Women of the Bible
 

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The Woman In The Messianic Age

For HaShem hath created a new thing in the earth: a woman shall encompass a man.
(Jeremiah 31:22)

This declaration is of great significance. According to different levels of interpretation, in a Scriptural context we understand that it clearly refers to the complete restoration of the whole Israel in the Messianic Age, but it has also a plain meaning regarding the reinstatement of the original design for mankind.
In order to present a good exegesis of this verse, we need to have a literal rendition of the Hebrew text:

For HaShem hath created a new thing in the earth: a female shall encompass [surround/encircle/besiege] a mighty man.

The term used by the Prophet that is translated in most Bible versions as “woman” is not the usual word “ishah”, as opposed to “ish”, man, but “neqevah”, which means simply “female”, denoting gender and implying the natural characteristics of being a female. In the same way, the term rendered as “man” is not “ish” but “geber”, that is a strong man, a warrior, a man who is able to fight.

In the beginning of this essay we presented the first woman in her original condition of perfect equality with her man, according to the design of the Creator. Then, we have mentioned war as one of the main causes of the subsequent submission of the woman throughout history and her need of protection, which was expected to be granted by her husband.
The context in which the announcement “a woman shall encompass a man” is given is that of a peaceful society, in which war does not take place anymore: the Messianic Age, when weapons will be turned into working tools.

“And He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4)

“And He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide concerning mighty nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Mikah 4:3)

Therefore, being war abolished forever mighty warriors are no longer needed, and the woman may take her place again. The Messianic Age is the final restoration of the original design and order, in which harmony, equality and righteousness will be established.

Now let us briefly consider first the meaning of this verse within the proper context, that concerns the restoration of Israel, who is often portrayed as a young woman –like the bride in the Shir HaShirim, and also as the wife or the daughter in the Prophets–. Here this announcement is preceded by a call to repentance:

How long will you hide, O backsliding daughter? For HaShem hath created a new thing in the earth: a woman shall encompass a man.
(Jeremiah 31:22)

The Prophet is dealing with the New Covenant that HaShem will seal with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, and the daughter represents Israel that comes back from exile, the gathering of the Northern Tribes that having departed from their Elohim and still not returned back to Him, will join the House of Judah (the present-day Israel, that has kept the Covenant) and be again one people in the Land of Israel and in Jerusalem their eternal city. Their redemption takes place as the bride comes back to her Husband and “encompasses” Him, not leaving Him to be away from her anymore. It is Israel that comes back to HaShem and becomes His Temple, holding His Presence within the people.

Yet, in this essay we are not specifically concerned with Israel but with the woman in the Messianic Age. The announcement “For HaShem hath created a new thing in the earth: a female shall encompass/surround/encircle/besiege a mighty man sounds as a reversal of roles, so that in some versions it is translated “a woman shall court a man”, or even “a woman shall passionately love a man”. While such renditions might be also acceptable, they imply an actual turnabout of the historical situation and may mislead to think that the present social rights that women in the West are reaching may be a partial accomplishment of this prophecy, but it is not. The Scriptural statement goes beyond these achievements, it is a complete restoration of the original status.
The “new” thing that HaShem has created is a renewal of the origins, in the same way as the New Covenant is a renewal of the existing one, a complete restoration. In this prophecy, the woman is again the ezer k’negdo, the suitable helper, the tzela, the bearing wall, the one who is equal and opposite, the perfect counterpart. The mighty man, that represents power, dominion, government, is now “besieged, encircled, encompassed” by his feminine partner, she is now even his protection. She represents the household in which the man lives in peace, as the woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31, “A woman of valour who can find? for her value is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, and he hath no lack of gain” (Proverbs 31:10-11).
The woman in her restored original position is the man’s shelter, his tabernacle, his physical sanctuary; she is for her man like the Temple is for the people of Israel.

 

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Written by Sándor Avraham