Monday, October 08, 2012

Women are Suitable Helpers to Men

Genesis 2:18 - 
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

See? ;)

Of course, suitable is better translated "corresponding to" and helper actually means savior (more on that below). And contextually, the arrival of the woman was so that the "not good" thing that popped up in creation could be remedied and turned into "very good." 

Let me back up a chapter. At each stage of creation (except the water/chaos separation of Day 2, which I'll address in a future post) God called the world-forming work that was accomplished "good." Light? Good. Plants? Good. Moon and Sun? Good. Water creatures, winged creatures? Good. Wild beasts? Good. Humanity (male and female) made in God's image to cap it all off? Very good.

That's Genesis 1, the big picture of creation. Genesis 2 zooms in on an event that occurred in 1:26. God makes human beings. Makes us from the same stuff as cattle and beasts, in fact - dirt (2:7 and 2:19). We're all "creatures" - the term that's translated as "living being" in 2:7 is the same term rendered "living creature" in 2:19. 

But here's the thing, when the man is made from dirt something occurs that is "not good" in all of God's good creation - he is alone. Alone? He's got fellow dirt creatures to keep him company! Ah, not the same thing. We are different dirt creatures from the beasts of the field. So what does God do? God makes a companion that will salvage the situation. Woman.

Note this helper (the woman) "saves" the day and is a companion that corresponds to the man. The word helper is used in Psalm 121 (and elsewhere) in connection with Yahweh. "Where does my help (my salvation) come from? My help comes from Yahweh, the maker of heaven and earth." The woman provides the same kind of help in Gen 2:18. Without her, man is in deep doo-doo.

(Just to belabor the point, the way modern English speakers use the word helper has nothing to do with how the bible uses it. Today the word implies a subordinate, some auxiliary or assistant that plays second fiddle to "the Man." I was a plumber's helper during seminary - and believe me, I did the dirty work and got paid a pittance while the master plumber made the cash. The bible uses the word helper to indicate a work of extreme and salvific intervention.)

So Woman is a companion who saves Man from "not good," transforming the situation into "very good." But wait, there's more! It's how God makes woman that is so superb - it's a stroke of pure genius and demonstrates male/female image equality and co-regency (a la 1:26-29). God takes one of man's ribs and fashions woman from the rib. Love it. It means we're made of the same stuff. It doesn't mean "man" was made first and "woman" second. Remember, Gen 2 is a zoom lens on a section of Gen 1 - and explains how the male/female is one creature! One living being. If God wanted to emphasize male domination he would have formed another mound of mud. But men and women are of the same stuff as 1:23, 24 affirms.

Women are suitable helpers! Corresponding companions who saved the day way back at creation, prompting God to declare it all very good.
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