Gender Roles: Can a Helper be A Holy Calling?

In the waters of gender roles, I am dipping my metaphorical blogging toes.

There is a passage in Genesis that is somewhat controversial in how it assigns the role of women as a helper. The context was God had just created the whole earth and the heavens, He created man, and he lived within the Garden of Eden. He had just finished telling the man that he should not eat from the tree in the centre of the Garden–“then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”” Genesis 2:18 (English Standard Version)

On the surface, perhaps it is a bit misogynistic—a justification to belittle females and make them lesser than men. In fact, I am sure this mindset has been played a million times by atheists in an attempt to ridicule Christianity as men being power-hungry and seeking to control lives. In many ways, there is some truth in this claim looking at Christianity of ages past–but the problem has been the interpretation, not the actual Bible.

What I find fascinating is that the word used for “helper” is the word, “`ezer” which means according to Strong’s Dictionary, “to surround, to protect or aid” The reference of the Bible translators when they say, help is in context with being all encompassing in their aid.

In Maori culture (the indigenous of New Zealand), in iwi meetings where the whole tribe would meet in the central marae or town hall–women were and still are forced to sit at the back row while men sit at the front of the tribe meetings. Yet, this is not out of male domineering, but out of respect, that women are more valued than men in this context.

Moreover, the function of a helper is a Holy function because God is a helper. The 54th Psalms was written by David when the Ziphites went and revealed his hiding place to Saul, saying that he was hiding in their land. David’s praise was to God:

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” Psalms 54:4 (English Standard Version)

The word used for helper here is “`azar”, which is the variant on the root “`ezer”, and means exactly the same as before. So then, perhaps, if God is a helper then perhaps being a helper is not an undesirable aim in life? Therefore, the problem perhaps is not so much what is wrong with the functions of a bridegroom and bride—but what functions we have assigned to God. Perhaps, we have imposed an idea of what we expect God to be and creating a hierarchy of what His nature should be, instead of seeking to submit to what He is. Changing the God is often much easier and simpler than changing the natural closed nature of our hearts.

If I could posit the question: Is our idea of God a strong arm that swipes away all that defies Him, that we are struck with fear to obey Him? But also, do we believe a God that helps, that stoops down to help me, even the most stubborn of creatures?

One thing I am learning more and more, is that though there are many that find it difficult to stomach the vengenance of God in the Old Testament, but truly this one thing is sure: He truly did love Israel. Though, however many times He was disobeyed, he still loved Israel and continued to provide for them. There are perhaps two harsh opposites of the nature of God when we read the Old Testament, there is the holiness of God occurring, but there is also the loving hand of the Helper as well working in unison together in marriage together.

“The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.” Psalms 118:7 (English Standard Version)