Adam’s Helper
January 16, 2023

Yahweh declares Adam alone is “not good” (Genesis 2:18). His solution is a fresh act of making. He deliberated over the creation of man with a “Let us” (1:26). He resorts again to the first person as He declares His intention to create woman: “I will make” (2:18).

“Let us” indicates that ‘elohim is preparing to crown a world of living souls by making His image. “I will make” indicates that YHWH ‘elohim is preparing to crown a world that includes a man by making a woman.

Yahweh intends to make an ‘ezer kenegdo. “Helper” is an accurate translation of ‘ezer, but somewhat unfortunate. The English word has literally been domesticated (“The Help”). In the Bible, ‘ezer and its verb form (‘azar) are most often used in political and military contexts. They’re never used in domestic contexts, never “help around the house”:

*The transJordan tribes cross to help their brothers in battle (Joshua 1:14).

*Gibeon appeals to Joshua, “Come, save, help” (Joshua 10:6).

*Arameans help or ally with Hadadezer against David (2 Samuel 8:5).

*Abishai helps David when he’s threatened (2 Samuel 21:17).

*Joab and Abiathar help Adonijah advance his coup (1 Kings 1:7).

*Ben-Hadad enlists thirty-two kings to help him (1 Kings 20:16).

*1 Chronicles 12 uses the verb seven times, mostly of David’s mighty men (vv. 1, 17-22).

*Isaiah warns Judah not to rely on Egypt for help (Isaiah 30:7).

Yahweh Himself is most often the ‘ezer:

*Yahweh is ‘ezer against Israel’s adversaries (tzar; Deuteronomy 33:7).

*Yahweh is help and shield because He delivers from death and gives food in famine (Psalm 33:20; cf. 115:9-11).

*God is help and deliverer for the afflicted and needy (Psalm 70:5).

*Yahweh’s help exalts those He helps (Psalm 89:19).

*Idols cannot help (‘azar) or provide refuge (Deuteronomy 32:38; cf. 2 Chronicles 28:23).

*Asa (2 Chronicles 14:11) and Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:8) know only Yahweh can help rescue from invasion and siege.

*Yahweh helps orphans (Psalm 10:14; cf. 72:12).

*Judah should not fear, for Yahweh helps (Isaiah 41:13-14; 44:2).

In several passages, ‘ezer puns on ‘oz, “strength” or “power.” In Psalm 28:7a:

A. Yahweh is my strength (‘oziy)

                        B. and my shield;

                        B’. in Him trusts my heart,

A’. and I am helped (ne’ezartiy).

And in Psalm 46:1: “God to us refuge and strength (‘oz), a help (‘ezer) in trouble he is very present.”

‘ezer also puns on zeroa’ (“arm”), an organ of strength. “What a help (‘ezer) you are to the weak,” Job says (26:2), “how you have saved the arm (zeroa’) without strength (‘oz).” Subtract ‘oz from zeroa’, and you’ve got nothing, a meaningless syllable. An ‘ezer makes the zeroa’ truly a zeroa’; a helper arms arms with strength.

Isaiah 63:5 employs the same pun. There is no help (‘ozer; Isaiah 63:5) until “My own arm (zer’iy) brought salvation to Me.”

We can draw some conclusions. A helper puts himself at the service of the helped, but ‘ezer doesn’t necessarily imply subordination or inferiority in general. Some helpers are subordinates (David’s mighty men), some superiors (Yahweh as Helper).

‘ezer doesn’t imply weakness. On the contrary, a helper must be strong in order to help, and the weakness is on the side of those who are helped. An ‘ezer furnishes what’s lacking. To ‘azer is to rescue and save.

A brief word on the modifier, the unique phrase kenegdo. It’s formed from two prepositions, k- (according to, like) and neged (in front of, in the presence of, opposite).

The combination yields a paradox: Adam’s helper will be “like opposite him.” The ‘ezer will be like him, as the animals are not; yet so different as to be opposite. Adam’s ‘ezer will be similar, but across the table, face-to-face.

Yahweh promises to make another powerful, glorious being, also made in His own image. Adam’s ‘ezer won’t provide additional Adamic power; her power will be complementary – just as powerful, but a different power. And a necessary power, for Adam cannot be “good” or whole without her.

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