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Why women need to stop trying to be a Proverbs 31 wife

On International Women's Day, Chimaechi Allan suggests we take a closer look at the creation story

Good news is refreshing to the soul. That’s why many of us go to church – to hear good news. After a draining week we need to be uplifted, to remind ourselves of the truth and the hope ahead.

But recently I began to feel tired not only going into church, but tired when I left - as though my to-do list had just got longer. This is the last thing we need in our overly busy modern lives. When did the good news become about what we have to do?

A timely example of an uplifting scripture being read as a to-do list is Proverbs 31. No doubt many speakers will draw on this text today, on International Women’s Day and this Sunday on Mothers’ Day.

It speaks of an ideal wife and mother, and immortalises her achievements in an acrostic poem. It’s traditionally used to honour women, but I’ve often heard this text preached prosaically as a list of things women need to do! The poetic lines are listed off as though the excellent wife is a human doing, not a human being. These 21 verses used in this way are enough to make anybody feel tired!

Let me propose a different scripture for us to dwell on today: the creation of the woman in Genesis 2. Re-read it with me, explore what women were created to be (rather than do), and see if it doesn’t make you feel refreshed.

The making of Eve is a new departure in the creative process. She is not created like anything before her. Though God does speak to introduce her before she is made, he does not speak her into being, as he does her surroundings. Though Adam and all the animals are made from dust, Eve is not taken from dust. Eve is taken from Adam. Eve was born in an entirely relational way. 

The distinctiveness in the creation of woman is confirmed by the Hebrew words used.

Humanity, the cosmos and its contents are bara in Hebrew: chosen, conceived, created from nothing.

Adam is yatsar, formed or moulded, like so much clay.

But Genesis 2:22 says that Eve specifically is banah, built.

Eve has a unique origin, and a unique process of creation.

Seeing the specific value of womanhood within creation is, to me, good news. It is refreshing to see woman’s identity as glorious, deliberate, celebrated – and independent from a list of activities.

This scripture tells me more about the God in whose image I am made. So this International Women’s Day, let’s stop – really stop – and consider who God created us to be. We are so much more than what we do. We are built by God. We are precious to him. 

Chimaechi Allan explores what it means to be a woman made in the image and likeness of God at awomansbiblecommentary.com

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