Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Religion, PhD


School of Arts and Humanities

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Tammi Schneider

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Matthew Bowman

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Lori Anne Ferrell

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© 2023 Rebekah Call


Eden, Eve, Feminist, Gender, Genesis, Hebrew Bible

Subject Categories



This dissertation argues that a comparative Semitic analysis of ezer kenegdo (KJV: “help meet”) in Genesis 2:18, 20 can provide new semantic ranges that enrich the reading of gender roles in Genesis 1-3. The usage of ezer kenegdo in Genesis 2:18, 20 has defied satisfactory interpretation, even though this passage has played an important role in the conversation surrounding gender roles in the Bible, in other religious discourse, and even aspects of culture influenced by elements of Jewish and Christian worldviews. The struggle with this phrase is twofold: the first difficulty lies in the association of ezer “help” with subordinate female roles. The second problem has to do with the word neged, whose Hebrew form defies grammatical categorization, with the effect that its common translation values lack a strong correlation to the actual Hebrew text. It is possible that the difficulty in producing suitable translations and interpretations of ezer kenegdo stems not from a lack of basic understanding of cultural norms, but rather from a lack of understanding of the basic semantic ranges of the terms ezer and neged. Certainly, the struggle inherent to translating and interpreting this phrase illustrates the need for other approaches. While much ink has been shed over how best to approach the traditional view of these words, very few studies have applied a comparative Semitic linguistic approach to this phrase in the search for new semantic ranges. Of these few studies, none have been comprehensive. This dissertation utilizes a comparative Semitic Linguistic approach, identifying potential cognates from Akkadian, Arabic, Aramaic, and Ugaritic. These lists of cognates are first analyzed according to linguistic suitability. They are then analyzed in context of the Genesis 1-3 account, with particular attention to whether semantic ranges fit the narrative through an examination of grammar, context, theme, and semantics within the text itself. Following this analysis, a list is provided of the translation values that are linguistically and contextually appropriate to Genesis 1-3. In summary, this dissertation identifies what ezer kenegdo does not mean, and gives a range of values for what it can mean. In doing so, it reframes the conversation surrounding ezer kenegdo by disproving many traditional theological assumptions about the text that tend to simplify, objectify, and condemn the woman, or that focus on hierarchy in the male-female relationship in the Garden of Eden. This dissertation provides evidence that the woman is not a weak, evil creation; however, she is also not a paragon of beauty and virtue. Rather, based on ezer kenegdo, the text itself regards the woman in an overwhelmingly positive light as a complex, dynamic, many-layered human being.



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