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 – What does an ‘ezer do today? How does a woman exercise her role as ‘ezer in a world that operates after the Fall, a world where men seem to be in charge? The answer is actually distributed throughout Scripture if you look for it. Now that we know what God’s original intention was in the design of the ‘ezer, we should expect to find ‘ezer actions displayed wherever God’s redemptive activity reaches across the chasm created by the Fall. And when we look, that’s what we see.
Consider the women that the Scripture designated as role models. They don’t have the same prominence as men, but they are crucial nevertheless. You might reflect on the lives of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Hagar (isn’t it interesting that the first woman after the Fall to have a face-to-face encounter with God is an Egyptian slave?). You could consider Miriam, Deborah, Ruth and Esther. You should certainly spend some time reading the love poetry of the woman who is the principal spokesperson in the Song of Songs. You might reflect on all those unnamed women who acted on behalf of the prophets. You certainly must include Hannah. Even the rabbis consider her prayer to be the epitome of true prayer before God. And how about the mother of Moses or the valiant woman of Proverbs 31?
When you have catalogued the women of the Hebrew Scriptures, take a look at the women of the Apostolic writings (what we call the New Testament). Look at their behavior, their courage, their daring, their unwavering support, their evangelism, their roles as teachers, apostles and prophetesses. Then think about the way that Yeshua interacted with women. His behavior is the standard for godly, responsible relationship in the redeemed community. Did He ever act with superiority over women? Did He ever diminish them, disparage them, refuse to include them, ignore them or act as though they had nothing of value to bring to the community? Of course not! In fact, one of the distinctive marks of Yeshua’s ministry was the fact that He deliberately included women. No rabbi of the first century would have done this. Mary and Martha both call Yeshua Rabboni. This is a term of deep emotional endearment, a way of expressing their devotion to a man who saw them from God’s original perspective. And, of course, there is Mary. Her response to the angel’s announcement is a paradigm of submission to the will of God regardless of the consequences for her reputation, status and family honor. No man shows more devotion to the Lord than Mary.
Finally, we come to the remarks of Paul and Peter. Now most of us have at some time heard a sermon extolling the “God-ordained” hierarchy of men and women. Some of us have heard men teach that women have a restricted role in the redeemed community. Theologians carefully explain that this does not diminish the woman’s spiritual standing before God. It simply delegates only certain roles and positions to men. Unfortunately, our exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures leaves us with this critical question: Is it possible for Paul and Peter to do violence to the Hebrew Scriptures? Is it reasonable to conclude that these men, whose only “Bible” was the Old Testament, were so ignorant of the teaching found there that they could endorse anything except the vision of the redeemed community? Could they have missed the impact of God’s design of the ‘ezer?
Let’s be frank. Paul knew his “Bible” far better than you or I. He was a native Hebrew speaker. He was a Torah scholar. He probably memorized the entire Hebrew Scriptures. He spent three years being personally taught by the risen Lord. Is it reasonable to think that he would say things that contradict what the Hebrew Scriptures say? When we interpret Paul’s letters or Peter’s remarks without the foundation of the Hebrew Scripture, we are the ones who do violence to the text. There is simply no way that these men could have proposed or endorsed anything that was inconsistent with God’s Word. You cannot understand the New Testament without first understanding the Old Testament.
We need to be Hebrew thinkers before we can be Greek theologians.
Today you will have an opportunity to either act like an ‘ezer or allow an ‘ezer to play the role she was designed to perform. If you fail to act or fail to allow, you will do violence to God’s design. If you fail to act or fail to allow, you will endorse the Fallen world, not the redeemed community. It’s up to you. Today is the day to be Hebrew about it.
Topical Index: ‘ezer, helper, Rabboni