I had the word “helpmate” thrown at me the other day by a woman who was schooling me in my “biblical” role as a woman. I did not bother to debate her, however, since I had already laid out my viewpoint and she was deaf to it. Any further pearls tossed her way would likely be trampled.
But, since the word “helpmate” is still being used, erroneously, let’s deconstruct:
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18
The word for helper here is the Hebrew word ‘ezer. It is the same word translated as help in the following Psalms:
Psalm 33:20: We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
Psalm 70:5 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Lord, do not delay.
Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 124:8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Did you catch that the word implies divine help?
God is our helper, and He is certainly not our servant. So when did we twist divine help into subservient help?
Some translations call woman a “suitable” helper; King James calls her a “help meet”.
The Hebrew word translated “suitable” or “help meet” is neged. The definition: “in front of, in the sight or presence of, before the eyes of, face to face”.
In other words, woman is divine help that man can see. She is face-to-face help he can look in the eye; divine help that is standing right in front of him. Scripture has more to say about that, but I’ll save it for another post.
In the meantime, I like Rachel Held Evans’ description of the kind of help she is to her husband because it describes my hubby and me:
The teaching that men are to be the “spiritual leaders” of their homes is found nowhere in Scripture, and yet I—along with far too many young evangelical women—spent hours upon hours fretting over this in college, worrying I’d never find a guy who was more knowledgeable about the Bible than I, who was always more emotionally connected to God than I, who was better at leading in the church than I, and who consistently exhibited more faithfulness and wisdom than I. (In fact, under this paradigm, I came to see many of my gifts as liabilities, impediments to settling down with a good “spiritual leader”!)
Well guess what. I never found such a person. I never found a spiritual “leader.” Instead, I found a spiritual companion to travel with me on the journey of faith, for better or worse, in good times and bad, in times of spiritual wealth and in times of spiritual poverty. Dan isn’t expected to always be the strong one while I am always the weak one. Instead, we cheer each other on, help each other up, and challenge each other to do better. Sometimes we walk side by side, moving along at a quick pace. Sometimes we help each other over boulders and fallen trees. Sometimes I’m leading the way; sometimes Dan is. Sometimes I carry him and sometimes he carries me. The journey of faith is far too treacherous and exciting and beautiful to spend it looking at the back of another person’s head. Jesus leads us down the path, and we tackle it together, one step at a time. (You can read the rest of her post here.)
The church has been promulgating an erroneous understanding of the role of women for far too long, but thank God He is calling many of us to take a fresh look at the Scriptures. So look, and before you utter the phrase “help mate” or “help meet”, understand that it means divine, face to face help. Otherwise, a whole lot of men, marriages and churches will continue to miss out on the divine wisdom God has given them. And that would be a pity.
© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014