Ezer Kenegdo – a helper meet for him (Gen 2:18)

Recently, within a two-day period, I heard the Hebrew phrase “ezer kenegdo” mentioned on two different occasions.   It really caught my attention, and I took that as an indicator that Abba wanted me to understand this term, so I began studying the phrase – and what an eye-opener! 

I had never heard the words “ezer kenegdo” before, so first I had to ‘Google’ the phrase to find out where it appears in scripture.  Turns out that it first appears in Gen 2:18, and is used in connection with the creation of Woman.

Here’s the ‘approved’ KJV English translation of Gen 2:18:

And YHVH God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet [Heb: ezer kenegdo] for him. (Gen 2:18 KJV)

All Christian women are familiar with this term “helpmeet.”  The congregations I’ve been part of have generally been taught that women are ‘helpers’ for men – that women are an adjunct to man, ‘adding to’ him and assisting him in his duties.   In return, man lovingly provides for woman and protects her and her children.

This understanding is not all wrong, but as I studied ezer kenegdo, it became apparent that (once again) I may have accepted a cultural tradition in place of a scriptural definition!  I hope you’ll join me as I look carefully to see how the Bible understands this phrase, ezer kenegdo.

Ezer (eh-ZAIR): [Strong’s Number H5828] To help; to aid; to succor.  So far, the traditional understanding jives with scripture – or does it?

The word ezer appears 21 times in the ancient scriptures.  Two verses (both in Genesis) refer to woman as the ezer for man.  Another two verses speak of battle allies,  and 17 verses refer to YHVH as our ezer!!! [1]   In those 17 verses, Yah’s assistance includes both “help” and protection.

In every one of the verses referring to YHVH as our ezer, there is a clear understanding that He acts as our ezer when we are faced with enemies.  He is our battle ally!  For example:

Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by YHVH, the shield of thy help, H5828 and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places. (Deut 33:29)

This “battle” connotation is not by accident.  The word ezer derives from the root ‘azar (H5826), and the primary idea of ‘azar lies in “girding, surrounding – hence defending.”  Ezer / ‘azar denotes strength and power.   (In Arabic, it means “to conquer.”)

In the 77 verses that use the term ‘azar, the vast majority use it in the sense of going to battle to defend against an enemy.   For example numerous verses refer to allies in war:

Come up unto me, and help H5826 me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.  (Joshua 10:4)

And when the Syrians of Damascus came to succour H5826 Hadadezer king of Zobah, David slew of the Syrians two and twenty thousand men.  (2 Samuel 8:5)

And he [YHVH} shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help H5826 you, and be your protection.  (Deut 32:37, 38)

GOD – OUR EZER / Woman – Man’s Ezer

YHVH calls Himself our EZER – our defender and protector, our battle ally.  The almost shocking thing to realize is that He has equated woman’s duties with His own!

Women were created to PROTECT and DEFEND  men!!

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the enemy has managed to twist that around, too!

Of course my first question was “What are women (wives) supposed to protect and defend men (husbands) from?”

Since a woman is not typically strong enough nor in the position to defend against physical enemies, it isn’t hard to come to the conclusion that her job is to protect and defend her husband from SPIRITUAL attacks, be they demonic; slanderous accusations from human enemies (or from the man’s own mind if he listens to the enemy’s accusations); the desires of the flesh; the corrupt teachings of men; etc.

In the spiritual realm, our weapons  are prayer, the spoken Word, obedience to the Will of YHVH, and the shed blood of Y’shua.  As we shall see, Genesis 2:18 is essentially telling us that a woman’s job is to learn how to wield these weapons boldly and effectively in the spiritual defense and protection of her husband (and by extension, in defense of her children and family).

KENEGDO

Kenegdo (keh-NEGG-doe) is a Hebrew cognate made up of two words: kun + neged.   In Genesis 2:18, this combo word is generally translated into English as “meet”, “sufficient”, “fit”, “suitable”, “complementary” or “corresponding.”   In these English versions of Genesis 2:18, each rendering carries the correct connotation that woman will ‘fill in the blanks’ of man’s character and abilities; that she adds to him and is an adjunct to him.

However, another unfortunate implication in the English versions is that although woman is fit for man, she isn’t quite equal to him.  The translations read as though she was made for man, implying his superiority.

The Hebrew, on the other hand, leads us to understand that YHVH knew man’s deficiencies and created a counterpart (neged) – a partner who would be the other half of the whole being.  This is why we are told that when a man and woman come together, they become echad (one; a unity) in every sense of the word.

YHVH was NOT implying that woman’s assignment as man’s ezer somehow makes her inferior to men.  YHVH describes Himself as man’s  ezer / ‘azar, and He is  certainly not inferior to men!

My husband and I are on equal footing, but with differing tasks.   Among his tasks, he is to protect and defend me from physical enemies, while at the top of the list of my own tasks, I am to protect and defend him from spiritual enemies.  There aren’t usually very many physical enemies out there, but there are plenty of spiritual adversaries, so frankly, I think we women got the tougher job!!   Praise Yah!!!   That means that He thinks we’re capable of it!

