The author continues his quest to prove headship before the fall by citing his sixth reason:
The purpose: Eve was created as a helper for Adam, not Adam as a helper for Eve. After God had created Adam and given him directions concerning his life in the Garden of Eden, we read, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
You’ll notice that he’s not citing Adam’s purpose – “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15) It does not in any way prove male headship. It also doesn’t apply to anyone else – the Garden of Eden is long gone and is no longer the purpose of being a male human to work and take care of it. But somehow, the author believes that the purpose of all female humans is to continue to be helpers fit for the males to whom they’re directed to submit to.
“It is true that the Hebrew word here translated as helper (‘ezer’) is often used elsewhere in the Bible of God who is our helper. (Psalm 33:20, 70:5, 115:9) But helper does not by itself decide what God intended the relationship to be between Adam and Eve. The activity of helping is so broad it can be done by someone who has greater authority, someone who has equal authority, or someone who has lesser authority than the person being helped. For example, I can help my son do his homework. Or I can help my neighbor move his sofa. Or my son can help me clean the garage. Yet the fact remains that in the situation under consideration, the person doing the helping puts himself in a subordinate role to the person who has primary responsibility for carrying out the activity. Even if I help my son with his homework, the primary responsibility for the homework remains his and not mine. I am the helper. And even when God helps us, He still holds us primarily responsible for the activity, and He holds us accountable for what we do.
Helping doesn’t equate to headship and submission. I can’t tell you how many times someone who has helped me had to correct me when I was doing something inefficiently and incorrectly. A good helper doesn’t just blindly obey the commands of the person they are helping. A father just doesn’t give the answers or do the math for the son. A neighbor just doesn’t follow the lead of the guy who owns the sofa when he realizes that it’s not going to fit; he speaks up and says “We won’t be able to move the sofa in unless we remove the door from it’s hinges and carry it in diagonally.” A son might have some brilliant organizational ideas that his father might not have thought of. Helping isn’t is superior and subordinate relationship; to make it into one is to destroy what it means when God helps us and when we help God and what it means for Christians to help each other.
But Genesis 2 does not merely say that Eve functions as Adam’s helper in one or two specific events. Rather, it says that God made Eve to provide Adam with a helper, one who by virtue of creation would function as Adam’s helper. (Genesis 2:18) The Hebrew text can be translated literally as, “I will make for him (Hebrew, lo) a helper fit for him.” The apostle Paul understands this accurately because in 1 Corinthians 11 he writes, “for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake (v. 9, NASB) Eve’s role and the purpose that God had in mind when He created her, was that she would be “for him … a helper.”
In the earlier section, the author asserts that the one who is doing the helping puts himself in a subordinate role to the person who has primary responsibility for carrying out the activity. Then he says that Eve isn’t just a helper on one or two occasions, but by virtue of creation she is made by somebody else to be a helper (without end) and is therefore subordinate (without end.) Now Paul did say something like that – but also said a little bit more:
“A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” – 1 Corinthians 11:7-12, NIV
1 Corinthians 11 has the reputation for being one of the most baffling passages there is – it’s so confusing that mostly Christianity glosses over it or ignores it altogether, but there are some who obey it literally and women chose to wear head coverings as a result. The wild theories about these verses and the meaning of things like ‘because of the angels’ are sometimes somewhat out there. In context, Paul doesn’t understand Eve as ‘the helper’ nor does he suggest that all women, like Eve are to be helpers. Paul reminded the men of a simple fact: they need women, their mothers were women, their sisters are women, their aunts are women, their cousins are women, their wives are women, their daughters are women, and everything – even women, come from God just like they, the men, do.
Yet in the same sentence, God emphasizes that she is not to help him as one who is inferior to him. Rather, she is to be a helper “fit for him” and here the Hebrew word kenegdo means “a help corresponding to him,” that is “equal and adequate to himself.” So Eve was created as a helper, but as a helper who was Adam’s equal. She was created as one who differed from him, but who differed from him in ways that exactly complemented who Adam was.
With so much emphasis on how men and women are different and therefore unequal, he’s had to back off of his original thought – it might have been better to not include the ‘the helper is subordinate’ line of thought, and then not to go to ‘by virtue of creation Eve was made to be a helper’ now that almost suggest that because Eve is the helper, she’s subordinate to Adam, which is more or less what he’s been arguing, but he has to bring her up to the level of an equal somehow. Because they rely on complementary ideas – then as much as they have to admit that what Eve lacks, that’s Adam’s specialty, they would have to admit that what Adam lacks, that’s Eve’s specialty. In as much as she’s a helper fit for him, he’s a helper fit for her. But they don’t go there because that would give him the subordinate status to some degree and that is hardly complimentary. Now there is a whole other sense to ezer kenegdo – and that is ‘a power (or strength) corresponding to the man.‘ … A power or strength similar in character, form, and function to the man, his equal and a match for him in every way. Without equality, she cannot help him nor can he help her. So there isn’t an inherit subordinate status in being a helper. I don’t understand why God would decide to make a helper who cannot help him in the 9 to 5 grind that is working the ground because of different roles – I thought it was established that it was not good that Adam was alone – I don’t think God thought it would be good to create a helper who would have to leave him alone for half the day because their gender roles demand that their ‘work’ would be in distinct and separate areas. In as much as Adam worked the ground, he couldn’t do it alone. the Garden of Eden is much too massive for that – it would take both them working together to accomplish each task; his and hers. But they live in the Garden of Eden, it a place that provides for them, protects them, and nurtures them. There’s really no indication of what it meant to be a helper in the Garden of Eden, no indication of what it meant for Eve to help Adam work the ground or Adam to help Eve with everything else.
Helping in the Bible can also be a complex business – we shouldn’t just assume because we understand what it means to us here and now that we understand what it meant when it was used in the Bible an an ancient context in another culture. Sometimes helping comes with string attached and it can demand reciprocity – the helped to help the helper; not unlike the times somebody ‘helps’ you clean your car windows and expects something in return for it or when somebody ‘helps’ you clear up some red tape and wants a favor in return. We shouldn’t rule out it’s ancient meanings and senses because they are foreign to us in a modern context. It’s also why headship can’t be proven base on the purpose of one woman being created to be a helper while discounting one man’s purpose to keep and work the garden. No where is it suggested that God meant to create the race of men as ‘the helped’ and the women of the same race to be ‘the helpers’ in perpetuity. There is a lot of misreading going in Scriptures to arrive at that conclusion.