It deeply pains me that over the course of history, some people have insisted not only that women are inferior to men, but that God agrees.

I have been disheartened to learn how many women feel conflicted about their place in God’s plan and whether He really sees His daughters as being equal to His sons.

So today I want to share the most powerful evidence I have ever come across that God—despite the cultural views of some of His children—has always held a grander view of womanhood than any of us could conceive on our own.

This article deals with one of the most widely known scriptures about Mother Eve. The verse in question has been used by some as an excuse to marginalize women, but, as you will see, it actually contains an extraordinary tribute to Eve and all women.

This discovery has fundamentally deepened my respect for womanhood and led me to believe that we are only beginning to understand the breathtaking vision God has for the role of women in the Church and in Society.

However, before I dive in, I have to explain something.

This discovery will be much more fascinating with some essential context. So, I’m asking you to trust me. People who read my articles know that I occasionally ask readers to 1) read more carefully than normal and 2) read until the end. 

This is such an article. 

Let’s get started.

When Brittney was pregnant with our first child—per the norm—everyone would always ask what we were going to name him. When they learned that our son’s middle name was going to be Ebenezer, we’d get all sorts of surprised looks.

“You mean like Ebenezer Scrooge?!” They couldn’t believe it. Some friends and family members would joke about how they were going to call him “Scrooge” when he got older. 

But the truth is that we didn’t choose the name Ebenezer on a whim nor out of a fascination with the literary accomplishments of Charles Dickens.

As it turns out, Eben-Ezer, a Hebrew term from the Bible, has special spiritual significance.

There was a time recorded in the Old Testament when an enormous Philistine army was invading Israel. The force that stood against Israel was completely overwhelming. Things got so bad that the people realized that they were doomed to destruction if the Lord did not intervene. 

Realizing this, the people went to the Prophet Samuel and begged him to plead with the Lord to spare their lives. Samuel did so and the Lord intervened. 

With the Lord’s help, the outnumbered Israelite soldiers were miraculously able to defeat the Philistine armies. 

On the battlefield, while the victory was still fresh in the minds of the people, Samuel erected a monument and called it “Eben-Ezer” (which means “Stone of Help”). And then he declared the significance of the monument:

“Hitherto has the Lord helped us.”

You see, Samuel was concerned that the people would forget how they had won. He was worried that they might take credit for the victory. The Prophet wanted the people to never forget that they had only defeated their enemies because of the Lord’s help. And if they were to hope for His blessings and protection in the future, they needed to continue relying on Him.

Incidentally, if you’ve ever heard the beloved hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, you may have wondered what the author meant when he wrote: ”Here I raise my Ebenezer. Hither by Thy help I’m come.”

Well, now you know.

Anyway, with all that in mind, we can now approach the discovery. 

About a year ago I was asked to speak at a relief society function. The topic was “The Divine Role of Womanhood.” As a man, I felt pretty unqualified and uncomfortable speaking on such a grand topic…especially to a group of women.

I was humbled and a little mortified at the task that lay before me.

As I prepared my remarks, I reflected on Mother Eve, the progenitor of all women.

A couple of years previous, I had written an article about ways in which centuries of cultural misunderstanding have distorted the message of Genesis 2:18 which reads:

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; [so] I will make him an help meet for him.”

As I reflected on the article I had previously written and then pondered further the words of Genesis 2:18, I decided to see if the Hebrew from which the words were translated could provide any additional insight.

I was specifically interested in the Hebrew word that had been translated into “meet” because it has complex meaning and is pivotal to the verse.

But as I turned to the original Hebrew rendition, something else in the verse caught my eye:

“Ezer”

I noticed that when God says that Eve will be a “help” to Adam, the original Hebrew usage translated into “help” is…”Ezer”.

Wait? Ezer…as in Eben-Ezer? It was the same word.

If it weren’t for the significance of Eben-Ezer, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. But I was suddenly intrigued.

I looked up the definition and etymology of the word and learned that some scholars trace the Hebrew word “Ezer” to a combination of two source words, one which means strength and another which refers to rescuing, saving, and defending (source).

I searched “Ezer” in the Hebrew text and found that it is used two dozen times in the Old Testament.

Remarkably, “Ezer” is always used in a military context (except when referring to Eve) and almost every time it is used to describe God as the Divine Helper and Protector of Israel.

It is this same word that is used to describe Eve.

Many women have written to me and expressed how they have always felt marginalized by this verse; it makes them feel as if God’s vision of woman was that of some second-class “helper”.

But here was the ultimate evidence that society had projected their own ignorance onto the verse.

Eve is described with a word that everywhere else in the Old Testament is only used for virtually two purposes 1) to describe God when he is coming to stand with Israel against its enemies or 2) when other nations come to march with the soldiers of Israel as they face their foes (list of “ezer” usages found here).

So, “Ezer”, the word used to describe Mother Eve as a “help” to Adam, has nothing to do with the role of an inferior or domestic servant. 

The word that is used to describe the Creator of the Universe as a savior, source of strength, and “the Helper of Israel” cannot have a demeaning implication. God blesses His people, He loves and cares for His people, and He stands with His people…but He is not subservient to them. 

In the Old Testament, the Lord is described as an “Ezer” when Israel is too weak to face its enemies alone. Other nations are described as an “Ezer” to Israel, when Israel’s strength is insufficient to defeat its enemies.

And so it is with Eve. Eve is referred to as an “Ezer” when God sees that Adam cannot do it alone.  Eve is referred to as an “ezer” because she was Adam’s first ally and friend, his partner in doing battle with evil and bringing about the purposes of God upon the Earth.

So, the very verse that has been used to marginalize women, was really God’s own tribute to His daughters.

It is high time that we reclaimed and embraced God’s vision of women.

Exciting things are on the horizon. Women in every quarter of the world are rising up and the women of the Church must rise to lead and influence them.

So, the next time you read Genesis 2:18 and you are tempted to imagine a submissive housekeeper, instead think of a warrior with a drawn sword. Think of a change maker. Think of a leader. Think of an aunt, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a mother, a wife, a young women’s leader, or Sunday school teacher.

Your influence has changed me; it has changed the people around you. Thank you for being an “ezer”. Thank you for your service, for your voice, for your leadership, for your courage, and for your sacrifices.

We cannot do this without you.

By Dustin Phelps

P.S. Consider sharing with a woman who has impacted you!

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