Day 20: Ever Deeper
And Adam called his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all living. Genesis 3:20
Eve – God doesn’t make mistakes. So, when God chose to use the Hebrew language to reveal Himself, it wasn’t an accident. The Hebrew language is the perfect vehicle to communicate what God wants to share about Himself and His creation. What does this mean to us? It means that what God says in Hebrew is usually much deeper than we initially observe. Frank Seekins says, “Hebrew fulfills a role that no other language can” because it can be understood as both a picture language and a phonetic language. Our contemporary translations are based on the phonetic aspect of Hebrew, not the pictographs. Sometimes we need to look at the pictures to see what the language communicates. That leads us to ask a question about some crucial words for “woman.” What we find will truly amaze you.
First, there is God’s chosen word for “woman.” It’s found in Genesis 2:18 (“I will make him a help-mate – an ‘ezer). This is God’s word, not Adam’s. The word consists of the consonants A-Z-R which display a picture of “first cut from a person”, “strength cut from the highest” or even “the first weapon (of defense) of the person.” Does this sound like the role of the ‘ezer? Remember that ‘ezer is the same word God applies to Himself in relation to Israel. The woman is certainly the first cut from the man. In fact, she is taken directly from him. And the role of the ‘ezer is to protect, help, provide, and nourish. Certainly this is the biblical view of strength and defense. What God had in mind is not subservience or patriarchal hierarchy. His choice of ‘ezer' indicates that the woman is a man’s first line of defense, an equal partner in the journey of life. The ‘ezer is God’s gift to the husband. She is built that way.
‘ezer isn’t the only word for woman. There is Adam’s choice, ish-sha. We noted that the double consonant paints a picture of the woman as consumer and destroyer, a very powerful combination. But there is another picture here. This pictograph also means “what comes out of the strong consumer.” Woman comes out of man. The second picture makes visible what the text confirms: “She shall be called woman because she was taken out of man.” Adam recognizes her essential equality and unique similarity is his choice of word. He also acknowledges the dangerous bliss resident in this perfectly suited partner.
So far, so good. God has a word picture that paints the divinely ordered role of woman. Man has a word picture that displays her vital connection to him. But there is still one more word. It occurs is Genesis 3:20 when Adam finally gives his wife a proper name. That name in Hebrew is Havvah, not Eve. This reveals an even more interesting picture. This picture is “what comes from the place of work.” What does this mean? It means that woman is the vehicle through which all “living” come – all those who work. Thus, her name literally means “the mother (source) of all living.” Once again the picture paints what the words say. This is her legacy. Since Hebrew views work and worship as one and the same, the name Havvah also means the woman brings to life all those who worship. There is hardly a more important role in human existence.
There’s an interesting aside here too. The cognate in Aramaic (havya) means serpent. Maybe Adam named her according to his disastrous experience. That would be typically male, wouldn’t it?
Now don’t get concerned. This is not some kind of worship of Woman. It’s not pagan Mother Earth and it’s not the idolization of Mary. It is simply the biblical recognition that God chose women to be the way that every living human being becomes a member of the working-worshiping community. It’s not idolatry. It’s the recognition of vital importance. Mothers matter.
What does the Scripture tell us about a woman? She is God’s chosen protector, provider, and strength for a man. Secondly, she is from Man, equally a partner under the Lord and perfectly matched for re-union as one. Finally, she is the physical transporter of life for all Mankind. These three roles are all wrapped up in one person. They must be recognized as separate but united. When we confuse them, when we put all the emphasis on one of the pictures and ignore the other two, we end up with terrible distortions like pagan Mother Earth worship or the contemporary idea of women as servants of men. The Scriptures reveal all three, intertwined. And a cord of three strands cannot easily be broken.
If you are a woman, exult in how God made you. If you are a man, be gloriously grateful to God. He knew exactly what He was doing.