In Genesis 2:18 God said, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.” The Hebrew word for “helper” is ezer. It means “help” or “one who helps.” The word occurs twenty-one times in the Old Testament, including twice in Genesis 2, first in verse 18 and then in verse 20 when Adam named the animals and could not find “a helper comparable to him.”
Some women might find it offensive to be identified as their husband’s “helpers,” but the title is not a criticism of Eve’s insufficiency. Instead, it is an identification of Adam’s inadequacy! In the Amplified Bible Genesis 2:18 reads: “Now the Lord God said, ‘It is not good [sufficient, satisfactory] that the man should be alone.’” Woman is the helper man needs because he is not sufficient without her! God created woman to remove man’s deficiency. Richard and Sharon Phillips write:
To call a woman a helper is not to emphasize her weakness, but her strength. Not to label her as superfluous but as essential to Adam’s condition and to God’s purpose in the world. Helper is a position of dignity given to the woman by God Himself.Sharon L. Phillips, Richard D. Phillips, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts: Recovering a Biblical View of Christian Dating, January 9, 2006, pp. 26-27.
To learn why wives should be encouraged being called their husband’s helper, watch the message I delivered at a Marriage God’s Way Conference, and/or read the blog post below…
1. Ezer Describes Great Strength and Support
Ezer is never used in Scripture for something negative, such as a sycophant, minion, or slave. Consider these verses:
- Deuteronomy 33:29—Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help (ezer) and the sword of your majesty!
- Ezekiel 12:14—I will scatter to every wind all who are around him to help (ezer) him, and all his troops.
Considering this context, identifying woman as her husband’s ezer reveals her as a powerful and influential companion.
2. God Is Called Helper (Ezer)
Eleven of the nineteen times ezer is used outside Genesis 2 occur in Psalms. Each time it describes God as our helper. Some examples include:
- Psalm 33:20—Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help (ezer) and our shield.
- Psalm 70:5—Make haste to me, O God! You are my help (ezer) and my deliverer.
- Psalm 115:9—O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their help (ezer) and their shield.
The very title used to describe a woman’s role is a title used to describe God Himself. Since we do not let the identification of God as our helper make us think less of God, we should apply that same thinking to wives as their husbands’ helpers.
3. The Holy Spirit Is Called Helper
Helper is the title Jesus used for the Holy Spirit when He promised not to abandon the disciples after His departure:
- “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper.”—John 14:16
- “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name.”—John 14:26
- “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.”—John 16:7
It’s a privilege for women to carry the same title given to the Holy Spirit! It is clear that the title of ezer or helper is not one of inferiority but of honor.
4. Helping Is Very Commendable
Thinking biblically, helping and serving are two of the most admirable actions we can engage in as Christians. Jesus modeled such behavior and called His followers to do the same:
Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.Matthew 20:26–28
Few actions are commanded as often in Scripture or look more like Christ than helping and serving. As a result, wives should find it encouraging to be called their husbands’ helpers. They should not let society’s stereotypes influence their thinking about being a wife. Instead, they should joyfully embrace the role God has given them. In the Above Rubies article, “Do You Feel Downgraded?” Nancy Campbell writes:
[Ladies] are you feeling base and discouraged? Don’t listen to these lies any longer. Lift up your head and embrace your mandate from God. You are not working for any earthly employer, but for the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Sovereign God of the universe. When He calls you a helper you can hold your head high.
How Should a Wife Be Her Husband’s Helper?
You’d think if God called wives to be helpers, He’d let them know how to do that! But interestingly, there’s no list in Scripture telling wives how to help their husbands. I suspect this is because every man is unique. Since each husband has different strengths and weaknesses, it’s impossible to absolutely say how a wife should help because men will want—and need—help in different ways. Some men:
- Love to cook and enjoy taking on that responsibility. For men who struggle just making toast, they’ll find it helpful for their wives to do the cooking.
- Couldn’t balance a checkbook if their lives depended on it. For those men, it will be helpful if their wives oversee the finances.
