Helpers and Heroes
“Help! Please, somebody, HELP ME!”
At some point in practically every superhero story, whether in a movie or a comic book, someone has to cry for help. Whether it’s Batman listening in to the police scanner, or Superman or Spiderman using their super senses; whether it’s a wordless scream, police calling for backup, the sound of gunshots, or an actual cry for help, the hero at some point has to find out that someone needs help and then respond by rushing to the rescue.
That comparison helps me as I think about the meaning of Eve being called Adam’s “helper” in Genesis 2. Somehow the idea that God made Eve to help Adam care for the Garden of Eden has come to mean for many people that Eve was inferior and subservient to Adam. Many cultural traditions that favor male headship believe this and see it as a good thing. Most modern progressives also believe the Bible teaches this and they see it as vile and demeaning to women. The reality is, however, that both parties that interpret Genesis 2 in this way are wrong.
Genesis 2 clearly teaches that Eve is Adam’s equal in value, worth, and substance. The fact that she was made from Adam’s body emphasizes that they are the exact same substance, and she bore God’s image just as he did. (If she had been made from earth, like Adam, the door might be left open to think that women were a different kind of creature.) The fact that she was taken from Adam’s side emphasizes what their posture was to be toward each other - side by side, equal partners in work and in life. She was not made from his back so she would be behind him, nor from his foot that she would be underneath him, nor from his head that she would be over him.
And then there’s that word: “helper.” How should we understand that Eve was made to help Adam? We should remember that helper means helper - not slave, not servant, not partner - just helper. It means ADAM WAS IN NEED OF HELP! Like the victim in the superhero stories, Adam had no chance of helping or saving himself - someone had to come to the rescue. And God sent him Eve - humanity’s very first heroine.
On top of that, the Bible uses the term “helper,” and, by far, the person to whom it is most frequently applied is God. For example:
“Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” Psalm 30:10
“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” Psalm 54:4
“The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.” Psalm 118:7
“But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.” Psalm 10:14
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26
God is the only clear hero in the whole story of the Bible. God wants us to see him as our helper, our hero. So to say that Eve was Adam’s helper is far from demeaning or belittling - quite the opposite in fact. Few terms could carry more dignity and respect. Eve was Adam’s hero.