Women = Men (Gen. 2:18)

Another brilliant post by Pastor Wade Burleson, even though he’s quoting from Walter Kaiser. 🙂 You’ll love this if you’re a geek like me!

Monday, July 06, 2009

The article below is from the brilliant Biblical scholar Dr. Walter C. Kaiser. It was forwarded to me by Pastor Chuck Andrews and reproduced below in its entirety. The article is an exegesis of Genesis 2:18 and proves, definitively in my opinion, that God designed and created women with full equality to men. It should also answer several questions from the previous comment stream.

“Are women inferior to men, merely designed to be their helpers? Is it consistent with the biblical text to view men as the initiators and women as their assistants? Is this what makes women suitable matches for men?

The Creator regarded Adam’s situation as incomplete and deficient while he was living without community or a proper counterpart. The Creator judged Adam’s situation quite negatively: “It is not good.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 expresses this same opinion about aloneness. The wise writer Solomon advised: Two are better than one. … If one falls down, his friend can help him up. … Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.

True, in Jeremiah 16:1–9 the prophet Jeremiah is commanded by God to remain alone, but this is meant to be a sign that God’s judgment on the people is so near that it will not be worthwhile to get married. Nevertheless, the full life is a life that finds its fulfillment in community with another person or group of persons.

In the Genesis story we find that God created a woman after he had created the man. This would end Adam’s loneliness and the state that God judged to be “not good.” She was to be his “helper”—at least that is how most of the translations have interpreted this word. A sample of the translations reads as follows: “I shall make a helper fit for him” (RSV); “I will make a fitting helper for him” (New Jewish Publication Society); “I will make an aid fit for him” (AB); “I will make him a helpmate” (JB); “I will make a suitable partner for him” (NAB); “I will make him a helper comparable to him” (NKJV).

However, the customary translation of the two words ˓ēzer keneḡdô as “helper fitting him” is almost certainly wrong. Recently R. David Freedman has pointed out that the Hebrew word ˓ēzer is a combination of two roots: ˓-z-r, meaning “to rescue, to save,” and ǵ-z-r, meaning “to be strong.” The difference between the two is the first letter in Hebrew. Today that letter is silent in Hebrew, but in ancient times it was a guttural sound formed in the back of the throat. The ǵ was a ghayyin, and it came to use the same Hebrew symbol as the other sound, ˓ayin. But the fact that they were pronounced differently is clear from such place names which preserve the g sound, such as Gaza or Gomorrah. Some Semitic languages distinguished between these two signs and others did not; for example, Ugaritic did make a distinction between the ˓ayin and the ghayyin; Hebrew did not (R. David Freedman, “Woman, a Power Equal to a Man,” Biblical Archaeology Review 9 [1983]: 56–58).

It would appear that sometime around 1500 B.C. these two signs began to be represented by one sign in Phoenician. Consequently the two phonemes merged into one grapheme and what had been two different roots merged into one, much as in English the one word fast can refer to a person’s speed, abstinence from food, his or her slyness in a “fast deal” or the adamant way in which someone holds “fast” to positions. The noun ˓ēzer occurs twenty-one times in the Old Testament. In many of the passages it is used in parallelism to words that clearly denote strength or power. Some examples are:

There is none like the God of Jeshurun, The Rider of the Heavens in your strength (˓-z-r), and on the clouds in his majesty. (Deut 33:26, my translation)

Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is the shield of your strength (˓-z-r) and the sword of your majesty. (Deut 33:29, my translation)

The case that begins to build is that we can be sure that ˓ezer means “strength” or “power” whenever it is used in parallelism with words for majesty or other words for power such as ˓oz or ˓uzzo. In fact, the presence of two names for one king, Azariah and Uzziah (both referring to God’s strength), makes it abundantly clear that the root ˓ēzer meaning “strength” was known in Hebrew.

Therefore I suggest that we translate Genesis 2:18 as “I will make a power [or strength] corresponding to man.” Freedman even suggests on the basis of later Hebrew that the second word in the Hebrew expression found in this verse should be rendered equal to him. If this is so, then God makes for the man a woman fully his equal and fully his match. In this way, the man’s loneliness will be assuaged.

The same line of reasoning occurs in the apostle Paul. He urged in 1 Corinthians 11:10, “For this reason, a woman must have power [or authority] on her head [that is to say, invested in her].”

This line of reasoning which stresses full equality is continued in Genesis 2:23, where Adam says of Eve, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” The idiomatic sense of this phrase “bone of my bones” is a “very close relative,” “one of us” or in effect “our equal.”

The woman was never meant to be an assistant or “helpmate” to the man. The word mate slipped into English since it was so close to Old English meet, which means “fit to” or “corresponding to” the man. That all comes from the phrase that I have suggested likely means “equal to.”

What God had intended then was to make a “power” or “strength” for the man who would in every way correspond to him or even be his equal.”

Kaiser, W. C. (1997, c1996). Hard sayings of the Bible (92). Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity.

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