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I Will Make a Helper for Him (Gen 2:18)

I think that the word ezer is used mostly in poetry, not in prose, you have other words ezrah, in prose and that means that it is used mostly for God.  So when God helps in difficult situations, normally where people are in danger, in danger, in great danger, so it means that people need help to be saved, to save their lives. 

Here the danger, I think, is loneliness.  Loneliness is not good; it’s not good for man to be alone according to the normal translation, an ancient translation of the text.  So loneliness means also unfruitfulness. And ke-negdo means opposite him, in front of him and I would even say, like him because the animals cannot [stand] in front of first human being.  So, but the woman can stand in front of the human being.  The old King James Version helpmate was quite good.  It’s to help, to help but there’s a French word that corresponds in English, secours, succor, which is used also in difficult situations, or very specific situations.  When you cry in English, ‘help’ in French, we say, au secours because I am in danger.  I think that this, the nuance of this expression that the first human being is in real danger, and this helpmate, the woman, is there to save his life, to make that life fruitful, and so, it is indispensible, necessary, and vital.

  • Jean-Louis Ska

    Jean-Louis Ska, S.J., is professor of Old Testament exegesis at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He is the author of several books, in French and in English, including Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch (Eisenbrauns).