Sound doctrine from the word.

What is a help meet? — Part 1

Note: The following is essentially Bible study notes, and is terse in places. The reader is encouraged to use it as a springboard for their own deeper study on the subject.

Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

The phrase “help meet” is found only twice in scripture (see the above passage). What does it mean? Often when answering this, the focus is on the word “meet” in this archaic usage. However, to be thorough, we’ll begin by looking at the word “help”, and then consider the word “meet” in part 2.

We’ll begin by going through many of the verses that use the term help. We won’t go through all of them to avoid unnecessary repetition, but you are encouraged to take your concordance and look all of them up yourself, to drive the point home.

After we’ve gone through the verses, we’ll summarize what we’ve learned.

Verses on Help #

Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Help is contrasted here with alone. To have an help is the opposite of being alone.

Genesis 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

So we see in this second verse that an help must be found, but among all the things present which God had created, none was found.

In many verses help is paired with come. A help comes to be with the one being helped.

Genesis 49:25 Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:

In the Bible, God is the chief help. More verses describe the help that he gives than any other person or thing.

Here, we find help paired with blessing. The help God gives is to bless a man with the good things of his earth, and with children.

Exodus 2:17 And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.

In many verses the helper is stronger than the one being helped. The helper is a strong deliverer. The one being helped is weak and lacking, unable to do something alone in their own strength. They are insufficient to a task, and need help.

Exodus 18:4 And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh:

Help is paralleled with deliverance and salvation more than anything else. This is because it is frequently used in a context of war and strife. One has enemies that would seek to destroy him, but another comes to his help, and delivers him.

Note that this is the first verse outside of Genesis 2 that uses help as a noun. Just as Genesis 2 spoke of an help for Adam, here God is called Moses’s help. We will consider all of the verses that use help in this way later on.

Exodus 23:5 If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.

Deuteronomy 22:4 Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.

In these verses helping is contrasted with hating and hiding yourself. To help someone you must show yourself, and come alongside them in love to lend them aid in what they are doing.

Deuteronomy 32:38 Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.

Just as help is often paired with deliverance, it is paired with protection. A helper protects the one they are helping from evil that would come upon them…

Deuteronomy 33:7 And this is the blessing of Judah: and he said, Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people: let his hands be sufficient for him; and be thou an help to him from his enemies.

…and from their enemies.

Notice also how help is paralleled with sufficient here.

Deuteronomy 33:26 There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.

Just as having an help is the opposite of being alone, a helper comes to your aid. God even rides upon the heaven to come and help his people.

Here help is also used alongside excellency. The next verse that uses the word makes this connection even clearer:

Deuteronomy 33:29 Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.

God in his help confirms the excellency of his people. That is, his help does not diminish them, but rather exalts them. They are excellent by his help, and from that excellency he is their sword, and causes them to tread down their enemies. They are not saved just by his own excellency. But when he comes in his excellency to save them, he does so by being the sword of their excellency as well. So that he not only destroys their enemies before them, but helps them to destroy them with their sword.

Joshua 1:14 Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them;

They were to go with them and aid them in the fight against the enemy. These armed men would pass on before the greater camp of Israel containing women and children. In helping them in this way, then, they were acting also as protectors and defenders. They were the first line of defense, a strong front, that would not put the weak and tender in danger. They would go forth to battle and aid the other men of war in conquering the land.

1 Kings 1:7 And he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest: and they following Adonijah helped him.

They followed him to exalt him as king.

2 Kings 14:26 For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel.

A helper gives aid in affliction.

2 Chronicles 19:2 And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD.

Here love and help are paralleled.

2 Chronicles 20:4 And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.

2 Chronicles 20:9 If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.

Helping is often paired with hearing. A helper must hear the desire for help, and understand the need, before they can come and fill it.

2 Chronicles 25:8 But if thou wilt go, do it, be strong for the battle: God shall make thee fall before the enemy: for God hath power to help, and to cast down.

Here helping is contrasted with casting down. In other verses we see the same contrast. A helper holds one up so that he can stand. A helper doesn’t let the one they are helping fall.

2 Chronicles 26:15 And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong.

A common result of help is that one is made strong.

2 Chronicles 29:34 But the priests were too few, so that they could not flay all the burnt offerings: wherefore their brethren the Levites did help them, till the work was ended, and until the other priests had sanctified themselves: for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests.

Helping is to do the work with another until it is finished.

Ezra 1:4 And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.

To help is to give riches to another.

Job 6:13 Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me?

Wisdom is a help. In Proverbs, wisdom is pictured as a woman. How fitting.

Job 31:21 If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate:

Another verse using help as a noun. In this case, Job’s help would have been others who would have joined with him in robbing the fatherless, perhaps by false testimony. A help would be one who would conspire together with him.

Psalm 10:14 Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless.

One commits himself to a helper, trusting in their aid. Psalms speaks of this often.

Psalm 22:1 To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

Forsaking and not hearing the words of someone is contrasted with helping.

Psalm 22:11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

Psalm 22:19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

As is being far from one in trouble.

Psalm 27:9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

Likewise, hiding of the face, leaving, and putting away in anger, are all contrasting with a help of salvation.

