Comments on Adam's Helper

As I recall, he creates all those animals inside the garden as possible mates for Adam. As others have pointed out, the possible existence of people outside the garden is very far from the most absurd feature of the story.

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“Mates”? In what sense?

It doesn’t actually say, whatever it is, it’s the problem Eve was designed to solve. Come to your own conclusions.

In the King James Version, Genesis 2:18 is translated “And the LORD God said , [It is] not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (emphasis mine)

The term “help meet” has become the modern English “helpmate” which is probably how the notion of the animals as possible “mates” for Adam wound up in this conversation. However, “mate” in the marital or biological sense does not apply here. More recent translations of Genesis 2:18 typically say “helper” while the New English Translation opts for “companion” with this translation note:

Traditionally “helper.” The English word “helper,” because it can connote so many different ideas, does not accurately convey the connotation of the Hebrew word עֵזֶר (ʿezer). Usage of the Hebrew term does not suggest a subordinate role, a connotation which English “helper” can have. In the Bible God is frequently described as the “helper,” the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs. In this context the word seems to express the idea of an “indispensable companion.” The woman would supply what the man was lacking in the design of creation and logically it would follow that the man would supply what she was lacking, although that is not stated here. See further M. L. Rosenzweig, “A Helper Equal to Him,” Jud 139 (1986): 277-80.

Now, since I don’t know Hebrew myself, I can see where there might still be the possibility that the English translation is attempting to make the passage more palatable. After all, it is Eve who winds up in the role of help meet/helper/companion. So I looked at where else the same Hebrew word appears in the Old Testament. The contexts of those verses don’t suggest anything about a mate or spouse. So it seems like translating the Hebrew to “helper” or “companion” does not hide any connotations in that direction.

So it’s pure coincidence that the only proper “helper” wasn’t a dog or horse but a female human, and only after God first tries out all the other animals?

Just to puzzle some more, were the animals (and plants) that were to be the companions in the Garden created expressly for that purpose? Were they a new, second round of creation, or just some from the original several-hours-before creation, but moved into the Garden? And did these helpful creatures include, say, mosquitoes?

When the question was (or seemed to be) “What are in the words in the text?” I felt reasonably confident that I was familiar enough with available resources to provide an answer.

Now however we are getting into interpretation of the text and speculating about the undocumented intentions and expectations of God. Here, I can offer some thoughts, but no one should consider them authoritative. And I imagine you’ve already reached your own conclusions long ago.

My reading would be that Adam had multiple needs, one of which is explicitly stated–the need for a helper/companion–and one of which is obvious from common knowledge–the need for a biological mate. Those needs could in principle have been met separately. But instead Eve meets both needs. Do I think that is coincidence? No, I think it is more likely that this outcome was always intended, but Adam was given the opportunity to come to that conclusion himself. That said, other readings, including less charitable ones, are consistent with the text.

Having said that, there are the wider questions that Joe points towards of how to understand the differences in details between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, and to what extent either or both chapters represent actual history. I acknowledge that the two chapters differ in detail. I acknowledge that they scarcely begin to detail the full breadth and depth of biological diversity. (Forget mosquitoes; was Adam meant to seriously consider being pals with a paramecium?) I think we all know that many books have already been written exploring these issues from many directions (not least the book which launched this site). I don’t have anything new to add. If you are actually curious on which approaches I favor, I can elaborate, but I suspect that is not the case. If you just want to find absurdities in these texts, you’ll find them, and I won’t belabor the issue further.

Yes, but plant nectar in the garden was so high in protein that the females didn’t need blood meals.

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The most important absurdity for the current case is that God makes Eve only after trying out all the other animals first. The idea that this outcome was always intended is in contradiction to the text, and the idea that Adam somehow needed to come to a conclusion himself makes no sense. Any attempt to interpret the text as historical makes God a buffoon. And in fact this is true for most aspects of the entire Eden story. The God presented in that story is not the omnipotent being of much of the rest of the bible, including Genesis 1. I suspect first that the story was cobbled together from many independent myths and just-so stories* and second that those pieces are much older than the creation story, at least in Hebrew scripture.

*How the Snake Lost His Legs, How Life Became Hard, Why Men and Women Marry (cf. the Hedwig song “The Origin of Love”), etc.

Where’s the fun in that? :wink:

I’ve never heard of that interpretation. It seems unlikely.

Now if this were Greek mythology, and Adam were Zeus, if would fit right in :sweat_smile:

I would suggest that the God of Genesis 2 is rather like Zeus in many ways.

Why is this a new thread, anyway? Is it any sillier than the main thread? Is it off-topic?

I think the OP was sincere, and deserves to have a serious discussion to whatever extent is possible.

Ahem. From, July 1997:

Prior to the flood there were several kinds of plant that had much richer flesh than current plants, including sap that was blood-like in it’s chemistry and consistency[1]. These plants were too rich for current herbivores, but formed part of the diet of creatures which require a higher energy intake (naturally these were the animals which would need to change their habits and become scavengers and carnivores after the flood). These would include insects which sucked the plant juices[2].

The post flood soil would have been fairly high in salt, and somewhat water-logged, and would be unlikely to be rich enough to support these fleshy plants. Thus, although the seeds would have been carried in the ark and released when the waters receded, this, together with the scarcity of food for the animals exiting the ark causing overbrowsing, would have led to the rapid extinction of these plants[3]. The lower temperature after the flood and the short ice age which followed it would also have contributed to their loss.

This scenario is supported by linguistic analysis of the bible, in which the same Hebrew word is used for both meat and plant foods; pre-flood, there would be no need for a word describing meat, so the word for fruit would have been readily adopted in post-flood society. This would also have helped to overcome the stigma of eating animals. This has been passed down in English in the word “flesh”, which refers to both meat and fruit.

  1. Both blood and sap are considered by evilutionists to be ultimately based on sea-water; the differences may not be so extensive as first thought. ↩︎

  2. These insects would have to have adapted to the lack of suitable browsing; blood-sucking would be one option. Other means of survival, such as reduction of size enabling survival on the juices of less rich plants, can be demonstrated in the aphids. ↩︎

  3. Related plants in which the richer flesh was confined to a small part of the plant have survived to modern times; examples include the water-melon and the blackberry. ↩︎

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I stand on the shoulders of giants.