Wife’s Core Role
"The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” (Genesis 2:18)
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:20b-23)
God said, “It is not good.” This should stop us in our tracks as God pronounced His creation “good” after “good” and even “very good,” yet something was dramatically described as “not good.” Adam communed with the Lord, and yet something wasn’t right; something was missing. This was the state of God’s creation without Eve, without God’s representation in a female creature.
Consequently, God created a suitable helper for Adam. Helper, in our culture, can have a subordinate connotation, yet as we unpack the Hebrew, it’s far from that. The word “helper” is a translation of the Hebrew word ezer. Ezer is a combination of two Hebrew root words—one means “to rescue or save” and the other means “strong.” Ezer is used 17 other times in the Bible—all are in a military context and most are descriptions of God Himself. To get a feel for how God is described as a helper look up the following Bible passages: Deuteronomy 33:7, 33:26, 33:29 and Psalm 33:20, 70:5, 121:1-2. The picture painted of a helper is a rescuer riding in on a horse, coming to save the day. Rather than having a subordinate meaning, helper as used to describe Eve may be better understood as a warrior rescuer because she is created in the image of her Father.
When God described the type of helper Eve would be, He used the Hebrew word kenegdo, translated “suitable.” Kenegdo is an interesting word. First, it is used only twice in the Bible in Genesis 2:18 and Genesis 2:20. Second, it is a Hebrew word with a prefix and suffix attached to it. The root word means “difference or opposite,” the prefix means “similar or sameness,” and the suffix is a pronoun for “him.” Putting those pieces together, kenegdo can best be understood as “like him, opposite him.” Wives correspond to their husbands, yet they are created to be distinctively different, similar to a puzzle piece. Kathy Keller states it this way, “Male and female are ‘like opposite’ to one another. They are like two pieces of a puzzle that fit together because they are not exactly alike nor randomly different, but they are differentiated such that together they can create a complete whole.”
When putting the ezer and kenegdo together one sees both a rescuing and opposing force. Here are two quotes that help us grasp these seemingly opposite concepts and put them together to understand the fullness of a wife’s role:
"If Adam is worthy, she will be an ezer. If he is not worthy, she will be against him, his kenegdo, for strife."2
“She will be his strongest ally in pursuing God’s purposes and his first roadblock when he veers off course.”3
In Genesis 1, God made vegetation and creatures “according to their kind.” And then in Genesis 2, we see that after Adam names all the animals, he noticed that he doesn’t have anyone like him. God made someone after his kind, fully his equal and fully his match. Adam responded in verse 23 saying, “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” which was Adam’s way of saying, “She is one of us!” Adam received his ezer kenegdo with celebration. As Carolyn Custis James describes, “The kind of help the man needs demands full deployment of her strengths, her gifts, and the best she has to offer. His life will change for the better because of what she contributes to his life.”4 Wives should be in the business of partnering with God to make their husbands all that God created them to be—empowering them, encouraging them, and building them up to be priests for their homes and the world.
Remember our homes are our gardens to rule, subdue, and be fruitful. Therefore, wives, just like their husbands, need to value the home and make it a priority. Our homes should be a place where we can find rest and restoration, making it a safe environment to grow and be fully known.
Our families are a prime place for God’s legacy to be passed down to the next generation. Women are typically more wired to make a house a home and to nurture relationships. Husbands and children often look to the moms to set the emotional tone for the home, regardless of whether they stay home full time or not. In this way, the role of an ezer kenegdo has a strong connection to the home and the family.
- How would you describe the role of a wife in your own words?
- How does this teaching change your perspective of “suitable helper”?
- As the wife, how is your husband experiencing you as his rescuer?
- As the wife, how do you discern when to act as an ezer and when to step in as a kenegdo?