In Torah we read the following about Eve’s primary function:

וַיֹּאמֶר יהוה אֱלֹהִים לֹא־טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ אֶעֱשֶׂהּ־לּוֹ עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ׃

The LORD God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him.” (Gen. 2:18)

The Hebrew word for “woman” is אִשָּׁה (isha) and for “man” אִישׁ (ish). What is interesting, however, is that these two words, “man” אִישׁ (ish) and “woman” אִשָּׁה  (isha), although they sound similar do not share a common Hebrew root. The word אִישׁ (ish) comes from the root אִוֵּשׁ, connoting “strength”, while the word אִשָּׁה  (isha) comes from the root אֲנָשׁ (anash), meaning “fragile”. The Hebrew Bible, while acknowledging the woman to be a “weaker vessel” (as in 1 Peter 3:7), assigned to a woman a very important role indeed.

Unfortunately, the English word “helper” does not sufficiently communicate the power of the original Hebrew meaning. This word is, in fact, a military term. The use of עֵזֶר  (ezer) “helper” connotes an active intervention on behalf of someone. It describes someone who is committed to your well-being to the extent that s/he is willing to die or kill for you.

Most English translations (including the one cited above) describe Adam’s life-partner, Eve, as something akin to a “fitting helper”. However, the Hebrew phrase עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ (ezer kenegdo), if translated more literally, carries an intriguing meaning. Eve is described in oppositional terms, as “a helper who is against him”. It is also interesting that Proverbs 31:10 in referring to wisdom personified as a woman, calls her a אֵשֶׁת-חַיִל (eshet chayil) “a woman-soldier”!

Bible stories such as Zipporah opposing Moses, Tamar opposing Judah, Rahab opposing the elders of the city, and the Samaritan woman opposing male-sanctioned traditions and politics come to mind as examples. These great women of faith intervened, opposing the will of the men involved, and at great personal risk merited an unprecedented place in Biblical history.

148 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting article… I had heard before that the Hebrew term describing “helper” had also meant “opposite”. I never saw it as against her mate, but complementing him …together being whole and in unity. That there is a strength and a power from the unity of man and woman because they together have a completeness in that they were made in the image of God. Really appreciated learning the deeper meaning of the military term.

    • Amy hi. Opposite and against (negdo) is what is being refered there. Helper (ezer) is something different. It is a combination of these words that qualifies one another.

      • It seems that ALLY is a functional translation of EZER, but NEGDO doesn’t imply adversary but one who is physically opposite face to face as seeing things eye to eye, because it doesn’t make sense for a perfect ally to be your adversary.

      • Interesting. Perhaps the Hebrew connotes those competing terms because a woman can take either role, if she chooses. The first role, and one which is commended, is that of a helper to righteous men and defender of the weak and innocent. The second role is that of being in opposition to righteousness. We see women who chose one or the other role within the pages of the Bible. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the model of the most righteous. And we see wicked Queen Athaliah, who murdered her own grandsons to cement her power.

        • Sure, Rose-Marie. The root neged means “facing” with a prominent nuance of “opposing.” Which shade of meaning makes more sense though?

      • Could you also render, “ against him” as a helper for Adam against “him” Satan/enemy who was in the garden also. Otherwise why in a perfect garden would Adam and Eve need to tend/watch over the garden?

        • There are several ways to interpret this phrase, but “against him (satan)” isn’t a likely candidate since the context exclusively indicates that Eve is the “ezer kenegdo.” The fact that the creation is very good (you used the word “perfect”) doesn’t mean that there was nothing for the first couple to do in the garden. In a perfect clock, do the moving parts have no job? So also in a marvelous creation, every creature has its own purpose and job ordained by God. Humans were to tend to the garden and subdue the earth.

      • Can you elaborate more on “who (the one – Eve, Woman) is against him (Adam, mankind, man). How can she be strong warrior and be against him. Or is this more like when you stand back to back against someone, both are supported.

        • In one sense of the word, Kay, neged could simply mean “before”, “in front of”, or “on par with”. But the root meaning is literally “opposition”. So if a woman is both a helper and an opposer, (though in some ways these are contradictory) then her opposition must prove helpful. When a man has an unscrutinized or dangerous idea for example, the woman should be the respectful but opposing force that brings perspective, clarity and direction.

      • Yes, Adam was made in the image of God, but then God made Eve from Adam’s rib, so wouldn’t she part of that image, since she came from Adam? I see the oneness of marriage as two parts complementing each other to make one (wholeness) while man is indeed the head, the covering, the strength.

        • The woman is the head of the children, if she has a son, Adam is his head, but if a daughter Eve is her head. God is the head of Jesus, and Jesus the head of every man. Though she and her husband raise them both when the man, or the woman go off to hunt or gather food for the family one must stay behind, so we all share in the raising of our children. yet the woman until her children reach maturity is their head as they grow.

        • Shalom to all. God made Adam and Eve in His image. (Genesis 1:27).
          “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created THEM.”
          God did create MANKIND in HIS own image. We all are created in HIs image.
          God bless and thanks for possibility to be here.
          Aija.

      • Marko, That’s not correct. In the Genesis 1 creation story, God made both man and woman in God’s image. It is the Genesis 2 creation story in which Eve is made from Adam’s rib. This account does not mention God’s image, but God’s breath.

          • The word Hebrew word “tseila'” is behind the English translations. Of the 48 times it is used in the Bible, only in these verses is it translated as “rib.” Elsewhere it is a largely an architectural term meaning “side,” as in “the side of the ark.” The Greek of the Septuagint is “pleuran” which is the same word used in the Gospel of John where Yeshua was pierced and where Thomas was invited to insert his hand. Is rib a better translation, or side?

        • Jesus is the mediator between Jew or Gentile, bond or free male and female, though 2 we are one through his body which we are all baptized into and put on Jesus as well.

      • Honor your Father and Mother, because 2 says it shall become one flesh, sperm and egg, join together to form the male or female from then on and occasionally even A Hermaphrodite, or intersexed child is born as well.

      • Adam was not a man nor a woman when first created… Adam is the masculine form of earth and Adamah is the feminine. Adam was both until they were separated and became Adam male and Eve which means breath. The word was not translated properly in English because men decided they wanted to be god.

      • Genesis 1:27 King James Version (KJV) 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Galatians 3:28 King James Version (KJV) 28 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.

        • In the Complete Jewish Bible in B’RESHEET /Genesis 1:27 …So G-d created humankind in His own image ; in the image of G-d He created him ; male and female .In Galatians 3: 28 it reads ; There is neither Jew nor Gentile /Goyim ,neither slave nor freeman ,neither male nor female ;for in union with the Messiah Y’Shua ,you are all one .Also ,if you belong to the Messiah ,you are the seed of Avraham and heirs according to the promise .

      • Sorry Marko. Look at Genesis 1:27. So God created mankind in His image,In the image of God He created THEM (emphasis mine); male and female He created them.

      • Adam was made in the image of G-d and therefore since Eve was taken out of Adam I believe Eve was made in the image of G-d also!!

  2. No more money for sexism, racism, negative forms of inequality. Political, religious balance of male and female rights most needed at this critical time in history, to be able to come out of 5000 years of male dominance distorted reality of might makes right.

    • Oh come on! You say “come out of 5000 years of male dominance distorted reality”? Sure women have been unfairly unequal but Biblically they are two sides of a whole!

    • G-d did not make Eve to be some kind of new form of man–He made her as a complement to Adam. The only “rights” either gender has is what has been given them from above. He gave them the duty to “be fruitful and multiply”–and forbids them to engage in the “fruitless works of darkness”. The women of the modern feminist movement have utterly perverted their roles as the bearers of life, in their absolute support for abortion. Nothing but evil has come from it and nothing but evil ever will come from it.

  3. The Bible must be interpreted in the time it was written and your teaching gives information that is new and so informative. Thank you.

  4. I would love to take your course. You offer great insights to the Bible. However, we travel and spend time at different places and I love to learn. My schedule is very full and I am an active Grandma. between AZ, Calif and IN. I appreciate all your knowledge and I loved my time I once spent in Israel. You are a very good communicator and thank you so much for all your interesting articles on my computer. I will continue to read and learn all I can, but I just don’t feel I have the time to follow throught

  5. An important purpose of the feminine in God’s just ordering of things is the feminine’s “civilizing” of the masculine. I’m reminded of the scene in Braveheart where the princess tells the king that she wishes to use the gold he first offered as a negotiating tool to relieve the suffering of the orphans left by the war’s ravages. Evil man that he is, he refuses, of course.

    • In the Bible, evil apparently comes from insubordinate women, in addition to coming from weak men. Eve overstepped when she took the forbidden fruit (Adam was right there with her when Eve made her fateful decision). The evil queen Jezebel and her wicked daughter Athaliah usurped their authority, in utter rebellion against their roles as “helpers” to men. Jezebel was able to do what she did because Ahab was weak and deferred to her–a perversion of his role as the “strength” of their union, while she became a murderess. Athaliah was worse–she murdered her own grandsons to usurp the throne.

      • I see that adam stood by and watched as eve may well have died in front of him – who was worse adam or eve ? – doesn’t matter as adam was the head and therefore is totally responsible – not eve. bit spineless in modern verbage…

  6. It seems to me that Peter counsels to treat our wives as a weak vessel. Is he really affirming that they are weak vessels? Or to treat them as such?

  7. After 45 years of marriage I can that my wife Joy has understood Fathers words perfectly even when I did not get it at all. Thank you my brother for all your labor of love.

  8. Men and women see things differently; we’re more about the mechanics and women are more about the relationships. Men’s minds are more compartmented, where a woman’s is more like a beehive. But my wife can make connections and see things I cannot. And whoever said women can’t fight for their families never met my mom! Husband and wife are meant to compliment each other. Together they are a formidable force. But when she thinks I am wrong, my wife can also confront me- be an opponent. Your explanation there makes sense, and some good insights. Dawg, so many courses …

    • I find Biblically the great men of God were very RELATIONAL MEN. God imparted a great ability to them to SEE things and to CONNECT deeply. I believe in today’s “feminist” culture HaSatan has turned this around, made MEN weaker and Women stronger and the sole proprietors of connection and relationships. For me, I am the one in the relationship that SEES and CONNECTS everything around me, while She SUPPORTS, gives INSIGHT and FIGHTS with me. She is the weaker, I am the stronger, I LEAD US into the reality of the vision God shows me.

  9. It’s always such a refreshing pleasure to listen to you on this website through your audios and videos as you teach us about the Holy Bible from a Jewish perspective. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to continue with these studies and this work. Thank you very much!

  10. The example of Abigail supplying David against her husband’s wishes comes to my mind. Dr Eli, I would love to be taking some of your courses – but I am a full time early childhood teacher plus studying to be fully qualified in this. Your emails are so full of absorbing learning that I don’t dare take on a whole course until I finish my Bachelor of Teaching degree in just under two years 🙂 It would be seriously distracting 🙂

  11. This is very interesting! נגד translated as “opposite” can also mean “something in front of” or “on the other side” similar to a mirror image. Mirror twins are often referred to as having a “mirror image” because the twins, when facing each other, appear as matching reflections. They have the same physical features but some are opposite. For example, if one twin is right-handed the other twin may be left-handed. They are the same but opposites and when facing each other, appear as matching reflections.

    • Actually, I’ve always interpreted this phrase as meaning ‘opposite” or “mirror” as Deborah mentions above. However, I think your interpretation of “against” seems to be supported by the LXX use of “kat’ auton” for the Hebrew “neged.” *But I never seriously thought about “against” as a primary meaning in the MT or LXX until I read your article. Thanks very much!

    • My exact take on this amazing study, its a MIRROR Opposite, that is complementary and powerful. Ish and Isha WORK together as Echad, supporting each other, joined in a mirror image, challenging each other as iron sharpens iron, and fighting side by side against the enemies of Elohim.

    • Are we ‘Over thinking’ too many subjects in the bible? DNA given via creation by a truly caring creator is also managed by that creator (Grace) & simply understanding the basics e.g. edifying each other is health to all…

  12. Referring to Marko’s comment that only man was created in God’s image, Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of god He created him; male and female He created them.” Therefore I thought it clear that both man and woman were created in God’s image. Am I wrong?

  13. It has been said “Don’t ask for the meaning but for the use” of words/phrases in their context.

    • Both men and women are complete as individuals. We can not say a single person needs to marry to be complete. However the unity of marriage reflects God as a relational God to a watching world , where we are able to grow in our experience of the fruit of the Spirit.

  14. Thank you for this article. It’s really interesting, deeper meaning of whom I should be as a wife.

  15. Shalom Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg Thank you for new view point about man and woman basically you caused a revolution in our thoughts and you said to everybody that we should not check out the Torah as one dimension because if everybody study it like last time as a result the book is for the past not now or every time and it can not be an excellent book. Each verse is possible to explain two or hundreds faces that we did not pay attention it.

  16. Context can never be under emphasized when understanding any text. It is true that there are several nuances than any Hebrew word (or other languages) can show. You wrote Proverbs 31:10 that the “woman” (eshet chayil) is a “woman soldier”. This is the danger of “picking” a nuanced word from a list. The word chayil as you know can reference strength, power, wealth, valor, honor. Does the context really teach that the woman referenced is a “woman soldier?” Does Ruth 3:11 mean “woman soldier”? The exact same phrase is used there where Boaz says she is a woman of “honor”.

  17. Dr. Eli, do you believe n the literalness of the Bible? If bone and flesh were removed from the 1st human being as he stated himself, and the bone was a rib, what was the flesh?

  18. It’s hard to know how to apply “a helper who is against him”. Zipporah intervened because of the sign of the covenant. Tamar opposition is based on law. The Samaritan woman intervened for her people? because of (covenant? Law?). Then we get to 1 Cor 14:34 (Roman law) and Paul calls for submission (as the law says), or does he? Where is the opposition? Unless desiring to learn is the opposition, home is the place, the husband is who she should oppose.

  19. – Thank you Dr Eli for this insight. Further elaboration / application of this insight in the 21st century, with all its current gender implications, will be extremely helpful! Blessings.

  20. Shalmo Dr Eli.Thank you for this article.It is very interesting.Just from my embryology study I learned that all mammals start out as a female and if the Y chromosome is present then some parts are enlarged and some deleted.That’s why men have nipples.The mystery of creation….the wonder of it…and of different languages.God bless and I hope I get time to study your courses some time.Fiona

  21. Should not more attention be given to Genesis 2:23? Here we have “ish” and “isha” grammatically interconnected because of man (ish) she was taken (luqohah). The female is thus the outward expression of his own inner strength, near to his heart — expansion upon, complimentary in nature. This is the divine dance of love (Genesis 2:24), as also within the singular being of G-d (Deut. 6:4). Both male and female together compose the expression of Deity (Gen. 1:26-28), just as the Divine Nature is Complexity into Unity (Ehad). “Helper Against” is then “I have your back”, not “attack your back.”

  22. I find it interesting that God made man in His own image. Male AND female He made them, not male or female. Most human are pseudo-hermaphrodites or infertile but perhaps Mary was a perfect Hermaphrodite. The family tree with so much infertility and late in life conceiving could support this. God uses His Creation for His miracles. This could help people who mixed gender features among others. Jezabel was apparently the last of the Matriarchal Jewish line. So we see a father marrying his mother to preserve the line, a child with the same person as his mother and grandmother.

    • Hi Sylvia, The Bible is a historical narrative not a scientific text – so this question will remain a speculative one at best.

  23. The Bible says that if you take away from or add to the words of this Book, all of the curses in this Book will be added unto you. God is God. The Great I Am. After the fall of man, everything was corrupted. Satan did his best to prevent the birth of Jesus, including homosexuality. Also, I wouldn’t be trying to claim that God is a hermaphrodite. There is NO confusion with God. Confusion is of Satan. God created man to be the head of the family and woman in submission to her husband while cherished by him.

  24. The word אִישׁ (ish) comes from the root אִוֵּשׁ, connoting “strength”, while the word אִשָּׁה (isha) comes from the root אֲנָשׁ (anash), meaning “fragile”. To the best of my knowledge both Ish and Ishah come from the same root Anash so it is very disappointing to find you misleading people with Satanic nonsence. Adam and Chavah fell for Satan’s deceit because all of mankind is frail or fragile and need to be educated in handling good and evil which is why Y’hovah allowed Satan to tempt them. Life is a learning process.

  25. Dr. Eli, don’t forget Deborah and Barak. He wouldn’t go to battle without her. GOD gave her the victory. Woman may be weaker, more fragile but honestly, we are always at war, training our child/ren in the way they should go, committed to fighting for them to live right. Although men are stronger, women have more endurance. If a woman is divorced/single parent, she does everything, even though fragile and weaker. That’s why we shed ‘tears’, often, and GOD bottles them. We recognize we cannot do it without HIM. Woman Soldier? Absolutely! Physically and Spiritually. 🙂 EXCELLENT Blog! Shalom!

  26. We may be “fragile” but women are indeed strong.
    I think it’s because we are so strong that we are called to be submissive. Women, though feagile are forever at war fighting for her family, fighting for her rights, fighting to be heard, teaching, leading and at the same time upholding her “stronger” husband in prayer.
    Love your teaching Dr Eli

  27. Greetings Dr Eli and all the audience, somewhere above there was a question of why Christians don’t adore The Lord on Saturday, there were a couple of well intentioned answers but I knew differently, so I searched until I found the reason. “The Sunday law was officially confirmed by the Roman Papacy. The Council of Laodicea in A.D. 364 decreed, “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honour, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ” (Strand, op. cit., citing Charles J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, 2 [Edinburgh, 1876] 316).”

  28. Most people miss an important function in that most women are good communicators and encourage a man to speak. If you were alone on a desert island for say 7 years in that time would loose much of your ability to speak. If you learn a foreign language you have to practise it to remain fluent.

  29. This is very interesting! The first moment reading about the “helper” with the implication of being opposite or against, I was thinking about the meaning of disagreement, but quickly I thought I was wrong because that made me remember a dream I had many years ago. I had this dream before I got married and didn’t think much about marriage, in the dream I saw a man had something like a puzzle piece in his hand, it was a very weird piece with an irregular outline, he was looking for another piece from a huge heap of puzzle pieces (con.)

  30. Think of a nut and bolt, they both oppose the other for a common purpose. One is virtually useless without the other, yet together they provide a binding force which is substantially greater than if they were apart. God split Adam into two natures, male and female. Neither can fulfill the function of the other but together they can produce both physical and spiritual fruit.

    • Like a nut and bolt – well said! I was thinking of a plug on an electrical device which fits into the power socket!

  31. This is a bit off-topic, but somewhat related. My understanding is that both Adam and Eve were created as PERSONS: cognitive, affective and conative. The commandment, “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy HEART and all thy SOUL and all thy MIGHT,” indicates the human as being HEART / SPIRIT, SOUL, and BODY. My question is this: Why did Jesus add MIND to the above HEART, SOUL and MIGHT in the NEW TESTAMENT? Does your understanding of the Hebrew language indicate a definition for each of these terms: HEART / SPIRIT, SOUL, MIGHT, MIND?

    • Neither psuches (soul) nor dianoias (mind/thoughts) alone adequately defines the Hebrew nephesh. It could be that both of these Greek words were used for the one Hebrew word.

  32. Interesante, entendia muy bien, pero ahora entiendo mas profundo! Muchas! Gracias Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenbergpor ese valioso aporte.

  33. This concept of being in opposition is not always a good thing. Thinking of Abraham and Sarah. The result was Ismael or today Islam!!!

  34. thank you
    learn a wee bit at a time and there is so much I don’t know even though I am 62. God created all humans, no matter what color of skin or what nation. those who GOd joins let no one separate

  35. I haven’t studied much of Hebrews,but I thought God used woman in creation and ezer is the Hebrew word for woman meaning stronger power!
    Educate me please.

    • In the Bible, Elohim (God) created everything. He made man and brought him into the Garden of Eden where he then created the woman, Eve. “Ezer” always means help or assistance, especially militarily. The Hebrew word for woman is אִשָׁה, pronounced “ee-shah”.

  36. Part of your statement “Ezer” always means help or assistance, especially military. This brings to mind that God calls us to put on the full armor of God for a reason. The flesh wars after the spirit and spirit after the flesh. In my understanding the armor of God helps us to stand against the wiles of Satan. Satan deceived Eve because she walked not after the spirit of God,but after the lust of the flesh,lust of the eyes, boastful pride of life.
    Thank you for allowing me to comment and for your comments and teaching.

  37. Amy and Aija, we are not created in the “image and likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We are created in the “likeness and image” of Adam, (Gen:5:3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.)

  38. A couple of thoughts: Two people standing opposite eachother, mirrored, can guard eachother’s back.

    Also, imagine two people standing on opposite sides of the road as a traffic accident happens. One says the truck came from the right. The other says it came from the left. This sounds oppositional, but together they give a three dimentional picture.

    Thank you for you thought-provoking teaching Dr. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg!

  39. Could the helper/opposer not be fundamental roles in marriage? We have the privilege of being under a husband’s leadership whilst knowing, more intimately than most, his fallen nature. There are times of support but also times when baser motives must be exposed.

  40. Wondering whether Gen. 2:18… make a fitting helper, means a helper who is against him, if God wanted Adam to be in troubles. The Greek word (βοηθός- helper )is a composite of two words (βοή =a cry and from the ver θεῷ =to run, flow= Come to the rescue of, to give immediate aid and many other meanings. With limited 50 words cannot explain more.

  41. Wonderful reply to Shiloh Dr Eli! Thank you! I’m so glad if you make me a part of this. Lyn I am also Lyn and South African. Hi.

  42. On what basis do you claim that Prov. 31 is a personification of Wisdom, rather than interpreting it at face value? IMHO, Mondo is correct about ‘eshet-chayil”: as the Proverbs context indicates, the apropos translation is something like “woman of means” : i.e., in Yiddish, a genuine balaboosta.

  43. J. Bell is very much on point stressing complementarity. In the spirit of Semitic word-play, allow me to suggest that the suitable rendering for “ezer ke-negdo” is APPOSITE OPPOSITE. In other words, ‘robust complementarity.’ Feel free to incorporate this insight (with attribution), into your original text.

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