Friday, February 10, 2006

ezer

ezer. a definition of woman i can agree on. finally.

"And God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and conquer it, and hold sway over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the heavens and every beast that crawls upon the earth.' (Gen. 1:26-28 Alter)"~Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge


this is the only redeeming section in this book. the rest, in my opinion, is mostly crap. i'm having a hard time even finishing the book. however, i do like their definition of woman and what she was created for....

"Call it the Human Mission-to be all and do all God sent us here to do. And notice-the mission to be fruitful and conquer and hold sway is given both to Adam and to Eve. 'And God said to them...' Eve is standing right there when God gives the world over to us. She has a vital role to play; she is a partner in this great adventure. All that human beings were intended to do here on earth-all the creativity and exploration, all the battle and rescue and nurture-we were intended to do together. In fact, not only is Eve needed, but she is desperately needed.

When God creates Eve, he calls her an ezer kenegdo. 'It is not good for the man to be alone, I shall make him [an ezer kenegdo]' (Gen. 2:18 Alter). Hebrew scholar Robert Alter, who has spent years translating the book of Genesis, says that this phrase is 'notoriously difficult to translate.' The various attempts we have in English are "helper" or "companion" or the notorious "help meet." Why are these translations so incredibly wimpy, boring, flat...disappointing? What is a help meet, anyway? What little girl dances through the house singing "One day I shall be a help meet?" Companion? A dog can be a companion. Helper? Sounds like Hamburger Helper. Alter is getting close when he translates it "sustainer beside him"

The word ezer is used only twenty other places in the entire Old Testament. And in every other instance the person being described is God himself, when you need him to come through for you desperately.

'Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sward.' (Deut. 33:26,29, emphasis added)

'I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.' (Ps. 121:1-2, ephasis added)

'May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help.' (Ps. 20:1-2, emphasis added)

'We wait in hope for the LORD, he is our help and our shield.' (Ps. 33:20, emphasis added)

'O house of Israel, trust in the LORD-he is their help and shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD-he is ther help and shield.
You who fear him, trust in the LORD-he is their help and shield.'
(Ps. 115:9-11, emphasis added)

Most of the contexts are life and death, by the way, and God is your only hope. Your ezer. If he is not there beside you . . . you are dead. A better translation therefore of ezer would be "lifesaver." Kenegdo means alongside, or opposite to, a counterpart.

You see, the life God calls us to is not a safe life. Ask Joseph, Abraham, Moses, Deborah, Esther-any of the friends of God from the Old Testament. God calls us to a life involving frequent risks and many dangers. Why else would we need him to be our ezer? You don't need a lifesaver if your mission is to be a couch potato. You need an ezer when your life is in constant danger.

Picture the character Arwen in the mythic motion-picture trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Arwen is a princess, a beautiful and brave elf maiden. She comes into the story in the nick of time to rescue the little hobbit Frodo just as the poisoned wound moving toward his heart is about to claim him.

ARWEN: He's fading. He's not going to last. We must get him to my father. I've been looking for you for two days. There are five wraiths behind you. Where the other four are, I do not know.

ARAGORN: Stay with the hobbits. I'll send horses for you.

ARWEN: I'm the faster rider. I'll take him.

ARAGORN: The road is too dangerous.

ARWEN: I do not fear them.

ARAGORN: (relinquishing to her, he takes her hand.) Arwen, ride hard. Don't look back.

It is she, not the warrior Aragorn, who rides with glory and speed. She is Frodo's only hope. She is the one entrusted with his life and with him, the future of all Middle Earth. She is his ezer kenegdo.

That longing in the heart of a woman to share life together as a great adventure-that comes straight from the heart of God, who also longs for this. He does not want to be an option in our lives. He does not want to be an appendage, a tagalong. Neither does any woman. God is essential. He wants us to need him-desperately. Eve is essential. She has an irreplaceable role to play. And so you'll see that women are endowed with fierce devotion, an ability to suffer great hardships, a vision to make the world a better place.

[...]

What we said was, first, that Eve is the crown of creation. There is something uniquely magnificent and powerful about a woman. We tried to reveal the immeasurable dignity, the holiness of your feminine heart by showing that it is God who longs for Romance; it is God who longs to be our ezer; it is God who reveals beauty as essential to life. You are the image bearer of this God. That is why you long for those things too.

