Monday, July 19, 2010

What is Woman?

The Wizard Academy is a cool, business school in Austin, Tx founded by Roy H. Williams. (it has nothing to do with Harry Potter, wizard simply means wise)  A few years ago, I attended a one-day seminar there and hope to go back for more classes. 
Every Monday morning, the first thing I read is the Monday Morning Memo that Roy sends outs. The memo is a mixture of business/marketing advice or unique insights about what makes people do what they do or any subject that happens to capture Roy's interest. 


Today's memo is about words and women and the translation of Genesis 2. Roy says that you will laugh, cry or get angry as you read this, so be prepared. 


Here are Roy's thoughts that stemmed from a recent conversation with an oxford scholar, Skip Moen.

"It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” - God, speaking to Himself in the second chapter of Genesis according to the English translators of the good King James in 1611

This is bad enough, but in later years “help meet for him” [help appropriate for him] became further mistranslated as “helpmate.”

Stay with me. This is about to get very interesting. 

Ezer kenegdo are the Hebrew words translated as “help meet” in 1611.
Ezer is used 20 more times in the Old Testament and in each instance it refers to God’s own effort to rescue and sustain his people. Ezer (pronounced ay'-zer) can be translated as “power” or “strength” or “rescue.”
'Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and ezer and your glorious sword.' - Deut. 33:26
'I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my ezer come from? My ezer comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.' - Ps. 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 ezer.' - Ps. 20:1-2

Kenegdo means “facing.” It can also mean “opposite.”
Thus, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a power facing him.”
“I will make him a strength opposite him.”
“I will make him a rescue that looks him in the face.”

Each of these translations of ezer kenegdo is imminently more accurate than “helpmate, helper or assistant.”

Like I said; you will laugh, cry or get angry.

If you dig deeper into the history of Ezer, you’ll find that it comes from an even more ancient word, Azar, meaning “to surround.” Azar can also mean “protect, aid, succor and give material and/or nonmaterial encouragement.” Azar often refers to aid in the form of military assistance.

"Helper" and "assistant"
 are sounding more tragic with each passing paragraph, don't you think? 

Pennie
(his wife) says that you and I often live up
 to the things we hear said about us. This is why she's deeply frustrated by what she hears mothers say in front of their children. 
"He's such a picky eater."
"She does exactly the opposite of what I say."
"He always throws a tantrum when he doesn't get his way."
"She doesn't like to take naps."

More to the point: did we make women "the weaker sex" the moment we gave them the name?
...
Roy H. Williams

This is not the first time I've heard of a different translation of 'helpmate', but this is a more thorough one. I will be pondering this for a time. You can read the whole memo here

Your thoughts? 


2 comments:

lainiegallagher said...

Oh, how awesome! I'd never heard of this before. Never.

S. Etole said...

Our words do carry much power, don't they? An interesting question posed here ...