Sexism in the Bible – surely not …

In Genesis 2, God, as a part-time potter, fashions the first man out of mud. Then, as a part-time sculptor, he builds the first woman from a spare rib. But wait a minute – weren’t we told earlier that he created male and female equally in his own image?

Here, however, in relation to the man, she is to be, as the King James Version puts it, “an help meet for him”. There are two points about this worth noting. 

The first is that ‘helper’ often suggests a ‘junior’ role – someone who’s around as required, doing whatever’s requested and, quite often, needing to be shown how.

The second is that ‘fit for him’ suggests that the woman is being defined in relation to the man and his needs, rather than in relation to herself and her own.

BUT, elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, the word for ‘helper’ is most often used of God – as in, he is “our helper and strength” – which is a ‘senior’ role. He is pictured as the more able one, who helps us where we are lacking. The woman then becomes not so much a ‘help’ because the poor, hard worked man has so many very important things to do, but rather a ‘support’ because there are so many areas in which he’s lacking.

AND, in the original, the (one) word for ‘meet for him’ means ‘counterpart’ or ‘opposite’ in the sense of, for example, a single coin with ‘opposite’ sides corresponding to, and complementing, each other.

SO, the woman rather than “an help meet for him” is “a support as his counterpart”, and as such, she has, not an optional and inferior, but an equal and essential role, with the implication that the man is to be equally “a support as a counterpart” to her.

What the Bible actually ‘says’, when one digs into it, doesn’t necessarily equate to how it is sometimes translated and understood …..

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