This is another verse that uses help as does Genesis 2. It parallels “my help” with “my salvation.”

Psalm 30:10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.

A helper hears, and has mercy.

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.

And the soul of the helped waits upon them. A help is a shield, protected and guarding.

Psalm 35:2 Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.

An help stands up likewise, and defends with shield and buckler.

Psalm 40:13 Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me.

A helper makes haste to the salvation of another.

Psalm 40:17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

An help thinks upon the one they help, and makes no tarrying to their deliverance.

Psalm 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

Hope is placed in a helper, and they are praised for their help.

Psalm 46:1 To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

A help is a refuge also, arising to redeem with strength in mercy.

Psalm 46:5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

Psalm 54:4 Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.

A helper upholds, and does not suffer to be moved.

Psalm 59:4 They run and prepare themselves without my fault: awake to help me, and behold.

A helper awakes and beholds the need of the one they help.

Psalm 63:7 Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.

When one has been a help, the helped will rejoice in the shadow of their wings. This is a refuge offered.

Psalm 79:9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake.

A helper purges away sins after delivering in salvation.

Psalm 89:19 Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.

Laying help upon one that is mighty is to exalt them.

Psalm 107:12 Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help.

When there is no help, one falls down, and his heart is brought down with labor.

Psalm 116:6 The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

A helper preserves another. That is, to keep them alive.

Psalm 118:7 The LORD taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me.

Those that help take part with the helped, to the end he may see his desire.

Isaiah 30:5 They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.

A help is a profit to the helped. But in contrast, one is ashamed of one who cannot profit him, and they are a shame and a reproach.

Isaiah 41:6 They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.

Isaiah 41:14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

A helper speaks to encourage.

Mark 9:22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

A helper has compassion.

Luke 10:40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

A helper doesn’t leave another to serve alone.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

A helper aids in prayer, and makes intercession.

2 Corinthians 1:11 Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

And again, they help in prayer.

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.

And in joy.

Summary #

Adam needed an help. He was insufficient to the task God had given him. He needed a deliverer, someone to come and save him and show mercy on him, and aid him in the accomplishing of what God had placed before him.

As evidence of this, God had told him to be fruitful and multiply, but he could not do that. God made it obvious that Adam was in dire need of help, so that we “self-sufficient” men could get it through our thick skulls.

God said that it was not good that man should be alone, yet whenever God finished a part of his creation, he saw that it was good. Therefore man was incomplete until he had a help. This is reinforced by the fact that the verse begins “And the LORD God said”, just as the phrase “And God said” prefixed each creative act in chapter 1. So what is recorded is clearly a creative act of the sixth day, to complete the work of making man.

This means that God’s purpose for man was not yet fulfilled until a help was created for Adam. Note, God’s purpose in creating a help was to make it possible for man to fulfill the will of God, not Adam’s will. Someone in need of help finds themselves in a circumstance which they are unable to master alone. They need a help to make it possible. Again, the help is not a nice-to-have but optional assistant. They are vital. A help was vital for man to fulfill God’s will, his commands. That is why the woman was created. Not to assist man in whatever he wanted assistance with, but to be a necessary aid in fulfilling what God had called the man to do. Adam found himself in a situation in which he was insufficient, and God created a help to be his sufficiency in that regard. Adam didn’t get to choose what he would do, or what kind of help he would get. God both gave the command and supplied the help that was designed specially to help Adam fulfill it.

In this sense, the one who is helped is the one who has set the agenda. They are the one with a mission, a situation that they have come to, whether by their own choice or the choice of others. The helper leaves what they are doing, and comes to the aid of the other. They set aside whatever they were previously engaged in, leave their present situation, and place themselves wholly into the circumstances of another. They allow what they do to be shaped by the need of another.

Thus helping is sacrificial. Not bodily, as Christ sacrificed for the church, but as the church sacrifices the old man for Christ, coming to be a partaker with him, leaving behind the things of this world, seeking instead his kingdom.

All of this is different from the way that we men might seek to define help here. But the definition we’d like to put to it is simply not found in scripture. Again, look up every verse and read it, and think about it.

Help as a noun #

All of the verses using help as a noun are reproduced here, for the reader’s convenience.

Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

Exodus 18:4 And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh:

Deuteronomy 33:7 And this is the blessing of Judah: and he said, Hear, LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people: let his hands be sufficient for him; and be thou an help to him from his enemies.

Job 6:13 Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me?

Job 31:21 If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate:

Psalm 27:9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.

Psalm 35:2 Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help.

Psalm 40:17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

Psalm 46:1 To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalm 63:7 Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.

Psalm 70:5 But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying.

Psalm 94:17 Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.

Psalm 115:9 O Israel, trust thou in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.

Psalm 115:10 O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.

Psalm 115:11 Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.

Psalm 121:1 A Song of degrees. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

Psalm 121:2 My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.

Psalm 146:5 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:

Isaiah 30:5 They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.

Isaiah 31:2 Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.

Lamentations 4:17 As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save us.

Hosea 13:9 O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.

