I had planned to move onto the debated passage of Genesis 3:16 with regards to my series on the role of women. But I wanted to share some brief thoughts connected to what I posted last week on Genesis 2:18-22. Last week, I was re-reading the end of Genesis 2, those last 8 verses (vs18-25) and something new came to me from vs23-24.
In the last post, I specifically shared how I believe there are 2 major pointers as to the equal roles of men and women that we can gather from reading Genesis 2:18-22, though I touched on a couple of other things.
1) The phrase ‘helper fit for’ (or ‘helper suitable for’).
It was interesting to note that the Hebrew word here for helper is ‘ezer, which is also used to describe God’s role with us. So the word is not really a ‘less than’ word. And in his Christian Theology text, theologian Millard Erickson points out that the phrase ‘fit for’ (neged in Hebrew) would be faithfully translated as either ‘corresponding to’ or ‘equal to’. Thus, the English translation would be: I will make him a helper corresponding to, or equal to, him. There is nothing inherent in this phrase, helper fit for, that denotes the female having a lesser role than the male (or the male having the authority over the female).
2) The formation of woman ‘out of’ man (or ‘from‘ man).
Secondly, by reading from the text that woman was taken ‘out of’ man, being formed from his rib, many see this as a pointer to the subordinate role of women. There could be the assumption that, if woman were to have equal status as man, then God would have formed her out of the dust just as He had formed man out of the dust. Yet, since God formed her after man and out of man, this shows a somewhat inferior status. But to conclude such is really reading our own presuppositions into the text. We are concluding what God has not communicated. In all reality, to note that woman had been taken ‘out of’ man is to recognise she, in fact, stands on equal footing with him. Such an action by God was a beautiful statement that man’s equal helper who corresponded to him would come from him.
Thus, I shared the conclusion that Adam’s words in vs23 describe his amazement that God had given him an ‘ezer neged (a helper equally suitable for him). He could, thus, exclaim, ‘This at last is…’ No animal stood as the suitable help-partner for him. None. But when he saw the woman, he knew that this one could stand with him and help him fulfil the great commission of Genesis 1:26-28.
She had come from his bone and his flesh. Thus, there was equality from the formation out of the one she would be covenantally joined to in marriage. And I’m sure many of us are familiar with the word play between man (ish) and woman (ishshah) in the Hebrew. Another pointer to the equality of relationship.
Woman and man are unique in many ways from one another, different in certain aspects. But nothing in the creation account of Genesis 1 or 2 tells us one is of higher status than the other. And this is interesting, because some utilise 1 Timothy 2:12-14 to show how what the ‘creation order’ teaches about who has the lead role with male and female. Ok, so we have looked in the creation passages. And nothing tells us one is subordinate to the other. Nothing. Thus, I believe something else is being taught in 1 Timothy 2, but, alas, I will come to that later.
Still, even more understanding came to me as I re-read vs24:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
The utilisation of the English word, therefore, tells us the statement in vs24 clarifies this whole thing through the marriage relationship. Therefore, when entering the covenant relationship of marriage, the man will leave his father and mother so they will become one flesh. Why? To hold fast to his wife. Why hold fast to his wife? Because she is the suitable-equal helper for him of which no other could fulfil. The two equals become one flesh, with the man cleaving and holding fast to the one that he knows is his equal partner. He is joined to his equal.
Now, of course I have used some words that are not in the text, such as equal. So one could argue I am reading such into the passage. But here is the approach I believe we need to take on this issue: We need to start from the reality that the two are equal unless we are told otherwise from the text. That is my starting point here. Of course, though this starting position is opposed to quite a lot of scholarship on Genesis 1 and 2, I still believe that neither chapters teach anything about who is inferior or who is superior. The communication is on the equality of the two sexes.
Thus, for me, the starting point is equality. And I can only move towards seeing one sex as having headship or authority over the other if the text truly communicates that. But I see Genesis 1 and 2, our only pre-fall texts (ok, besides the first few verses of ch.3), as communicating the equal standing of both sexes.