There is a radiance hidden in your heart that the world desperately needs.


deep breath in....deep breath out.

how refreshing to hear that woman was not simply an after thought. how refreshing to hear of woman as the "image bearer" of God. how refreshing and validating to hear my heart's desires are also God's desires. how refreshing to hear that woman bears the "other side" if you will of God's heart. so wonderful to hear the words "woman" and "powerful" together in the same sentence without negativity associated with it.

this definition of woman as ezer is so very empowering. the imagery that it creates in my mind is absolutely amazing. think of it this way. man was created to bear the image of "one side" of God's heart and woman was created to bear the image of the "other side" of God's heart. how beautiful is that? i can't quite fully wrap my mind or imagination around it. just wow!

doesn't this definition just feel right? and doesn't it just make sense?

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just picked up "Captivating" (and now can't seem to put it down) and came across the term "ezer kenegdo." I googled it and found your blog. I really enjoyed what you've said and have to admit, I was briefly torn between which to continue reading! Captivity won out in the end, however I've bookmarked your blog so I can finish reading it as well. I've recently encountered some circumstances that have me questioning a great deal in my life and believe I'm finally finding what I have (sometimes unknowingly) been searching to for for many years. Thanks for sharing your insight!

Anonymous said...

Hey!! Im reading captivating at the mo, its a great book. I was reading the secong chapter and the words ezer kenegdo jumped out at me. Its hard to explain but those words automatically meant something to me. I have heard men so many times say us women are just helpers when in fact we are like you say the ohter side of gods heart. thank you for a lovely blog. Also it is ezer that just means other side / life saver or kenegdo as well

Aaron Jones said...

Did you know if you google 'ezer kenegdo' this comes up second? I was writing a response to my Sunday School class, which basically concluded that men and women were no different, and was looking up translations of ezer kenegdo. I actually read captivating a year ago, even though I'm a dude, and was trying to remember what she had said, so this post was really useful to me. Thanks for you insight too, it was very helpful.

paulij said...

Hi,

The term is ezer kenegdo. I was tempted to ignore the word kenegdo because its definition can mean beside or against. whereas sustainer beside him seemed acceptable. The alternative sustainer against him seemed too conflicted. When I meditated about it, I got and image of a balanced scale. As women God has created us to be a counter balances to men. We are divinely created and called to counterbalance the masculine. We have failed to do so not so much out of unwillingness but because the feminine has been so maligned throughout history. Conditions are changing though and it is important to realize that much of the insanity in the world from global warming to ethnic cleansing can be healed and transformed if we as women have the courage to stand up against injustice and stupidity. We can be sustainers, life savers against him. But, it takes strength and courage to stand against. Especially when it begins at home with the men in our lives, our husbands our fathers our sons. They may not like it. They might get mad at us. Well are we weak sissies like the patriarchy claims or are we the crown of creation?

Jared said...

I just wanted to say that running across this blog was great. I have read both Captivating and Wild at Heart (along with other books by John) and I liked a good bit of what I read.

I really liked your analogy of the sides of the heart. I think it is important to not just limit gender to procreation, as many people try to do. It is obvious that men and women think differently. This is a GOOD thing! Men tend to focus solely on a goal. Women tend to focus on the journey to a goal. A man sees a goal and goes with what is perhaps his first (and likely poor) idea of how to get there. A woman is more likely to step back and consider different options.

A couple working together, using their unique differences toward the same goal is the most powerful force on earth.

You might like some of Myles Munroe's stuff. The "Purpose and power of women" and the "Purpose and power of man" are two really good books that talk about the beautiful differences between the genders and how they were designed to be. I highly recommend them.

Jared

Flannista said...

Came across this while researching the word, "ezer." Appreciate your thoughtfulness. Really. I'm so weary of conservative evangelical drivel.

Kelly said...

Hey Teresa -

Thanks for posting your honest comments about the book Captivating. I also had a hard time finishing the book. Can I offer you some encouragement and maybe even a challenge to finish the book and just ask God to reveal to you the things he wants you to learn from this book? This book has now become part of my ministry - in every book I give out I write a prayer for that woman in the front cover...and in all of them I say "please make a commitment to yourself before reading this book that you will finish this book no matter how tempting it is to close the cover and put it away." I can only chalk it up to a spiritual battle. From your photo you look young...I am so excited that you are already discovering your identity and purpose in Christ now...God must have some BIG awesome plans for you!

Anonymous said...

Hi there....

