Friday, July 11, 2008

A Help Meet for Him

Here is something that really annoys me, being the nitpicker that I am: the term 'helpmeet'.

Here is why: I hate it when people purposely misinterpret the Bible for their own gain.

The phrase is from Genesis, where Adam is bestowed with a 'help meet for him'.

The Old English word 'meet' means worthy or appropriate. So, God was giving Adam a worthy helper. I'd like to think that, millennia later, I am a worthy helper to many people, including my husband.

Unfortunately, this, like many Bible verses, gets twisted around and turned into an excuse to subjugate women. A popular book with this mistranslation in its title advocates that women be totally submissive to and supportive of their husbands. If you explore the author's website, you can find instances where they advocate hitting four-month-old babies with sticks and recommend that wives remain with husbands who molest their children.

If you know any Jewish women, you may have noticed that they don't take crap from anyone. There is a rich Biblical tradition of this attitude.

For example, when Abigail's first husband almost gets them killed, she defies him and in effect saves their clan from slaughter at the hands of the army he was antagonizing.

Would she have helped him more by submitting to his stupidity and allowing their entire family to be slaughtered? Apparently many people think so. They think the Bible says this... somewhere. I don't know. I don't get it.

My husband and I disagree on many things. Sometimes I give in (like whether we should be 100% vegetarian). Sometimes I don't (like whether our kids really need well child visits). I think making all the decisions for a family is a huge responsibility and that I wouldn't be a help meet for him if I kept my mouth shut when I had wisdom to offer.


Shannon said...

Wow again! I have to agree 100% with you on this one! In fact, I had the word obey removed from our wedding vows and had cherish added in its place. You are very wise dear Emily!

Jennifer said...

I am in agreement with you that the word meet is a mistranslation. This is the only story where it is found, in Genesis 2:18 and 20. The Hebrew root word that this comes from, means to stand against. But, the help is help. And, she's not created for everyone but just for him.

The Tanach says, "I will make him a helper corresponding to him". In Webster's 1945 dictonary corresponding means, "to be adapted to, to be suitable to, to be proportionate to, to agree, to fit".

Women are created to help their husbands (ok, I hear you on the Pearls and everything but this is a spiritual principle). If they aren't helping their husbands they are generally helping someone else like an employer. One example of this that comes to my mind is my neighbor who goes out of her way to do everything she can at church and be the pastor's right arm but doesn't do a darn thing for her husband - include clean her house.

What's your thought on that?

Please know that all of this is said in love, I am not trying to be argumentative but better understand why you believe the way you do.


Emily the Great and Terrible said...

I think we actually agree more than we disagree, Jennifer. I agree that we need to be helpers to our husbands and our families before others--charity begins at home. However, I think Biblical womanhood does not mean relinquishing your own moral standards or never having an opinion contrary to your husband. Queen Esther was another strong woman of action.