Monday, June 15, 2009

A Woman of Valor

There is a traditional view of women- that they were made as the weaker sex, created to be helpers and exemplify virtuous characteristics. But is that what God intended when He created woman?

In the very beginning, before the Fall of Man, Adam was alone and God said that was not good. So God made woman, whom He called an "ezer kenegdo". This term is often translated as something along the lines of "a helper comparable to him". Using the word "helper" is not necessarily a wrong description of woman, but what kind of help are we speaking of? What do you think of when you think of a helper? Do you think of someone inferior, someone weaker...perhaps an assistant? Well, that is NOT what woman was created to be!

The term for helper here (Genesis 2:18) is "Ezer", which is actually the word used to describe the kind of help God gives! Here are just a few examples of His help in scripture:

"I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." (Ps. 121:1-2)

"He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword." (Deut. 33:29b)

"But I am afflicted and needy; Hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer, O Lord, do not delay." (Psalm 40:5)

"Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah, And bring him to his people; Let his hands be sufficient for him, And may you be a help against his enemies." (Deut. 33:7)

Wow! This sort of help is not that of an assistant, not that of someone inferior at all as God is surely not inferior to those He helps! This sort of help is VITAL help! Recently R. David Freedman has pointed out that the Hebrew word ezer is a combination of two roots: `-z-r, meaning "to rescue, to save," and g-z-r, meaning "to be strong."

The word "ezer" is used to describe woman twice in the book of Genesis, and in all other cases it refers to either God or military allies. In all other cases the one giving the help is superior to the one receiving the help. So it is obvious the term "helper" is not one of inferiority, but before any try to use it as one of superiority, we must consider the next word in what God called woman: kenegdo. She was an ezer kenegdo.

"Kenegdo" means "corresponding to, counterpart to, equal to matching." So adding "kenegdo" after "ezer" modifies the meaning to that of equal rather than superior status. So woman was made to be equal to man, but she was also made to help him with the kind of warrior help as that of God and military allies. This help is STRONG.

How was woman to help man? Genesis 1 says,

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

God said "let THEM have dominion (rule)". God told both man and woman to be fruitful and multiply, and He told both man and woman to subdue, rule and have dominion. There were no differences in status, role, spheres, or authority given here. Man was not told to rule the earth and woman to be fruitful. They were both told to multiply and they were both told to rule. This was God's intention for men and women and this is the way it was before the Fall.

There are other scriptures speaking of a woman's strength, but they are easy to miss, for many translations use the word "virtuous" in place of the real meaning.

Ruth 3:11, Boaz tells Ruth that all the city knows she is a "virtuous" woman. The Hebrew word used to describe Ruth here is "chayil" and it means "strength, might, ability, force, army, wealth." In the King James bible, "chayil" is translated as army 56 times, man of valor 37 times, host 29 times, forces 14 times, valiant 13 times, strength 12 times, riches 11 times, wealth 10 times, power 9 times, substance 8 times, might 6 times, strong 5 times...and virtuous 3 times. And every time "chayil" is translated virtuous, it is referring to a woman. Odd? I noticed this myself, and then later read the following which confirmed my own discovery:

"Virtuous does not represent the teaching of the original text. It should be noted that the only time the word is translated virtuous is when it refers to women. This appears to be a deliberate move by translators to impose their concept of what a woman should be upon the text." (quote from God's Word to Women website)

Boaz told Ruth that she was a "chayil" woman. There is no reason to translate this a "virtuous" woman. Ruth was, instead, a strong woman, a "woman" of valor! She was strong in character, strong spiritually, and strong physically (a hard worker with great ability).

The other times this word is translated "virtuous" is in Proverbs 12:4 and Proverbs 31:10- both referring again to women. Proverbs 12:4 says that "a chayil woman is the crown of her husband." So, a strong woman, a woman of might and power, a woman of valor is she who is the crown of her husband. Saying a "virtuous" woman is incorrect and not fitting to the true meanings of "chayil".

Proverbs 31:10 says "Who can find a chayil woman? For her price is far above rubies." Who is this woman that is so worthy? Not just a woman who is virtuous, no. We could translate this sentence, "Who can find a strong woman?" or "Who can find a woman of valor?" THAT woman is worth more than rubies!

The definition of "strong" would also fit with the rest of Proverbs 31. Verse 13 says that this woman "works willingly with her hands", so she is physically strong. Verse 16 says that she considers a field and buys it, so this woman is intellectually strong. Then look at verse 17: "She girds her loins with strength, and strengthens her arms." There is that key word again: strength.

This worthy woman girds her loins with strength. The Hebrew word for strength here is "`oz" and it means:
1. might, strength
a. material or physical
b. personal or social or political

This same scripture says that she strengthens her arms. Here the word for strengthen is "'amats", which means "to be strong, alert, courageous, brave, stout, bold." Interesting. So, to strengthen one's arms does not necessarily mean to make your physical arms stronger. This word carries with it ideas of courage, boldness and bravery. In fact, if you look up the word for arms, it can mean "forces (political and military)", along with the meaning of one's physical arms.

The woman in Proverbs 31 also does have strength in character, as she "stretches out her hands to the poor and needy", and "opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness". Lastly, she is strong spiritually in that she "fears the Lord" (v. 30). In fact, verse 25 says that "strength and honor are her clothing".

The Amplified Bible gets much closer to the meaning of "chayil": a "capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman" (Proverb 31:10 AMP) Yes, her body is strong, her mind is strong, her character is strong and her faith is strong.

Hebrews have a song they sing about the Proverbs 31 woman, or the "Woman of Valor" as it is called in English! (ESHET CHAYIL in Hebrew) The word is translated "man of valor" 37 times, so why not go along with the Hebrews here and translate this verse: Who can find a woman of valor, for her price is far above rubies.

Here is what the Wikipedia says about the word "chayill": "The word חיל (chayil) appears in verse 10 and 29 of the passage, thought as the summary of the good woman's character. Traditionally it has been translated "virtuous" or "noble." Some scholars have suggested that it rather means "forceful," "mighty," or "valiant" because the use of the word in the Tanakh is almost exclusively used regarding warfare."

Ruth was a strong and mighty woman. A wife whose price is far above rubies and who is a crown to her husband, is a wife who is strong physically, intellectually, spiritually and in her character. She is an Ezer Kenegdo, created to bring vital help to her husband and to all other men and women on earth, as equals...working together with her husband, and with other men, and with other women to fulfill God's mandate to rule and have dominion. She fights in a uniquely feminine way, but stands alongside men as fellow warriors in this battle on earth, with all the strength and might God has given her feminine soul.

"The Lord gives instructions. The women who announce the good news are a large army." (Psalm 68:11 GWT)


donforbes4 said...

Thank you my sister for a wonderful study on Women of Valour!! This is the 2011 theme for our women's ministries department and I am so blessed to say that what I read on your page is a confirmation of what God has been speaking into my spirit.
May God guide protect and bless you, be fruitful x


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