Posts Tagged With: eshet chayil

The Mirror Waters and the GateKeepers

As I was writing Part II of Deborah the Bee, my study took me in an unexpected direction. So, humor me and I promise to post Part II next time. (:
 
laver-daily-for-cleansing

Ex. 38:8 Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.

While it’s probably not news to you that the bronze laver was made from the mirrors of the women, the role or service of these women just might be — it was to me. However, for the sake of those that haven’t considered the links of the laver, water, and women, let’s explore that first.

In my posts on the Cup of Miriam, we took a long hard look at why women are so closely associated with water. It is just like our Elohim to use articles from women to build the one piece of furniture in the Tabernacle that contained water. Even more significant is the fact that mirrors are used to reflect an image. Thus, we often hear how the waters in the laver were there so the priests could “see” the dirt and wash their hands and feet.

But it’s more than that. A mirror reflects beauty and defects. The Word of Elohim also reveals both when we look into it.[1] This is why we need the constant washing of the water of the Word.[2] The Hebrew word for mirror or looking glass is marah[3], but this word is ONLY elsewhere translated as “vision” — as in I saw a vision.[4]

You can see the connection with seeing “into” something. In other words, the purpose of the laver was to give spiritual insight about the state of a person’s heart. The washing was more symbolic than a remedy to physical dirt. In order to serve the King, you must be washed by His Water, which is the Word. Only the Torah can show you at once how beautiful and precious you are in the Father’s eyes and at the same time reveal your unsightly blemishes and spots. The Water of the Word is meant to cleanse us of these marks as James so aptly remarks in 1:25.

This idea is expanded by the Hebrew word for laver, keeyor. This word means a furnace and also to purify. Once again we see the dichotomy of fire and water, both cleanse and purify. But who are these “serving” women at the doorway of the tent of meeting? The answer to this question is what provoked me to write this post.

Translator’s (both Jewish and Christian) have a terrible tendency to diminish the roles or service of women. We have become so accustomed to this that we read right through a verse such as Exodus 38:8 and focus on the bronze (or brass if you prefer) laver and/or the mirrors. Yet, we know that there is not an idle word in the Torah. These women were important; and I for one, am ashamed that I never noticed their position until now. But, that’s what I’ve come to expect: the woman is always hidden! And I know that YHWH had divine intent and purpose for that as you will begin to see in my post on Deborah the Bee Part II.

The Hebrew phrase for “the serving women who served” is hatzovot asher tzaveu. You can probably see the repetition of the Hebrew verb tzvah, which means to go forth, wage war, fight, and serve. It is directly related to YHWH Tz’vaot (LORD of Hosts). It carries strong military connotations. This should remind us of the eshet chayil or woman of valor.[5] She too, is often obscured by translation and softened from a warrior to a woman of virtue, goodness, worth, or excellence. Why?

Would it surprise you to know that tz’vaot is feminine? When we call on the God of Armies (YHWH tz’vaot), we are really saying God of (women) warriors. Apparently, the women who “served” at the doorway to the Tent of Meeting were warriors! Now, considering the context of their station, it would appear as though this was more of a “spiritual” guardianship. After all, the laver was made from their “visions” or “mirrors”. I imagine these women to be warriors of the faith, prophetesses, prayer warriors, and guardians of the Water of the Word. I believe there is evidence of this with the prophetess Anna.

Luke 2:36-37 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, (37) and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.

Of course, we also have a witness as to what happens when these women are either taken advantage of or in outright rebellion.

1Sa 2:22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.

In this verse, their role has been perverted; these women have become like the harlot mentioned in Proverbs instead of the righteous woman. Whether or not these women were manipulated, forced, or were the seducers themselves is not mentioned. I believe we have evidence of all these possibilities happening in our assemblies still today. Regardless of the reason these women strayed, we see the male counterparts in this story also falling away from their purpose.

1Sa 3:1-2 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. (2) It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well).

