Pursuing Partnership: New Light on Timeless Texts – Week 17

What Does it Mean that Woman is “Helper” (Ezer)

Wall Fragment with Two Women; Unknown; A.D. 1–75; Fresco

By Wendy Wilson, Missio Nexus, Mission Advisor for Development of Women

This article is part of the series Pursuing Partnership: Men and Women in Ministry.

What Does it Mean that Woman is “Helper” (Ezer)

A note from Wendy Wilson, MissioNexus, Mission Advisor for Development of Women:

Though the Bible does not specifically define masculine nor feminine for us, Genesis 2 makes it clear that men and women are different for the glorious purpose of reflecting their Creator and fulfilling His purposes.  I’ve often wondered about our English translation using the word “helper” as it just seemed like there had to be a better word in our language? How has that choice of words by translators impacted the way we see each other as men and women, as humans? Especially when the Hebrew word EZER is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe a rescuing God, to describe other nations that came to the rescue of Israel militarily, as a name used frequently for Jewish boys. But the EZER of Genesis 2 was a woman . . . Dr Glahn takes us into this fascinating exploration in this article.

The link to the blog article is below . . .but here is an excerpt from “What Does it Mean that Woman is “Helper” (Ezer):

“Now, sadly, many read that word and think . . . “helper” in Genesis means something secondary, an assistant. . . . But that is not how this word works in Genesis. Not at all. Consider the type of help we see in the following examples:

  • A child asks her mom for help with math. The mother, a math teacher, understands algebra and can explain and guide her child through working the formulas.
  • One friend helps another by showing her how to use new software so she can develop the skills needed to land a better job.
  • A surgeon with a complicated case calls in a colleague to help in areas where he or she has specialized expertise the surgeon lacks.

In each of these uses of the word help, the one helping does so from a position of expertise and strength. And that is how we should understand the use of ezer as it describes woman in Genesis. This word appears in the Old Testament a total of twenty-one times. Twice it refers to the first woman. Three times it describes nations to whom Israel appeals for military help. And most significantly, sixteen times it refers to God himself as the “helper” of his people. . . The author of Genesis is using a word that carries a strongly positive meaning and which suggests skill and strength. “

Read the whole article – What Does it Mean that Woman is “Helper” (Ezer)


Be sure to enjoy the recording of Dr Glahn’s recent Missio Nexus webinar

The Cost of Missing Half the Church: Let’s not Fear a Re-look

Dr. Sandra Glahn is Professor of Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary. She is an author, co-author, or general editor of more than twenty books including Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible. Learn more about her at her website: aspire2.com.

This article is submitted by Wendy Wilson of Missio Nexus and of Women’s Development Track.  Women’s Development Track is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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