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The Biblical Role of Women Part III

Role of Women Main Page 

In order to properly follow my thoughts in this section, please first read Part I and Part II. I’m sure the last section elicited some pretty strong emotions in most readers. If my conclusions made you angry or perhaps even fearful, I suggest you prayerfully study the Genesis text yourself with a good Bible program. (There are free ones online!) Even if you don’t understand a lick of Hebrew, these tools will enable you to investigate the original language. It is amazing what a little effort lends to proper interpretation and understanding. I fully believe that YHWH made each of us with the ability to question. While questioning tradition and the Biblical text may feel like an irreverent act, I assure you that it is not. How else does one arrive with an answer unless one first asks a question? As any good teacher will tell you, there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.

Modern Christianity and her many denominations usually frown at questions that challenge her set doctrines, creeds, and traditions. Don’t rock the boat; we don’t handle storms very well. But our Adonai (Lord) has no fear of storms; He is fully capable of calming the raging winds and rains with a simple Word. Moreover, it is in the midst of these strong winds that He invites us to join Him to walk on the water[1]. And, we are fully capable as long as our focus remains on Him and not the swirling circumstances around us. I invite you to challenge your current doctrine and tradition. Our thoughts are not YHWH’s thoughts;[2] He is infinitely greater than we can possibly imagine. Only fear and pride would cause one to think they have cornered Him with theology and tradition. Didn’t Paul say that we currently only see in the mirror dimly?[3] We must always be willing to let the Word mold and change us (and our doctrine, beliefs, and traditions).

Teshukah Revisited

This section was updated and revised 2/2022.

Teshukah was discussed in the last section, but it deserves a deeper treatment for the best understanding. Below, is Strong’s definitions for teshukah and its root, shook. Then, below that is the entry from the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible.

H8669    תּשׁוּקה tesh-oo-kaw’ From H7783 in the original sense of stretching out after; a longing: – desire.

H7783     שׁוּק shook A primitive root; to run after or over, that is, overflow: – overflow, water.

AHLB#: 1479-J (V) ac: Drink co: River The pictograph “shin” is a picture of the two front teeth representing the idea of two, the “Quf” is a picture of the sun at the horizon that cycles around the earth. Combined these mean “repeat a cycle”. During the rainy season, repeated each year, the riverbeds become full of water. The surrounding land is soaked with water allowing for the planting of crops. Rushing: From the rushing of a river. [freq. 1] |kjv: running| {str: 4944} Drink The life giving water from the rivers. Overflow: The overflowing of the banks of a river. [freq. 3] (vf: Hiphil) |kjv: overflow| {str: 7783} Desire: As a course. [freq. 3] |kjv: desire| {str: 8669}

In Hebrew, teshukah is rooted in the action of running and overflowing. It is also related to repeating a cycle, which is like a habit or in our case, a habitual or seasonal overflowing. It can also denote a habitual running toward something (or someone). While often translated as desire, the sense is more akin to a powerful turning toward. The imagery of water flowing powerfully in a flood depicts the destruction that teshukah can take if one’s focus or affection is set on the wrong thing. Consider the work of Katherine Bushnell, God’s Word to Women:

The Pentateuch of the Septuagint… renders teshuqa into the Greek word apostrophe in both passages in Genesis [3:16, 4:7]: and epistrophe in Canticles [Song of Songs]. The former word, apostrophe, is familiar to us all: it means “turning away,” and the latter, “turning to.” The teaching is, that Eve is turning away from God to her husband, and, as a consequence of that deflection, Adam will rule over her. Next in order of excellence is the SYRIAC PESHITTO of the second, or perhaps first, century after Christ. This version gives the same sense, rendering, “thou shalt turn,” (Genesis 3:16); “will turn” (Genesis 4:7), and “turning” for the third passage. We have only the Pentateuch in the SAMARITAN version. It translates both the passages in Genesis, “turning.” The OLD LATIN version gives “turning” in all three places. We have a COPTIC (Sahidic), of not great value, which gives the same rendering for the first and third passage; and the more valued BOHAIRIC COPTIC which so renders the passage in the first two. These two copies are not complete Bibles, but fragments. The AETHIOPIC version of about 500 A. D. renders all three passages by words signifying “turning.” In fact, as regards the third passage, all the ancient versions without any exceptions whatever, give no other sense but “turning” for teshuqa.

Bushnell says, “The teaching is, that Eve is turning away from God to her husband, and, as a consequence of that deflection, Adam will rule over her.” Look at Genesis 3:16 again and remember that God is telling Eve about the consequences of her sin. He wasn’t speaking to Adam. According to Bushnell’s research on teshukah, Genesis 3:16 could be translated as: “Your turning shall be toward your husband, and he shall master you.”

