Adam’s helper and God’s foreknowledge
Brendon G. of the UK, with whom we have corresponded before, was confused as to why God had Adam look for a helper among the animals before He created Eve. Keaton Halley of CMI–US followed up to offer some clarity.
Hi, I am still wrestling with Scripture.
Genesis 2:20 states “but for Adam no suitable helper was found”. This does not make any sense for this verse to be part of the Word of God.
It couldn’t be from God’s perspective if He knew no beast would be a suitable helper, because He is omniscient even for the future.
It sounds like a fable story meant for children. Why is this in there if there was nobody else around. Was Adam expecting to find a helper among the beasts? Is it written from his perspective?
Good to hear from you again. I’m sorry that it sounds like you are still struggling a bit, but I’m glad you are digging into Scripture and trying to think through these things. If you do not already belong to a Bible-believing church, I would strongly encourage you to find one so you can get good discipleship and wrestle with these things in a community of fellow believers.
With this particular question, I think maybe you are bringing some faulty expectations to Scripture that are causing you difficulty. The Bible is God’s Word, which means that it is without error in the things it affirms, but it was written by men who made use of ordinary language conventions. So, yes, a human perspective is often present in the text, and I believe it is so in this case. At the same time, God prompted and guided the writers of Scripture to record exactly what He wanted them to, through divine revelation. This is known as verbal plenary inspiration.
When Genesis 2:20 says that no suitable helper for Adam was found, the narrator is setting the stage for the introduction of Eve who would be a suitable helper to Adam. The text also points beyond Adam and Eve as individuals and highlights truths that apply to all mankind. He is indicating, for instance, that wives are suitable helpers to husbands.
The text is not saying that God was confused or surprised that no helper was found among the animals. He was teaching Adam, and the narrator is teaching us, that mankind needs womankind. He had Adam name the animals first to make it clear (to Adam and us) that animals are not the right kind of helper. Animals are, of course, very helpful to mankind in various ways. They supply things like wool for clothing, strength for pulling plows, transportation, companionship, and more. And, ever since the Flood, some animals can be eaten for food. But God was teaching Adam and us that animals do not remedy the situation God described as “not good”, that is, “that the man should be alone.”
This chapter does not state explicitly in what sense women/wives are suitable helpers, but the context might give us some clues as to what is meant. Eve was much more like Adam than the animals were, since she was of the same flesh. The kind of help Eve supplied, therefore, should contrast with the ways animals help. It involved qualities Eve had, such as being made in the image of God, just like Adam. Eve could be a companion to Adam in ways far superior to the companionship of animals. Also, since the context in Genesis 2 is about God’s design for marriage (Genesis 2:24), and in Genesis 1, God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28), Eve’s help likely includes the idea of producing and raising offspring together with her husband. Animals could not help Adam do that. Plus, Genesis 1:26–28 tells us that God created humans—male and female—to have dominion over the earth. The animals could not help Adam do this in the same way that Eve could. She was to be a full participant in exercising dominion over the world.
So, I think this narrative, far from being a fable for children, teaches us profound truths about the world. It teaches us important things about the purposes God has for men and women, and our need for each other to fulfil God’s intentions. This account of God creating Adam and Eve in Genesis becomes the foundation from which Jesus (Mark 10:6-9) and the New Testament authors (1 Timothy 2:13) derive important doctrines.
It’s fascinating to consider how much the teachings in Genesis provide the basis for a healthy human society. Society goes off the rails when we deny truths in Genesis about humans being valuable (made in God’s image), about marriage being between one man and one woman, or about gender distinctions being binary, and good gifts from the hand of our Creator.
I hope this resolves the difficulty in your mind and encourages you to keep trusting God.