There can be no coincidence that as the Word of YHWH and visions began to diminish, so did Eli’s eyesight. What is not immediately apparent is that the women are also related to the reduced visions by their association with the mirrors (visions) of the laver and the doorway. The proverbial “chicken or the egg” question might pop into your head. We want someone to blame. But, I believe the point is that improper worship, negligence, perversion, and the like is the culprit here. Lack of the Word means lack of vision and eyesight (insight, foresight, and hindsight). Torah is our One True Mirror! Without it we perish in our perversion.

Since women are often associated with vision and the prophetic, these next verses shouldn’t surprise you.

John 18:15-17 Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, (16) but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in. (17) Then the slave-girl who kept the door *said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He *said, “I am not.”

The Greek indicates that this “slave girl” was actually a bond-servant. Notice that Peter has to go through HER to get inside. She is the gate-keeper to get to the court of the high priest. And what does she do? She immediately “sees” right through Peter. She knows that he is one of Yeshua’s disciples! But he lies, and this becomes the first of three denials he makes of the Master.

This happens with wives and their husbands as well. A woman meets her man at the door to question him on some issue and if he lies or denies the thing —- she can usually “see” right through him! Since women were created to be managers and guardians of the home, we shouldn’t be surprised that YHWH gave women this role in His House as well.

If we lack vision, perhaps we need to visit the laver. What do you see when you look into the mirror waters? Look closely and allow the waters to fully reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly. Once revealed, true beauty emerges.

bronze laver 2

 

[1] James 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (KJV)

[2] Eph. 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, (26) so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, (27) that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

[3] H4759 from H4758 (mareh) meaning view or appearance.

[4] H4759: Total KJV Occurrences: 9 visions, 5 Gen.46:2, Eze.1:1, Eze.8:3, Eze.43:2-3 (2) vision, 3 Dan.10:7-8 (3) lookingglasses, 1 Ex.38:8 (2)

[5] For more information, see my post The Biblical Role of Women Part IV, which defines the Eshet Chayil or Woman of Valor.

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Women of Valor 2014

WOV

The Role of Women Homepage

This year I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the Women of Valor 2014 conference. It was a blessed time to say the least. I met so many mighty women of faith during this early January conference in Nashville, TN. I am overwhelmed with the out pouring of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) upon His precious daughters. He is truly uniting and equipping us for such a time as this.

You each are so very unique and special. Your stories and encouragement have blessed me immensely. Thank you for being the women the Father created you to be. I know we are all on a journey as we “walk in the Way” — and I, for one, am blessed to be walking it out with YOU!

If you attended my break-out session titled “Ezer Kenegdo — God’s Design for Women” and want to explore it further, you may click here for a page with a list of my posts on this topic. The 7 part series entitled “The Biblical Role of Women” is the teaching I directed to you in class. This series explores the ezer kenegdo and the eshet chayil. I welcome any comments or suggestions. (:

I will be starting a new series on women in the future that will hopefully help us to walk out our vital role with integrity and balance. If you would like to receive these posts in your inbox, click the link to follow my blog. Or you may “like” Grace in Torah’s Facebook page and new posts will appear in your news feed. Both of these options are found in the menu column to the left, just scroll down until you see them.

May you have a blessed and prosperous new year!

Kisha (Yiska) Gallagher

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The Biblical Role of Women Part VII

Role of Women Main Page

The Real Thing

 

Back in Part V, we looked at the woman as being a metaphor for the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). There are many reasons why this is true. If you haven’t read that post, please do so now before proceeding.

The following is a summary of some of the equal, but different roles of the man and woman. I’ve used the comparison of YHWH (the Father) and the Holy Spirit to demonstrate the ONENESS that should unify the marriage covenant. There was no hierarchy in God’s original design. YHWH purposefully created a male AND a female to display His image in the creation. The list below is by no means exhaustive; we will draw more conclusions as we continue.

