Woman as an Ezer – What does this mean?

One of the questions asked in studying Genesis 2 is what does it mean that woman was created to be the “helper” for man? In the Hebrew text the word is “ezer” which is traditionally translated in English as “helper”. But what does ezer mean and how was this word used elsewhere in the Old Testament?

Many opinions of women have been shaped by the word in Genesis 2:18, “helper.” Was the woman to be merely a helpful assistant to the man? In our day we use the word “helper” in the sense of an assistant, helping the boss do his job. Yet the meaning of the Hebrew word is rather different.

The word ezer occurs twenty-one times in the Old Testament: Twice in Genesis for the woman (Genesis 2:1820), three times for nations to whom Israel appealed for military aid (Isaiah 30:5Ezekiel 12:14Daniel 11:34), and here’s the interesting part — sixteen times for God as Israel’s helper (Exodus 18:4Deuteronomy 33:72629Psalms 20:233:2070:589:19 [translated “strength” in the NIV]; 115:9, 10, 11; 121:1 – 2; 124:8; 146:5; Hosea 13:9). God is the one who comes alongside us in our helplessness. That’s the meaning of ezer – it does not suggest ‘helper’ as in ‘servant’ – but help, savior, rescuer, protector as in ‘God is our help.’ It is a term often used in a military context.

Descriptions of the woman as dependent, needy, vulnerable, deferential, helpless, leaderless, or weak are — to put it simply — wrong. The ezer is a warrior.

John Walton writes about the word “helper” (ezer) in the Old Testament in his commentary on Genesis (NIV Application, Zondervan, 2001):

The word “helper” is common enough as a description of someone who comes to the aid of or provides a service for someone. It carries no implications regarding the relationship or relative status of the individuals involved. In fact, the noun form of the word found in this verse as used elsewhere refers almost exclusively to God as the One who helps his people. If we expand our investigation to verbal forms, we find a continuing predominance of God as the subject, though there are a handful of occurrences where people help people. In this latter category we find people helping their neighbors or relatives (Isa. 41:6), people helping in a political alliance or coalition (Ezra 10:15), and military reinforcements (Josh. 10:42 Sam. 8:5). Nothing suggests a subservient status of the one helping; in fact, the opposite is more likely. Certainly “helper” cannot be understood as the opposite of “leader.”

It is also interesting that Ezer as a male name appears elsewhere in the Old Testament. In Exodus 18:4 it says that Moses named one of his sons Eliezer, which in Hebrew means “My God is my helper” (Eli = “my God”; ezer = “helper”). This verse goes on to explain why Moses named his son Eliezer, because God had powerfully delivered Moses from Pharaoh’s sword.

Even in recent history, evidence is strong that the name Ezer still carries a lot of weight. Ezer Weizman (1924-2005) was an Israeli military hero. He built an international reputation as a fighter pilot, commander of the Israeli Air Force, the Minister of Defense, a world leader involved in Middle East peace negotiations, and Israel’s seventh president.

The woman was not created to serve the man, but to serve with the man as his partner. Without the woman, the man was only half the story. She was not an afterthought or a last-minute addition to help out an independent, self-sufficient man. God said in Genesis 2:18 that without her, the man’s condition was “not good.” God’s intention in creating the woman for the man was for the two to be partners in the many tasks involved in stewarding God’s creation.

Women, know that God values you and intended you to be a strong helper and defender. Men, be grateful the Lord has given you a strong ally and warrior. Every time we chose to partner and work together, we demonstrate that by God’s grace we can overcome the division between us that was a consequence of the fall in Genesis 3.

Genesis Week 2 – Humanity’s Purpose and Failure

Thanks for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 2:4 – 3:24
□ 2:4-17□ 2:18-25□ 3:1-13□ 3:14-19□ 3:20-24

Main Topic – Humanity’s Purpose and Failure
Last week we considered Genesis chapter 1, which is the creation account and serves as an introduction to God and to the whole of the Bible. In chapter 2 the creation account is reiterated and expanded as the emphasis moves from God’s overall creative activity, to God’s specific creation of man and woman. In chapter 2 humankind becomes central to the storyline and there is much to learn about the creation and purpose of humanity, its relationship with the creator, and the relationship between man and woman. As we move into Genesis 3 we find humanity failing in its calling, sin is introduced to the storyline, and the consequences are significant and enduring.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1.    Recall that God outlined the purpose for humanity in Genesis 1:26-28. What was their purpose?

2.    In Genesis 2:18-25 how does God provide help for Adam to fulfill his calling? What do you know about this word “helper” (Hebrew ‘ezer’)? What do we know about the relationship between man and woman and God prior to entry of sin into the world?

3.    The temptation – Compare carefully God’s original instructions in Genesis 2:16-17 with their recollection in Genesis 3:1-5. What changes do you see? How does this interaction with the serpent present a distorted picture of God? What doubts has the serpent introduced?

4.    The consequences of sin – Look carefully at the consequences of sin in Genesis 3:7-13. How does sin break down the vertical relationship between God and humankind? How does it break down the horizontal relationship between Adam and Eve? Describe the punishment for each character – the serpent, Adam, and Eve. For the humans, relate this back to their original purpose and explain the significance.

5.    The consequences for sin were immediate and enduring, yet there are signs of God’s grace even in punishment. What signs of God’s grace do you see in chapter 3?

