3

I heard in a sermon podcast I was listening to, this claim:

Now the word used for helper when describing Eve is the same word used to describe God in the way he helps Israel

This being in Genesis 2:18 (NIV):

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

The point being that 'helper' is not a pejorative, but is highly honorable.

Can anyone confirm or deny this?

9

The key clause in Genesis 2:18 is

אֶעֱשֶׂהּ־לּוֹ עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ
ʾeʿĕśeh-lô ʿēzer kᵉnegdô
I will make for him a helper fit for him

This noun (עֵזֶר, ʿēzer, the same root that the name "Ezra" comes from) appears 21× in the Hebrew Bible.1

It is indeed used for Israel's help from the LORD, unambiguously, e.g., in

  • Ps 33:20[esv] Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
  • Ps 121:2[esv] My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (cf. 124:8)

Here's the Brown-Driver-Briggs entry for it:2

BDB entry for עזר (n)

As that entry puts it, ʿēzer is not used exclusively of the LORD, but it is "especially" used of the LORD.

So, it is true that the same term that Genesis 2:18, 20 uses to refer to the "woman" (אִשָּׁה, ʾiššâ, Gen 2:22) made to go with the "man" (אָדָם, ʾādām), also refers to the LORD being a "helper" for Israel. Obviously it is not an exclusive relationship (i.e., not an exclusively "theological" term). Thus it would not be true to claim that it is, itself, a term of honour -- that comes with context.


Notes

  1. Gen. 2:18, 20; Exod. 18:4; Deut. 33:7, 26, 29; Ps. 20:3; 33:20; 70:6; 89:20; 115:9-11; 121:1-2; 124:8; 146:5; Isa. 30:5; Ezek. 12:14; Dan. 11:34; Hos. 13:9.
  2. The little dagger symbol at the beginning of the entry indicates that all occurrences are cited.
7
  • Haha, I was in the middle of editing that typo when you did. Good answer.
    – Dan
    May 24 '14 at 13:05
  • @Daи - ha! I'm sure there are more (sadly!).
    – Dɑvïd
    May 24 '14 at 13:06
  • I'm having a hard time not seeing עֵזֶר as inherently a "term of honour" relatively speaking from the perspective of the one being helped (sarcastic use being an exception). If one considers oneself aided, there is a form of honor given simply in acknowledging that. To not feel helped has a dishonor associated with it (e.g. Isa 30:5). Now absolutely speaking, thieves or murderers helping each other is not honorable, because the act is not honorable (e.g. Ezek 12:14); but they would still relatively hold their helpers in some form of honor by acknowledging them as helping. Thoughts?
    – ScottS
    May 25 '14 at 11:52
  • 4
    @ScottS - I can see the line you're taking, but that's not how I understand semantics to work. "Relatively inherent" is a way of saying it depends on context, no? And your "relative/absotlute" distinction is just another way of saying there are different contexts. The quality of "honour" isn't conveyed by ʿēzer, but by context (cf. Is 30:5; Ezk 12:14; Dn 11:34). Contrast, e.g. hādār, which does bear this nuance. For more, see D. Geeraerts, Theories of Lexical Semantics; Cruse, Meaning in Language.
    – Dɑvïd
    May 25 '14 at 14:40
  • 1
    @Ruminator what I'm saying is that by merely labeling someone as a helper, a person is by default/definition showing them the "honor" of recognizing they helped (or will help). If someone had helped, but no one ever recognized them by even labeling them as a helper, then yes, no recognition would have come. The OP stated "The point being that 'helper' is not a pejorative, but is highly honorable," of which I would say the term is not necessarily "highly" honorable, but still honorable at some level as opposed to pejorative.
    – ScottS
    Sep 27 '18 at 15:27
1

I think you're focus in this verse is misplaced. Genesis 2:18 quotes G-d as saying that he will make make man a "helper corresponding to him" (Art Scroll translation) but the Hebrew says "ezer k'negdo" which literally means a "helper against him.". The Babylonian Talmud's commentary on this verse (Yevamot 63a), and Rashi's commentary, explain that the Torah is saying that she will be a helper when he is worthy, and that she will be an adversary when he. Is not worthy. It is the wife's obliation to support her husband when he seeks to do what is right and oppose him when his evil inclination leads him instead. At those times she helps him most by opposing him. That G-d does the same is obvious, but Judaism understands that women are inherrently more spiritual than men and therefore are first line of defense before our mistakes equire Divine. Intervention.

2
  • Can you please cite the sources you mention so we can see what is actually being said rather than your interpretation? And can you show from a lexicon or commentary what "ezer k'negdo" means in the Art Scroll and in the Hebrew? It isn't that I think you are lying it is that this site requires primary sources so we don't play the "telephone game" where the original message gets distorted by interpretation. Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 25 '18 at 9:40
  • Also, can you please show some evidence that "Judaism understands that women are inherrently more spiritual than men" and the wife's alleged role as "opponent" if she disagrees with her man? Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 25 '18 at 9:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.