Instead of turning to God, Eve’s propensity will be to turn to Adam, and when she does, he will rule over or master her. I find this most disturbing because I have witnessed this happen in the lives of some of the women that I love. A woman’s husband was never meant to be her god, mediator, or her master (not in the enslaving sense). Even Yeshua emphasized this when He said, “No one can serve two masters…” (Mt. 6:24) It is a curse to put your husband on the throne of your heart. This lofty place is reserved for YHWH alone.

A woman must be careful that her desire, longing, and turning is first and foremost toward God. Only then can she be the wife she was designed to be. The moment she longs for, desires, and turns to her husband to provide the needs that only God can fulfill, he will rule or master her as surely one’s emotions or lower nature will do the same. Sadly, there are plenty of deluded men (and women) out there, claiming to serve YHWH, that will tell you that it is their God given duty to do just that.

Walter Kaiser puts it this way:

Rather than viewing this as a normative and prescriptive text found in the Mosaic Law and revealed by God, it is in a curse passage that predicts what will happen when women “turn” toward their husbands instead of turning to God.  In effect, if God were explaining this in today’s plain speech, God might have phrased it thus: “The truth is that, as a result of the fall, do not be surprised, my good lady, if that guy just plain lords it over you.”[4]

So, what is the difference between Chavah’s desire and the desire of Cain’s anger?

Mashal

This section was added 2/2022.

“Your desire shall be toward your husband, and he will rule (mashal) over you.” – Gen. 3:16

“Its desire is for you, but you must master (mashal) it.”  – Gen. 4:7

Mashal means to rule or master, and it is the word used in the account of Chavah’s desire and Cain’s anger. But, this word also means parable. In Hebrew, the Book of Proverbs is called Sefer Mishlei, from mashal. It is literally, the Book of Parables. Parables are designed to rule or master one’s thinking. They are meant to turn one from worldly wisdom and toward godly wisdom. They are a tool used to teach a spiritual, higher message to those with ears to hear. Parables bypass the natural man, and turn him toward the heavenly design. Thus, it is not a coincidence that God used mashal in Genesis 3:16 and 4:7. These passages are centered on relationships, the core of family dynamics which move outward into the greater realm of societies. Thus, there is a VERY important spiritual truth in these passages that is meant to guide or rule one’s thinking process. If one is ruled by worldly wisdom and selfish ambition (James 3), they will miss the point of the parable.

Ecc. 12:9-11 (NASB)  In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs.  10  The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly.  11  The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.

Parables offer one DISCERNMENT between two like things, that are in reality world’s apart. For example, the Book of Proverbs personifies wisdom and folly as two women. They have similarities, but also great differences. One must learn to discern the difference in their own heart or they will fall into the many traps of woman folly.

In The Scarlet Harlot and the Crimson Thread, Dr. Alewine teaches the dichotomy between the righteous woman and the harlot, and between the man and the beast. The beast and the harlot are ruled by the lower nature. They are earthy, natural, and spiritually dull. One must come to understand the similarities that they share with the beasts of the world. They like to eat, to sleep, to procreate, play games, and expand territory. None of these things are evil. They are God given instincts that ensure the continuation of life in a beast. Mankind has all of these drives and inclinations too. The difference is that man was designed to live  by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. In other words, man has a need for more input or instruction.

Man’s beast like instincts, desires, emotions, and intellect are to be governed by God’s Word. The Torah (instructions) sets forth rules, regulations, and boundaries that govern when a man eats, sleeps, procreates, plays games, and expand’s territory. Without God’s input (His Word), man will live solely by the instincts of the beast. This is the question of Day 6, the number of the beast and of the man: Are you the image of a beast? Or, are you a man created in the image of Elohim? That is the essence of the parable or mashal in the Book of Proverbs, and in these passages of Genesis.

God specifically told Cain to rule or master his anger. Emotions are wonderful servants, but wicked masters. They come from the realm of the lower nature (flesh), and must be governed by the Word of God or they will lead to great sin. In Cain’s case, his anger led to murder. What many fail to recognize is that Adam was also angry. He was angry at Chavah because he ate the fruit, and he was mad at Adonai because He gave the woman to him. Anger is a secondary emotion of fear. When one is afraid, the hind brain governs thinking and actions, which is akin to the beast/lizard brain. If we look closely at the responses of the man and the woman after the fall, both blamed someone else for their actions. Neither took responsibility for what they did. We have all inherited this inclination.

Consider that God questioned Adam and Chavah before He ever mentioned the “curses” or consequence of their sin. What would have happened if Adam and Chavah had taken responsibility for their own actions and choices, and sought to rectify the damage they had caused the other person instead of blaming others out of self preservation? Would the consequences of their sin have been different too?

