What Does Ezer Kenegdo Teach Us about Marriage? (2024)

In literature, the romance genre makes more money than any other. When Genesis introduces marriage, the text uses the term ezer kenegdo, commonly translated as “helper.”

When thinking about the various and emotional ways modern media thinks about finding love, the idea of “helper” doesn’t seem very romantic. At the same time, our culture today seeks to redefine everything about marriage, from gender to monogamy and more.

However, marriage and the union between a man and a woman originated with God. This was his idea. Before the Fall, before lies and corruption broke humanity and creation, God instituted marriage and family. And since God is good, his motivation included our good and blessing.

So what did God desire when he partnered Adam and Eve? Looking further at ezer kenegdo gives interesting and productive insight.

Where Does the Bible Say that Eve is Adam’s Ezer Kenegdo?

One problem existed in the perfect Garden of Eden.

God fashioned the first human from the dirt and breathed life into him. Yet, God noted how all the animals had male and female counterparts. Adam didn’t. With all of God’s creation, he continually said it was good. Seeing Adam as the lone human, he said it was not good. Adam didn’t bring this problem to God, even though he likely saw a difference between himself and other created animals. Out of his love, God fixed the problem. He took a rib from Adam and brought Eve forth.

In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable [ezer kenegdo] for him.”

When Adam wakes, Eve comes to him, and Adam reacts: “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23).

The chapter ends with a teaching moment, explaining how a man leaves his mother and father and joins with his wife, becoming “one flesh.” Adam and Eve enjoyed a vulnerable and intimate relationship, living naked and unashamed with each other.

As a clue to the need for Eve, humanity had been given a command upon creation, from Genesis 1:28, to be fruitful and multiply, to have children and cover the earth, bringing it under the dominion of beings made in the image of God. While God could have made Adam asexual, he didn’t, and as such, Adam couldn’t obey this directive alone. Adam needed someone who was both like him and different to multiply the image of God.

What Kind of a Helper Does Ezer Kenegdo Mean?

English translations render ezer kenegdo as “suitable helper” or “helpmate.” The Hebrew word ezer is often translated as “helper,” but its meaning goes beyond mere assistance. Other parts of the Bible use ezer to describe God himself coming to the aid of humanity. For example, Psalm 33:20 says, “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.” Here, “help” is translated from ezer. Thus, the Hebrew word conveys a strong and capable helper, someone providing vital support and assistance.

The word kenegdo proves more challenging to translate. It’s often interpreted as “suitable” or “fit,” but it also carries the sense of being opposite or corresponding to. Some translations render it as “comparable,” “matching,” or “corresponding to.” Essentially, kenegdo suggests a partner who complements or balances Adam.

Ezer kenegdo means more than a helper in a subordinate sense; it means a strong and capable partner who stands alongside him, providing support, assistance, and companionship. In one sense, she is neither above nor below him but corresponds to him, matching his essence and purpose. For God’s purpose—multiplication—God made Eve in his image yet also distinct from Adam, able to express different aspects of God’s nature.

Intimacy and cooperation are the foundation of godly multiplication. Since women came from men, their success depended upon coming together once again, becoming “one flesh.” This intimacy contained no shame or guilt, leading to complete oneness. New life came from that unity, two equal and complementary partners joining as one for good.

Interestingly, after the Fall, a measure of conflict between man and woman comes into play (Genesis 3:16), a power struggle. The work of Christ removes the curse and, therefore, the conflict between husband and wife.

What Are Other Great Ezer Kenegdo Examples in the Bible?

As God began his redemptive plan, unsurprisingly, he started with a married couple, Abraham and Sarah. Sarah stood by Abraham’s side despite numerous challenges and obstacles as his faithful companion and support. She played an essential role in God’s covenant promises to Abraham, ultimately giving birth to Isaac, the child of promise (Genesis 21:1-7). At the same time, Abraham didn’t reject his wife for being barren. He remained faithful and supportive of her, as well. God used their union to bring a miraculous child.

In 1 Samuel 25, we encounter the story of David and Abigail. When David and his men needed provisions, Abigail intervened with wisdom and humility, respectfully encouraging David to avoid violence in anger. She called David to his purpose, averted disaster, and demonstrated her value as a capable and discerning partner to David (1 Samuel 25:32-33).

