Is woman really inferior to man? What does the bible say about that? What is the scriptures stand on gender equality?
This has been a debate for long which indeed has found it place even among Christians. Basically, lack of understanding or right interpretation of the scripture has resulted to this debate. But here in George’s Diary, we explain it the way it is in the scriptures.
“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
“…From where comes my help? My help comes from the Lord…” Psalm 121:1-2
The older English term “meet”, meant “appropriate” or “corresponding to”.
The Hebrew word translated as helpmate is אזר ‘ezer’, as in ‘eben-ezer, ‘stone of help’ or Ezra ‘help’. It is a noun of masculinity, though used here to refer to a woman. New Testament we see Phoebe described as a male deacon. The LXX, Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, uses the word βοηθοσ boêthos (Strong’s 998) to translate ‘ezer. Of its 45 uses, boêthos is used 42 times to refer to help that comes from a stronger source, from a more secure or strengthened position, without need of reciprocal help. This strengthens the idea of ‘help’ as equal or superior rather than inferior.
Extracting the great inputs of a Christian writer, R. David Freedman, we will understand that the possible root behind ‘ezer may have been either ‘-z-r “to rescue, save” (as the Ugaritic) and or ‘g-z-r meaning “to be strong”. The Hebrew letter “ghain” probably, like Arabic, having previously had two forms implying two roots that may have later got confused when just one Phoenician sign served for both letters. The use of the root verb אזר ‘âzar (Strong’s 5826) in the Old Testament extends to some 80 occasions, generally of military aid, help from a position of supply or strength. Although the noun is also used of military aid (e.g., Isaiah 30:5; Ezekiel 12:14; Hosea 13:9F2), it does not always imply a victorious intervention or superior assistance. On one occasion it is paralleled with terms for salvation and support (Isaiah 63:5) in the sense of one being leant.
From the meaning of the words God used, he wasn’t saying is sending man help in form as “service” or “slavery”. Many Bible commentators have suggested that new bible translations should explain what God was saying because older translations have always been misunderstood. What God actually said was “I will make a power/strength corresponding to or equal to man.” It is a relationship of equals.
The last part of v.18 reads literally as “I will make him for him a helper as in front of him.” The phrase ‘as in front of him’ is “kenegdô” which occurred only here and in v.20, and suggests correspondence, with the woman being neither inferior nor superior, but equal. The substantive, “neged”, means ‘that which is conspicuous, in full view of, in front of’, the related noun, “nagid”, implies a ‘ruler’ or ‘prince’, and the verb, “nagad”, implies to ‘declare, tell, expound, reveal, announce’ (this is interesting in the light of the denial of women teachers by some.) or ‘go ahead’. This last one suggests ‘achievement, pioneering, risk and deliberate thrust into the unknown’.
To read if Paul really asked the women not to preach, read my presentation on that here.
If some persons are trying to use verse 18 to disregard women and dismiss their ministry, such persons are in danger of distorting what God actually meant. Understanding the Hebrew words of the original bible suggests more of women’s superiority than inferiority. They have the ability to declare, teach, expound, reveal and to be a pioneering leader out in front. And mind you, that it has become a norm to underrate women doesn’t mean we shouldn’t struggle to correct it. When Jesus came, it has became normal for people to trade in the temple but Jesus used whip to drive them out.
In Rabbinic Hebrew, kenegdô is translated as ‘corresponding to’. Gretchen Gabelein Hull coins the helpful phrase of woman as “‘completer’ and “competitor.” Woman makes the man complete, she was taken out of him. In fact woman is also a man, she is part of a man that was separated from the man and by the reason of marriage they are united together (to understand more, anticipate my book “Dedicated to women”).
Genesis 1:26-28 should be taken as an a priori interpreter of 2:18, as it precedes it, and both are pre-Fall statements.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
Here, dominion, image, and blessing are conferred upon man, it was the complete man which included the male and the female. The Bible says “…created him; male and female created he them”, but the text continues, ‘let them have dominion”. Since, literally speaking, only Adam and Eve then existed, and the creative blessing to ‘go forth and multiply’ needed to be spoken over the first couple in order to put the rest of us here on this planet, it would suggest that the ‘them’ referred to is Adam and Eve. Indeed 1:27-28 elucidates:
“male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion …”
So, there was no special greater blessing for the male. The blessing of taking charge and exploring ones potentials is greatly on both males and females! In fact, God called them both Adam as we see in Chapter 5:2 of Genesis.
“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”
Thus, as Galatians 3:28 puts it
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
It interprets the other New Testament statements of Paul. In the same manner Genesis 1:28 interprets other Old Testament statements, for Scripture must interpret Scripture.
The concept of joint dominion as “joint heirs” wasn’t a new idea in the Bible. In the Old Testament, despite way the people of that time seem to view women, women can inherit in the absence of male heirs, and 1 Peter 3:7 didn’t say they are heirs if we are not around but “heirs together of the grace of life”
When bible talks about “Sonship” and all the ideas associated with it, it was always a privilege of both male and female as we can see in from some of these passages of the scripture:
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” John 1:12
“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Romans 8:17
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
The bible used men to refer to both male and female, the use of such term does not deny women “equal opportunities”. Like we saw earlier, Phoebe is a woman but a male term was used for her. All believers are priests (1 Peter 2:9), male and female alike.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;”
When God was pronouncing the effects of man’s fall in the garden, he told the woman that her desires will be for the man and that the man will rule over her. In my book, “Dedicated to Woman”, I explained that God was saying that is his intention and purpose for making woman and he wasn’t placing woman in that status. They were about to leave Eden into the world, a world that has been handed over to the devil through disobedience and devil will introduce his system which is the opposite of God’s intention and purpose. God having seeing what was going to happen made it known to them that life in the garden and outside the garden isn’t the same! (Read more about that in my soon coming book “Dedicated to Women”.
Our world today makes it seem as if women are meant for domestic duties only. When Isaac was old, he didn’t ask his wife to cook but he asked Esau. When Esau was hungry, it was his mother that he found cooking in the kitchen but it was Jacob!
So we should neither make man superior nor woman inferior. Woman was taken from the side of man and not from his head or foot. Why I presented her superiority here is not to make it seem as they are indeed to lead men both for us to see that even if the bible wanted one to be superior, it is the woman, this shows the dangers of bad exegesis. Woman is not lesser and only fit for “helper” duties. Just as God is my helper, it is dangerous to ask him to do my laundry.
Anticipate my book “Dedicated to Women”. It will be available on online stores and book stores.
Remember to always visit back to georgennad.wordpress.com or get George’s Diary for fresh contents.