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I Desire to be Eshet Chayil

May 5, 2015

It’s the start of a new month.  As in other months, I’ve allowed myself time to sit and reflect on the word I chose to meditate on this year – Grace.  Each month I feel as though I’ve grown so much and I am once again grateful that this word is the one I’m allowing to saturate into my soul this year. As I share what I’m learning with my word I’d love to encourage each of you to take time to meditate on your own word.  If you desire, I’d love to hear in the comments what you’ve been learning about your word this month. Giving Ourselves Grace to be True Proverbs 31 Women As Christian women (and women in general) we too often feel the need to be everywhere and do everything.  Not only should we keep our house clean, feed our kids organic foods, and iron our husbands socks but we also should be involved in church, present in the PTA, and volunteer with the food bank.  We’re pulled in every direction and, if we don’t live up to these expectations, we’re doing something wrong. It certainly doesn’t help that we have the “perfect woman” right there in the Bible.  The Proverbs 31 woman is superwoman!  She does it all and looks good doing it.  We have books, conferences, women’s retreats, and so much more all dedicated to how we can be more like this wonder woman. What would you say if I told you that we might be reading Proverbs 31 wrong??? The chapter in Proverbs was words that were spoken to King Lemuel by his mother.  Yes, we know that a whole chapter of the Bible was written (or spoken) by a woman!!!  These are lessons she was instilling in her son – all about a woman he should be looking for. The Queen wants her son to find a virtuous woman – a woman of valor – or, in Hebrew, an Eshet Chayil. In the Jewish culture Proverbs 31 is not a to-do list, it’s a blessing1!  This poem is sung by husbands to their wives at Sabbath dinners.  It is a thank you to wives and mothers and all they do for their families.  Rachel Held Evans says to think of it as the Hebrew equivalent of “you go girl,” or perhaps even better, “Carry on, Warrior.”  Women call one another “Eshet Chayil” when they accomplish wonderful feats like having a baby, getting a new job, going through seasons of vulneratility, etc. Many scholars feel as though even this isn’t the right reading of the passage, though.  4th century scholars Hilary of Poitiers and Ambrose of Milan both saw Eshet Chayil as none other than personified “Wisdom.”  A commentary from the early 9th century called, Midrash Proverbs showed that there were many allusions to Torah (the first five books of the Bible) in the description of the woman. Because of this, many medieval scholars, such as Rashi, viewed the entire poem as allegorical for Torah.  The way it is written – as an acrostic poem – and the feminine descriptions are in direct opposition to Lady Folly and parallels Lady Wisdom in the beginning of the book of Proverbs. Regardless of whether Proverbs 31 is to be read literally (as a blessing) or allegorically (as a personification of wisdom) it’s only been recently that this passage is read as a to-do list.  Instead of heaping ourselves with guilt for not being the “perfect woman” we should be giving ourselves grace and focusing on what the Lord is calling each of us, as His children, to be doing.  We don’t need to be perfect – we need to rely on Him!  This is such a wonderful reminder to me.  I should strive for wisdom, not perfection, and He will guide me to what He desires in my life. PS.  The only other place in the Bible where the term Eshet Chayil is used is of Ruth in the book of Ruth.  In the Hebrew Bible the book of Ruth comes right after the book of Proverbs (the western world changed the order of the books in the Old Testament).  Ruth is a physical example of the Proverbs 31 woman.  She is a physical representation of the wisdom we should be striving for. Read More
Grace for My Time
Grace for My Body

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