Genesis – Week 1, Creation

Thanks for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 1:1-2:3
□ 1:1-5□ 1:6-13□ 1:14-23□ 1:24-31□ 2:1-3

Main Topic – Creation
As you reflect on the creation narrative in chapter 1, think about this: How would you respond if your young child asked, “Where did I come from?” You might answer “New Jersey,” or maybe you would say “Your dad and I got married and had you as a baby.” Perhaps you would give a biologically detailed explanation of how conception works (though we tend to dodge this topic!) Or maybe you could give an account of labor and delivery complete with city and date and time marker. If you are more relational, you might draw a family tree with all the important characters mentioned.

I ask this question because it is important for us to consider what the author of Genesis was trying to communicate when he wrote chapter 1. Chapter 1 is not a biology textbook or a detailed timeline, and it certainly does not answer every question we might have about creation. Dr. Sandy Richter writes in The Epic of Eden, “Genesis 1 was written to answer the questions: Who is God and what is His relationship to us? What was God’s original intent?”

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. Repeated words and phrases indicate importance. What do you see repeated in this section, and why might it be important?

2.     The seven days mentioned organize the details of creation. God creates ecosystems and then fills them. Fill in the chart below regarding what happened each day of creation:
What was created? (God forms)
Day 1:
Day 2:
Day 3:
What was created? (God fills)
Day 4:
Day 5:
Day 6:
And on Day 7:

3.     What do we learn about God in this section? How is the repeated phrase “And God said…” significant? And the phrase “It was good…”? What other details did you note about God in this section?

4.     Chapter 1 ends with the creation of humanity. What do we learn about humankind in this section? How is this final creative act of God different from previous creative acts? What is the purpose of humanity in God’s creation? (hint: look at the verbs). What does it mean to be the image bearer of God?

5. This section ends with Day 7 and God is resting. Why is He resting? Surely not because He is tired… What is your understanding of sabbath rest and its purpose?

Genesis, a 12 week study

Every year we do a Bible reading plan at my church. We’ve done the Bible in a year, the NT in a year (5x5x5 plan), and The Grand Narrative. (See the Reading Plan tab to find these.) This year our reading plans will be quarterly, and we are starting with 12 weeks in Genesis! Join us if you need a plan, download it at the site below and sign up for discussion group emails or the Facebook group:

Grow in Christ

Mindy’s Good Reads 2019

My annual list of books I’ve read this year… some good ones in here! What would you recommend I read in 2020?

Novel:

Ready Player One, Earnest Cline.

Autobiography/Memoir:

The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony

Hillbilly Elegy, JD Vance

Ministry/Spiritual (including seminary class texts):

The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten Small Group Experience, Kevin Watson

When God Doesn’t Fix It, Laura Story

Feeding Your Soul: A Quiet Time Handbook, Jean Flemming

It’s Only A Demon: A Model of Christian Deliverance, David Appleby

The Believer’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare, Tom White

3 Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare, Clinton Arnold

Understanding Spiritual Power, Marguerite Kraft

Spirit of the Rainforest, Mark Richie

Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice, Moschella

Churches that Make a Difference, Ron Sider

Whose Religion is Christianity, Lamin Sanneh

Soul, Self, and Society: Mission in a Post-Colonial World, Michael Rynekiewich

The Mission of God’s People, Chris Wright

Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church, Reggie McNeal

Scattered: How ADD Originates and What You Can Do About it, Gabor Mate

The Wisdom of The Enneagram, Riso and Hudson

 

 

Back to School and Teaching

That “journey of a thousand miles” that begins with a single step? Sometimes the miles are rather bumpy and uphill! 19961584_10156053107102580_8234462455579791982_n

It’s been eleven months since Hurricane Micheal tore up Panama City – it’s like we all put life on hold for a whole year (or more). I certainly put seminary and even our local Bible study group The River on hold… when you have no home, no church building, no internet, no childcare, no everything… life is just difficult. But we’re making progress, things are slowly becoming functional again, and we might even have a church campus renovated by December!

I’m teaching again at The River women’s Bible study this fall – we’re going back to the basics because we are community undone by drama.  We’ll relearn how to meet with God and take care of ourselves as we read through “Feeding Your Soul” by Jean Fleming.

I am a student again at Asbury Theological Seminary this fall too. By taking one class at a time, and adding in a hurricane, I’ve managed to turn a two year MA in Biblical Studies into a five year program, but that’s just the way it is. My class this fall is Missional Formation – a study of the mission of God in the world, the role of the church, the global church, and even an ethnographic study of our own church culture and missional engagement. It’s an interesting topic to study as our own church is reborn post hurricane.

Finally, I am returning this fall as a Teaching Assistant for an inductive Bible study class at Asbury. It will be my third time through the book of Mark and I have enjoyed helping other seminary students as they learn to study the text.

We’re coming out of the darkness here in Panama City, and “normal” never felt so good!

 

Interrupted by Hurricane Michael

I keep getting reminders that I have not posted to this blog since September 2018.  There’s a good reason – Hurricane Michael tore through my home town of Panama City, Florida on October 10, 2018 and it might be a couple of years before things return to normal around here.  Now five months later I am happy to report that the internet works, we have a new roof and front doors and windows at our house, and even Target reopened this week.  The rest of town is still quite a mess. Of the 16 houses on my street, three of them have been vacated, and five families are living in trailers in their front yard while the interior of their home is being restored.  Approximately 30% of the entire population of our town is displaced or homeless. Our church owns two campuses, neither of them are functional. It’s going to be a long time before things are working again here.  Yet, we choose to rejoice. God is at work here. Tomorrow is another day!