I was wondering what you might think of these two pictures.
When you think of what a good wife is, does your mind conjure up an image similar to this?
Which one depicts a suitable helper best?
Just the facts please….
Ezer-kenegdo seems to be the defining phrase of a woman. It was used in Genesis 2:18 (translated suitable/fit helper) and subsequently used in the Old Testament twenty more times; once more in the creation story, three times in military contexts (where other nations help Israel in battle), and sixteen times of God where He aided Israel. Every time this term is used outside of the creation account it is used in terms of strong aid in a military context and is never attached to a domestic idea.
A Helpful Picture
Does the name Abi-ezer mean anything to you? It didn’t to me until this week. It was the name of one of David’s elite warriors, one of the 37 mighty men (2 Sam 23:27).
The use of the term ezer in reference to a man got me to thinking.
Do you suppose Abi-ezer was submissive to David? Yup.
Do you think he maybe let David do the talking? Uh-huh.
Did he ever presume to lead David? Hmmmm.
Now conjure up a picture of Abi-ezer in your head. Which of my first two pictures does he come closest to? Though he was an ezer and embodied the postures that women are also prompted to take, what defined him? The characteristics of an ezer, being an ezer itself or something else?
Perhaps the picture you came up with wasn’t primarily influenced by the traits of an ezer, or what an ezer is, but mostly by the fact that Abi-ezer was a male.
I found my train of thought to go something like this: male>helper>submissive=picture. To formulate the picture in my head I needed the gender first. The picture I conjure up for a woman ezer isn’t truthfully formulated by the term ezer either, but rather, predominately by her femininity. female>helper>submissive=picture. (Or was the actual train of thought: female>submissive>helper=picture?) For me, once I identified the gender the meaning, connotations and even the place of ‘helper’ changed.
So my question to you and to myself is, what are the ramifications of our injecting first the idea of gender into the term ezer before we conceptualize it, if any? We are not using the term ezer to conceptualize a woman’s role, we are using her femininity to define the meaning of what a helper is. Can we? Do we have an accurate enough picture by what we observe in nature to do so? The sin factor and history’s treatment and view of women make me skeptical that we do. At best, I think it is minimally warped even in the best of minds.
Which picture depicts an ezer best? Does it matter if it is a woman ezer or a male ezer? Why? Are there scriptural grounds or is it based on ‘being clearly understood by what is made’?
I suppose we default to the first image because we hear more sermons on Ephesians 5 than on the warrior nuances of an ezer. I suspect we default because it is all many can picture a female ezer doing. I fear our ingrained, cultural thoughts and concepts of what a woman should be like, bears upon how we read Scripture.
I would love to hear your thoughts, not on the whole male-female dynamic, but on the contribution, if any of Abi-Ezer to the discussion. Does Abi-Ezer expand our idea of what a suitable helper is? What do we truthfully use to define the term ezer, (helper)? Is it careful study of the term in Scripture or is it our general understanding of the term which in turn is freely changed from one context to another? While it seems natural to me that the outworking of a male ezer might look different from a female one, I think our paradigms have serious potential to hamstring the intention of God.
The ultimate expression of ezer may, or may not differ, but the heart of an ezer does not, male, female or diety. That is where I think one needs to center their thoughts as they wade through these questions.
If you would like another perspective of ezer, Carolyn Custis James has a wonderful look on the meaning of an ezer on her blog. I encourage you to check it out. You can find it here: http://www.whitbyforum.com/2005/12/return-of-ezer.html