The Hebrew Meaning of "Help Meet"

Bruce Satterfield (BYU-Idaho Religion Professor)

The phrase “help meet for him” translates the Hebrew words ezer kenegdo. These words are a little difficult for me to translate. Ezer literally means, “help” and is similar in meaning to the English word ‘help.’ However, kenegdo, translated ‘meet for him’, is more difficult to translate. The root word, neged, literally means ‘opposite’, ‘in the presence of’, ‘over against’, ‘in front of’, ‘corresponding to’, or ‘aside’. Literally, kenegdo means, ‘opposite as to him’ or ‘corresponding as to him’.

The sense of the phrase ezer kenegdo is ‘an equal but opposite helper to him’. For example, my left hand is the ezer kenegdo to my right hand; both hands look alike except they are exactly opposite. Both hands are equal but opposite. This is so that they might work better together. Imagine trying to pick up a shovel with two hands that are positioned the same! Again, the ezer kenegdo of the right wing of an airplane is the left wing; they look exactly the same except they are opposite each other. Both wings are equal but opposite. This is so that the airplane can fly. One wing is no more important than the other. The same is true with man and woman. Man’s ezer kenegdo is woman. Both are equal but opposite. It requires both to fulfill the role of parenthood! ("The Family Under Siege: The Role of Men and Women," Ricks College Education Week Presentation, 7 June 2001)