in the original translation. His views are not without critics.

          To sum it up, what I say to others is just live a good moral Christian life. There will always be uncertainties. If the Bible is unclear, who is to say this is what God meant. The guy next to you? The person online? You’re church? No, it’s God. Can he blame you if he didn’t make the rules clear? Just live a good Christian life, try to get to heaven, and over a cup of tea ask God what he meant.

          One question I know I will ask him is what criteria makes an animal clean when Noah was gathering animals for the ark? I’m certain this was not explained in the Bible.

          • Marg says:

            I agree with you that the equality of men and women is not a concept that is consistently taught or made clear in the Bible, especially between Genesis chapter 3 and Pentecost.

            Let me counter just one thing that you said in your last comment. My quote of Dr Freedman is one small piece of “evidence” that I use in this article. My primary evidence, however, is the use of the Hebrew word ezer throughout the Old Testament.

            In another article I look at how the corresponding Greek word boēthos is used in the Septuagint and the New Testament. I have written about this here. And I have more information here.

            The meaning of the Hebrew word kenegdo (suitable/similar), which is used with ezer, is another important consideration when trying to understanding God’s intention when he made the first woman. More on kenegdo here.

  17. […] 5. A Suitable Helper […]

  18. Adrienne says:

    You have no idea how blessed I’ve been by your blog! I read the Bible daily and consider it of the upmost importance for every Christian’s life. As a single 21 year old college student though, you can imagine the doubts that creep in when reading the seemingly misogynistic verses in the Bible. Even though I was raised a Christian and I love God deeply, I was still troubled by these verses. Many of my fellow students criticize the Bible a lot for this as well. So you can imagine how refreshing it’s been to read your articles. I’m going to keep studying the topic of Biblical womanhood profoundly. Thank you for an excellent starting point and for sharing your insights through this platform. God bless you and your family! 🙂

  19. Marg says:

    Adrienne, Thanks so much for leaving such an encouraging message.
    I’m glad this website has been useful to you.

    You might like this article: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/portrayal-of-women-and-biblical-inspiration/


    • KAILA KAH NAKUH says:

      Hi Ma, I love your blog, it is so amazing. It is clear that the woman or mother as “help” isn’t just a simple word. You did a great job of emphasizing the true roles of women as helpers. I agree with you there. Men and women together are made in God’s image. God’s ideal at creation was that the husband and wife be completely equal and rule over nature together (Genesis 1:26-28). Complete gender equality is the Godly ideal we should aim for. IF you don’t mind I will share your blog with a group I belong to, to give them an idea of what it really means when it says that woman is a helper of man. It will help them to realize that women have a right to be ordained as pastor, because God made them they are coequal with men.

  20. Adrianne Storr says:

    Thank you for this! I am teaching about Eve to my youth girls and was thankful to have this resource. We are studying John MacArthur’s 12 Extraordinary Women. It makes the same points and is so good! He quotes Matthew Henry “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected and near his heart to be beloved.” I just needed the Hebrew word that I remembered reading in the book “Captivating” and you had it. If you haven’t read John MacArthur’s book, I highly recommend it!

  21. […] Then we shared a brief word study of the Hebrew phrase ezer kenegdo from Genesis 2:18 and 20 (where woman is described as a “suitable helper” in nearly all Bible translations, but a truer translation would be “corresponding strength” – I used this article by Margaret Mowczko as a guideline), and some verses countering lies that women are told by our culture regarding their value and worth. […]

  22. […] God created Eve as Adam’s ezer-kenegdo (“strength-corresponding to” rather than the traditional mistranslation of “helper suitable to”) and gave both of them the authority to rule over creation, sans gender-specific roles. […]

  23. […] The Hebrew word ezer is used elsewhere in the Old Testament and always refers to a strong, rescuing kind of help.  […]

  24. […] Adam naming the animals cannot have been an example of an adult male exercising his exclusive God-given authority, because women have the same authority over the animals (Gen. 1:26-28). The task of Adam naming the animals may have had another purpose than just giving the animals names. God gave Adam this task immediately after the statement, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a help (ezer) similar to him” (Gen. 2:18). The task may have been designed to help Adam look for another who was like him, “but for Adam there was not found a help similar to him”, so God made a woman who was similar to him (Gen 2:20). […]

  25. […] The Hebrew word for “helper” is “ezer,” and is a combination of two roots, meaning “to rescue, to save”, and “strength”.  […]

  26. […] When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden of Eden, it was as his “ezer kenegdo” (Genesis 2:18, 20; ezer appears throughout the Old Testament to describe God’s help in warfare – i.e. the Warrior bit). […]