Man = Woman
  • Remembers and Obeys the Word (Action)
  • Needs a (spiritual) protector (an ezer)
  • Serves the earth
  • Expresses worship in work and service
  • Man leaves his Father and Mother and is joined to his Wife.
  • Is a Valiant Warrior
  • Aware of moment to moment direction of God
  • Protects Boundaries of Obedience
  • Challenges, encourages, protects, and nourishes
  • Blesses (benefits) her husband
  • Spiritual Guide
  • Takes Ownership of the Man
  • Is a Valiant Warrior
Man shows the image of Father YHWH = Woman shows image of Ruach HaKodesh
  • Father (God) is love. 1 Jn. 4:7-8
  • Father is faithful.1 Pt. 4:19
  • Father is merciful. Titus 3:5
  • Father delights in his children. Ps. 149:4
  • Father is giving. Rom. 8:32
  • Father is patient. 2 Pt. 3:8-9
  • Father never forsakes his own. Gen. 28:15
  • Holy Spirit is Counselor Jn. 14:26
  • Holy Spirit speaks. 1 Tim. 4:1; Acts 10:19-20
  • Holy Spirit intercedes. Rom. 8:26, 34
  • Holy Spirit teaches. Jn. 14:26
  • Holy Spirit bears witness/testifies. Jn. 15:26-27
  • Holy Spirit guides, hears, tells Jn. 16:12-13
  • Holy Spirit comforts/nurtures. Jn. 14:16; 15:26
  • Holy Spirit opposes. Acts 16:6-7

 

Redeemed Marriage

It is not good for man to be alone. He NEEDS an ezer kenegdo — a protector that opposes him. This is why he is the one that leaves the guardianship of his mother and father and cleaves to his wife — his new guardian. The woman will set boundaries that are necessary for the man to stay obedient. It is in this way that she takes ownership responsibility of the man like the woman in the Song of Songs. Dr. Moen expresses it this way:

She is exactly what he needs in order to be what God calls him to be…Her greatest longing is to be his greatest defense. She is built for that and it will not be denied, even if the direction is misplaced…In God’s perfect world, she takes ownership responsibility for her man, and he welcomes it because he knows she is uniquely designed to bring about what is best for him. She is ready and willing to set aside every other agenda in order to bless him with her care. (Guardian Angel p.345)

If there was no hierarchy in the beginning, then men are only the “head” in the sense of order in the creation, not rank. While this rubs against a lot of traditional theology, I urge you to explore this idea more fully before rejecting it off hand. (Dr. Moen has an article that speaks to this issue here and David H. Scholer explores Biblical Headship here.)

If man was meant to rule over or master women from the beginning, why does Paul in Ephesians chapter 5 instruct the women to submit to their husbands? Carefully consider this. We mustn’t allow current doctrine or tradition to define this for us; rather, we must take the whole of Scripture into consideration and let it interpret itself. Though the difference may be “subtle”, it has far reaching implications. The woman must choose to give her husband authority just as we must choose to give Messiah (Christ) authority over our lives. A man doesn’t naturally possess the position of head by the simple fact that he is male.

So why does the wife submit? This action only works properly if the man also does what Paul requires: love his wife. If a man really loves a woman, he’s willing to do anything for her—- even die. This is a selfless type of love. If a woman is loved in this way, she naturally gives the man authority. She trusts that he will always have her best interests at heart. The authority she gives protects her; it doesn’t control or silence her.

So why are men told to love? Men are instructed to do this because in the fallen nature they naturally distrust women. This is why they instinctively place themselves as the (dominating) authority. This is a self-preservation technique. Somewhere deep down, they fear the woman is going to betray them. Therefore, they have great difficulty in giving themselves completely to their wives. Adam must learn to trust Chavah (Eve).

In order for this to happen, Adam must first forgive Eve for misguiding him. He must literally place his life back into the hands of his ezer. This only functions as a two-way street. As many marriage self-help books attest, these two roles are reciprocal. If they fail to come together, there will be no unity. No oneness. Dr. Moen puts it this way:

The wife grants authority to the husband and voluntarily submits to him knowing that it is in her best interests to do so BECAUSE the husband sacrifices his own interest in order to offer all that he is for her wellbeing. Both of these acts of self-denial model the character of God. (Guardian Angel p.346)

 When Disputes Arise

Dr. Moen calls the restored marriage roles we’ve been discussing “Redeemed Marriage”. I like his term and will use it from this point to describe such. I added this little section to offer a few ideas of what to do when issues arise in those marriages where the man and woman are each doing their best to walk in restoration.