Thanks for posting this excerpt. I just wanted to let you know that God used you through this post to speak to me. I've been hearing Him say "ezer kenegdo" for days, like He wanted me to figure out what it means. I had forgotten "Captivating" talks about it; Elizabeth Elliot also expounds her revelation of the word in her book "Passion and Purity." Thanks for being there to help me hear!

Anonymous said...

In Jewish tradition and commentary, there is an understanding that the kenegdo means *both* beside *and* against...

The whole point of woman was that she would be there, the one to be beside a man when he should be supported, the one to stand against him when he shouldn't be.

Sadly, men have been conditioned to want a woman who backs them "right or wrong" in all cases. Women have been conditioned to assume the "against" role just about to the exclusion of all else. It's a broken system.

jytdog said...

Nice piece!

I have studied the Bible for years and somehow have always followed
the tradition of interpreting kenegdo as you do here as "corresponding to him" or the like. But the other day I was talking to an Isreali friend who made it abundantly clear that in Jewish traditions, the plain meaning of neged is dealt with squarely -- namely "opposed to." -- as paulij does above!

See here for example: http://www.e-geress.org/147.htm

Isn't it remarkable that the ONLY TIME neged is interpreted to mean
"corresponding to" is in Gen 2 - the very place where the relationship between man and woman is defined?

Why not roll with the obvious and normal meaning of the term, as opponent?

Thought-provoking! Why is this 100% sustainable reading completely
absent from Christian scholarship and traditions? (answer: men have driven this because they want a "meet" woman, not a powerful independent partner) Yes powerful, and yes independent -- "in front of" or "in opposition to."

CAMANDRES said...

Life wouldn't be as real as it is without the woman's point of view.

you ladies kind oflike see a different reality than us, and i love that from women.

We see the broad picture with little detail, and you see the big picture full od details...

Dostoyevsky said that if we don't pay attention to details, we are not able to see reality.

Women are the perfect connection to reality that we men -childish dreamers- need to live a good and long life towards our Creator.

I liked your words -and your pic- a lot.

P.S. I didn't find the option to follow your blog... what a shame.

jytdog said...

hi!

several folks here have claimed that in Jewish tradition/commentary "kenegdo" can mean "beside" or "against" -- can anybody provide texts other than this one, where it can be reasonably translated as "beside"? I don't believe there are any!

Thanks.

Carolyn said...

You and so many other women are asking these questions. See if you can sink your teeth into this: http://www.whitbyforum.com/2005/12/return-of-ezer.html And check out the rest of www.whitbyforum.com

Maybe your next book will be Lost Women of the Bible.

Carolyn

Amber said...

As I was researching this phrase, I first came across a site that had this to say about the for/against of kenegdo

"The Torah Study for Reform Jews says, “From the time of creation, relationships between spouses have at times been adversarial. In Genesis 2:18, God calls woman an ezer kenegdo, a "helper against him." The great commentator Rashi takes the term literally to make a wonderful point: "If he [Adam] is worthy, [she will be] a help [ezer]. If he is not worthy [she will be] against him [kenegdo] for strife." This Jewish study also described man and woman facing each other with arms raised holding an arch between them, giving a beautiful picture of equal responsibility"

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

How amazing that you can post your thoughts one day and touch so many lives for who knows how long? God can use us so powerfully if we will just say yes and follow him.

Did you have any idea that this blog would touch so many people?

God bless you and may you keep growing closer to him each day.

Anonymous said...

The SUNDAY EXPRESS-NEWS, San Antonio, Feb. 13, 1983 page 5-A
EVE, ADAM ‘EQUALS’ IN BIBLE TRANSLATION (Ezer Kenegdo)
Los Angeles--- Eve, the first woman should be described as a “power equal to” Adam rather than a “fitting helpmeet” in Genesis, according to a Biblical scholar at the University of California at Davis.
If the suggestion of R. David Freedman, published in the current issue of Bible Archeology Review wins favor with the Bible translators, it would weaken a familiar religious underpinning for the traditional claims that woman was divinely ordained to serve man. James A. Sanders of Claremont, Calif. an Old Testament specialist on the Revised Standard Version Bible Committee said the thought Freedman made “A GOOD CASE” in the magazine.
The line in question is in Genesis 2:18 when God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Rev.Standard Version) The two key Hebrew words are “EZER KENEGDO”” translated fitting helper in the new Bible of Jewish Publication Society, a “helpmate” in the Jerusalem Bible, and an “aid fit for him” in the Anchor Bible. The Hebrew word “EZER” is the combination of two roots, one meaning to RESCUE or to save, and the other meaning “To Be Strong.” With time the two roots merged into one word and so did the meaning, later always interpreted as “to help”, he said.
The word “EZER” occurs 21 times in the Hebrew bible. 8 times the word means Savior, and the other times it means “strength”, It is also paralleled with the concept of “Majesty.”
The other Hebrew word, “KENEGDO” has given translators problems because it occurs in the Bible only once. However, Freedman pointed out, in late Rabbinical commentaries, the word means “EQUAL”, as in the saying, “The study of the Torah is EQUAL (Kenegdo) to all the other commandments. ’’’end of article``
====================================
Could it be that Eve was the Majestic strength equal to Adam that God sent to Help Adam?