  27. Andrea says:

    I think arguing scripture is pointless. Only Pharisees cared so much to push their point. I’m insulted by egotistical points that Will insists on making to justify his “authority” over woman. Before you speak on your own behalf and insult the intellect of a humble servant who clearly has done all her homework and still refuses to critically burn you in front of GOD and everyone I find amazing. You are not the “authority” Christ is above His church as He is first loving, and you are not. If women interpreting scripture offends you then research it yourself. You are being crude and your behavior is close minded and unpleasant. God doesn’t care for a proud heart, hence the doom of Satan. If you cant remember how the nature and character of God is reread the bible. Nothing you said was kind, caring or even for reproof, but I will take this opportunity to reprove you. Then read the story of Deborah and Esther. Rahab and Mary. If nothing else God is love! This is who He is. If men don’t follow in Gods footsteps the authority over women you claim is worldly and ungodly. Christians are first to be horrible to each other. Read your word and allow Christ to outweigh selfish motives. If you have the insecurity and need to defile women, your heart is not for the love of Christ at all. So no argument you push has any spiritual fruit. Like the fig tree Jesus cursed.

  28. Andrea says:

    Part 2,
    Genesis 3:6b-7
    She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

    Regardless of anything else “The FALL” was accompanied by the man, who took no “authority” to lead his “family”(wife) whom God gave to him as a “helper”. Adam stood by in the conversation between Satan and Eve, and did NOTHING. In fact, she turned and gave the fruit to him. We don’t see any forbidden remarks by Adam. No corrections (as he is the head of the family) he not only allowed it but condoned it. Next we see him take no responsibility for his singular actions. When questioned by God himself he doesn’t even “man-up” not even for the sake of his wife God so generously provided out of ‘mans’ lowliness of heart. I don’t say this to be critical, NO! More less to give scriptural facts as they are written down by the authority and prompting of The Holy Spirit Himself.
    Genesis 3 cont.
    8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

    9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

    Here you see that “they” heard and “they” hid- equally responsible. Then God did what? Called out the individual He left in charge…”God called to the man”
    Because the course of nature with God is justice. Now Adam knew what God expected (as did Eve) But the family unit takes on different roles.

    Next we see betrayal and blame. Adam as a man takes no responsibility before God for his own actions and doesn’t even think to cover or protect his wife. He basically throws her under the bus. Does any one see the horrible parallel of the fall of the modern family today in this passage. Now I will not blame anyone for individual behavior but I submit to you that if men were the proper leaders in their home and behaved in ways to protect, provide, honor and understand, things would be different in American family settings.

    vs. 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

    Wow, that’s a shame.

    vs.13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
    The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

    Eve fessed up and didn’t follow the poor example of Adam. She confessed her sin right away when God asked. It’s true, Satan is the deceiver and she said “I” ate. Sad that Judgement came. We all pay the price for this.
    Thank Jesus for His unselfish sacrifice. Stop blaming Eve for everything. How ridiculous and scriptural. Amazing there are a greater number of men at the pulpit and this story goes into the hearts and minds of all believers blaming Eve. Adam was standing right there! He may as well picked the fruit and gave it to her.

    If Christ gave His life for the church, and marriage is a refection of that union. Then every man who has the undying servitude to his wife to do the same walks in the obedience of Christ. There is a difference between women and men before Christ but lets not miss what it is.

  29. […] A Suitable Helper (in the Hebrew) […]

  30. Erik Peter says:

    Hi Andrea,
    why are you bringing in this aggressive tone in discriminating against Will (‘none of your arguments has any spiritual fruit’ and you even threaten him with a possible curse by Jesus (the fig tree parable)?
    Did you notice how empathetic Marg (the one originally addressed by Will) reacted on Will’s criticism? Much more pleasent than your harsh reaction…
    I personally don’t agree with some of Will’s simplistic views, but to be fair to the texts of the Bible, one has to admit that there are a number of critical passages on women, especially in Paul’s letters (Eve was created in second place but deceived first, women can kind a ‘redeem’ themselves by raising children, they are not to teach in public…)
    (I know that Jesus obviously has a much more possitive view on women…)
    We might not like those passages and we always have to ask ourselves how much they still apply for us today, but we can’t deny that they are written in the Bible…
    By the way: as I understand Gen 1-3, the main emphasis of the writter/s is that Eve was created f o r Adam and not the other way round.
    Of course, only together they’re complete and created into God’s image (Gen 1).

    Erik from Stuttgart, Germany

    • Marg says:

      Hi Erik Peter,

      The first woman was indeed made to rescue the first man from being alone, but it doesn’t follow that all women are designed to rescue or serve men with no hope of reciprocated help. Certainly Jesus doesn’t teach anything like this.

      Some people cite 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 where Paul says, “Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man.” But they don’t look a few verses down where Paul says, “Nevertheless [or, except that] in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God” (1 Cor. 11:11-12).

      We who are “in the Lord” are mutually dependent on each other. We are to help and serve one another. Service is not just the job of women.