There are thousands and probably millions of things in our daily lives that could spark a dispute between a man and wife. Married couples are all too familiar with this truth. The difference in happy couples and unhappy couples is usually in how they speak to and treat one another when things do happen. Though everyone will have a bad day on occasion, couples of faith should have less.

The short answer is humility—- of course, isn’t it always? Put your mate before yourself! Stop feeling sorry for yourself and having pity parties —– these emotions are coming from PRIDE. Crucify your flesh and serve your spouse. By the way, that’s the answer to far more than marriage quibbles, but I digress.

While the short answer is much easier said than done, it should be our FIRST response. Squash the flesh! But sometimes there are issues where we simply can’t “turn the other cheek”. In those situations, it is best that both parties unify and decide TOGETHER. Nobody should have a veto stamp unless one party is mentality injured, diseased, or compromised in some way.

Generally though, a man must listen to his ezer —- she can save him from a multitude of regrets. That’s her God designed purpose, remember? She is his guardian and protector. Likewise, a man that loves his wife will also have to save and protect her —and often, it will be from herself! It is in these times that she must remember why she chose to submit to her husband — he has HER best interests at heart. The bottom line is motivation. What is your motive in winning this argument or battle? Is it self-serving? Will your spouse benefit or will you?

I realize these solutions are very broad and that we are all in different places. So please keep that in mind and the fact that these actions require BOTH spouses to be in faith and agreement to walk out a Redeemed Marriage. There are many couples where only one spouse is willing or trying to reach restoration. I am praying for you and encourage you to never give up. Keep seeking after YHWH and place your focus on improving yourself, not your spouse. Though it doesn’t make sense to our natural mind, this is the only way real change is accomplished. Be the best spouse you can be.

 

The Real World

How do the redeemed roles of a man and woman translate outside of marriage? Are women meant to stay uneducated and at home? What about in our assemblies? Are women to keep their mouths shut lest they offend the males present? Some would scream a resounding “yes!” to all or most of these questions. But based on what we’ve learned about women from the Tanakh, is that the heart of YHWH?

My hope is that the previous six posts in this series have given you some meat to chew on. Most often, books or teachings about a woman’s biblical role begin in the end. By that, I mean they tend to ignore the entire first three quarters of the Bible (the Tanakh or O.T.) and focus solely on last quarter (N.T.).

Is there any other book in the world where people BEGIN their reading or research three quarters of the way into the material? I don’t believe there is, with the exception of an encyclopedia or a dictionary. But the Bible is not a reference book. It is the Book of Life. Only the enemy of our souls could deceive us so openly. He has done a fine job of keeping us away from the beginning and the foundation.

By focusing only on the last quarter of the Bible, one would expect multiple opposing doctrines, teachings, and positions. Each culture (nation, people, and race) would bring their own bias and traditions into practice. This would provoke a multitude of creeds, formulas, and proof texts to support their particular branch. We see all of these things in our Assemblies. Could this be because we have divorced ourselves from the foundation?

The Bible was written by Hebrews. It is within their culture, language, and tradition that our Adonai (LORD) sovereignly chose to reveal Himself. The Savior, Yeshua (Jesus), was/is a Torah observant Jew. His daily life did not deviate from this setting. A careful read of the New Testament reveals that each writer has this same testimony. While they may have challenged the traditions and laws of men, they never questioned the Law of YHWH.

This is the reason I began this series in the beginning, Bereshit (Genesis). If we don’t understand Paul’s standard (the Torah), how can we properly interpret some answer (of which we don’t even have the questions) that he gave in the first century? These are reasonable questions to consider.

Yeshua and Paul would have never strayed from the Torah, Prophets, or Writings (the only Bible available to people living in their day). Instead, they consistently point us back to the beginning for answers[1]. But, shaking off centuries of tradition is no simple feat. Even many western women struggle with the ramifications of what it means to be an ezer kenegdo or an eshet chayil. Sometimes our shackles give us a false sense of comfort and security. To add insult to injury, modern feminism is a twisted counterfeit of God’s original design.

My desire is for God’s people to repent and return to the ideal of the Garden of Eden. Women (and men) will only be truly fulfilled in their relationships when we do things God’s way. This is not to be confused with traditional church teachings or creeds. Manmade laws are NOT God’s laws.

