Phil and I have been reading A Year of Biblical Womanhood together. We’re about halfway through now. Reading some of its reviews on major evangelical websites, it’s hard to believe we’re all reading the same book! I’ve laughed (yes, out loud, but haven’t quite reached a rofl) every other page. I’ve found it playful, insightful, thoughtful and surprisingly humble for a book which could have been a real gimmick or just harsh mockery of our more conservative brothers and sisters.
Perhaps it’s because I’m not already invested in a vision of ‘Biblical womanhood’ that I’ve had no troubles with it so far. Actually, I’m not even sure there is a ‘Biblical womanhood.’ It seems to me that asking the Bible to tell us what a ‘real man’ or ‘real woman’ should be is like asking the Bible questions on astronomy or physics; it’s just not a question which the Biblical authors had in mind. It wasn’t their concern (but it is our evangelical post-feminist concern). The other option is that I’m yet to reach the troubling parts of the book. I’ll keep you posted.
The highlight has been the chapter about Proverbs 31 – something I never knew about her – she’s a warrior!
Most scholars seem to think that the Hebrew eshet chayil is best translated ‘valorous woman,’ for the structure and diction employed in the poem closely resembles that of a heroic poem celebrating the exploits of a warrior. Lost to English readers are the militaristic nuances found in the original language: ‘she provides food for her family’ (literally ‘prey’ v. 15); ‘her husband…lacks nothing of value’ (literally ‘booty’ v. 11); ‘she watches over the affairs of the household’ (literally ‘spies’ v.27); ‘she girds herself with strength‘ (literally ‘she girds her loins’ v.17 KJV); ‘she can laugh at the days to come’ (literally ‘laugh in victory’ v.15). According to Erika Moore, ‘the valorous wife is a heroic figure used by God to do good for His people, just as the ancient judges and kings did good for God’s people by their martial exploits.’
Hectic! She’s a fighter! She’s not just a picture of domesticity, she’s holding the household and the people together!
Held Evans concludes that Proverbs 31 wasn’t meant to be turned into a to-do list (what a relief!), but is a poem to be sung in praise of Israel’s women. It’s to encourage us, not to burden us, because our work does not go unnoticed, our labour in the Lord is not in vain.