A Suitable Helpmeet

Did you cringe when you saw that title?  Or were you nodding in agreement and anxious to read this post?

This is a very common phrase in many circles today.  It is misused often to “put women in their place”… especially by the men who want them there.  It is taught from pulpits that this is what Paul is saying.  The purpose of this post is not to debate what Paul teaches on the subject, but rather, to see what is found in the Hebrew Scriptures.  It is my firm belief that anything taught by Paul or any other writer of the “New Testament” must be found in the Hebrew Scriptures first… otherwise there is a new religion being proclaimed.

If we go to the very beginning in the book of Genesis, we can see where the modern terminology of help-meet has come from.  It is found in Genesis 2:18… and it says “YHWH said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'”   So the two words in Hebrew, ezer kenegdo, have been translated as “suitable helper”.  Let’s see if this is the best interpretation.

The Hebrew word Ezer means – help or aid.  Most of the references to this word in Scripture are referring to YHWH coming to someone’s aid.  According to todays world, would we call Him a helper?  It almost has a belittling tone when we think of it that way, doesn’t it?  This is more like what we would say to a toddler that was helping put away dishes.  They are a “good helper.”  Someone coming to our aid like Yah did would be more like a warrior, defender, advocate, protector, hero/heroine, vindicator, shield and defense! Is that what comes to mind when you hear the word “helpmeet”?  Me either.

And what about the other word: “kenegdo“?  While it can be translated as suitable, the deeper meaning is that she will be the man’s match — literally, “as in front of him”. Victor Hamilton says  – “[Kenegdo] suggests that what (G-d) creates for Adam will correspond to him. Thus the new creation will be neither a superior nor an inferior, but an equal. The creation of this helper will form one-half of a polarity and will be to man as the South Pole is to the North Pole” (emphasis added).

"She will be his strongest ally in pursuing Yah's purposes and his first roadblock when he veers off course."
(from a blog post by Carolyn Custis James)

Now I ask you, after reading the definition of these words, do you think “helpmeet” is the best definition?  Does it leave you feeling that a woman is to be a defender, warrior, advocate, protector, heroine, vindicator or shield and defense to her husband?

How would this look in a marriage?

Would a woman who is a defender and advocate for her husband belittle him to others?  I think not.

Would she allow him to physically or emotionally abuse her or her family?  Absolutely not.

Would she allow someone/something else to come in and destroy the marriage and/or her husband?  Not if it was in her power to stop it.

Are you getting the picture?

This woman is strong, bold and courageous.  She knows who she is.  She knows her husband and what he needs.  She knows where his weakness lies and she comes to his aide in those areas.  She does not misuse this knowledge.  She does not order him around or manipulate him.  She values him and he values her.  She brings something to him that he is missing… a different perspective.  Intuition.  Femininity… and he values it.

One beautiful picture of this that I saw recently was at a wedding this summer.  The bride walked around the groom seven times.  Once I learned the reason, I realized how beautiful it was. This is a Jewish wedding tradition and here is the reason from Chabad .org

The bride, by circling the groom, expresses her awesome power over him.

The seven circuits are reminiscent of the biblical story of Joshua leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. They came to Jericho, a city known as the key to the land – if they could conquer it, the land would be theirs. But Jericho was protected by a big wall. There seemed to be no way in.

G‑d commanded the Israelites to walk around the walls seven times. As soon as they did, a miracle happened – the walls came tumbling down and they were able to conquer the city.

Similarly, every man has a wall built around his heart. Men are taught to hide their feelings, to create an impression of impenetrability, to make it seem that they have it all figured out. Men create elaborate defenses to hide any sign of weakness or vulnerability, and fiercely guard their deepest secret – that inside they are sensitive and meek, simple and soft.

But a wise woman can pierce this defensive wall. If she surrounds her husband with the protective aura of her love, if she envelops him with affection, and if she makes him feel that he is the anchor, the center, the focal point of her life, then he can feel safe and comfortable. When that happens, the walls protecting his heart come tumbling down. Then she has conquered him – all of him.

Once you find a good man, encircle him with your love, and he’ll be all yours.

THIS is a warrior wife.  The valiant woman described in Proverbs 31.  She is focused on her husband and he on her.

Here’s what I am not saying:  I am not saying that a woman is greater than a man.  I am not saying a woman can or should do everything a man does.  Men and women are different.  Both physically and emotionally.  Period.  We have different chromosomes.  Science cannot change that.  Belief cannot change that.  We think differently.  Both men and women should be appreciated for who and what they are and what they bring to a marriage.  Not belittled.  Not crushed.  Not lorded over.  And all of this is assuming that each partner in a marriage needs to be equally thoughtful, loving, kind, respectful and cherishing the other person.  It is a partnership, not a dictatorship.

What is one thing you can do this week to put this into practice in your marriage?  How can you become the ezer kenegdo’s that you are intended to be: defending your husband, being his advocate, building him up to be the man he is intended to be?  We would love to hear what you do and your husband’s response!


Challenging Times

I know someone who needs prayer.  This is a real person and I will tell her story in a parable.  I will call her L for the sake of anonymity.

L is married to a man who is a slave to a very demanding slave owner.  This owner sometimes requires many late nights and recently even demanded an overnight shift.  In the past the slave owner has taken so much out of her husband that he comes home and sleeps just to get up and go serve the slave owner again the next day. The owner is continually asking for more of him, no matter how much he gives.  He is never happy with the time he gets.

Her husband sometimes wants to be released from this slave owner, but it is extremely difficult.   This slave owner has so much power over him that L’s husband is often under the slave owners influence even when he is at home.  When he has tried leaving on occasion, he is almost always caught when he goes anywhere near where the slave owner or the slave owners’ friends linger.  Sometimes when he is caught, they will keep him away from home for hours and L doesn’t even know where he is.  She imagines that the slave owner has killed him or that he has taken so much out of her husband that he has passed out somewhere.

The children of L and this slave of course are greatly affected by their father’s slavery.  Not only because of the time demands, but often the slave owner will take their fathers money and force him to spend it on things that interest the slave owner rather than L’s family.  At times their father comes home acting like the slave owner because they have been together so much.  When the slave owner is especially demanding, their father is miserable and unpleasant.  They see the wickedness of the slave owner, but being children, they don’t know what to do about it.  Sometimes they become confused and wonder why there isn’t some way their father can just leave the slave owner and spend more time with them.

This slave owner is very sneaky.  When he is first looking for slaves, he dresses up as an innocent old man and plays on their emotions, so they go with him.  Then suddenly they realize they have been trapped and it’s too late… or at least he tries to make them think so.

Please pray that L will be strengthened by God to fight for her husband.  Please pray that her husband can find the Way to be released from the power of this slave owner.  Please pray that their children will not become bitter about their situation.   Please pray that their children are protected from the slave owner and that he is unable to deceive them.