But I must warn you: YHWH’s Word is OFFENSIVE. It offends sinners. It offends self-righteous “churchmen”; and it especially offends religious spirits. Gloria Steinem was right about one thing, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” But that’s only if we are humble enough to allow the Word to change our hearts. So many would rather fight tooth and nail to cling onto a façade of truth rather than relent to the real thing.

A Woman Shall Encompass a Man

Instead of making a list of the roles that women fulfilled in the Bible, I think it is best to go back to the chart in the beginning of this article. Prayerfully look at the attributes of the Holy Spirit, for a woman will naturally reflect these works/roles. This will be true whether your theology accepts it or not. YHWH designed the woman in this way —- no one can change that, not even church laws and creeds. A woman will be an ezer in harmony with her husband or she will be an ezer covertly coaxing her husband. The choice is up to her Adam— for she will always be an ezer. Will he forgive her and trust her or will he continue to resist her?

As we look through the pages of Scripture, we see women functioning in nearly every role of the man. Many draw the conclusion that these instances are exceptions to the rule and that women only stepped into these positions when a man was unwilling to fulfill his role.(Please see Deborah the Bee Part I and Part II to dispel this myth.) Perhaps a better perspective is to consider that YHWH gave us these examples to ensure that fallen Adam would not be able to draw absolute control (mastership) over Eve. Maybe this was the Father’s way of protecting His daughters and their unique design and purpose.

Jeremiah 31 is a chapter of great importance. In it, we have the only plain prophecy about the New Covenant[2].  But if we go back and reread the entire section, we can easily see that the New Covenant hasn’t happened in its fullness — not yet. Not every man knows YHWH and we are still teaching the world about our great Elohim (God). We have not yet been gathered into the land, ending our exile either[3]. But there is one verse I’d especially like to draw your attention to:

How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man. (Jer. 31:22)

While Christian Bible interpretation is often limited, Hebrew is not. In other words, prophecy is multifaceted and dynamic. No interpretation supersedes another. There are usually greater and lesser fulfillments and each are true. The verse in question is often taught to mean a woman’s womb shall encompass a man — the Son of Man to be more specific. And I believe this is very true! Messiah’s work and atonement are central to not only our redemption, but also our restoration of which this passage speaks.

However, that in no way detracts from the literal interpretation of this passage. If this whole section is about our complete restoration, then what does it mean for “a woman to encompass a man”? Could this be an allusion to the Garden of Eden? A return to God’s original design for man and WOMAN? The Hebrew word for “new” in this verse is the same word for “new” in Jeremiah 31:31 in reference to the New Covenant. It is chadash. The AHLB[4] describes it this way:

Strongs #2319: AHLB#: 2151) Renew: New moon: New: The first crescent of the moon as the renewal of the moon, the first day of the month. [from: restoration] To make something like new through repair, restoration, or replacement. [freq. 10] {str: 2318} New: Something that is new, renewed, restored or repaired.  [freq. 54] |kjv: new, fresh| {str: 2319, 2323}

Chadash implies renewal, like the monthly renewal of the moon. The moon isn’t brand new every month, instead it is renewed. This is the language and understanding of the New Covenant. It is the same as the previous covenant — renewed. This is solidified by the fact that YHWH’s Torah (law) will be written on the hearts of His people[5]. In reference to the woman encompassing a man, YHWH also calls this a “renewed” thing. In other words, this is a restoration.

Do you recall the function of the female? She is a boundary setter. She is an ezer that surrounds her husband in protection, counsel, and guidance. Her God designed purpose is to surround or encompass her man. As we progress toward our complete redemption and restoration, we come closer and closer to the garden. Adam will forgive Chavah. She will be restored to her proper role. This, I believe, is one of the prophetic layers found in Jeremiah 31:22.

weddingMoreover, in Jewish tradition, this passage has been used for centuries during wedding ceremonies. When the bride arrives at the chuppah[6], she circles the groom seven times while the groom prays. This symbolizes the idea of the woman being a protective, surrounding light for her husband and their household. She illuminates them with understanding and love and protects them from harm from the outside.

