Closely Related:
- What was Eve's role in relation to Adam?

Question : What does "Before" Imply?

  • What is the significance of the word choices, between "going before" in Hebrew as "לפניך", (in Genesis 24:7, Hebrew), and "going before" in Hebrew as "לנגדך", (in Genesis 33:12, Hebrew).
  • Which word implies senses of "Champion who goes before" or "helper submitted before"? Both?
  • Do the word choices correlate to multiple author hypotheses?
  • Did the use of the word change?
  • How were these phrases interpreted in the Septuagint?

Context :

In Genesis 2:18, "Helpmate", (עזר כנגדו | ezer kenegdo, Interlinear) doesn't seem to represent the underlying Hebrew - which is, "helper before him".

NASB, Genesis 2:18 - Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [before] him.”

Should "נגד" be interpreted in the "Champion" sense, as in Joshua 5:13-14?

HEB: אִישׁ֙ עֹמֵ֣ד לְנֶגְדּ֔וֹ וְחַרְבּ֥וֹ שְׁלוּפָ֖ה

NASB, Joshua 5:13-14 - Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that ... a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua ... said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” 14 He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.”

  • But this question is precisely about the meaning of עזר כנגדו, which is the question you have linked to as "closely related"! Either it's a duplicate, and the "Aside" questions are a distraction -- or the "Asides" are the "real" questions, and the main leading one should be removed. Which is it?
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 21:15
  • @Dɑvïd - Yes, you are correct. This question is intended as a word study on the two words for "Before", (לנגדך, and לפניך) - to help inform interpretations of Genesis 2:18. I flipped it all around, as you suggested. Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 21:21
  • Seems to me it's a bit difficult to do a "word study" on something so common and lexically bereft as a preposition. But anyway, I'm confused: the term כנגדו in your "context" (+ title) phrase is literally "according to [what is] in front of him" -- the כ is not present in the compound prepositions you have in what is now the body of the question. (The נגד + כ preposition is unique to Gen 2:18,20. See BDB on נגד –– top of the second column on כנגד.)
    – Susan
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 4:12

1 Answer 1


Koehler Baumgartner (HALOT) lists נֶגֶד here as originally a substantive, not a preposition. So with the 3rd person pronominal suffix, and the כ inseparable preposition, would be something like "according to his opposite" or "according to what is proper for him." See the usage in Proverbs 8:6 as well. Neh 3:16 and 3:26 have a similar meaning with עד, "as far as is opposite."

Evidence for this usage is from Middle Hebrew, which has a meaning of "opposite, corresponding", as well as from Soqotri (An Old South Arabian dialect) which has the same meaning (with a locative, or "directional ה").

The meaning as a preposition with genitive or suffix (which is the normal one found in Gen 24:7) has a meaning of "in front of."

Now, since HALOT lists only 3 places for this susbtantive usage in the Hebrew Bible, many might find it suspect. HALOT does have a tendency to find new roots and meanings where BDB would not. To get to the bottom, one would need to do a full lexical analysis of all 150 instances in the Hebrew Bible.

However, it seems most likely that there is a concrete usage and a metaphorical usage, with the metaphorical usage coming from the concrete. The concrete is what we see in Gen 2:18, 2:20, and Prov 8:6. This has a meaning of opposite or corresponding. The metaphorical usage, which builds from this, has a meaning of opposite (in front of). This is the wide usage as a preposition, as seen in Gen 24:7.

More support for this delineation is found 2 Kings 1:13, Hab 1:3, and Daniel 10:6 where the meaning is very close to "opposite him" or "in front of him." Usages such as Gen 21:16 and Ezek 40:23 (and your Josh citation above) are "opposite" or "on the other side" lend even more support for this delineation.

Therefore I think one could conclude that the concrete usage is in effect in Gen 2:18 and 2:20 meaning "his opposite" or "as is proper for him."

As for the LXX, here is a page from the Gottingen Septuagint of Genesis prepared by John William Wevers, and is the critical edition.

Gottingen LXX 2:18-20a

Gottingen LXX 2:20b-24

As you can see, the LXX renders this phrase κατ᾽ αὐτόν (according to him). This is similar to how we saw the concrete usage above.

What is very interesting, is that the LXX renders this in Gen 2:20 as ὅμοιος αὐτῷ, or "similar to him." You can also see from the critical apparatus at the bottom for verses 18 and 20, that Aquilla and Symmachus (the hexaplaric witnesses to the Septuagint) both changed this. Symmachus tried to match the Hebrew (which is attested by the M for Masoretic in the apparatus) with ἀντικρὺς αὐτοῦ, which is very close to "his opposite". Aquilla did this in verse 20, but in verse 18 has κατεναντι which is kind of the middle ground, meaning "in front of, before, opposite." So this is the metaphorical usage found above, which is based on the concrete usage in the Hebrew.

Wevers notes that the hexaplaric witnesses like to correct back to the Hebrew when they have a chance.

  • It wouldn't let me add another link due to my reputation. Here is a link to the bibliographic info for the Gottingen LXX of Genesis
    – Paul
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 15:03

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