The Comparable Helper

“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18).

There are a lot of ways to misunderstand that verse.

One way is to misunderstand what “helper” implies. It’s easy to imagine a helper as someone less skilled, less adequate, less capable—less equal. If God calls the woman the helper, then she must be less important than a man—maybe even inferior to him.

Anyone making that assumption has utterly failed to understand both language and women.

Do you know who else is a helper in the Bible?


It’s the same Hebrew word—‘ezer. He is a help against our enemies (Deuteronomy 33:7), our help and deliverer (Psalm 70:5), and our help and our shield (Psalm 33:20).

I don’t think anyone tries out that line of reasoning on God. I don’t think anyone assumes God must be somehow less than us because He helps us. We know that, in this context, the Helper far outclasses the helped.

A helper isn’t inherently inferior or superior. In fact, the only useful information we can extract from that label is blindingly obvious and supremely important:

A helper helps.

A helper is capable of assisting someone who needs assistance. A helper is capable of providing aid to someone who needs aid.

Men—that’s us.

“Helper” tells us less about how adequate women are and more about how adequate we are. Up until this verse, the whole creation account has been punctuated by God observing His work and seeing that it was good.

Genesis 2:18 is the first time we’re told that something was not good. God looked at the man He had created and remarked that humanity was in an incomplete and unfinished state with only the male gender in existence. Man was alone, and it was not good.

He needed help.

He needed what was missing.

And that brings us to another way to misunderstand this verse. God tells us He is about to create a helper comparable to the man. The trouble here is, again, the English translation fails to capture what the Hebrew is expressing.

If you’re going shopping, and you come across two similar products—power tools, groceries, clothing, appliances, what have you—and one product is cheaper than the other, you’re probably going to check to see if the cheaper one is comparable to the more expensive one. If it’s just as good as—or even almost as good as—the more expensive option, then it’s comparable. You may as well buy it instead.

So there’s a serious danger in misreading “a helper comparable to him” as “an inferior assistant who’s roughly equivalent to him.”

That’s not what this verse is saying.

You can imagine the damage an interpretation like that would cause. No, worse—you’ve probably experienced the damage an interpretation like that can cause.

What God is really telling us here is something truly beautiful.

God creates Eve to be Adam’s ‘ezer kénegdo. What the NKJV calls “comparable to,” the ESV calls “fit for” and the NIV calls “suitable for.” But none of these translations quite convey what’s being said.

In a translator footnote, the NET Bible points out, “The Hebrew expression כְּנֶגְדּוֹ (kénegdo) literally means ‘according to the opposite of him.'”

Eve was very specifically created to be what Adam wasn’t. She was created to provide what he couldn’t.

“It suggests that what God creates for Adam will correspond to him. Thus the new creation will be neither a superior nor an inferior, but an equal. The creation of this helper will form one-half of a polarity, and will be to man as the south pole is to the north pole” (Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17).

Men and women were designed by God to complement each other—each one bringing to the table qualities and characteristics the other naturally lacks, but which are necessary and important.

So much of the modern discourse on gender centers around making men and women the same. Not just equal, but interchangeable.

We are not that. We cannot be that. We were created to be two halves to the same puzzle, two poles of the same planet. We’re both at our best when we’re bringing the unique qualities God gave us to the table—not trying to prove ourselves as identical equivalents, but coming together to form both sides of the same coin.

Two beings, both made in the image of God, both formed by His hands, both given the potential to live forever as His children—both designed to bring out the best in each other by adding what makes them different to the equation.

That’s beautiful.

Adam knew it was beautiful, too. After naming all the animals in the garden, “no companion who corresponded to him was found” (Genesis 2:20, NET 2nd ed.).

No helper comparable to him. No ‘ezer kénegdo. No missing puzzle piece. And so when he wakes up from his deep sleep and finds Eve, you can almost hear the joy in his voice:

This one at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called “woman,”
for she was taken out of man.

(Genesis 2:23, NET 2nd ed.)

The “comparable helper” is more than just an afterthought in the plan of God.

She’s part of what makes the whole plan work.

Until next time,

Your Thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest