The original woman – needed or needy?

The original woman – needed or needy?

The foundation of the dispute between egalitarians and complementarians is the creation account found in the book of Genesis. How each side views the creation of woman defines the view of woman throughout the rest of scripture.

Even before God created the woman from the side of the man, God spoke words that define who the woman is and her purpose.

Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

There are three things here that stand out.

1. The man alone is “not good”.
2. The woman was created as a “helper” for man.
3. The woman was to be “suitable” for man.

The man’s creation alone is said to be “not good” out of all of God’s creation. The man had a need that God was going to meet for the man through the creation of the woman. The word “helper” in Hebrew does not suggest a subordinate role, as the NET Bible translator notes say that

In the Bible God is frequently described as the “helper”, the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs. In this context the word seems to express the idea of an “indispensable companion.”

The last thing that we can see from God’s words is that the woman is to be “suitable” for man. Again the NET Bible translator notes say:

The Hebrew expression literally means “according to the opposite of him.” Translations such as “suitable (for)” (NASB, NIV), “matching,” “corresponding to” all capture the idea…The man’s form and nature are matched by the woman’s as she reflects him and complements him. Together they correspond. In short, this prepositional phrase indicates that she has everything that God has invested in him.

The Hebrew word for “suitable” has the meaning of “in front of” as well as “corresponding to”, so we see that the woman was created with everything that God has invested in man plus she has what he doesn’t have so that she is able to provide what he needs, thus in the literal word translation, the verse says:

And-he-is-saying Yahweh Elohim not good to-be-of the-human to-be-alone-of-him I-shall-make for-him helper as in-front-of-him.

Unfortunately some have taken God’s words and have twisted them to re-define the woman as a needy being instead of the one who meets Adam’s need. How is this re-defining accomplished? Complementarian leaders teach that:

1. The woman “needs” a leader who will make decisions on her behalf.
2. The woman “needs” a spiritual leader/priest who will represent her to God and who will also represent God to her.

In essence by making the woman a “needy” human being, if she is without a man to meet these “needs” a woman would not be able to fulfill her God-given “role” and without a husband or a spiritual leader/priest to interpret God’s will to her she is not even able to minister fully to other women. This puts women in a secondary or inferior spiritual “role” so that her place of teaching is inferior to the man’s.

While many complementarians are willing to admit that women are allowed to teach the bible to other women, when this belief is carefully examined, they have to admit that a woman’s teaching is inferior to a man’s teaching. By making a woman “needy”, some complementarians have gone so far as to teach that a woman can never be the best spiritual mentor even for another woman. John MacArthur teaches that the deepest and greatest spiritual source for a woman will always be a man:

Click here to hear John MacArthur audio clip #1

Her significance in the world is then only through following the man’s divine direction:

Click here to hear John MacArthur audio clip #2

Whether complementarians want to admit it or not, this in essence teaches that a woman is spiritually inferior to a man. She cannot provide the deep spirituality that a man can and a woman who has women mentors is missing something spiritually unless she has a man providing bible teaching to her.

What this does is leave a woman as needy – needing a man to provide for her spirituality. But this is not biblical. A woman has everything that man has spiritually and nothing is missing. Paul responded to men who thought that women were to be excluded in the giving and receiving of God’s word. Paul said:

1 Cor. 14:36 What? Was it from you that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you alone?

Paul is saying that the word of God has not come to men alone as the Judaizers taught. Women too are to learn because God’s word is given equally for them. The practice of many Jews to exclude women regarding learning of God’s word is not God’s way. In the same way, Paul says that God’s word did not go out from men only. God has also used women to spread his word speaking through them as prophet, judge and teacher.

In the next post we will look at the other assertion that says that woman is “needy” in that she needs a “priest” in the home to represent her to God.

5 thoughts on “The original woman – needed or needy?

  1. Excellent!

    I’ve even read that the “suitable” is in reference to a “mate.” This made total sense to me since Adam had just seen how every other male creature *except him* had a mate. And then when God made one for him, we see Adam say, “AT LAST! A mate for me!”

    It’s almost as if something so simple couldn’t be it, since it’s so simple!

  2. Keer,
    This is why I believe that God had Adam name the animals. God knew that Adam needed the woman but Adam didn’t yet know it. When all the animals were paraded before Adam, it finally sunk in that he was missing something. And then when God created the woman especially for the man (she was the only mate that was created from the male instead of from the dirt) she could exclaim that finally here she was just for him. I believe that today it is also important for me to realize that women are needed for them. We aren’t just needed for women and children but men need us to help them in the spiritual realm. God has given us as a gift to men to supply what they lack and together we reflect God and his greatest accomplishment through mankind.

  3. Thanks Cheryl

    well said. No arguments here!

    what amazes me is that so many women (even mature female Christians and pastor’s wives that i know well) just ‘take’ what they have been ‘fed’ on this – that women are ‘designed’ by God to be ‘helpers’ for men. a simple word study shows this is absolutely not meant by the Hebrew word “ezer”. rather than being ‘lesser’ assistants to males because of their gender or being more ‘needy’ than men, woman was designed by our Creator to provide ‘help’ than MAN desperately needed. I love that the same word is used of God on multiple occasions saying he is our HELPER (ezer… (cf. Is 41;13; ps 10:14; Ps 28:7; Ps 33:20; Ps 70:5 etc etc). No one claims He is our ‘mere’ assistant, hey?! God is not the ‘needy’ one – we are and he is our ezer (“Helper”).

    We sadly lay so much ‘tradition’ on our understanding of Scripture… when it’s just not in the text at all…

    HELP us Lord cos we are all needy of you and revelation from the Word…

  4. Thanks Kerryn. You are right in that we all struggle with tradition that we bring to the scripture in one way or another. We constantly need the Lord’s help to sort this all out.

  5. Cheryl,

    This was a very good post. I have been thinking a lot about this issue lately and your post helped me flesh out my thoughts even more.

    MacArthur’s comments kind of startle me.

    Men are given divine dominion? It seems from my reading of scripture that men and women are both given dominion. I don’t know what adding “divine” really means when he uses it that way. Is it significant that he says that men are given “divine dominion” instead of regular old “dominion”?

    You are right that women have everything a man has spiritually. We receive all of it from God as His gift to us. Spiritual insight and wisdom is not given according to gender.

    God said that man was in need. It would seem that would be something that would be humbling to a man instead of cause for grabbing the number one position?

    In our humanness, we often don’t want to admit that we are in need because it hurts our pride. When I come to realize that I am lacking and I have need, it causes me to be dependent and in a position of humility and gratefulness to those (or God, Himself) who supplies what I lack.

    When someone comes to me and supplies what I am lacking, I don’t immediately grab the opportunity to claim superiority and authority over them. When we are in need and lacking we are not in the position to have this sort of attitude.

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