Last weekend, I crossed something off my bucket list, and off of my to do list.
It’s something that surprised more than a few of the people closest to me.
I got a tattoo.
It’s on my foot, and I’m absolutely in love with it.
But no one knows what it means, so that’s what this post is about today.
The words on the arch of my foot read “ezer kenegdo“. It’s Hebrew, and it’s what God called woman when He created her, long before her name was Eve.
‘ezer in Hebrew is commonly translated as “helper” or something similar, but in my study of the word, it seems that the more accurate translation is “power” or “strength”.
“Therefore, could we conclude that Genesis 2:18 be translated as ‘I will make a power [or strength] corresponding to man.’ ” (source)
It’s important to me that you understand that I did not get this tattoo because of how this term applies to me simply as a wife and a mother, but also how it applies to me as a woman.
The following, bolded text is an excerpt from the book “Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul” by John and Stasi Eldredge. It’s long, but it’s what really sparked my interest in the term ezer kenegdo.
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.
There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you…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, emphasis added)
I lift up my eyes to the hill — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Ps. 121:1-2, emphasis 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 their 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. Ask Mary and 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 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.
– Stasi Eldredge, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul
This is the conclusion I’ve reached in all of my studies.
The woman was created to be a warrior. She was meant to be a warrior because the battle for souls, for our husbands, for our children is fierce and the mission is monumental.
It doesn’t wait for a woman to become a wife or a mother. It begins because she is female — from the beginning.
God created a team — man and woman. They are the perfect complement to each other. Each has their own special skills, callings, and expectations, but their mission is the same. In order to win the war, all soldiers must fight with their own specialities.
If each soldier gets concerned with being just like the other, the division will destroy the team. They need to be confident of their calling, secure in their mission, tasks, and skills.
My tattoo is on my foot because I never want to forget that I am in a battle.
I’ve been called to fight for the souls of all men, women, and children.
More specifically, for me…I am a partner with Ty in a battle for the hearts and souls of my family.
I am a woman.
I was created to fight. To be a warrior in a battle of all battles.
An ‘ezer kenegdo.
Do you feel like you are in a battle? Are you ready to be a warrior? Do you have any tattoos that have any special meaning to you? I’d love to hear about them!
For more explanation of the term ‘ezer kenegdo, see this site here. Carolyn was the speaker at our women’s conference this year, and she blew me away.