There are several interpretations of the significance of her encircling the groom seven times. Seven is the number of days of the creation, and the wedding ceremony is the creation of a new household. Seven is the number of times the phrase “when a man takes a wife” occurs in the Bible. Seven is the number of times Joshua circled the walls of Jericho in order to bring them down, and in circling her groom a bride brings down any wall that may remain between them.

Also, on the day of his wedding, the groom is compared to a king. Just as the king is encircled by his legion, the groom is to be encircled by his bride. This symbolizes that the bride is a type of “warrior/protector” for the man. She is his eshet chayil. When the bride has finished encircling the groom, she stands at his right, as the Psalmist states, “at the right hand does the queen stand.”[7]

While all the above reasons are given in Jewish tradition for this mystical practice, I believe there is one last purpose that the bride encircles the man seven times. It is because she is a type of the Holy Spirit in the man’s life. There are seven manifestations of the Holy Spirit as we discussed in Part V. A woman of faith will walk in these spirits in order to guide and protect her husband and home.

My prayer is that we will humbly strive towards restoration and obedience to the whole counsel of YHWH in matters of faith, marriage, and community. Let us return to YHWH. Let us return to His ways. Let us return to the garden and find the original man and woman of shalom. May the two become One.

“Who is this, shining forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun” — but formidable as an army marching under banners?

Come back, come back, girl from Shulam (shalom, peace, safety, fullness, complete)! Come back, come back to where we can see you! What will you see in the Shulamite? As it were the dance of two army camps.

 (Song of Songs 6:10,13)

This series was originally meant to be only seven parts. However, due to the the many inquiries I get about this series, its popularity, and my continued studies, I’ve decided to add more posts to The Biblical role of Women. There is SO much more! 🙂

Here is Part VIII.

 

 


 

 

[1] Some examples:  Rom. 16:20, 1 Cor. 6:16; 11:9; 11:12; 15:22, 2 Cor. 4:6; 11:3, 1 Tim. 2:13-14; 4:3-4.

[2] Jer. 31:31-33; Heb. 8:8-12

[3] Jer. 31:8-21

[4] Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible by Jeff Benner.

[5] Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10

[6] A covered wedding canopy. The covering is usually a large prayer shawl (tallit).

[7] Ps. 45:9

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The Biblical Role of Women Part VI

Role of Women Main Page 

Please see Part I, II, III, IV, and V for the best context.

Ruth

There is only one woman in the Bible that is specifically called an eshet chayil. That woman is Ruth, the Moabitess. If it has been a while since you’ve read the book of Ruth, please take the time right now to read its four short chapters. This will refresh your mind about the context of her extraordinary life.

“Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence (eshet chayil). (Ruth 3:11)

The book of Ruth may be a small book, but it has great significance for people of faith. There are many thematic nuggets we could explore within its few pages. The following list is only a sample.

  • Integrity & Kindness
  • Protection & Prosperity
  • Repentance & Redemption
  • The Feast Cycle (harvests)
  • Torah of Widows/Poor & Kinsmen Redeemer
  • Torah for Strangers/Sojourners (They also are in Covenant)
  • The Lineage of King David & Messiah Yeshua
  • Blessings over Children
  • Return from Exile & Restoration
  • Allusions to Wedding Feast of the Lamb

Ruth-Wordled-ESVWith all these rich themes, is it any wonder that the Book of Ruth is read during YHWH’s feast of Shavuot (Pentecost)? Creation Gospel students will recognize the significance immediately: Shavuot falls on the central (main) branch of the menorah. As such, it encompasses the whole. Shavuot stands as the “servant” to all the other moedim (feasts). A careful read of Ruth will demonstrate this fullness. We will try to stay focused only on those themes that directly link Ruth to an Eshet Chayil. With so many treasures in this book, that is going to be difficult!

What’s in a Name? רוּת

The meaning of Ruth (Rut) is usually referred to as a friend. But, the Hebrew root for Ruth is the word for shepherd or to tend a flock. It has the idea of a neighbor or companion, often an intimate companion.

