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The Power of The First Woman: Eve

In recent years, I’ve dedicated a considerable amount of time examining the intersection of womanhood and Christianity and how often it fosters a perceived necessity for self-abandonment, sabotage, and degradation. 

It’s no secret that many Christian traditions and ideologies propagate the notion that women are inherently inferior. Oftentimes our worth is tied to the roles we play in men’s lives or our ability to manage a household. Therefore, women often lack an identity unless it is defined in relation to a man, perpetuating many restrictive rules keeping us confined. The misogyny preached from pulpits or perpetuated by church leaders becomes internalized, resulting in self-silencing. I believe this limits women, and more significantly, restricts our perception of God. These misogynistic ideologies stem from a misunderstanding of biblical verses, with contextual manipulation used to peddle a one-dimensional narrative. Even the English Standard Version of the Bible is rooted in the power and privilege of men dictating the story. 

I believe that both perspectives are worth exploring. My journey delving into biblical narratives in a new way was underpinned by my firm belief that neither I nor any individual is inherently inferior. As I read, the text reaffirmed my belief that women were not designed to be “less than” rather, their equality and value are often lost in translation. One such narrative worth examining further is that of the first woman, Eve.

In the Garden of Eden, humanity’s inception starts as God intimately fashions man from the dust of the ground, breathing life into his nostrils. While the Garden serves as humanity’s birthplace, it also serves as the locus for arguments perpetuating the belief in women’s inferiority. Throughout creation, God deems everything He made “good” until Genesis 2:18, where for the first time, He declares man’s loneliness “not good.” After this declaration, God introduces the woman. In the New American Standard Bible, the woman is characterized as a “helper suitable for him,” implying a subordinate role; however, the original Hebrew introduces Eve as “Ezer kenegdo,” suggesting a much different characterization. 

After a bit of digging, it is evident that “Ezer kenegdo” is often translated as “helper suitable.” While “Ezer” translates to “helper” and “kenegdo” to “suitable,” the nuances of translation warrant cross-referencing. In the Old Testament, “Ezer” appears 21 times. The first instances are found in Genesis 2:18, 20. Of the remaining references, three discuss Israel seeking military aid. And the remaining 16 depict God as Israel’s helper. Psalm 33:20 and Psalm 12:48 are excellent examples. 

The word “Ezer” is frequently used in a military context and to describe God. This should infuse women with an essence of power. “Ezer” presents a contrasting view of how women are normally portrayed. This description aligns with the notion that women are not merely a tool but as Genesis 1:7 says, a bearer of God’s image. Additionally, “Ezer” can also be translated to be “rescuer” and “savior.” Those words do not imply a subservient attitude.

The word “kenegdo” gives further credence to women’s strength, translating to “suitable.” Alternative translations such as “opposite to him” and “corresponding with him,” underscore a meaning of compatibility and equality. “Kenegdo” illustrates that the woman was not created to be good for man but to be good with man. 

 A woman’s equality to man mimics the nature of the Creator. God is a Trinity, three separate entities representing perfect balance with no part superior to the other. This concept is displayed throughout all creation. When God made light, there was darkness. When He made land, there was water. Why would we seek inequality in humanity, the sole aspect of creation that reflects God most accurately?

The only place we see dominion shown in the creation story is when God gave man power over the animals. As I explored the text, I wondered if putting man in a superior position relegated the woman to the level of the animals. As I considered the thought, I realized that even though Adam spent time with the animals, it didn’t prevent loneliness. Why would Eve, a supposed lesser being, make any difference? Another thought I had while reading was: if Eve was meant to help Adam accomplish his goals, why wasn’t she created before Adam named the animals? I don’t have all the answers to these questions but I do believe that “Kenegdo” suggests that God didn’t just create another being, he created a perfect counterpart.

There was just one problem amidst perfection. Genesis 2:18 introduces the loneliness of man. We also find the solution: Eve. Ezer Kenegdo. She not only ends Adam’s loneliness, but holds the answer to mankind’s solitude as she is able to carry life in her womb. That capability connects her to God and makes her a mirror of Him. In Exodus 34:6-7, God describes His character for the first time using the word “compassionate.” The Hebrew translation is “rakhum” or “rachamim.” These are related to the word for “womb” in Hebrew: “rekhem.” What a humbling realization, the first word God uses to describe His character in the Bible is connected to the power of a woman. 

This study challenged me. I’ve never seen Eve in such a dynamic way and I’ve missed a lifetime of opportunities to see myself accordingly. The origin story of the first woman has been misunderstood by many believers throughout history, resulting in women being silent and silenced. I believe this is an opportune time for women to reclaim the power that was there all along. Women are a complex work of divine art. To minimize her place in creation and challenge her equality to man diminishes the Creator Himself.

Image Credit: Tor Tjeransen / Adventist Media Exchange

About the author

Ezrica Bennett graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Oakwood University. She has worked as a book editor for the Loma Linda University School of Medicine and has written for the Adventist Review and the Southeastern California Conference. She is a writer, public speaker, and coach, passionate about working with young adults to help them navigate life and faith, and a youth elder at the Loma Linda University Church. More from Ezrica Bennett.
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