      Moreover, any idea that there is significance in the created order of man first, woman second, is nullified in verse 12 where Paul points out that even though the first woman came from the first man, every other man has been born of a woman. Most importantly, our common source is God. This shared heritage is a strong basis for mutuality and equality.

      Genesis 1 and 2 is about showing how equal and compatible the first man and woman were. The first woman was made from a part, or side (traditionally called a rib), that God took out of the first man, and the man exclaimed that she was “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”

      I believe all humans bear the image of God whether they are married or single, young or old.

      I agree that we should not deny or ignore any verse or passage in the Bible, but, unlike what you seem to be suggesting, most passages, especially those in the New Testament are not unpleasant when understood and interpreted correctly. They are liberating. Paul was not critical of godly, well behaved women. He was only critical of ungodly and disruptive women and men. Rather than deny what Paul and Peter wrote, I have highlighted the passages where the apostles wrote about women.

      I’ve written about 1 Corinthians 11:9 here if you’re interested.

      • Erik Peter says:

        Hi Marg,

        thanks for answering so swiftly and profoundly…
        Of course, I also do see man and woman, ish and isha, as a unity before God (as emphasized in Genesis 1); just like the other pairs of creation, such as sun and moon, heathen and earth, day and night, flora and fauna they are complementary and only together are one, wholly and complete.
        Why then did I emphasize that woman was created for man and not vice versa?
        My impression today is that many women, non-Christian but also Christian, are waiting for the one man who helps them to develop their full potential, who causes them to blossom up
        (which should be a by-product of mutual love and respect, but it´s not the sole function of men).

        Don‘t understand me wrong: there is nothing bad about helping and, as you say, serving each other and I also think that that corresponds to Jesus’ spirit of serving and humility…
        But I do think that some substantial shift has taken place between the idea of the Biblical texts and the expectation many women in the 21st century…
        Don’t you think so?

        Erik Peter

        • Marg says:

          Hi Erik Peter,

          I can’t comment on 21st century women, especially as there is a vast spectrum of attitudes in many different countries and in subcultures within any given country. If there are 21st women I am specifically interested in, it is women in Pakistan (which is why I have many articles in Urdu on my website.) For myself, I grew up in a patriarchal church, but I never sensed that God treated me differently because I was female. I truly believe gender makes little difference in the Kingdom of God, and it shouldn’t make much difference in the community of God’s people (i.e. the church).

          Through the centuries there have been theologians and ministers who have advocated for the acceptance of women as ministers: Boniface (b. 675), Margaret Fell Fox (b.1614) and the Quakers, Count Zinzendorf (b. 1700) and the revived Moravians, John Wesley (b.1703) and some Wesleyans, William and Catherine Booth (both born in 1829) and The Salvation Army, A.J. Gordon (b. 1836), A.B. Simpson (b.1843) and the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Adolf Harnack (b. 1851), Katherine Bushnell (b. 1856), and others. (I don’t necessarily agree with all the theological views of these people.) Unfortunately, their more egalitarian views were rejected by most of their contemporaries who maintained that women were less capable than men or that women must confine themselves to traditional roles within the patriarchal culture. (Note that many of the scholars in this post advocate for women in ministry, and they were born in the first half of the twentieth century.) So not all ideas of equality are new.

          I do think, however, there has been a shift in the interpretation of several Bible verses. Genesis 3:16 is a case in point. In the past most theologians and scholars believed that this verse contained God’s curse on women. But now most believe it is God’s description and prediction of what will happen now that sin has entered the world. They recognise that God only cursed the serpent and the ground, but that he doesn’t curse the man or the woman. Nevertheless men and women still have had to contend with the consequences of the Fall. In the past women were even denied painkillers during labour, because of their interpretation of Genesis 3:16. Today, many Christians realise that Jesus came to free us from the consequences of the Fall as much as possible before the Kingdom comes in it fullness. Like Jesus, we are to relieve pain, bring healing, exercise grace and justice, and bring hope.

          Shalom is the goal. This is achieved through voluntary, mutual submission and service, not one-sided, enforced, gender-based submission and service.

