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 hills—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?