And said YHWH Elohim, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make for him a helper corresponding to him.” Genesis 2:18
Helper – At last we are ready to look at ‘ezer. We are only now prepared because we have established that woman is not subordinate to man, that woman is the crown jewel of creation and that woman plays a special, deliberately engineered role in the human social fabric. We must also acknowledge that in the Hebrew text the procreative function of woman is not yet part of the story. The recognition of her life-continuing role comes after the Fall. In fact, when she is finally named by Adam, she is given a name which implies her primary role in the continuation of the species. But at this point, she is ‘ezer, God’s word for her identity. Her divine identity stands apart from her sexuality.
‘ezer shows up in other texts in the Scripture. It’s found in Exodus 18:4, Deuteronomy 33:7 and Psalms 33:20, 70:5, 115:9 and 146:5. In about half of the seventeen occurrences, ‘ezer is used to describe God’s relationship to Israel. That helps us understand why God would choose this word to describe the woman. She is to play a role analogous to God’s role with His chosen ones. Does that help you see why she is the capstone of creation? It should. It should also cause you some real psychic distress. If this is God’s engineered design, then how come virtually the entire history of the world, including Israel’s history, has operating on the assumption that women are subservient to men? How come we seem to have it backwards?
Let’s start with the characteristics of ‘ezer. What functions does God perform as the ‘ezer of Israel?
Exodus 18:4 – God delivers from the hand of the oppressor. He rescues from danger.
Deuteronomy 33:7 – God assists, supports and reinforces against enemies.
Psalm 33:20 – God is our shield, delivering us from death and showering us with lovingkindness (hesed – a much bigger concept than this single word can convey).
Psalm 70:5 – God provides in time of affliction and need
Psalm 115:9 – God is the one that Israel must trust (see also Psalm 115:11)
Psalm 146:5 – When God is ‘ezer, Israel is blessed and has hope
You don’t suppose that the use of ‘ezer for woman is accidental, do you? ‘ezer isn’t a common word in Scripture and it is definitely associated with the role God plays. It’s not the word for “wife” or the typical word for “woman”. Perhaps God’s choice of this word is another indicator of the capstone of His creative majesty. He not only makes a person through whom an entire species of voluntary worshippers will exist, He also positions her as the final statement of the divine image in the flesh. She is to play the same role with her man as He plays with His people. That includes deliverance from oppressors, rescue from danger, assistance, support and reinforcement, shielding from death, blessing within a covenant relationship (hesed), provision in difficult times, trustworthiness and hope. No wonder she is the best for last.
Ah, but it didn’t turn out that way, did it? All you ‘ezerim, are you fulfilling your designed roles? Are you living side-by-side with your husbands as the physical representative of the divine image? Can he see God in you?
The woman was engineered to be the ‘ezer. When she is not allowed to fulfill this divinely designed DNA of existence, terrible things happen. And most of the time, it is the man in the relationship who prevents the woman from being the crown of creation. Maybe we all need to renew our vows – according to Hebrew.
Topical Index: ‘ezer, capstone, helper