What Is “Ezer”?

ezer | ay’-zer

Many Christian women are familiar with this word and its modifer, kenegdo. Together, they’re translated along the lines of “helpmeet” or “helper fit.” If you’re like me, you learned those words around the same time you learned that woman’s purpose is to be that helper suitable for her husband (or father, depending on how patriarchal your reading is). Womanhood comes with this defined role of “helpmeet.” In application, a helpmeet amounts to taking care of the house and tending to the man’s needs and desires in order to advance his vision for the family — whether that be a business, a ministry, or an expectation that dinner be on the table when he gets home.

One woman summed up her helping this way: “As for being a helper, I like to clean out his car every once in a while because he doesn’t have time to. I often am sewing up holes or buttons from his clothes. Sometimes if I know he is running from class to church, I’ll pack him dinner so that he can eat. It isn’t always the same thing, just looking for little ways to serve him and show my appreciation for him.”

This is the typical Christian description of what it means to be a helpmeet (and by extension, a wife and a woman) — doing odd jobs for the man as he goes about bigger things. The man works, the man does ministry, the man crafts and executes a vision, while the woman “helps” him by doing the grunt work of the household, supporting his plans without question, and putting aside any goals that would require the man to change his own plans.

But an ezer has little to do with household chores or taking the back seat. It comes from two root words meaning “to rescue, to save” and “to be strong” (R. David Freedman, “Woman, a Power Equal to Man”). An ezer protects. An ezer delivers. An ezer kicks butt. An ezer reflects the image of God, who is “our ezer and our shield” (Psalm 33:20), “my ezer and my deliverer” (Psalm 70:5).

In the context of creation, as Freedman argues, ezer kenegdo ought to be translated “a power equal to the man.” Man’s best friend was no match for man. Only a creature of the same bone and flesh could match wits, love, and personhood with man. Together, man and woman formed the human species. Together, they exercised dominion over the earth. Together, as equal strengths, they reflect the nature of God, who took on flesh in order to save the world.

As equally human as men, women reflect God. With or without the feminine stereotypes of weak upper body strength and a nurturing nature — even with all that and because of that — women reflect the strength and salvation of the Lord.

It thus seemed appropriate to entitle this website “ezer” — because it appropriates a word frequently used to keep women down; because it promotes the equality of men and women by pointing to their common humanity as image-bearers; and because it inspires women to identify their femininity, as well as their humanity, with the power of God.