“It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.”
What is a Suitable Helper?
More times than I can count, I have heard a woman’s role is the “help meet” of her husband. I have seen this explained in a variety of ways. In one account, an author stated that being a help meet was submission to him as the head of the house. She even went as far as to suggest that when you make dinner, you make what he likes whether you like it or not. Others would contend that being a help meet is being the caretaker of the home and children, while he is off at work. There is a designated line of duties if you are the man, and another set if you are the woman.
Helpmeet is a word often substituted for “suitable helper”. Even this doesn’t really clear up what this term actually means. So, let’s look at the original text.
Helpmeet = ezer k’engegdo
Ezer is used twenty one times in the scriptures, and most commonly used to describe God’s relationship to man; which is strength. It is also used eight times as “savior”. Was Eve a gift of strength to Adam? Was she a savior to Adam? In addition to these two definitions, a third is “to rescue”. Was Eve a rescuer of Adam? This is a pretty interesting line of questions considering that Eve presented the forbidden fruit to Adam. Let’s keep going…
K’enegdo is used once in Scripture, which is Genesis 2:18. This presents a bit of a speedbump, as we have no other Scripture to test it against in order to clarify it’s definition. When we begin to look at extra-biblical texts, we can narrow it down to “meet for”, “fit for”, and “in front of, opposite”. That last one, for clarity sake is like looking at one’s reflection in the mirror. When I am facing a mirror, and I move my left hand… my reflection appears to be moving it’s right hand. The same image, but yet slightly different.
Have you ever heard a Biblical scholar or Pastor refer to men and women as “equal but different”? If so, they are referring to this latter definition of k’enegdo. This we can test against the Scriptures because we know that man was made in the image of God, but are not God. Genesis continues to point out after both Adam and Eve were created that both were made in the image of God. In applying this definition to Adam and Eve, we would get that same result. Alike, but different.
Putting this altogether, ezer + k’enegdo = Helper Reflection. Eve’s job description was to be a helper to whom she reflected, Adam.
So, how do we help Adam?
Coming from a divorced family, I really didn’t know how to be married or a helper to my husband. I went to the Scriptures to figure this out, landing on Proverbs 31 “The Wife of Noble Character”. She was up before the sun, stayed up after the sun went down. She was a home manager, business owner, cooking and caring for the kids, etc. So many things, and I tried so hard to be this check list of a wife. I also failed miserably.
As I began to find more Christian women to bring into my circle of friends, each had their notion of what being a help meet looked like. Many of these notions lined up with gender stereotypes of what women should do, how they should behave, etc. I remember having a conversation with a friend about her daughter’s hair. She was complaining about how unmanageable the hair was, when I suggested to just cut it short. She replied she couldn’t cut it because her husband liked their daughters with long hair. I chuckled and retorted, “Unless he’s willing to do her hair every morning, I’d cut it and not think twice about it.”
I considered this woman a very godly woman, and a good wife. Our conversation stuck with me for the rest of the day. When my husband arrived home from work, I requested that we have a talk. I wanted to know if I was overstepping my bounds as a wife. Was I doing things without asking him, things that he wanted to have a voice/opinion/say over? There were two things he said to me:
- Tending to the kids is part of your job at home, do whatever helps your job to be easier. If it costs more than your normal budget, check with me first to make sure we have the money that week or if we need to put it off until the next pay period.
- I’m gone all day working to provide for this family. I don’t want to be weighed down by questions and decisions you are perfectly capable of making on your own. I need you to do those things for me, it helps me to not have so much on my plate.
If I am to be a helper of my husband, I have authority to do what makes my tasks easier and what can ease his burden. I realized right in that moment that being a “suitable helper” or “help meet” would look different from home to home. My friend’s husband was not wrong, nor was mine. We were each created to be the helper of our husband, in whatever way that works best for our home. The stereotypical gender roles have little to do with it.
You Complete Me
In the movie Jerry McGuire, there is a scene where Jerry confesses his love by saying “You, complete me.”. This says it all, in 3 simple words. If we are a reflection, but different… it means that just as much as we are the same, we are also slightly different. We may have different gifts and talents, and that is ok. My strengths (ezer) complete his weaknesses, and vice versa. I can come to the rescue (ezer) in the areas he drowns in. I can save (ezer) him in the areas where he lacks.
I complete him, because I am fit for (k’enegdo) him. I can meet (k’enegdo) his needs. I am capable of being his reflection (k’enegdo) even though I am not a 100% copy.
Instead of assuming what a “helpmeet” would look like, we have instead sat down as a couple and talked about our individual needs, relationship, and home. How do I better help my husband, and also how does he best help me? While in our home my husband may leave all decisions regarding the daily life of our children to my decision making, in another home a husband may wish to be more involved. Neither are wrong, just a different take on the same principle.
I think the New Testament couple Priscilla and Aquila is a great example of helpmeets, they were co-laborers as a couple in sharing the Gospel. It says that when they encountered Apollos, they invited him into their home and they taught him. This was a couple working together, each bringing their own strengths into this teaching relationship with Apollos.
When I speak about my husband and myself, in terms of The Great Commission, we both have strengths. My husband has a gift for Evangelism, and I have a gift for Apologetics. Together, he is the fisherman and I am the one that process the catch. Equal, but different. Completing one another, helping one another. Our gifts don’t compete with each other, there is no trumping or besting of one another, no pushing the other down because I am better at something or he is. Instead we are co-laboring, lifting each other up.
“Two are better than one because they have good reward for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Instead of sitting in a blanket, generalized, position based on what others define as “helpmeet”, instead look to where God has positioned YOU in your marriage. How do YOU help YOUR husband best?
What does this have to do with Deborah and Jezebel? Deborah, as a godly woman, would have understood that her ministry to her husband/family was important. She would have understood how they worked together in God’s purposes. Whereas, Jezebel was not respectful of being a helpmeet. She was self serving, just as Ahab was. Neither was looking out for the others interests, but instead their own. Jezebel wasn’t helping Ahab to true greatness, but instead contributing to his corruption.