Acts 27:17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

What is an help? The key is in the many verses that say “my help”, “thine help”, “our help”, etc. Usually, we phrase things thus: ‘you gave me help,’ ‘you were a helper to me’, ‘you helped me’. In all of these the help belongs to one giving it. In these verses that use help as a noun, however, the help is possessed by the one receiving it. That is, it is not “God’s help to me”, but “my help is God”. That is, the help belongs to the helped one, and therefore he must use it. He must take hold of the help. It is made available to him, but he must utilize it.

So we see God saying, “I will make him an help.”

In most every case, a help aids a in situation that is not of the helped’s choosing. That is, a help does not come with you as you go out to battle against another nation of your own volition. A help comes to save you when you are being besieged by your enemies.

We again point out that Adam did not choose his calling. God gave him a mandate, a mandate that Adam could not fulfill. Eve was created to be his help. The meaning of that is clear. It doesn’t mean she was given to him to do whatever he wants. It means she was given to him so that he could do what God wanted for him to do.

Adam was the one given responsibility. He was the one given the word of God. He was the one who needed to follow it, and speak it to his wife. God gave him a help meet for him to fulfill what God had designed and called man to do. But again, it was Adam who was given the calling and the responsibility, and Adam that was given the help, that he might call upon her to help him fulfill that calling.

Wow, what a beautiful picture here that matches exactly what it says in Ephesians 5, about husbands washing their wives with water by the word. God made it so clear here. The word of God was given to the man alone, before the woman was created. He was to teach it to her, and then together they would follow it.

Adam’s help would be unable to help him, unable to fulfill her office, without him speaking the word to her. How would she know what it was that he needed a help for? Speaking the word of God to your help is vital to her ability to be your help. Just as without Christ speaking to us, we wouldn’t be his bride either. We wouldn’t know who he was, why he came, or what purpose God had for him to fulfill. We wouldn’t even be able to be born again, much less prepared to help him fulfill God’s will on this earth, without him having spoken to us. Isn’t that so obvious? And God established the pattern right from the very first with Adam.

So notice how strongly receiving help in general is associated with speaking. The psalmists repeatedly cry out for help. To be helped you have to talk to your help. You have to tell them what you need. You have to admit that you are insufficient, and need someone to be your sufficiency.

A help is especially needed in a time of trouble and affliction, when one is contending in war with his enemies. And indeed there is a war in which we wrestle in mortal combat. And in it we have not only a shield of faith, but the shield refuge of a faithful wife in whom we can trust.

Again, this is how the term help is most commonly used. We may seem to be taking these verses out of context in applying them to a wife, but the term help is actually never used in the context of marriage anywhere in scripture. Yet God chose to use this word to describe what he created the woman to be anyway. What did he mean by help? The scriptures reveal his definition clearly.

Help and authority

We may tend to think of help relating to a chain of authority. You are just helping me, so I am in charge and I get to tell you what to do. But that is not the way that help is spoken of in scripture. Help is never associated with a natural chain of authority. In fact, that is the very reason why it is help and not bound duty. The helper comes to the aid of another person without being compelled to by them. God was David’s help, and yet we know that God actually had authority over David. The reason that the woman helps the man is not because of the man’s authority, but because of God’s authority.

It is not until later that Adam and Eve are told that he will rule over her. It is true that the man is the head, but this only indirectly relates to the woman being the help.

Again, the office of help is sacrificial, where you come to the aid and deliverance of another. It shows love and mercy, something that something that bound duty because of authority cannot supply.

Help vs Helper #

Note also that a help is different than a helper. A helper engages in the activity of helping. But in this case, it is the other party that must ultimately engage the help.

Helping is an activity. Being a help is having an office.

The woman was not created to offer help to Adam. She was created as a help to Adam. That is, it is her very nature, not just something that she does. It is natural for a woman to be a help to her man, and against nature for her to do anything else. Stone me, but that is what God made her to be.

Summary #

Here is a summary based on all of the verses that use the term help. The words and phrases are compiled from the verses themselves. They give us a picture in a nutshell of what a help is in the Bible.

To have a help is to:

  • not be alone
  • hope and trust in and commit oneself to them
  • receive wisdom

To help is to:

  • bless with increase of the land and children
  • give silver and gold, goods and beasts
  • be employed and serve with, until the work and labor is finished
  • profit them, and let them see their desire
  • love and follow and make excellent
  • have compassion and mercy, and purge away sins
  • save and deliver
  • make haste, arise, and redeem
  • pass before, protect and be their shield and refuge
  • uphold, and let not be moved
  • stand up for, and take their part
  • not cast away, nor forsake or leave
  • be a stay, and not let fall or fail
  • preserve and strengthen
  • think upon, behold, hear their words and be entreated
  • come and be present and with them
  • speak and say, “fear not” and “be of good courage”
  • pray and make intercession
  • increase joy and faith

God is such an help. A godly woman is likewise.

While some of this may seem odd when applied to a wife at first, Proverbs 31 confirms much of it.

Closing thought

A help is not just an assistant. A help accomplishes in and through and with and for you something that you could not accomplish otherwise.

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