What Is A WIFE? - The Lost Meaning of the Word and the Value of Women

As His final creation, the crowning of His glorious work, He created woman. I like to regard Eve as His masterpiece after all that had gone before, the final work before He rested from His labors. I do not regard her as being in second place to Adam.

—Gordon B. Hinckley


The Hebrew in Genesis 2:18 translates as “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help [’ezer] meet [kenegdo] for him.”


“Help meet” has been a misunderstood and distorted term in the Bible. In our English culture, the overtone for the word help or helper is often one of a lower or lesser status. But the Hebrew form suggests not just an equal but possibly one of a superior status.


Despite how cultures interpret the role of a wife, Eve was definitely created and meant to hold her own identity, to be interdependent with Adam. To be one with another human being is a great honor, as well as a challenge. But the rewards and blessings far outweigh any price that is to be paid or effort that is expended on behalf of the marriage relationship.


God’s creation of Eve or of woman was never meant to merely be a man’s helper (which in our culture conjures images of “Hand me the wrench, Dear.”) Rather, Eve was created as a powerful and strong partner to man, a unified ’adam. Moses 5:1 reads, “And Eve . . . did labor with him.” With is a significant word in this passage.


It signifies more than just physical labor but also cooperation, support, and a common purpose and goal. Samuel L. Terrien said, “The creation of the woman [is] a gift for the completion and perfection of the human realm of being. Man receives woman as his true mate, his companion, even the provider of his existential succor. . . . Far from being a subordinated or menial servant, woman is the savior of man.”


Once again we run into cultural overlays with the King James translation and their seventeenth-century English usage of the word meet. Over the years, readers began hyphenating the two words into “help-meet,” thus totally changing the meaning and context, eventually morphing this into “help-mate,” then helpmate, then simply “wife.” This term never existed in the King James Version, nor in the original Hebrew. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, “In the 17th Century the two words ‘help’ and ‘meet’ in this passage were mistaken for one word, applying to Eve, and thus ‘helpmeet’ came to mean ‘a wife.’ Then in the 18th century, in a misguided attempt to make sense of the word, the spelling ‘helpmate’ was introduced.” 



Language, we see, is incredibly powerful, and with the addition of one tiny, seemingly insignificant symbol, an entire gender can be marginalized. But what is more disturbing is that the reverse was accomplished. The translators twisted the original biblical meaning, inserting a definition to fit and confirm to an already existing cultural bias, to justify a gender marginalization that was already well underway. For example, what if we took the “righteous deeds” Paul was teaching the Gentiles about in Acts 26:20 (“and do works meets for repentance”) and called them “worksmeets”?


There is a wide definitional gap between a “helpmate” and “savior.” Additionally, as we look at the Greek word for “helper or helpmate”—as it is used in Genesis 2:18—it is boēthos and implies superior strength, a “helper in dangers and in adversities, as one who repels adverse forces.” In fact, of the forty-five occurrences of boēthos in the Greek Old Testament, forty-two are translated to refer to “a stronger one, in no way needing help.”


Lest the reader confuse the author’s intent, neither sex is above the other. Eve was created specifically to complete Adam; to complete and complement and save him in a way no other creation properly could. Eve was created to be a co-savior with Adam.


So, how does this relate to Eve? If he were really going to give her a name that reflected that she was literally created from his flesh, that is, calling her after himself, Adam, as Halevi states, “would have named her Adamah, the feminine counterpart to his own name.”



Instead, he calls her by a title of great honor, “Ishah, the feminine counterpart to ish, with all its allusions to holiness and fire.” Ish can have several layers of meanings—prophet, a wise man, a divine being, or even God. But “there is another meaning for ish, a meaning never labeled adam in Scripture,” Halevi asserts, and that is “a man who marries a woman.” Interestingly enough, a woman’s ish is translated as “husband.”


Halevi continues: “When an adam marries an ishah, a woman, his status is immediately elevated to that of an isha man of higher degree. He becomes more like the Divine Being in whose image he was created. So when Elohim instructs adam to “Awake! Arise” (as per Halevi’s translation cited in chapter 6), He is introducing adam/Adam to “His [God’s] final creation, the crowning of His glorious work . . . His masterpiece after all that had gone before, the final work before He rested from His labors.”


Adam is to “arise” because he is standing before one who is of a high status, and in his union with her will be raised to one of higher status as well. With Eve, the mother of all living, he is able to do that which he could not do without her, that which is the “most godlike activity available to human beings—create life.”


Women bring men life.


In all the roles that a faithful woman is engaged in, the role of wife takes priority over everything else, including that of mother. Many are tempted to set aside and neglect the marriage and husband for a time, in favor of catering to the children. As noble as motherhood is, marriage is not to be sacrificed for it. Much can be taught the children through the example of the loving companionship of a righteous father and mother.


As Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “The Lord said he would give the man a companion who would be a help meet for him: that is, a help who would answer all the requirements, not only of companionship, but also through whom the fullness of the purposes of the Lord could be accomplished regarding the mission of man through mortal life and into eternity.”


What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments!


The following was taken from the book We Are Adam by Ramona Siddoway currently available at cedarfort.com.The opinions and views expressed herein belong solely to Ramona and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of Cedar Fort, Inc.