Eve and Adam: Partners Created in God’s Image (2024)

Prayer

Creator and creative God, we come to the story of creation longing for you to make us new. Open our minds to your vision for humanity, a vision of community and partnership. Just as you shaped the first human from the dust of the earth, we ask that you would form and shape us as we study the Scriptures this day. Amen.

Key Scripture

Genesis 1:26-31; Genesis 2:15-25

“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner’” (Genesis 2:18).

Introduction to the Story of Eve and Adam

God spoke the heavens and the earth into existence, and God celebrated how good it was. Then, God drew closer and created man from the dust of the ground. The first human created by God was good, and God celebrated how good he was, but something wasn’t right. For the first time since the work of creation began, something was not good. It was not good for the man to be alone. This isolation was contrary to God’s vision for humanity. So, God created Eve, a helper to be Adam’s partner.

The story of Adam and Eve shows God’s original vision for humanity. Rather than being defined by hierarchy or control, the relationship between man and woman was intended to be a partnership. In this session, we will explore what it means for Eve to be Adam’s ezer kenegdo—a helper as his partner. We will remember God’s vision for human beings, and we will be encouraged to build relationships of trust and partnership in our own lives and in the church.

The way we read this earliest story of our faith has the potential to shape the way we approach our relationships. By embracing God’s original vision of partnership between women and men, we welcome the gifts of each person, and we proclaim a fuller picture of the image of God in our congregations.

Digging Deeper: Eve as Ezer Kenegdo

Throughout the story of creation, God pauses and celebrates the goodness of what has been made. But, after God places the man into the garden, God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Genesis 2:18). The creation of Eve was in response to the not-goodness of man’s aloneness, and God’s description of Eve as “a helper as his partner” gives us a sense of what God desired from the relationship between these first human beings.

What kind of helper was Eve meant to be to Adam? Was she meant to be an assistant, in the subordinate sense of the word? Or, was she intended to be part of an equal partnership? A closer look at the Hebrew word ezer offers insight into this question.

Ezer: A Word of Strength

The word ezer appears 21 times in the Old Testament, two of which are in reference to the woman in Genesis 2. Of the 19 remaining uses of the word ezer, 16 of those are used of the way God is a helper to Israel. Ezer is a word of strength, a word of valor and might. An ezer helper is not a subordinate, but one whose help comes at a critical time and rescues. The woman is conceived as playing a similar role to the man as God plays to Israel. What a powerful picture!

Kenegdo: A Word of Partnership

If the word ezer appeared all by itself to describe the woman’s relationship to the man, we might conclude that Eve was to be Adam’s superior. However, the word kenegdo, a word which means “corresponding to,” immediately follows. Woman was meant to be a helper whose strength corresponded to that of the man. She was to be a helper to him, just as he was to be a helper to her. The first humans were a help to each other because they brought different perspectives while having equal value and significance as human beings. The pairing of these two Hebrew words paints a vivid picture of partnership and mutual blessing between the woman and the man.

While Genesis 2 focuses on the relationship between man and woman, the story of creation in Genesis 1 tells the story of the creation of humanity within the context of the rest of the created world. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

The unique distinction of being created in the image of God is both descriptive and prescriptive. We embody the image of God as we work together in partnership, and as we tend to and keep the created world well. Prior to sin entering into the world, Adam and Eve did this. They were co-caretakers of the Garden of Eden and they enjoyed a relationship of closeness with God. When they ate the fruit from the forbidden tree, their relationships suffered. They experienced alienation from God and alienation from one another.

She Is Called and We Are Called

We see the pain of broken relationships every day in the news: stories of abuse and violence, conflict and struggle. These stories echo the painful statement in Genesis 3:16, “and he shall rule over you.” The entrance of sin into the world distorted the good partnership God intended between women and men, and normalized relationships of distrust, struggles for power, and pain.

Eve’s story is the story of every woman; every woman is created by God with purpose as a woman of valor, a strong partner, a faithful friend, a person created in the image of God. Yet, for many women, the way the church has interpreted ezer kenegdo has limited the way they can use their gifts and the way they are allowed to function in their relationships with men. Many women have been encouraged to remain in the background, even when their gifts for leadership are apparent.

As people called by Jesus to embody the reign of God here on earth, we have the opportunity to model God’s original vision for humanity by reclaiming a relationship of partnership with each other. Where the world shows men and women in a struggle for authority, the church should empower each person to live into their gifts and strengths regardless of gender. Where women and men have relationships of conflict and animosity, the church should lead the way in demonstrating relationships of wholeness and mutual uplifting.

Unfortunately, many churches have not only neglected to model God’s original intention for humanity, we have often lagged behind the rest of the world in lifting up the gifts of women. Returning to the earliest story in our Scriptures reminds us of the foundational design God had for the world. God created the world with a very-goodness, with a flourishing, between all relationships, and we move in step with the movement of the Holy Spirit when we work to reclaim goodness in our relationships with each other and in our relationship with the created world.

Conclusion

God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, and so God created woman to be a helper as his partner. Human beings were created to thrive in communities of equal partnership, but for many, these relationships are difficult (if not impossible) to find. In a 2018–2020 survey, 60 percent of Americans reportedly struggled with loneliness. This number soared to 75 percent among younger responders. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has identified loneliness as a common undercurrent in mental and physical health concerns. Reclaiming relationships of health and partnership between women and men is one way followers of Christ can work against the crisis of loneliness in the world.

May we, as followers of Jesus, become known as people who champion the gifts of all people. May we embody communities of goodness and partnership, just as Adam and Eve enjoyed before the fall. And may we work together, day by day, for the healing and very-goodness of our relationships and our world.

Eve and Adam: Partners Created in God’s Image (2024)
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