If we stop and consider Ruth’s story, we can deduce that she was indeed a shepherdess of Israel. It is her lineage that birthed King David and Messiah Yeshua, both of whom were notable shepherds. When we think of the relationship that a shepherd has with their sheep, this notion becomes even more apparent. A (good) shepherd guards, feeds, and leads their flock. They are willing to seek out the “lost” and they will fight against dangerous predators. This sounds like the traits of an ezer or an eshet chayil, does it not?

Ruth is the only woman to receive the title eshet chayil by name in scripture. She received this designation BEFORE she was a mother and while she was a poor destitute widow, and a stranger (alien) in Israel. Ruth forsook her birth place and family to join with the God of Israel and His people. Once she made this commitment, she never wavered. Her diligence caught the attention of a wealthy relative — one that could change her and her mother-in-law’s life. That relative was Boaz. It was he that declared that Ruth was an eshet chayil.

RuthAndNaomiThe circumstances surrounding this encounter and proclamation however, are quite risqué. Naomi instructs Ruth in a secret seduction plan to attract Boaz. Both Ruth and Naomi were already aware that Boaz favored Ruth. This could be seen when Boaz told Ruth to only glean from his fields[1]. Naomi, the admitted bitter woman, wanted to secure the future of her beloved daughter-in-law. The favoritism that Boaz showed Ruth must have provoked Naomi’s heart to “push/guide”[2] Boaz to do the right thing—– offer them redemption.

ruth boaz2But Naomi’s plan was anything but orthodox. Ruth risked her reputation and future by approaching Boaz in the middle of the night. Her actions were a reversal of cultural norms. Ruth pursued Boaz. It is usually the man that pursues the woman, even in today’s world. Essentially, she got all dolled up and offered herself to Boaz in a secret proposal.

It happened in the middle of the night that the man was startled and bent forward; and behold, a woman was lying at his feet. He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.” Then he said, “May you be blessed of the LORD, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. “Now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence –eshet chayil. (Ruth 3:8-11)

Boaz knew exactly what Ruth was asking of him. Perhaps he had already considered proposing to Ruth. However, what Naomi and Ruth did was courageous and Boaz knew it. This is why he calls her an eshet chayil. She was not only an upright woman in the eyes of the people and YHWH, but she was willingly to battle (in her own feminine way) for what she desired.

I believe Ruth’s brazenness only added fuel to the fire of Boaz’s growing fascination for her. He could clearly see her attentiveness in the care of her mother-in-law. It takes a special kind of woman to CHOOSE to care for a bitter person. He could also see her strong work ethic. She was driven and steadfast. These things revealed Ruth’s heart. And when Ruth came to Boaz in the night —— well, let’s just say that the depth of her passion was revealed. Boaz probably couldn’t wait to become her husband!

The very next day Boaz seeks out the one person who could thwart their plans — a kinsmen that was closer to Naomi by blood than he was. But when this other man discovers that he will not only have to redeem the land but also marry Ruth, he concedes to Boaz. I imagine that Boaz was rejoicing on the inside at this news.

ruth boazTake note of the process Boaz goes through to acquire Ruth. He scrupulously follows the Torah (instructions/law) of YHWH. In other words, unlike fallen Adam, Boaz puts YHWH before the woman. As much as he may desire her, he faithfully obeys the proper course of action. Boaz was functioning in his “redeemed” purpose. And by the looks of things, he had no problem with allowing Ruth to function in her purpose as ezer. He realized that he had found an eshet chayil!

An eshet chayil, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. (Pr. 31:10)

While all this is true, Ruth’s actions and intentions could be distorted very easily. Based on some carefully placed Hebrew idioms, there are those that have concluded that Ruth’s actions were anything but holy when she approached Boaz in the middle of the night. Was Ruth acting as a righteous woman or a harlot in this scene? There is a fine line to consider when it comes to discerning her role. Please ponder on the thoughts of Dr. Hollisa Alewine on this matter.

