An Help, Meet for Him

After Lehi and his family left Jerusalem but before they began their journey to the promised land in earnest, the Lord told Lehi that his group was incomplete. He said “that it was not meet” for Lehi to “take his family into the wilderness alone; but that his sons should take daughters to wife” (1 Nephi 7:1).

We don’t use the word “meet” that way any more, but it was more familiar in Joseph Smith’s time. In Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, the word is first defined as an adjective, meaning “Fit; suitable; proper; qualified; convenient; adapted, as to a use or purpose.”

Multiple times, the prophet Alma urged people to “bring forth fruit meet for repentance,” or in other words, actions which are appropriate for a person undergoing a profound spiritual transformation. (See Alma 5:54, Alma 9:30, Alma 12:15, Alma 13:13. See also Matthew 3:8, Acts 26:20.)

After creating the first man and giving him “the breath of life,” (Genesis 1:7), God declared him to be insufficient. “It is not good that the man should be alone,” he said. “I will make an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18).

A friend of mine pointed out yesterday that the word “help” in this passage is a translation of the Hebrew word ezer (עֵזֶר), which appears 21 times in the Old Testament. Most of the time, the word refers to God, our ultimate Helper. But on two occasions, it refers to Eve, who became the helper Adam needed.

It’s pretty obvious that the word “meet” in this sentence belongs with the subsequent words “for him.” Its purpose is to explain that Eve was equal to Adam, a worthy companion, not inferior or subordinate. David Rolph Seely, a religion professor at Brigham Young University, has suggested that the passage would be clearer with the simple addition of a comma: “I will make him an help, meet for him.” (See “What does it mean when the Lord said he would create for Adam ‘an help meet for him’? (Gen. 2:18.),” Ensign, January 1994.)

I like the way some modern translations convey the meaning of this passage. Here are three examples:

  • “I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (New Living Translation)
  • “I will make a suitable partner for him.” (Contemporary English Version)
  • “I will make him a helper [one who balances him—a counterpart who is] suitable and complementary for him.” (Amplified Bible – The bracketed phrase is part of the translation.)

(See parallel translations of Genesis 2:18 on biblehub.com.)

In the late 17th century, due to a misreading of this passage, the word “helpmeet” entered the English lexicon. The Oxford Dictionary defines “helpmeet” or “helpmate” as “A helpful companion or partner, especially one’s husband or wife.”

For myself, I prefer to keep the words separate and to focus on the word “meet.” Men and women are equal and complementary. As President Russell M. Nelson said to the women of the Church, “Married or single, you sisters possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition you have received as gifts from God. We brethren cannot duplicate your unique influence” (“A Plea to My Sisters,” General Conference, October 2015).

Today, I will remember the complementary natures of men and women. As I make decisions and address challenges at home, at work, and at church, I will seek out the contributions and insights that the women in my life can uniquely provide, and I will value and appreciate those contributions.

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