Females have been called many things throughout history. Some have been complimentary, such as “the fairer sex,” which speaks to her beauty. Other monikers are not very nice, like “witch” …and…other words…that rhyme. (Ahem, okay, moving on.) And in some languages, like Hebrew and Greek, the societal expectations back in the day led to there being just one word to mean both “woman” and “wife.” That would certainly make it hard to have a sense of identity apart from a role.
Interesting thing about calling someone by a particular name: the one being labeled tends to live accordingly to whatever the name conveys. That shouldn’t be too surprising, since any good counselor will tell you that repeatedly calling a child “a loser”—for example—will practically guarantee that the child will grow up to be a poor performer, unable to thrive as an adult and be a contributing member of society.
So, we’ve talked a little about what individual people can call a woman and about what the larger society may say about women, and those monikers are not always helpful or accurate. It often seems like we women are identified in one extreme or another but never in a balanced and accurate way. History shows that we have been both exalted as goddesses to be worshiped and demoted to a status that is little better than the animals (sometimes we were even lucky to be considered better than, instead of less than). Neither of these extremes are right. In fact, these extremes inflict great wounds upon a woman by relegating her to roles/positions never intended for her.
Where then can a woman find an accurate identity and begin healing from these extremes imposed on her from the world? How about we look to our Creator. What does God say? What does He call a woman?
In Genesis 3:20, the very first woman was called Eve, but that was the name given to her by Adam, her husband. So, let’s go a little further back toward the beginning. In chapter 2:23, she is called “woman,” but again that is a name given by a fellow human, not God.
Go back a little further. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (KJV). Now, who was He describing? The following verses (19-20) clearly reveal that no animal was meeting the criteria. Sorry, puppy dogs, you may truly be “man’s best friend,” but you are not this “help meet.” God was talking about the special creation He was about to make, the one we all call “woman.”
But what’s this “help meet” moniker? What does that mean? As a young girl, with only a King James Bible to read, I certainly didn’t like the connotations that came to my mind as I read “an help meet for him.” Such wording conjures up images of a magician’s “lovely little assistants” who really don’t do much of anything but provide distraction by looking beautiful. Ugh! Surely, I was made for more than that!
Fortunately, I’ve learned that the Hebrew words in these verses have a much richer meaning for “helper” than we think of when we say it. The World English Bible does a better job in translating ‘ezer kenegdo with “a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18 WEB).
The Hebrew word ‘ezer does mean helper, but not the kind of helper that just stands around waiting to be called upon and then runs to fetch something and hands it over to the one being helped. No, this is a person who has the ability to rescue, has something to contribute, brings an asset that another does not have and thus has need of. Out of the 21 times this word is used in the Old Testament (OT), it is used 16 times to describe God Himself! He is certainly no second rate, subservient, “lovely assistant” kind of helper! An example of this use of ‘ezer to describe God is found in Psalm 121:1b-2, which says “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Yahweh, who made heaven and earth” (WEB).
Wow! God has just associated Himself with women, claiming they have something in common with the Almighty!
But don’t run off just yet and start lording it over the men, ladies. There will be no men-bashing here, and besides, we’re not done yet. There’s still that word kenegdo. This Hebrew word is the adjective that modifies, that is—further describes, what kind of ‘ezer a woman is. Kenegdo means equal, matching. A woman is not above man, but neither is she beneath him. She is an equal; she has just as much value as he does. She matches man, like different objects of the same weight balance a scale. Yes, she is different; she needs to be. She needs to be able to bring to the table that which a man doesn’t already have; otherwise, she is of no help (and not living up to what God has called her). Kenegdo conveys that woman is the perfect complement to man.
So, before she was called Eve, and before she was even called woman, God called his female human creation ‘ezer kenegdo. In doing so, He imparted an aspect of Himself and tempered it so it would be a perfect blessing to the other half of humanity. Too bad that identifier for women isn’t very well known. I think we should change that.
Thanks for reading!
 Special thanks to Laura Qualls for communicating this idea of women being inaccurately placed in either extreme during her Mother’s Day sermon at Glad Tidings Church (currently Coastal Virginia Church), Norfolk, VA on 8MAY2011.