“Bitter arguments often result from a lack of definition of terms.” This is one of the first lessons the Cognoscenti are taught in the Magical Worlds Communications Workshop.
Cognoscenti Skip Moen – an Oxford scholar – gave me a tragic example of this during his most recent visit to Wizard Academy.
“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” – God, speaking to Himself in the second chapter of Genesis according to the English translators of the good King James in 1611
This is bad enough, but in later years “help meet for him” [help appropriate for him] became further mistranslated as “helpmate.”
Stay with me. This is about to get very interesting. You will laugh, cry or get angry. You will not be unmoved.
Ezer kenegdo are the Hebrew words translated as “help meet” in 1611.
Ezer is used 20 more times in the Old Testament and in each instance it refers to God’s own effort to rescue and sustain his people. Ezer (pronounced ay’-zer) can be translated as “power” or “strength” or “rescue.”
‘Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and ezer and your glorious sword.’ – Deut. 33:26
‘I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my ezer come from? My ezer comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.’ – Ps. 121:1-2
‘May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you ezer.’ – Ps. 20:1-2
Kenegdo means “facing.” It can also mean “opposite.”
Thus, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a power facing him.”
“I will make him a strength opposite him.”
“I will make him a rescue that looks him in the face.”
Each of these translations of ezer kenegdo is imminently more accurate than “helpmate, helper or assistant.”
Like I said; you will laugh, cry or get angry.
Google tells me of the following passage by John & Stasi Eldredge in their book, Captivating.
Remember when Arwen saves Frodo in The Lord of the Rings? Arwen is a princess, a beautiful elf maiden. She comes into the story in the nick of time to rescue Frodo just as the poisoned knife wound 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.
If you dig deeper into the history of Ezer, you’ll find that it comes from an even more ancient word, Azar, meaning “to surround.” Azar can also mean “protect, aid, succor and give material and/or nonmaterial encouragement.” Azar often refers to aid in the form of military assistance.
“Helper” and “assistant” are sounding more tragic with each passing paragraph, don’t you think?
Pennie says that you and I often live up to the things we hear said about us. This is why she’s deeply frustrated by what she hears mothers say in front of their children.
“He’s such a picky eater.”
“She does exactly the opposite of what I say.”
“He always throws a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way.”
“She doesn’t like to take naps.”
More to the point: did we make women “the weaker sex” the moment we gave them the name?
Words are powerful things.
We speak worlds into existence.
Roy H. Williams
Yes, it would be foolish to do all this Hebrew word-study and fail to consult the native speakers of Hebrew, the Jewish rabbis. Want to know what a rabbi says about ezer kenegdo?
“What do women want?”
“I think, first of all, they want recognition. They want to be acknowledged as the force that they are. Second, they want respect—and respect doesn’t mean selling me a car in Mary Kay pink. And the third, I think, is hygiene—the idea that for female consumers, clean matters. If I walk into a hotel room and see a hair on the bed, it doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers you.”
– Paco Underhill, answering the question of Newsweek’s Jessica Bennett
(Methinks the good Paco may have read The Soccer Mom Myth by Michele Miller, published by Wizard Academy Press in March, 2008.)