I heard some people who claim to know Hebrew say that the phrase “help meet” can be translated as “help against.” The interpretation then would be a benevolent and loving adversary.
Is that interpretation possible? The word “meet” in the Hebrew is only translated “meet” one time. Most of the time it’s translated as before or against. It carries the idea of face to face, in front of. Eve was made to be in Adam’s face! But not as an obnoxious opponent, but as a loving and benevolent partner.
Is the word translated “before” and “against” used in an adversarial way elsewhere in the Bible? That’s our first place to begin examining the possibility of this translation.
I found several. Here are some:
Joshua 5:13—man with a sword stands against Joshua
Joshua 8:11—people of war came before the city of Ai
Judges 20:34—10,000 men of Israel came against Gibeah
1 Kings 20:27—Israel arrayed in battle before Syrians
The word in these verses is meant adversarialy. And clearly not a benevolent and loving adversary! Eve was created as a helpful adversary though; these passages refer to adversaries in combat.
So, the word “meet” can be translated this way, although there is no necessity that it should be translated this way. But it is possible. Based on these verses, I think it’s ok to float the possibility that the benevolent adversary is a possible interpretation.
The next thing to look at is whether the Bible speaks of other relationships in this manner. Here are a couple examples that popped into my head:
1. God and humans
One could make the case that God is a benevolent adversary of people. This is the same God who put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden. He didn’t have to do that, but He was testing, being an adversary. There’s the example of Jacob wrestling with God and being named Israel. God is constantly a loving adversary to the people of Israel, a people who wrestles and struggles with God. You can’t think of this line of reasoning without considering the Book of Job! Certainly God was an adversary there! God is constantly testing and correcting and chastening people. He’s always doing so out of love and for our benefit.
2. Satan and humans
Satan is sometimes called the adversary. There is no love with Satan. He’s not opposing us for our good, to make us better or stronger, but to destroy and kill.
3. Parents and children
Parents and children have an adversarial relationship. Kids are kind of dumb as they are new to this world. Parents have to be loving adversaries, to oppose the crazy ideas their kids come up with for their own good. Kids, as they grow older, often question their parents’ rules, some of which legitimately are weird. This opposition is not done with respect and love many times. Too many parent child relationships skip the benevolence and the love and just become adversarial. God is a Father who chastens His children whom He loves just as earthly fathers do.
Iron sharpens iron. A wise man takes correction and a good friend gives correction. The Body of Believers, the Church, were given rules about church discipline and keeping each other accountable, confessing our sins to one another, reproving and rebuking when necessary, and encouraging each other to do good as the Day approaches.
Most relationships have a loving adversary quality to them. None of us is complete in and of ourselves. Even before The Fall in the sinless garden, it was not good that man was alone. We need help. God provided relationships in our lives for our benefit. People who isolate themselves get weird quick. We need other people to keep us from veering into weirdness.
The Bible presents enough for me to say that translating “help meet” as a benevolent and loving adversary is a possibility. Do you have to take it this way? Probably not, nothing demands you do it, but it’s an interesting theory.