In the account of the fall, neither Adam or Chavah demonstrated teshuva or repentance. Neither sought to restore or cover the other’s transgression. The path they chose was death, not life. On this path, their God given functions, roles, and purposes would be frustrated. Their thinking, attitudes, and actions would have to change and turn back toward God’s design (repentance) for blessings to flow forth. Isn’t that what God told their son, Cain?

“Then Adonai said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, it will lift. But if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the doorway. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”” (Genesis 4:6-7, TLV)

If you do well (tov -good), your feelings will change. Anger will lift. We must make decisions based on, “It is written,” not on “I feel.” Emotions have teshukah as they are part of the nephesh/soul. This is a powerful force that turns one toward the whims of the flesh and away from the Word of God. Fear and shame have the same power. Everything within a beast seeks to preserve its own life, even if costs other people theirs. If one chooses to live by this image, curses will continue. Cain did not rule over his anger, and it escalated to murder. This caused an even worse consequence or curse. He became a vagabond and a wanderer, Hebrew words related to quivering, being tossed around, shaking, and groaning (Gen. 4:12). That is one miserable soul, wallowing in guilt, which is the opposite of shalom.

The path of Life offers a better Way. The very essence of teshuva or repentance is to turn away from the sin (nature), and back towards God. We can choose differently. But, it too has cost, a very great cost. Just ask Yeshua. He commands us to follow Him. We are to take up our own cross, and not seek to save our life or we will lose it.

Matthew 16:24-25 (TLV) Then Yeshua said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. [25] For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

The Kingdom of Heaven has always been based on sacrificial love. That was not the way Adam, Chavah, or Cain walked in these accounts. Thus, God clearly told them what would occur if they remained on this course. The curses were descriptive, not prescriptive. Repentance has always been the solution for fallen man. One can choose to life or death, blessings or curses.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (TLV) I call the heavens and the earth to witness about you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore choose life so that you and your descendants may live, [20] by loving Adonai your God, listening to His voice, and clinging to Him. For He is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell on the land that Adonai swore to your fathers—to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob—to give them.

God never intended for a man to mashal his woman. By controlling and reigning over women, men become testimonies of fallen Adam. Adonai designed the man and woman to rule creation together as one flesh, each lending their strengths to that endeavor. And more importantly, each serving the another sacrificially. That is the Way revealed throughout the Word and lived out in the flesh of Yeshua. If either party seizes control, dominates, manipulates, betrays, or places their desires before the other, then more curses (consequence to sin) will abound. While such activities will appease the fearful lower nature and give it a false sense of safety, the way leads to turmoil, chaos, and death. Without true restoration, men and women are doomed to relive this vicious cycle again and again. So, how do we bring godly balance and renewal back into strained relationships?

Song of Songs

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s. (Song of Songs 1:1)

Song-of-Songs-flowers-deer-500x334I believe the answer to our restoration is prophetically pictured in the most passionate of all the books of Holy Writ. Therefore, I’m going to devote some space to the background of this book. The Song of Songs or the Song of Solomon has an interesting name in Hebrew. I believe it is worth pointing out here because of its allusion to redemption. This insinuation is why this book is typically read during the feast of Pesach (Passover) and Matzah (Unleavened Bread). These connected feasts are the first of the seven Feasts of YHWH and occur in the spring, the same season of the setting of the Song of Songs. The theme of redemption and unmerited favor flows through these feast days and in a profound way, the Song of Songs reflects this focus.

Shir Ha-Shirim or the Song of Songs is a Hebrew grammatical construction denoting the superlative; that is, the title attests to the greatness of the song, similar to “the Lord of lords,” “King of Kings,” or “Holy of Holies.” Jewish sages explain the title (and first verse) of this book with the phrase, “Which is leShlomo.”  Shlomo means “The King of Peace,” and also “The King Who is Whole.”[7]

Since Solomon comes from the Hebrew word shalom (peace), and Biblical peace denotes completeness and wholeness, the image that the title invokes is striking. The male figure in this poem is complete or whole. This is amplified by the fact that the word Shulamite (the woman character in the story) is the Hebrew feminine form of Solomon! A spectacular picture emerges; one of a whole and complete MAN and WOMAN – echad – oneness. This is real unity and marriage at its best. This truly is the Song of all Songs; it is a return to Eden!

The author of this book is generally attributed to King Solomon. However, there are several factors as to why a growing number of scholars are rejecting this view. First, if Solomon authored the Song of Songs, he wrote it in the voice of the Shulamite woman.[8] This would be an odd thing for any male to do in the Biblical era. Rev. Dr. Renita J. Weems has a great point about this: “It’s the only book in the Bible where a woman’s voice predominates and is in the first person. The imagery, the language, and the emotions that are expressed are ones that one would expect and associate with a woman.” Secondly, there is a debate about the dating of the book. Many modern Christian[9] and Jewish[10] scholars think the evidence clearly points to a postexilic work from the Persian period.