Of course there is great truth in the understanding of woman’s ability to complement man;  the flip side being man’s ability to complement woman!  HOWEVER, there is more to kenegdo than our English translations convey.

Kun: [H3559] Firm, established, stable, secure, enduring, ready, prepared.

Neged: [H5048] corresponding to; face to face (as in looking the same); like (as in alike and similar); comparable to;  a counterpart (opposite of, thus completing the whole, as in the two halves of a circle); before (in front of); in the presence of; over against (in front of, appearing in the sight line of); “in the rabbinic [writings] often used in speaking of things which are like one another.” (Gesenius)

 . . . with Bakbukyah and ‘Uni, their kinsmen, singing antiphonally [neged] with them in the service.  (i.e., serving differently but with equal value; all were singing, but singing different parts, thereby creating a whole.)  Neh 12:9 CJB

Put it all together

Ezer (eh-ZAIR): [Strong’s Number H5828] To help; to aid; to succor; to protect.

Kun: [H3559] Firm, established, stable, secure, enduring, ready, prepared.

Neged: [H5048] corresponding to; face to face (as in looking the same); like (as in similar); comparable to;  a counterpart (opposite of, thus completing the whole, like the two halves of a circle); before (in front of); in the presence of; over against (in front of, appearing in the sight line of ); “in the rabbinic [writings] often used in speaking of things which are like one another.” (Gesenius)

In other words, woman is LIKE man although different in some respects. (Neged)  She corresponds to him and is comparable to him, but she does things he can’t do (just like he does things she can’t do).  They are counterparts.  Together they are the two halves of a whole.  (Neged)   She is to be rock steady in battle (Kun).  He must be able to rely upon her (Kun) to be always prepared and equipped (Kun) to be an effective defender and protector (ezer) of her husband, so that he can successfully go about the tasks assigned to him.  (I couldn’t help but notice that Woman does not require any other ezer than YHVH Himself, while Man needs a little extra help.  Just sayin.’    : )

Woman’s special task is to “hold down the fort” – not by might, nor by power, but by Yah’s Spirit (Zec 4:6) – boldly battling her family’s enemies, enduring to the end in both the relationship and in confrontations with enemies of any kind, particularly those on the spiritual front.

Most of the world’s cultures still see women as “the fair sex,” weaker than men, needing to be provided for and protected by men, and subservient to men.  On the contrary, the BIBLE seems to see women as powerful battle allies, defending and protecting their husbands and families in warfare against the powers of darkness.  WOW!

Does the rest of scripture agree?

If this understanding of the powerful Battle-Partner Wife is accurate, we should find confirmation in the rest of Scripture.  Frankly, I was afraid that I was totally misunderstanding Genesis 2:18, so it was very reassuring to discover that the rest of scripture really DOES support this understanding!

Who can find a virtuous [Heb. chayil – strong, mighty, powerful, with the connotation of warlike] woman? for her price is far above rubies. (Prov 31:10)

If you look up the word chayil  [Strong’s H2428] you will find that It is used 248 times.  In 136 of the verses, chayil is translated as armies, hosts, forces, men of valor (warriors).  Next most commonly, in 45 verses chayil is translated as strength, strong, might, power, valiant or valor.  In 29 verses, it is used to express the power found in wealth, riches and substance.  In other words, chayil is used almost exclusively in  passages concerning warfare and the display of power

The ONLY exceptions (in English translations) are Prov 12:4, Prov 31:10, Ruth 3:11, Ruth 4:11, and Prov 31:29, each of which uses chayil to describe WOMEN!  In those five verses and ONLY in those five verses, chayil (army, warrior, might, strength, valor, substance) suddenly gets translated as VIRTUE! [2]

Do you, like me, perceive a very condescending and misleading cultural bias in our English translations?

Historically, western culture doesn’t want women to be strong – a “masculine” trait – but it does want women to be virtuous.  However, God expects men to be  just as virtuous as women, so why, when the verses describe men, is chayil not translated as “virtuous”???  Truthfully, it’s because that word chayil never meant “virtuous” – every use of the word indicates that it speaks of might, valor, warriors, and warfare.

The Jews are fully aware of the meaning of chayil, and they correctly translate the phrase into English as “a woman of valor.”   In my opinion, that rendering is far more honest and accurate!

The Bible’s Women of Valor

Rachel: Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel’s furniture, and sat upon them.  And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not.  (Gen 31:34)

Rachel is greatly admired by her descendants, because she was a woman of valor.  In this passage, we see her protecting her husband and family from demonic attack.   She wasn’t taking those images for her own use or out of vengeance against her father.  She took them as a battle strategy!

Rachel knew that her father would use those images to ‘divine’ (find out) where Jacob had taken his family and even to place curses upon Jacob.  By taking her father’s images, Rachel was removing his source of demonic power and thereby greatly hindering Laban’s ability to harm her family.