“Feet in Scripture are sometimes used as a euphemism for genitals. To lie with a man can also be used as a euphemism for intercourse. Spreading one’s skirt over a woman carries the same implication. Lest we think Ruth was inviting something improper, be assured that sometimes a foot is just a foot! The duality and ambiguity of the expressions is what is important because it inserts the question mark as to Ruth’s virtue. Boaz clearly vindicates her righteousness, and the people and elders at the gate affirm it.”[3]

The duality that Dr. Alewine brings up is an often overlooked theme in the Scriptures. There are many cases where the actions of a righteous person appear to be portraying the contrary. Generations before Boaz, Judah is placed in a similar situation with a woman from Canaan[4].

Ruth, Tamar, and Rahab

When Boaz was at the city gates before the elders claiming his right of redemption for Naomi and Ruth, the elders blessed Boaz’s obedience.

All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. “Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the LORD will give you by this young woman.” (Ruth 4:11-12)

The elders draw our attention back to Boaz’s forefather, Judah. What is so reflective about the people’s blessing is that Tamar, like Ruth, sought redemption from her kinsmen. But Judah refused to give her what was rightfully hers. If you will recall, Tamar had married two of Judah’s sons but they died before producing an heir. Judah promised his youngest son to Tamar when he came of age. However, when the time came, Judah didn’t keep his promise. Tamar ended up tricking or manipulating Judah to get him to do what he should have done all along: obey God’s Word.

tmarTamar accomplished her kinsmen redemption by deceiving Judah. She dressed up as a prostitute and seduced him. Later, when Judah learned she was pregnant, he wanted to have her burned alive. However, when she proved that Judah was the father of her growing womb —- he declared her more righteous than himself. As a result, Tamar secured the lineage of the Tribe of Judah. It is through the line of Tamar’s firstborn, Perez, that Boaz, Oved, Jesse, David, and eventually the Mashiach (Messiah) would come.

It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. Moreover, it took place while she was giving birth, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out. Then she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” So he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah. (Gen. 38:27-30)

Thus far, we have uncovered two women in the ancestry of Mashiach (Messiah) that have questionable identities. And the book of Ruth points to both. This dichotomy between a harlot and a righteous woman runs deeper still. There is another harlot/righteous woman in Mashiach’s line: Rahab.

rahabRahab was an Amorite of the city of Jericho. She was an innkeeper and a supposed prostitute that had heard great stories about the God of Israel. When the Israeli spies came to her city, she placed her allegiance with them and YHWH by helping the spies escape safely. When the Israelites came back to take Jericho, she let down a scarlet cord from her window. The men of Israel recognized this sign and she and her family were spared. They joined Israel as sojourners. Later, Rahab marries an Israelite named Salmon, who became the father of Boaz[5].

Now we have found three women connected to the Book of Ruth and the Messiah that appeared to be doing the actions of a harlot. Yet, we know that in the end they are each really righteous. Since we have already explored this same dichotomy of a harlot and a righteous woman (wisdom) in the Book of Proverbs, a question arises.

What is YHWH teaching us in this duality? Dr. Alewine has this to say:

“Because the Revelation harlot is a woman, and perhaps because it is too easy to dismiss a troublesome woman with bad names or a bad reputation, we would do well to study the foundational roles of women in the Torah. Sometimes a troublesome woman who appears to be a harlot is a virtuous woman [eshet chayil] led by the Holy Spirit, she guides [ezer] men who stray back into the straight path.”[6] [brackets and bolding are mine]

Stay tuned. In Part VII, I hope that we can bring all these revelations together and make them applicable to our lives today.

 


 

 

[1] Read all of Ruth 2.

[2] I hope you didn’t miss that these are the actions of an ezer and an eshet chayil.

[3] Alewine, Hollisa, PHD, The Scarlet Harlot & The Crimson Thread. London, KY: The Creation Gospel Publishing, 2012, p. 162.

[4] This is speaking of Tamar. Though the Bible doesn’t explicitly state that she was from Canaan, the majority of scholars and commentators deduce that this was indeed the case. Judah himself married a Canaanite woman and had a Canaanite friend. This and the fact that Judah was most likely residing in Canaan, all point to Tamar’s Canaanite ancestry. (Gen. 38)

[5] Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. (Mt. 1:5)

[6] Alewine, Hollisa, PHD, The Scarlet Harlot & The Crimson Thread. London, KY: The Creation Gospel Publishing, 2012, p. 54.

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