You are hereHelpmate Not Playmate - Women of the Bible 1
Helpmate Not Playmate - Women of the Bible 1
by Jeff Carter
After molding man from the clods of soil, from the dust of the ground, God took the man – Adam – and placed him in the Garden of Eden. God settled him there to work the garden; to till it, and tend it. Eden was paradise. Eden was luxury. There were beautiful trees and glorious flowers. The garden produced everything that Adam needed. God instructed Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but other than that Adam was free to do as he pleased. He had the place to himself.After molding man from the clods of soil, from the dust of the ground, God took the man – Adam – and placed him in the Garden of Eden. God settled him there to work the garden; to till it, and tend it. Eden was paradise. Eden was luxury. There were beautiful trees and glorious flowers. The garden produced everything that Adam needed. God instructed Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but other than that Adam was free to do as he pleased. He had the place to himself.And apparently that was a problem. He was alone. It was just Adam in the garden. He had no companions, no help, not even a pet.
Then YHWH God said, “It’s not right that man should be alone. I will make an aid fit for him.” Genesis 2:18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (KJV)
So YHWH God formed from the ground (from the same ground as man) the various wild beasts and birds of the sky and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.
God formed oxen, ocelots, antelopes, pumas, tigers, giraffes, hippopotami, jackals, snakes, gorillas, and warthogs and brought them to Adam. God formed seagulls, finches, eagles, hawks, sparrows, and robins and brought them to Adam who gave them all their various names.
As the animals paraded in front of Adam he looked at them and evaluated them. But none of them was what he needed. The chimpanzee was good – but not a helper fit for Adam. The blackbird was good – but not the helper that Adam needed. Though the animals were fashioned from the same soil as Adam, they were not suitable helpers for him. Adam was still alone.
Helpmate Not Playmate
Then YHWH God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while Adam was sleeping God removed one of his ribs and closed over the flesh where it had been. YHWH God then built the rib he had taken into a woman. (God fashioned man and the animals from soft clay but built the woman from a harder material –bone – Genesis: Translation and Commentary, Robert Alter, pg. 9)
When Adam awoke, God brought the woman to him, and he said: “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman (isha) for she was taken from Man (ish).” – Anchor Bible
Adam recognized the woman as different than the animals. He saw in her a part of himself. He recognized that she was part of him and that he was part of her. He recognized that she was the helper fit for him. She was the help meet for him (KJV)
The old English phrase: help meet, has been turned into the word helpmate. She was created to be a helper for the man. She was created to be his helpmate in the garden – to assist him in everything. The woman was meant to be an equal to her man.
You’ve probably heard the illustration that Eve was made not from Adam’s feet so that she would be beneath him and not from his head so that she would be above him, but from a rib from his side so that she would be equal to him. She was a helpmate for him. The woman was equal to her man.
Popular culture seems to have lost this Helpmate ideal and instead treats women as Playmates. She is treated as a sex toy, a servant, or as a slave. The woman is no longer equal to her man.
Part of this may be the result of the curse after the fall, but that doesn’t excuse it. The ideal established by the Genesis narrative is that the woman was equal to her man who said: “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”
It wasn’t long before that perfect ideal was destroyed. The perfection and purity of the Garden of Eden we soon wrecked by the sin of both Adam and Eve. We don’t know how long it was before the serpent came to tempt Eve. We don’t know why the serpent came to Eve. Some have proposed that the serpent came to Eve because she was somehow weaker than Adam; that the serpent chose Eve because he knew that Adam would be too strong. Commentators and preachers through the years have at times tried to pin the blame on Eve, but it really doesn’t stick; not completely.
When the serpent began to tempt her he said, “God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden…”
”No, no” interrupted Eve, “We may eat from the trees of the garden; all of them except the tree in the middle of the garden. God said that if we eat it, if we even touch it we will die!”
God didn’t say that. He did not say that they would die if they touched it. Why did Eve enlarge God’s command? Some have suggested that this enlargement of God’s prohibition was taught to Eve by Adam… In any case, the serpent continued to persuade her. She saw that the fruit was good for eating, a delight for the eyes and that the tree was attractive as a means to wisdom. She took the fruit and she ate it, and she gave some to her husband and he ate. It appears that he was right there with her. She doesn’t have to go find him. She doesn’t have to explain to him what it is. She ate the forbidden fruit and passed it to her man. The fault cannot be place on the woman alone. Both the man and the woman failed.
When God came through the garden in the breezy dusk of the day he could not find the man and the woman. They were hiding - afraid and ashamed. Because of their sins God placed a curse on the man and the woman, and on the serpent as well for his involvement.
The woman would now suffer intense pain in childbirth, and pain in raising her children. And where she was once equal to her man, she would now find that her urge was for her husband and that he would be her master and exercise dominion over her.
Paul wrote in 1 Tim. 2:11-15 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
Now Paul doesn’t excuse Adam and his role in the fall. In his letter to the church in Rome Paul lays the primary responsibility for the fall on Adam. But he acknowledges the result of the curse on women. They have become secondary to the man. They are, he says, to remain silent, and submissive.
But this isn’t the ideal. This isn’t what God intended. The woman created for Adam was created to be his helper, his sustainer. She was not created to be his servant, or his slave. She was not created to be his toy. The woman was created to be his equal.
Eve – Mother of the Living
It was only after the curses had been laid by God that Adam gives his wife the name Eve. They had eaten from the forbidden tree, they had been told that they would be doomed to die, and now Adam names his woman Eve because she was the mother of all the living.
Eve means mother of the living. And she receives this name after the entrance of sin and the punishment of death. Eve, mother of the living.
After being forced from the garden Adam and Eve had several children. Cain, their firstborn, who killed his younger brother, Abel, then Seth and many other sons and daughters whose names are not given to us in the narratives. Eve was the mother of all the living, but even in this she felt pain and suffering as her children fought and died and struggled.
Eve, our first mother, is the representative for all women everywhere. She shows us the ideal that women were created to be and the failure that we all become. She shows us the intimacy of marriage and union with her man, and the division and struggle between men and women. She shows us the privilege of motherhood and the pain and torment of childbirth and raising the children. Eve is Everywoman, created to be equal with man, created to be his helper and sustainer, co-participant in the fall, and mother to us all. Even the alienation from God we feel is a direct consequence of her fall, and ties us all to her. (A Meditation on Eve, Out of the Garden: Women Writers on the Bible, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, pg. 1)