The New Testament mentions Priscilla and Aquila several times, often in partnership with the apostle Paul. They all worked together as tentmakers and were active in ministry, teaching and mentoring others in the faith (Acts 18:1-3, 18-19, 24-26; Romans 16:3-4; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). Their partnership exemplifies the mutual support, collaboration, and shared ministry characteristic of ezer kenegdo relationships, especially in Christ and ministry.

Paul points to Christ and the Church as the ultimate model of ezer kenego. In Ephesians 5:25-27, Paul describes Christ's sacrificial love for the Church, comparing it to the love of a husband for his wife. Christ gave himself to the Church, sanctifying and cleansing her, to present her to himself as a radiant and holy bride. The Church, in turn, responds to Christ’s love with devotion, submission, and reverence. For the Church to fulfill her mission, she needed to be filled with the same divine nature as the Husband, Christ, which God supplies through the Holy Spirit. Christ and the Church bring more into God’s family through this union.

What Can Egalitarian Christians Learn about Being an Ezer Kenegdo?

For egalitarian Christians, understanding ezer kenegdo provides valuable insights into marriage dynamics. While egalitarianism affirms the equal worth, dignity, and value of men and women, recognizing each partner's unique roles and contributions enhances marital harmony and mutual support.

The Bible affirms men’s and women’s equality, but equality doesn’t mean sameness or the dissolution of two sexes. Two things can be both different in role and equal in value. Recognizing that both spouses have distinct strengths, abilities, and perspectives, they can work together as equal partners, complementing and empowering one another in their respective roles. Talk of differences between husband and wife needn’t become a power struggle. God designed these roles to be complementary rather than hierarchical.

Egalitarian Christians can appreciate the diverse gifts and talents each spouse brings to the relationship, recognizing unique contributions. Ezer kenegdo emphasizes shared responsibility and collaboration in marriage, embracing the idea of shared decision-making, where both spouses actively participate in the household and parenting, working together to navigate life’s challenges and opportunities.

Ezer kenegdo does not negate the concept of leadership but redefines it in a supportive and empowering context. Jesus modeled (Philippians 2) and taught servant leadership, where the greatest in the kingdom must serve (Matthew 20:26-28). When both husband and wife seek to serve one another, they demonstrate humility, sacrificial love, and mutual submission in their interactions. This service encourages spouses to empower and encourage one another, celebrating each other’s achievements and providing encouragement in times of need.

What Can Complementarian Christians Learn about Being an Ezer Kenegdo?

Complementarian Christians, who believe in distinct yet complementary roles for men and women in marriage and ministry, can glean valuable insights from the concept of ezer kenegdo, particularly regarding mutual submission, equality, and mutual support within the marital relationship.

While complementarianism often emphasizes male headship in marriage, ezer kenegdo includes the importance of mutual submission. Ephesians 5:21 calls believers to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” emphasizing a reciprocal attitude of humility, servanthood, and mutual respect within marriage. The Scripture highlights the equal worth and value of both spouses.

The danger with the complementarian view leads to attitudes demeaning or devaluing the role of women in leadership, decision-making, and ministry. In Christ, leadership doesn’t mean dominance or control. Peter addresses this very issue, telling husbands to treat their wives with respect, as a partner and fellow heir in eternal life. If the husband doesn’t, his prayers are hindered (1 Peter 3:7). Christ doesn’t treat his Church as such, so when husbands act harshly toward their bride, they lie about the person of Jesus.

While husbands and wives have distinct roles, they are equal partners in God’s marriage design, embracing collaborative leadership and leveraging their unique strengths and talents to fulfill God’s purposes. Ezer kenegdo affirms the important role of women as strong and capable helpers in marriage. Proverbs 31 shows that a woman uses her talents and abilities to run a business and contribute to the home in various ways, not tied to strict and limiting roles.

Just as the original design reveals, God blesses a holistic partnership in marriage, where husbands and wives support and complement one another in all aspects of life.

As with many doctrinal differences, egalitarians and complementarians have valid perspectives. Both approaches give us a fuller view of ezer kenegdo, and together, they help to restrain the extremes of the other, working together instead of against one another.

Peace.

Photo Credit:©GettyImages/PeopleImages

What Does Ezer Kenegdo Teach Us about Marriage? (1)Britt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffeeand is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.

This article is part of our larger resource library of Christian questions important to the Christian faith. From core beliefs to what the Bible says about angels, we want to provide easy to read and understand articles that answer your questions about Christian living.

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