Genesis 1 and 2 provide us with two versions of the same story and two variations on a word which, honestly, have me grinning and making jokes every time I teach this. ADAMA and ADAM. The first is from Genesis 1:26 and is translated “mankind”. I’d like to be clear here that the use of “man” in this translation indicates NOTHING whatsoever of gender. This word directly translated means “Dirt Beings”, it is genderless and proof that cleanliness is not as close to Godliness as we thought.
To broaden ADAMA, the dirt beings, let us reference the creation story and reason that it was for the earth, or dirt, that we were made, to be stewards of it and have dominion over it. Also, it was into these Dirt Beings that God placed his precious image (tseleem) and likeness (demuth). Let’s look at Genesis 1:26-27 specifically.
“And God said, Let us make man (adama)
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”
Look closely at the grammatical break down as I have written it here, with each piece of the verse on it’s own line. The reason I write it this this way is so that you can see clearly the chronology or process of the creation of the Dirt Beings. First, they were made; Second, they were given God’s image and likeness; and LASTLY they were separated into male (zakar) and female (neq-obvah) which is literally maleness and femaleness. So, are we given any insight into what that maleness and femaleness are supposed to be? Is their purpose explained? YES! In the following verses they are both addressed TOGETHER in the first Great Commission,
“Be fruitful and multiply,
Fill the earth
Rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth…
And God saw all that he had made and behold,
It was very good…”
Genesis 1:28 & 31
There is no discussion of the separation of these duties and responsibilities, there is no distinction made about roles of authority or submission upon the male and female beings of human kind. They share it all EQUALLY, both equally made in the image and likeness of God. From this text no other aspect of humanity is known, so let’s go to chapter 2 and see if it is in agreement with Genesis 1 or if it sheds light on some other meaning.
The Genesis 2 narrative approaches the Creation Story and the creation of the Dirt Beings from a different perspective. The writing is not as lyrical, and while it is still highly symbolic of the beauty of creation and the character of the Creator, it tastes more of history than of poetry. In this chapter we see the variation of the Hebrew “adama” shortened into the masculine noun “Adam”, which is literally, Dirt-Man, or rather THE Dirt-Man. God places Adam in the Garden of Eden and charges him both with the knowledge of which trees to eat and which tree NOT to eat. God then observes in his omniscience that it is not good for the Dirt-Man to be alone. Genesis 2, verse 18,
“It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
I’d like to be very clear about what is being said here. Adam himself did NOT feel loneliness or emptiness of ANY kind. How could he, living as he was with the presence of the Almighty God? But God has a plan and a purpose. He brings unto Adam all of the animals one by one, and watches to see what Adam will call them. The conclusion of this drama is that the Dirt-Man learns that there is not a single animal in creation that is suited to him as a human being and as a man. Let’s look at the second part of this verse. Please do not mistake the phrase “helper suitable” with that kind of help you might receive from a maid or a footstool. Oh no. This suitable helper is far more than that, it is a counterpart, an Ezer Neged, the likes of which creation has not yet seen, and will only see once again many, many years later.
EZER- To Help
Ezer, translated “helper” means literally “to aid, to surround or to protect”. Hebrew is a very figurative language in which pictures and literal examples bring life to the text, so to make this word/concept even more real to you imagine the EZER as you would think of full armor in battle, particularly the shield. A shield is held out in front of you as the first line of defense against the enemy. Many shields are bent in a curved manner so that it can surround the body more effectively. Ancient Hebrew shields were usually smaller and very versatile, round in shape and heavy but easily swept out in front for defense or pulled back to allow the soldier to strike. (more info on Israelite warfare in the Bible https://www.gci.org/bible/hist/weapons). Ezer is the same word picture used in Exodus 18:4,
“For the God of my father was my help”,
And throughout the Psalms,
“Our soul waits for the LORD: he is our help and our shield” (30:20),
“O Israel, trust thou in the LORD: he is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield, Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield” (Psalm 115: 9-11)
“Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth,” (Psalm 124:8). (Other references include Isaiah 30:5 and Hosea 13:9, as well as many other psalms and references in the prophets).
Throughout the Bible ezer is used to describe the help of the LORD. It is not a passive help, nor a meek help, but a STRONG and FORWARD help, which, when coupled with the adjective Suitability, becomes even more powerful.
NEGED- Equally Suited, a Counterpart
Neged means “A FRONT, or COUNTERPART” from the root nawgad which is, “To stand out BOLDLY before.”
Only once in the Old Testament is it ever translated “meet”, which is an old word meaning “suitable, proper and qualified”. While it hints at the meaning and purpose of the neged, “meet” does not quite paint the whole picture. In language studies when we want to truly understand a single word and it’s usage we compare it to how it is used in other places. In over 80 references in the KJV, neged is understood as meaning “before” or “in front of”, as in the phrase “I stand before you.” Psalm 26:3 uses it kindly,
“For thy loving-kindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in thy truth.”
An additional 30+ references render it as “against” that is, “up against” or “to lean against” in physical relationship. Numbers 25:4,
“And the LORD said unto Moses, “Take all the heads of the people and hang them up before the LORD, against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.”
Additionally, the root nawgad is translated as “to declare” “to show” and “to tell” in over 200 references of the KJV. Like ezer, neged is not a passive word/picture, rather it promotes a strong relationship between two objects or beings that are complementary to each other, even in the same form as the other. I want to draw you in even further into this picture by looking more closely at the word COUNTERPART in English.
I hit on this word because it is complementary to the translation of neged as “suitable” while not neglecting it’s other key components.
From Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: COUNTERPART, n. [counter and part.]
1. The correspondent part; the part that answers to another, as the two papers of a contract or indentures; a copy; a duplicate. Also, the part which fits another, as the key of a cipher. (emphasis mine).
A counterpart is a being that corresponds to another being that is LIKE it, being which is designed to be equal, suitable and fitting for every purpose the other might require. Even more, the two, as counterparts of one another must be interchangeable in function and purpose while still retaining individuality and unique characteristics. For example, the two copies of a contract are identical and serve to be equally binding to both parties. Yet, one person’s copy of the contract will have their own name, perhaps the company logo on the letter head while the second copy will display it’s own characteristics. A neged is something which is EQUAL to the task before it and equal to that which it is being paired with, otherwise it cannot be a counterpart.
The simplest way to SHOW you what it means to be an Ezer Neged, a Powerful Equal, is to show you. I’ve collected some phots of what an Ezer Neged of Old Testament times would look like in the 21st Century.
A sleep comes upon the man, and from him God takes a rib and fashions the Ezer Neged, the powerful equal, in the shape and being of a woman.
NO other being in creation meets this purpose for Adam. She is suitable for him in every way. They are interchangeable in a way that only a man and a woman can be, ezer neged’s of one another, fitted, suited, able to surround, aid and protect one another no matter what they face.
“This is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Ish-ah (woman) because she was made from Ish (man).”
And with these words Adam acknowledges the being and purpose of his wife, Ish-ah, the Counterpart of the Dirt-Man.
(stay tuned for part 4 of Priscilla Speaks: Ish-ah)
Married couple photo courtesy of HuffingtonPost