For other couples, turning the finances over to the wife would leave accounts overdrawn in a month. The important issue is for wives to learn what their husbands need and then strive to help in those ways.
One Unique Way My Wife, Katie, Helps me
Much of my ministry revolves around teaching, and Sunday’s sermon receives particular attention. I go over it twice each week with Katie and, as a result, I have improved as a preacher. A weakness I had when I started pastoring was sharing a lot of technical information but little in the way of application. My wife has helped me in this area by regularly asking, “What does this have to do with our lives? How is this going to challenge us in the different roles we find ourselves?”
Katie has also helped me become clearer, letting me know when something is confusing. I might respond, “This is what I was trying to say,” and she will say, “That’s not how it sounded before. What you just said makes sense.” Because of all this, I often say from behind the pulpit, “When I was going over the sermon with Katie . . .” The congregation knows how much my wife helps me, and I often hear people say, “You two make a great team.” And they are right. My preaching has improved significantly because of the time and effort Katie has committed to going over my sermons with me.
While I know most women reading this may not have husbands who preach, the principle is still the same. Wives need to look for the unique areas in which their strengths can complement their husbands’ needs and weaknesses.
Helping Requires Adapting
Hopefully a wife will be committed to helping her husband even if it isn’t what she enjoys doing. Our children often say they want to help, but when we tell them what to do, they sometimes respond, “This is what I want to do instead.” As a result, they don’t end up being much help. Unfortunately, I’ve seen wives with similar attitudes. /Just as with our children, wives with this attitude end up not being much help to their husbands.
The biblical instruction for wives to submit to their husbands also includes the concept of adapting. This is captured in the Amplified Bible:
- Ephesians 5:22—Wives, be subject [be submissive and adapt yourselves] to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord.
- Colossians 3:18—Wives, be subject to your husbands [subordinate and adapt yourselves to them], as is right and fitting and your proper duty in the Lord.
- Titus 2:5a—[Wives should] be self-controlled, chaste, homemakers, good-natured [kindhearted], adapting and subordinating themselves to their husbands.
- 1 Peter 3:1a—In like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate yourselves as being secondary to and dependent on them, and adapt yourselves to them].
Helping Is a Two-Way Street
One of the most common complaints I hear from wives is, “My husband doesn’t communicate with me!” Wives are not mind readers, and husbands can be notorious for giving short and sometimes ambiguous answers. Plenty of wives who want to be good helpers cannot because they do not know what their husbands want. Husbands can help their wives tremendously by communicating with them clearly and more frequently. I will say it like this: Husband, help your wife be your helper by communicating to her how she can help you.
Also, just because God graciously gave Adam a wife to complement him and help meet his needs does not mean that a wife should endlessly serve her husband while he doesn’t lift a finger. Scripture identifies wives as helpers, but husbands also help their wives. There may even be times when a husband is called to take over some of his wife’s responsibilities.
Katie has s a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, which means she gets very sick during pregnancies. During those seasons, Katie can barely get out of bed some mornings, much less care for our other children. We homeschool, so they need their work supervised. Our youngest child needs to be watched so he doesn’t fall down the stairs, put something in his mouth that he should not, or find himself crushed by older siblings playing.
By God’s grace, my job has a very flexible schedule. On those days (or weeks) when Katie’s sickness is the worst, I stay home in the morning and work later in the evenings. I also take over a number of Katie’s normal responsibilities. Every time I “play mom,” it reminds me to be thankful for my wife.
Discussion Questions for Husbands and Wives:
- Can you think of other reasons a wife should be encouraged being identified as her husband’s helper.
- What ways does your wife help you?
- Considering your weaknesses, what ways would you like your wife to help you?
- What ways can you help your wife and make her load lighter?
- What can you do to help your wife resist being influenced by the world’s stereotypes?
- What ways do you help your husband?
- How would you like your husband to better communicate with you?
- How would you like your husband to help you and make your load lighter?
- Are any stereotypes tempting you to think falsely about your role as a wife? What can you do to resist these influences?