(Genesis 2:20, Masoretic) וַיִּקְרָ֨א הָֽאָדָ֜ם שֵׁמֹ֗ות לְכָל־הַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּלְעֹ֣וף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּלְכֹ֖ל חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה וּלְאָדָ֕ם לֹֽא־מָצָ֥א עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדֹּֽו׃

(DRB) And Adam called all the beasts by their names, and all the fowls of the air, and all the cattle of the field: but for Adam there was not found a helper like himself.

Virtually all of the English, Greek, and Latin translations translate מצא in this verse as "was found" (passive voice). I find this very surprising, because מצא is in the Qal 3ms form, and the Qal corresponds to the active voice. Normally the Niphal is used for passive voice, so one would expect to see נמצא in Genesis 2:20. What is going on?

Would a more literal translation be, "for Adam he did not find a helper like himself."?

For your answers, please do not just copy and paste long lexicon entries or parallel bible versions unless they are relevant to your argument. I have already referenced the BDB and Gesenius's Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, as well as the numerous parallel translations on Biblehub.

2 Answers 2


Reviewing the context of the passage might help us ascertain what's going on, and therefore what the 'literal' translation ought to be. As such, I think a review of the immediate context is in order. My translation follows.

And the Lord God said: It is not good for the man to be alone: I will make him a helper for a counterpart. And the Lord God, forming from the earth every kind of beast of the field, and every kind of bird of the air, brought them to the man to see what he would call them: that whatever he called them might be their name. And the man gave names to every animal, and every bird of the air, and every beast of the field. But he found no helper for the man, that was his counterpart. So the Lord God caused a deep slumber to fall upon the man: and he slept. And he took one of his ribs, and closed the place up with flesh. And the Lord God made the rib which he took from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man. And the man said: At last, bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh! Let her be called Woman, since she was taken from Man. Which is why a man leaves his father and mother, and cleaves to his wife: and the two become one flesh.

The portions I have italicized, I think, are best understood as parenthetical, or 'commentary,' to the main narrative.

The active "he found" follows from "the Lord God said ... I will make him a helpmate..." and not from "And the man gave names..." therefore, the making passive of the active "he found" must be stylistic in nature (i.e. due to the distance between the governing noun agent ("the Lord God") and what continues after the 'parenthetical' section.

If the passive was meant, it would, as you have suggested, have used the word namisa; and if "Adam/the man found no..." was meant, it would have said, presumably, "w'lo misa ha'adam..."

This is my humble assessment.


According to Joüon and Muraoka,1

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Likewise, Nordheimer wrote,2

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וּלְאָדָם לֹא מָצָא עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ

Therefore, the active voice “and for Adam one did not find a help meet like him” may be understood as the passive voice “And for Adam a help meet was not found like him.”


        1 Joüon; Muraoka, p. 543, § 155b
        2 Nordheimer, Book 3, p. 46, § 763


Joüon, Paul; Muraoka, Tamitsu. Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. 3rd Reprint. 2nd ed. Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2011.

Nordheimer, Isaac. A Critical Grammar of the Hebrew Language. New York: Wiley, 1842.

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