Marriage Without a Helpmate?

The following article is from the January 2020 edition of the Pentecostal Life magazine. Many of the statements found in this article are not doctrinally correct and is here for that reason.

By Daniel L. Seagraves

Objective: To explain the biblical relationship between a man and a woman in marriage.

Everyone knows the Bible says a wife is her husband’s helpmate.

Except it doesn’t.
Nowhere does scripture use the word “helpmate”.
After God created everything else, He created man. He approved of His creative work before He made the male of the human species. (See Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25). But after He made Adam, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him: (Genesis 2:18, NKJV).

God had formed the beasts and birds, but none were helpers comparable to Adam. So God made a woman and brought her to the man (Genesis 2:22).

The problem was solved. Adam had his comparable helper.

But what is all this about a comparable helper? Does the Bible say Eve was Adam’s helpmate? No, not even the KJV says that. It reads, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him”.

There’s a world of difference between the meaning of the word “helpmate” and the words “help meet”. As the Apostolic Study Bible points out in it’s comment on Genesis 2:18, “The phrase “help mate” is a corruption of “a help meet for him”. “Meet ” is an old English word meaning fitting, propriate, or proper. However, the Hebrew from which “meet” is translated is an idiomatic phrase that means “corresponding to” or “of a similar nature”… The Hebrew word from which “help” is translated implies a companion or partner rather than a subordinate assistant.

The words “help meet” have evolved in popular English into “helpmate”. This softens and redefines the role God intended for a woman. If woman is merely a “helpmate”, it may be that she is a pleasant, but not necessary, appendage to the man. Perhaps, if he wishes, he can get along just as well – maybe even better – without her.

But this is not the case. The word translated “help” (azer) means “a significant help one cannot do without”. The word occurs twenty-one times in the Hebrew Scriptures. In fifteen of those references, azer refers to the Lord as our help.

The word translated “meet” (k’negdo) means the woman is a match for the man. The word may mean either “at his side”, meaning “fit to associate with”, or “as over against him”, meaning “corresponding to him”.

The woman is man’s essential helper, his peer, equal to him in every way.

The word “man” is translated from the Hebrew ‘ish. The word “woman” is translated from the Hebrew ‘ishah, the feminine form of ‘ish, the most common word for man in Hebrew Scriptures. ‘ishah, the feminine form of ‘ish, the most common word for man in Hebrew Scriptures.

Linguistically, the woman is also “man.” (See Genesis 1 :27.) She is the female form of “man.” The male is the masculine form of “man.” This refers to grammar, not gender. Only the female is a “comparable helper” for the male.

But what kind of relationship should exist between the male and the female? Isn’t a man supposed to rule over his wife? God did tell Eve, after all, that her husband would “rule over” her (Genesis 3: 16). He said this, however, after both Adam and Eve sinned, marring and complicating the relationship God had in mind for them in the beginning.

There is no hint in the first two chapters of Genesis that males should rule females, that men are superior to women, or that they were to have different responsibilities or roles. They were, instead, to “become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The focus was not on their independence from one another, but on the singularity of their identity: the two become one.

  • It was sin that changed all of this. The four immediate consequences of sin turned maniage into something it was not intended to be.
  • Shame (Genesis 2:25; 3:7) When people are ashamed, they tend to cower and hide. They may do this literally, as did Adam and Eve, by fleeing from those they love most. More commonly, they simply withdraw into themselves and become distant and uncommunicative.
  • Spiritual alienation (Genesis 3:8) A successful marriage requires intimacy and oneness not just of the flesh, but of the soul and spirit. It is impossible for those who are alienated from God to have wholesome spiritual intimacy with another human being.
  • Fear (Genesis 3: I 0) Where there is fear, there can be no trust.
  • Blame (Genesis 3:12 13) When a man blames his wife for his mistakes, he destroys her ability to respect him.

She will either withdraw from him or lash back. No one ever wins the “blame game.” Any person who blames God for his errors cuts himself off from the influence of God’s grace.

When God told Eve her husband would rule over her, it was simply His observation about what their relationship would be as a consequence of sin. This was not how God intended it to be. The history of the human race, largely the history of the oppression of women, demonstrates the accuracy of God’s words.

The good news of the gospel includes the fact that Christ died for our sins (I Corinthians 15:3). This means we can pray for and seek to find the restoration of marriages as God intended. The Christian marriage, characterized by the mutual submission of the husband and wife (Ephesians 5:21; I Corinthians 7:4-5), has the opportunity to model the “great mystery” of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).

The “submit” is not found in the Greek text of Ephesians 5:22, but in the previous verse, which refers to mutual submission. This calls for the wife to submit to her husband, but also for the husband to submit to his wife. The word translated “head” in Ephesians 5:23 and I Corinthians 11 :3 is kephal?. It can refer to rank, but it need not. It can refer to one’s physical head. But it also includes in its range of meaning the idea of source or origin, as with the head of a river. This is the contextual meaning in I Corinthians 11:3, 8-12, which indicates that is the meaning of the word when it is used elsewhere to refer to Christian marriage.

Jesus elevated women to a place of honor and equality with men by including them among His disciples, counting them as some of His closest friends, and filling them with His Holy Spirit. Paul understood this: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NKJV).