  31. […] Ortlund seems to think that “helper” is a synonym for “assistant.” He goes on to say, “A man, just by virtue of his manhood, is called to lead for God. A woman, just by virtue of her womanhood, is called to help for God.” (p.91) His understanding of “helper” does not take into consideration how the Hebrew word ezer (“helper”) is used in scripture. […]

  32. […] A Suitable Helper (in the Hebrew) […]

  33. […] An article on the Hebrew word translated as “helper” or “help” in Genesis 2:18 and 20 is here. […]

  34. […] The word ezer is used twenty-one times in the Old Testament. Twice it is used in the context of the first woman. Three times it is used of people helping (or failing to help) in life-threatening situations. Sixteen times it is used in reference to God as a helper. Without exception, these biblical texts are talking about a vital, powerful kind of help. Yet when ezer is applied to the first woman, its meaning is usually diminished to fit with traditional and cultural views of women’s roles (Source Here). […]

  35. […] Those who would exclude women from service use the creation narratives as a foundation for their argument, specifically the description of Eve as Adam’s “helper” in Genesis 2. This interpretation mistakenly assumes that “helper” refers to a subordinate role. The Hebrew phrase “ezer kenedgo” actually conveys the sense of a military rescue and would be better translated as “a strong rescuer” or “equal partner”. Such an interpretation also ignores the mutual mandate given to both Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 to have dominion over the earth. […]

  36. Knut AK says:

    Hi Marg, I don’t know how you like that I comment on an old post, but since you have highligted this one yourself, I am taking the chance.

    Lately I have been wondering if maybe a discussion about what kind of helper Eve is, is misguided. Is she a superior, inferior or equal helper? Maybe none of them. Maybe she isn’t a helper at all. I found an interesting article here:
    I am not able to evaluate the claims made about hebrew words in that article. But just from the story itself, it seems to make more sense that God is the helper. After all, the story mentions nothing about what Eve is to help with. One could perhaps take it as implied that she would help in tending the garden. And it isn’t unreasonable to also think that she would help with procreation, Adam certainly cannot procreate alone. But nothing of this is explicitly said. On the other hand, we do see God doing a lot to help. God notices that there is a problem, declares that it isn’t good, and is very active to solve it. Doesn’t that make God the helper?

    It seems to me that rather than being a helper, Eve is the help that God gives. God solves Adam’s problem. Eve does nothing to solve the problem, instead she is the solution.

    Then there is the matter of the rib. I have seen that you are not as enthusiastic about translating «rib», and I cannot say how well this mathces the hebrew. But at least if one translates «rib» – meaning a whole rib, not just a bone – then some very interesting symbolism appears. Eve then «has» the one rib, and Adam is left with the other. They are then towards each other as two ribs. And what is most striking when comparing the two ribs is their mirror symmetry, how they are counterparts to each other, how they mutually complement each other in an equal way. Maybe this should be understood as a physical comment on the word «kenegdo». What is Eve? Maybe she isn’t a helper, but a counterpart to Adam. Maybe one should translate something like «I will give him help in the form of a counterpart to him» and «no help in the form of a counterpart to him was found».

    Hope you find that interesting.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Knut AK,

      I’ve closed comments on a couple of my posts but I don’t mind at all you commenting here. 🙂

      God made Eve to be a help or helper. She helped just by showing up and alleviating Adam’s aloneness. (More on this here.)

      In a way God was the help or helper because he made Eve, and yet the text says that Eve was a “suitable” (equal and compatible) helper for Adam. The Hebrew word kenegdo (really a prepositional phrase) makes is fairly clear that Eve was neither inferior nor superior, and that she was a helper or help to the first human. Ezer can be translated as either help (as a noun) or helper.

      I like the word “counterpart”, but I can’t see the difference if just a bone or rib was taken out of the first human and given to the first woman, or if a chunk or side was taken out. Either way, it’s interesting.

  37. Justaservant says:


    When our Father created other beings male female also including adam then eve, everything had a harmonious peace, natural love and spiritual symphony.

    The Serpant went for eve because she was more vulnerable. The serpent didnt go to Adam due to his reflection of God image/authority. The serpent new that through the woman IT would get straight through to the Man. HE did his own personal calculations of which he should target ADAM OR EVE. The serpent spoke truth with a catch. You WONT DIE. Manipulation smooth talk ungodly charm list goes on. One thing lead to the other. not sure how she convinced him but i guess smoooth talking took place or a simple “hey eat this”! LOL who knows then after he would of said what fruit was this from? then BAM she said the tree we were told not to. Because ADAM LOVED EVE HE STAYED LOYAL TO HER AND FACED THE SORRROWS THAT ARE NOW GOING TO UNFOLD WHICH IS GOING TO CAUSE A RIPPLE EFFECT OF FALLEN GRACE THROUGHOUT HISTORY. AS GOD LOVES ADAM AND EVE, ADAM LOVES EVE, EVE LOVES ADAM BOTH LOVE GOD BUT KNOW THE CONSEQUENCE OF WHAT SORROW IS AHEAD.

    If none of this happened adam could of asked the Father why cant we eat from that tree? why this why that just like a child asks questions about why the sky is blue ect.
    everything being in awseomeness Eve also would of been in a state of awseomeness before she took the apple. things could of been really GOOD but hey it is what it is this is the path hence why Jesus the son of the Father took the assignment of what the Father requested. MALE AND FEMALE GOTA BUILD EACHOTHER UP AND RESPECT EACHOTHER.





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