(Gen. 2:18) Are women merely a “helper” for men?

CLAIM: When God created Adam, he said, “I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18). Many feminist critics of the Bible find this offensive. Are women merely “helpers” for men?

RESPONSE: The term “helper” seems pejorative in the English language, but this is only because of a mistranslation of the original Hebrew. The Hebrew word ‘ezer (“helper”) comes from two roots. (1) ‘-z-r means “rescue, to save” and (2) ‘g-z-r means “to be strong.”[1] These root words are used in Deuteronomy to modify God himself! For instance, “There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your help (‘-z-r), and through the skies in His majesty” (Deut. 33:26; c.f. v.29). Waltke writes, “The word helper, used for God sixteen of the nineteen times it appears in the Old Testament, signifies the woman’s essential contribution, not inadequacy.”[2]

Therefore, this term “helper” should not be seen as condescending; instead, it shows the strength of women in their correspondence to men. Westermann observes, “Gen 2 is unique among the creation myths of the whole of the Ancient Near East in its appreciation of the meaning of woman, i.e., that human existence is a partnership of man and woman.”[3] At the very least, this passage shows that men need the help!

For further reading, see our earlier article “Christianity and Women.”

[1] Kaiser, Walter C. Hard Sayings of the Old Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988. 24.

[2] Waltke, B. K., & Fredricks, C. J. (2001). Genesis: a commentary (p. 88). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Westermann, Claus. Genesis. 2 vols. Neukirchener Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1981–83. 232. Cited in Sailhamer, J. H. (1990). Genesis. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 47). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.