"Sustainer", Not "Help Meet"
I find Robert Alter's Bible translations fascinating because of his footnotes and his uniquely fresh take on translating different passages. I recently bought, and started reading, The Five Books of Moses, his translations of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. He caught my interest right away.
Long time Bible readers will be familiar with Genesis 2:18 (rendered here, from the KJV).
“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
Because of this verse, there's a nice tradition (at least in traditional Christian circles) of referring to one's husband or wife as "a help meet". I do it myself, on occasion. So I stopped and took notice when Alter footnoted this section.
The Hebrew ‘ezer kenegdo (King James Version “help meet”) is notoriously difficult to translate. The second term means “alongside him,” “opposite him,” “a counterpart to him.” “Help” is too weak because it suggests a merely auxiliary function, whereas ‘ezer elsewhere connotes active intervention on behalf of someone, especially in military contexts, as often in Psalms.
Instead of "help meet", Alter translated the phrase as "sustainer".
“It is not good for the human to be alone, I shall make him a sustainer beside him.”
I really like that. It has a much more active sound and still maintains the same connotation as someone that a person needs to thrive in his or her life.