An Irreplaceable Role as an Ezer Kenegdo
I have the amazing privilege to stay connected in the lives of the girls who were in my Orlando Bible study five years ago by still reading books from time to time and engaging in discussions over email. I mean, let’s be honest: I would so much rather be sitting with them on comfy couches and drinking coffee while responding to the pages we read, but alas, email is definitely better than no discussion at all. Currently we are reading Captivating together. I was reading Chapter two as I prepared for our discussion and was really struck by this excerpt about the women’s desire to share in an adventure:
Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, pages 31-33, 42:
“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). 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 closer 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 sword” (Deut. 33:26,29).
“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” (Psalm 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 help” (Ps 20:1-2).
“We wait in hope for the Lord, He is our help and our shield” (Psalm 33:20).
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 of 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. Ask Mary or Lazarus; ask Peter, James, and John; ask Priscilla and Aquila–any of the friends of God in the New 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 of 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….It is she, not the warrior Aragorn, who rides with glory and speed [to take him to her father]. 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.
A woman is not here merely to complete a man, and therefore a single woman is somehow missing her destiny…It is God who longs to be our ezer…You are the image bearer of this God. This is why you long for these things too. There is a radiance hidden in your heart that the world desperately needs.”
May we own this irreplaceable role God has given us and ask Him to show us how we can be the ezer kenegdos He has called us to be today. And may we be deeply encouraged that God is our ezer, our only true hope and help.