sistakeita said...

This page is like cool water to a THIRSTY woman of GOD like me!

May I add that the woman GOD created is not named or called "Eve" until the man renames her AFTER the FALL.

Prior to that, GOD called both their names "ADAM"...

Ralphie said...

sistakeita-God called both their names "Adam"? I don't see that anywhere. Until we are told that Adam called her "Eve" - he had previously named all of the other creatures God created - she is referred to simply as "Woman", "wife", or "the woman". I see no reference to God calling her Adam, or referring to them collectively as Adam.

Teresa, the discussion of the meaning of "ezer kenegdo" is a good one. I can see that a lot of thought and research has been put into many of the comments. Thank you for putting this out there. Such discussions are good for the community. How else she we be able to give a defense for our beliefs if we cannot openly and honestly debate our understanding?

Anonymous said...

In my opinion lifesaver is not the correct word. Lifeguard might be a better one but still something is missing...It should be some other kind of military help, ally sent by God in order both man and woman united to win the battle and receive Life.

Russell said...

Some time ago (in my twenties) I realized that when a woman grows and nurtures the body of a child inside of her own being, a literal sacrifice of blood, water and spirit (energy) takes place in order to make that life possible and bear it forth. Suddenly, I felt a lot more patient and understanding about all of the complex and rather inconvenient biological processes of a woman's body. Our sacrifice as mothers is a gift that makes mortal life possible.
The Savior's all-encompassing sacrifice (also involving blood, water and His very life/spirit) is a gift that makes eternal life possible. The world is awakening to a new understanding (or perhaps, the ancient understanding) of what it is to be children of God, embrace life and knowledge, and move Creation forward. I am so joyful about what this means for the future.

editweapon said...

Check out http://skipmoen.com/products/ezer/ and http://skipmoen.com/products/guardian-angel/ as both go much further in depth on 'ezer kenegdo.

jytdog said...

editweapon, those books indicate that "Women were designed by God to guide, direct and supply the boundary conditions for their men."

This is sadly sexist and culturally bounded; not revelation of God but revelation twisted through male desire to claim and maintain power. Not useful, except to understand how our limitedness can corrupt our perception of truth- as God says in Jeremiahs, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?"

Elisa said...

I'm reading Guardian Angel by Skip Moen, and have to say it is fascinating. I'm not sure jytdog's comment is correct. I'm finding the history and Hebraic view is liberating and equalising.
Skip Moen also has a talk on Ezer from one of his Lectures to Masters of Divinity, it's a great topic. editweapon has the link to the products page. Skip seems to be saying that we need to return to God's original design. Clearly we are not limited for our man, but in the context of marriage a wife has great power as an Ezer Kenegdo, a helper opposite.
Skip also recommends Captive Woman by Bob Gorelik.

Anonymous said...

Ralphie said...
sistakeita-God called both their names "Adam"? I don't see that anywhere. Until we are told that Adam called her "Eve" - he had previously named all of the other creatures God created - she is referred to simply as "Woman", "wife", or "the woman". I see no reference to God calling her Adam, or referring to them collectively as Adam.

"Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created."~Genesis 5:2

Wisdom Lived said...

Thanks for your beautiful and insightful comments. I am married with three grown daughters and it was exhilarating to see this spot on view of women from a biblical perspective. I am now subscribed to your blog and will share this with the wonderful, strong women in my life. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

There are many personal n independent slants on this topic, however, I like this one. I think this particular take on exer kenegdo can be equated to opening up all the doors n windows in the house on a sunny day to let the light n the breeze rush in. Amen!!