Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The Help

Adam had a job to do.

Further, he had his job before Eve was in the world, and before the need for her was ever established. The Genesis account reads, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” While God undoubtedly had other things in mind when he created man, the very first task to which he set his new creation was the working and keeping of a garden.

Adam’s sole recorded bit of moral direction from God in the unfallen world also preceded Eve’s arrival.

Not Good

Eve was provided later, in recognition that something else was required to achieve the purpose God had in mind for mankind. How much later we do not know, but at some point God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.”

The word “alone” appears in our English Bibles but not in the original Hebrew, which, as best as I can make it out, actually says something like “It is not good for the man to be like this.” Notwithstanding the famous line from the movie Jerry Maguire (“You complete me”), the idea of Adam’s emotional loneliness or feelings of inadequacy is an inference occasionally drawn by preachers. It is not at all explicit in the original language.

Thus, if we take this statement to mean that any individual male on his own must necessarily be lonely, sad or discontented in his lot, we are saying more than the scripture says. The scripture does not read, “It is not good for Adam that he should be alone,” though it is not impossible that was Adam’s sense of it too. But not all males since have felt a need for female companionship. The Lord Jesus taught that “there are eunuchs who have been so since birth,” equipped to serve God in the world without the need of a partner. He also taught that “some have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,” the implication being that there are things of higher import in this world than companionship and domesticity, and some men (and women too) gladly pursue the first at the cost of the second.

Likewise, if we hypothesize that women were created ONLY to respond to a felt need of men or ONLY for man’s greater happiness, we are saying considerably more than scripture says.

“The Help”

What we can say without stretching the language of the passage was that Adam working by himself at the job God had given him to do was a suboptimal situation. The job would have gone better with more than one person at it, and perhaps with more than one type of person at it. So God made the woman as a “help”. She was not provided primarily to make Adam feel less lonely, though she may have done that too, but to facilitate the ongoing accomplishment of his task. God did not make him a “friend”, a “companion” or a “soulmate” or even a handy and pleasurable means of propagating the species, though the woman served all those purposes and probably more. Rather, God made a “help” for him.

Now, being the “help” is not of necessity a degrading thing. True, God gave the original mission and the original moral direction to the man, but there is no suggestion that the woman was Robin to his Batman, the expendable sidekick who may or may not appear in any given tale at the discretion of the writer. When God said, “It is not good,” it may or may not have been “not good” for Adam personally, or for any individual man to have a woman in his life. But what is evident is that as a group, men (plural) are not complete without women (plural). So far as achieving God’s purposes are concerned, masculine alone does not cut it; the feminine is also obligatory.

The word “help” is interesting. Moses named his son Eliezer, for he said, “The God of my father was my help [`ezer], and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” How did God deliver Moses? He used women. Moses was placed into the river by a woman, guarded by a woman, and pulled out of the river by yet another woman. Other men of Moses’ generation were also saved by women.

That’s fairly helpful, I’d say.

God is my Help

Moreover, the word “help” is used of God in our Old Testaments a good deal more than it is used of anyone else. If God is happy to be known as “the help”, I’d suggest the term is not an insult, and the role not something to be disparaged or belittled.

So if you want to talk about identity politics, as so many do these days, that’s quite a way to identify: “I’m a help. That’s what I was created to be. I am here to make things better, not to make them worse. I’m here to facilitate the completion of the mission(s) God has given to men, and most directly to the men God has placed in my life.” That is a woman’s identity, married or otherwise.

I will leave the implications to the reader.

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