One day I was sharing a website that I designed with a co-worker. She saw a post that mentioned the word ezer and asked, “What’s an ezer?” In response, I wrote the following article, thinking that perhaps she might not be the only one wondering what an ezer was.
At creation, God said “It is not good for the man (Mda adam) to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” (Gen 2:18 NASB) God then brought all the animals to Adam for him to name. Afterward, God said, “For Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.” (Gen 2:20 NASB) So God gave Adam general anesthesia, removed his tsela (1) and created his grand finale, a woman (ishshah). (No bias there…)
The word translated as “helper suitable for him” is from the Hebrew word ezer k'negdo. Some translations use the word “helper.” The King James Version (KJV) uses the word “helpmeet.” These translations have led many to wonder what “helper,” “helper suitable to him,” and “helpmeet” actually mean. Are these translations of ezer k’negdo accurate? What would a proper understanding of this word tell us about God’s design of women? By examining this word ezer k’negodo more closely, as well looking at other biblical occurrences of ezer, we will be able to answer the question “What’s an ezer?”
First, let’s address what an ezer k’negdo is not. The KJV translated ezer k’negdo as “help meet.” According to John Gill, a commentator during the King James era, the purpose of a “help meet” is to make man “comfortable…to dress his food…be pleasing in his sight, and…be in all respects…entirely answerable to his…wants and wishes." (2) In other words, a “helpmeet” is a female slave whose entire existence is centered on meeting the needs of the man. If this was a proper meaning of ezer, then God should have taken a bone from one of Adam’s feet to create Eve, rather than a rib from his side. If Adam’s ezer k’negdo was supposed to cook, clean and do laundry, as this definition implies, then Eve was a horrible ezer since there were no clothes to wash or house to clean in the Garden of Eden. Sorry, Mr. Gill.
Second, how is ezer used elsewhere in Scripture? Ezer is used twenty four times in the Old Testament. Only twice does it refer to Eve. The other sixteen times it refers to God as a “helper” when a savior or protector is needed against an enemy. For example, Exodus 18:4 states “…for the God of my father, [was] mine ezer and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” In this case, the LORD killed Pharaoh. Again in Deuteronomy 33:7 ezer is used: “Hear, O LORD, the cry of Judah…be his ezer against his foes.” The writer is beseeching the LORD to come through with might and power. Deuteronomy 33:29 reads “…the LORD…is your shield and ezer and your glorious sword. Your enemies cower before you.” In each of these examples, the word is translated as “helper,” not as “help meet.” Why then did the King James translators use the word “help meet” in Genesis 2:18 when referring to Eve? Could it be that they allowed their own gender bias to creep into their translations?(3)
Finally, when ezer is examined in the ancient Hebrew a fascinating image appears. The ancient Hebrew letters were pictures that slowly evolved into the modern Hebrew letters used today. The ancient picture letters used for ezer were an eye, a man and a weapon. In other words, an ezer is a revealer of man’s enemy.(4)
Summarizing what we know about ezer, and by inference women, this reveals that based on the Scriptures, God made Eve to be Adam’s protector in a similar fashion as God was Israel’s protector. This conclusion leads to further questions; since women are typically smaller than men, in what way could Eve protect Adam? We don’t know what Adam and Eve looked like pre-fall. Could she have been taller or stronger than Adam? Again, we don’t know.
This leads to another question: why did Satan target Eve and not Adam? Adam was at Eve’s side (Gen. 3:6). Satan could have spoken to Adam, but instead he spoke directly to Eve. Why? Was it because she was the protector and by removing her, Satan would be eliminating Adam’s protection?
One final question remains. In our post fall world, where many men don’t have physical enemies, who or what is man’s enemy? Every person is born with this inborn enemy and it remains until death, even after salvation. This enemy is the flesh, a person’s sinful nature that Paul described in Romans 7-8. Could it be that a wife has a special, God given ability to spot when her husband’s flesh is in need of crucifixion? Is it possible that she might see a threat in a business or ministry partner that he is blind to? As the ezer, the wife is uniquely designed to see this danger and warn her husband even before he is aware of it. How many ministries, businesses or marriages could have avoided betrayal or financial loss if the husband had listened to the early warnings of his ezer?
What, then, is an ezer? When referring to a woman, ezer is a much more valuable asset to a man than implied by the word “helper” or the less flattering “help meet.” Ezer is a mighty helper and protector for her husband, one who is able to reveal his enemy in times of danger, thus helping to strengthen and protect the marriage.
1. Tsela means side or rib in Hebrew.
2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testament.
3. For more on this topic, see Dr. Walter Bramson's excellent teaching here
4. For more on ancient Hebrew letters see the research by Frank T. Seekins here.
GENEVA CHINNOCK is a writer and author of Becoming His Beloved: Journey into the Father’s Affection. Geneva has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master in Business Administration. In her spare time, Geneva loves reading, eating bacon and attending live theater. She lives in Southern California with her husband and blogs about matters of faith at TreasuredbyGod.com.