Biblical vocabulary: עזר (“Divine help”) – number 2

Last updated on March 3, 2022

My help comes from the Lord…” (Psalm 121:2).

In a previous article we discussed the Hebrew verb עזר,  “azar” which means: to help, to support, to assist, to deliver[1]. We saw that this verb is mainly used with reference to the Lord God. This also applies to the nouns “ezer” and “ezra” derived from the verbal stem “azar” / to help, both of which mean “help”. The Lord offers man His Divine help, support and assistance in all needs and problems.

Divine help in the Psalms

In the psalms we hear repeatedly how the Lord helps those in need in their distress. He comforts and “azar” / helps His own (Psalm 86:17). The psalms teach that we may always beg for the help of His hand and the provisions of His Word (Psalm 119:173-175). The psalmist sings that the city of God will not be moved, for “God will help her when morning dawns” (Psalm 46:5-6). That also applies now! “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name …” (Psalm 79:9).

Kings taught that the Lord helps

King Asa confesses in his prayer that the Lord is the only One who can “azar” / assist and then pleads, “Azar / Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you …” (2 Chronicles 14:11). So too it was with King Uzziah who experienced “God “azar” / helped him against the Philistines …” (2 Chronicles 26:7). Compare Amaziah’s actions (2 Chronicles 25:8). Anyone who does not expect her / his help from the Lord will be disappointed. Thus, it was for Ahaz. Thinking that the gods of Damascus “azar/ helped their kings, he sacrifices to these idols in the hope of receiving help from them, but they become his and the people’s ruin (2 Chronicles 28:23). His bad example had terrible consequences for all! The lesson of this history is in full force now.

“Ezer and “ezra in the Psalms

Again, we look at these comforting songs of praise and hear how the Lord God delivers in all kinds of situations and gives man his indispensable help and support. He is always close to us with His Divine “ezer / help! In our need, we may always plead “Oh grant us ezra/ help against the foe …” (Psalm 108:12). This cry for help comes from the knowledge that no (eternal) salvation is to be expected from human redemption – although the Lord can use people as instruments of help in His hand. Eternal salvation is offered by the Lord, in Him we set our expectation. “Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our ezer / help and our shield” (Psalm 33:20).

Psalm 115 teaches God’s children to honor His name and to expect all help only from Him, even when the mocking question is, “Where is their God?” (Psalm 115:2). We may know that He is enthroned in heaven and delivers us, while all idols – yes, the very ones of our time! – are dead human work (Psalm 115:4-8). A bitter, disappointing discovery for many who build on it.However, those who build on the Lord will hear the repeated, inspiring call: “O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their ezer” / help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord! He is their ezer / help and their shield. You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their ezer” / help and their shield” (Psalm 115:9-11).

Anyone who loves and fears the Lord – that is, devotedly serving Him – may know that this Divine call to “trust!” and the promise of help is contemporary! In the safe shadow of God’s protective wings, we may confidently sing, “… for you have been my ezra”/ help …” (Psalm 63:8). The verbal form in this verse concerns both the past and the present and is thus intended for all times. After all, our God is unchangeable: What He was in the past He is also now and forever…! That is why we confess, “Our ezer / help is in the name of the Lord …” (Psalm 124:8).

Eben ha-Ezer

Moses took a blessing farewell to Israel, telling them that there is no one like God Who will offer them “ezer” / assistance from heaven (Deuteronomy 33:26). This statement has not become obsolete: The Lord is still watching over His people, mighty to deliver them in their distress! It was true in Samuel’s time when people were unfaithful to the Lord and seemed to succumb to Philistine threat (1 Samuel 7). But they heeded Samuel’s call to put away all strange idols and serve only the LORD (1 Samuel 7:3-4).

This obedience paved the way of prayer addressed by Samuel to the Lord (1 Samuel 7:5b) and was accompanied by fasting and confession (1 Samuel 7:6). Fearful of the advancing Philistines, Samuel was begged to pray to the Lord for help, and He answered Samuel’s supplication and sacrifice with miraculous deliverance (1 Samuel 7:8-11). In response to this God-given deliverance and victory over the enemy, Samuel erected a large stone as a solemn memorial of Divine help and appropriately named it Eben ha-Ezer: “stone of the help”[2]. The Hebrew name can also be translated as “the stone of help”. As an explanation for this naming, he then spoke the well-known words: “Till now the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). We are grateful to be able to imitate that in so many cases and situations and we know: the Lord is our Eben ha-Ezer!


[1] We call the verb “Azar” here as it sounds without the rendering of the initial letter áyin (this also applies to the words derived from this verb); this omission of the beginning áyin is because this is a deep “guttural letter” that Westerners often cannot pronounce.

[2] This name consists of the Hebrew words “eben” (stone of), “ha” (the), and “ezer” (help).

© Copyright dr. Annechiena Sneller-Vrolijk

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