Posts Tagged With: shalom

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 pride could cause us to think we have cornered Him with our theology and tradition. Did Paul not 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

We discussed teshukah in the last section, but I thought we would all benefit from a little Hebrew word study of this unique term before exploring its third and final use in scripture. Below I have listed 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.

Teshukah is powerful – for good or for ill. If this type of running toward and overflowing is set on serving the Creator, the result can be amazing! The converse, however, can be catastrophic.  Teshuvah is what God’s Word says that Chavah has for Adam and sin has for Cain. Whatever does this mean?

Thus, the English word and understanding of “desire” is confusing to say to the least. We associate desire with a need, but that’s not what teshukah actually is. Rabbi David Fohrman describes teshukah as a desire born not of lack but of fullness.[4] Teshukah has no need for its object. In other words, teshukah or desire is not associated with lust.

There are two possible expressions of Chavah’s teshukah for Adam. While each comes from a place of fullness, one is ravenous despite the abundance. On the one hand, anything that overflows shares its abundance. We often use a similar analogy in reference to being full of God’s Spirit, anointing, or fresh insight. We have no lack; we are full (in fact, overly full). This fullness compels one to SHARE. It just flows forth from one’s being, causing one to “flood” others with the abundance. By the way, this is the same “desire” that YHWH has for His people. He doesn’t “need” or “lust” after us as the English word implies, rather His fullness (blessings; good) overflows upon His people.

On the other hand, one’s lower nature (evil inclination) has this same powerful teshukah for you and me. Think about that for a moment. It has no “need” or “lack” that it desires us. Instead, it has a forceful overflow (drive) toward us because of its abundance! So what is the difference between Chavah’s desire and the desire of Cain’s anger?

In the account with Cain, YHWH explicitly tells Cain to rule or master this mighty impulse. One’s evil inclination can only be overcome by keeping the door to the house (YHWH’s covenant) closed. Step out to the left or to the right and POW!, sin has pounced on your back like a wild beast. We all must learn to rule over or master our flesh. While the flesh isn’t evil; it can lead to sin if it rules or controls a person.

Sadly, many men think that they must control a woman’s teshukah in the same way that one is to master sin. Keep her pinned in the house, quiet, uneducated, and controlled. This tactic creates an illusion of safety for men. Chavah will not misguide Adam ever again. This approach usually results with nagging, overbearing, controlling, and manipulative women. Or conversely, after years of subjugation they can become depressed, apathetic, fearful, overly needy, and severely insecure.

The reason why this happens is because the woman is denied to live out her God ordained purpose: to be the man’s ezer kenegdo. As we have discovered, her desire to function in her purpose is an unrelenting force. If she is denied this desire, she will (wrongly) resort to manipulation and control to “guard” and guide her mate covertly. Worse, she may turn her desire to be an ezer toward her children,[5] a role she was never intended to play.

In Chavah’s case, YHWH neither told her nor Adam to rule or master her teshukah. Instead, YHWH simply states the consequence of her sin. Though her desire to be her husband’s ezer is unrelenting, Adam will now resist her just as the ground resists him. Chavah’s role was to spiritually guard Adam. She is perfectly created to fulfill this role. But, Adam will refuse her and will rule or master her instead. This is not what YHWH commanded.

Eve’s desire wasn’t the problem or the curse. Men that rule their women in the ways mentioned above are actually living out the fallen nature whether they realize it or not. By controlling and reigning over women, men become testimonies of fallen Adam. A careful read of the Genesis text attests to this fact as we have already seen. 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 these 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 for 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.”[6]

Since Solomon comes from the Hebrew word shalom (peace), and Biblical peace denotes completeness and wholeness with no lack, 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. This is real unity and marriage at its best. This truly is the Song of all Songs; it is a return to Eden!

The authorship 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.[7] 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[8] and Jewish[9] 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 is for Adam. Here, his desire (teshukah) is for her! What kind of desire from fullness does the man have for a woman? I think the closest thing that we could compare this to is Messiah’s sacrificial love for us. Therefore, this 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.

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.

The Woman

Interestingly, the Shulamite woman in this little book[10] of scripture challenges most ancient and modern characterizations of the ideal woman. She is not quiet, meek, passive, or reserved. In fact, she shamelessly describes her uninhibited desire for her lover and seeks after him. Her voice is vigorous, and 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.”[11]

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 our 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). A man leaves his father and mother (his original guardians) to be joined with his wife (his new guardian). This is a return to God’s original design. In reality, the man and woman take possession of one another, because they are one flesh.

This concept is further solidified by the woman comparing love with jealousy. The Hebrew word for jealousy, kinah, implies possession and right of property.[12] Since the fall, men have had no issue with seeing their wives as property or possessions to do with as they please. The problem has been that women have been denied the same right. Paul even reminds them:

1 Cor. 7:4 (NASB) The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise, also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

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

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

[7] Patsy Rae Dawson, a Christian marriage and sex counselor, agrees with my sentiments:

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

[10] It’s only 117 verses long.

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

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