Regardless of who penned the Song of Songs, it still remains the only book of the Bible written from the perspective of a woman. And, it is within its pages that we find the third and final use of the Hebrew word, teshukah.

“I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” (SOS 7:10)

Immediately one’s attention should be drawn to the obvious reversal of the edict against Chavah (Eve) in Genesis 3:16. In the fallen nature, Chavah’s desire or turning is toward Adam. Here, his desire (teshukah) is for her! What kind of desire from fullness does the man have for a woman? What does it mean for a man to “turn toward” a woman? This IS the redemptive work of Yeshua toward His Bride. The language is pointing us back to the Garden, the place of complete redemption and restoration.

There are many interpretations given for this unique book of scripture. Most often it is regulated to an allegory about God and His people by both Jews and Christians. But, there is a minority literal view that the book is exactly what it seems to be: a sensual love poem written by a woman. In fact, some of its verses are so erotic that its pages are banned by Judaism until reaching the age of thirteen. Others view it as prophecy.

For those of you that have been studying the difference between the Hebrew and Greek mindset, an obvious thought should come to mind. Identifying who is right or wrong on the proper interpretation of the Song of Songs is a moot point. Since Hebrew uses block logic rather than linear Greek logic, this book can be an allegory about God and His people, a literal love poem, and prophecy all rolled into one dynamic book.

Since the first level of Hebraic Bible interpretation is literal, I suggest reading the Songs of Songs in this way first, ignoring the allegorical flashes and hints of prophecy. Only after one has discovered the richness of the physical love between man and woman, can one properly appreciate the spiritual significance of the book. They are both equally important to the Hebrew mindset. Besides, it is the natural things that teach us the greatest spiritual truths.

The Woman

Interestingly, the Shulamite woman in this little book[11] of scripture challenges most ancient and modern characterizations of the ideal woman. She is not quiet, meek, passive, or reserved. She shamelessly describes her uninhibited desire for her lover and seeks after him. Her voice filled with passion and determination. The text doesn’t demonize or criticize her suggestive behavior. Dr. Weems says, “There’s no kind of moral voice, third-person voice that inserts itself into the story that suggests that women like this come to a bad end. That they’re punished, that they are killed.”[12]

The Shulamite’s directness cannot be understated. Her proclamation in 7:10, is extended by another apparent role reversal from cultural norms in chapter 8:

“Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it; if a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, It would be utterly despised.” (SOS 8:6-7)

signet seal

Seal of Baruch

A signet ring bears the image of its owner’s seal. Anything with the seal’s image pressed upon it becomes property of or a decree of the owner. The ancient seal that the Shulamite woman refers to, is most often associated with royalty. Can you see the imagery of ownership in the seal? In this case, the reversal is that it is a woman that requests this of her man. She, as true ezer kenegdo, is assuming responsibility for her man (in an opposite but equal way that he takes responsibility for her). This is a return to God’s original design. The man and woman take possession of one another, because they are one flesh. The lack of responsibility and selfishness of the first couple has been completely reversed.

This concept is further solidified by the woman comparing love with jealousy. The Hebrew word for jealousy, kinah, implies possession and right of property.[13] Since the fall, men have had no issue with seeing their wives as property or possessions to do with as they please. These attitudes are earthly wisdom from the Beast Kingdom, not the heavenly realm. In God’s Kingdom, taking possession of a spouse is sacrificial; it is not about meeting fleshly desires, but bearing responsibility.

The man in the Song of Songs has relinquished his fallen nature of domination, and restores the woman to the role of ezer kenegdo. Both the man and the woman are functioning in their purpose. No longer does the ground resist Adam; no longer does Adam resist Chavah. They are one. They are equal. This reunion can have only one result: an erotic love affair. Do you find it as intriguing as I do that this prophetic glimpse of restoration is in the midst of the most explicit book of love in all of Scripture?

What does all this mean for the ezer kenegdo or the woman? What does her role actually entail compared to man’s? Biblically, how are men and women meant to function in the believing community? What does redeemed marriage look like? There is still more to come on this captivating topic. We will start with the Proverbs 31 woman in Part IV.


[1] Mt. 14:23-33

[2] Is. 55

[3] 1 Cor. 13:12

[4] Correcting Caricatures: The Biblical Teaching on Women by Walter C. Kaiser Jr

[5] Fohrman, Rabbi David, The Beast that Crouches at the Door. Baltimore: HFBS Publishing, 2011. Kindle file.

[6] Dr. Moen fully explores this concept in Guardian Angel.

[8] Patsy Rae Dawson, a Christian marriage and sex counselor, agrees with my sentiments: http://patsyraedawson.com/?page_id=6#woman

[9] Coogan, Michael. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 394

[11] It’s only 117 verses long.

[13] See the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible under the entry: Strong’s #7068: AHLB#: 1428-E (N1).

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