Rachel recognized a danger that her husband Jacob had completely missed, and she acted quickly and wisely to protect him!

When Jacob foolishly proclaimed death for any of his family that had taken the images (Jacob was defending his own “honor” when he should have been standing against idolatry), Rachel had the wisdom to SIT on the images (what a great picture that makes!) and give a perfect reason for not rising.  Rachel was an alert, creative and valiant spiritual warrior in her husband’s behalf.

Deborah: And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.  . . . And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not YHVH God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?  . . .   And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.  And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for YHVH shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.   (Judges 4)

Deborah, too, is honored as a woman of valor and wisdom.  The people had appointed her as a judge over them, and we must infer from their choice that Deborah was not only knowledgeable in the Law, but that she also showed great wisdom and spiritual discernment in applying its principles, for as Paul reminds us, “The Law is spiritual .” (Rom 7:14).   Deborah was so effective in her functions as prophetess and judge that she inspired courage and loyalty in the men around her.  They had discovered that with her on their side, they could be far more confident of victory!

Interestingly, judges were appointed not only to render judicial decisions, but also to protect and lead the people against their enemies!

YHVH raised up judges, who saved them [the Hebrew people] from the power of their marauders.  (Judges 2:16 HCSB)

By serving as a judge in Israel, Deborah was not stepping into “the role of a man.”   She was simply expanding the range of her womanly duties in the war against evil!   In fact, she described herself merely as “a Mother in Israel“!  (Judges 5:7)

Esther: Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house.  (Esther 5:1)

Esther is an inspiring example of the Warrior Wife.  She literally laid her life on the line to protect her people from the attack of Haman, whose consuming hatred was inspired by the enemy.   Not only that, this good ezer kenegdo wife took steps that prevented her pagan husband from committing a crime that would have condemned him to the worst possible punishment from YHVH.

Esther was in a spiritual and physical battle of the highest magnitude, but she did not shrink from her task.  She was prepared, after having spent three days in fasting and prayer, and she was bold – she rallied the people to her cause and then placed herself before the King at the risk of her own life.   As the result of her well-planned and rock steady attack against spiritual and physical enemies, an entire nation of people was given the opportunity to defend itself against its attackers, and many of those enemies even became followers of the Most High!  (Esther 8:17)

Like Deborah, Esther simply expanded the range of her womanly duties to include her nation – not just her immediate family.  As Mordecai reminded her, it was only to be expected:

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?  (Esther 4:14)

Who knows what incredible things YHVH can accomplish through Warrior Wives committed to His service?!


FOOTNOTES

[1]  YHVH as ezer, including both ‘help’ (warfare) and protection: See Isa 41:10, Isa 41:13, Isa 41:14, Psalm 10:14; Ps 30:10; Ps 54:4; Ps 70:5; Ps 72:12; Ps 121:2 and many more.  Notice that these verses describe Him only as our ezer, NOT as our ezer kenegdoKenegdo indicates equality, and YHVH is not equal to man, but infinitely superior.

[2]  In Proverbs 31:10, depending on the version you read, our English translators chose to translate chayil as virtuous, good, capable, noble, excellent and worthy,  but they NEVER select words like valiant, powerful, mighty, etc., all of which are regularly used in all the other verses employing chayil while speaking of the male sex.  Certainly makes ME wonder if these translations are doctrine-and-tradition-driven rather than Truth-driven.

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17 thoughts on “Ezer Kenegdo – a helper meet for him (Gen 2:18)”

  1. ‘Just had a quick read of Genesis 3. The woman failed to be “kun”, and “ezer” to her husband when she encouraged him to sin. “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you”–this was a statement of the consequence that was to follow the fall. They were equal, but sin makes the woman forget the role that God assigned to her. But now that we’re redeemed, we can now break free from these prisons of the mind and reclaim what the Lord has originally purposed us to do. Man, woman–complementing by each fulfilling their God-given purpose–thus glorifying Him!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. AMEN!!!!! Well said. I have really had to repent for my lack of a battle/defensive/protective perspective as related to my husband. YHVH is teaching me what it means to be a Warrior Wife – May we all glorify Him as we learn His Way. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. wonderfully scribed, my friend… I so enjoyed this excellent and blessed ‘call’ which reflects much on Proverbs 31…and thank you for mentioning Deborah (Devorah)she is a favorite ‘Warrior Wife’ heroine of mine in God’s Word… 😀 Shalom

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Susan. I love D’vorah, too – she was a powerful woman and quite a heroine, indeed. Before I understood “ezer kenegdo,” she seemed like an ‘exception’ to me. Now I realize that she embodied the kind of womanhood YHVH expects from all of us!! Sounds like you caught on to that a lot sooner than I did! 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to comment. I sure have been enjoying your poems!! (https://5wise.wordpress.com)

      Liked by 1 person

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