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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Feminine Voices in Proverbs?

Feminine Voices in Proverbs?

Note: It is important to note that all of the information in this post is closely linked to a larger work that my late father, Dr. Ernest L. Martin, wrote titled: "Restoring the Original Bible" (ASk Publications: Portland, OR: 1994) That book closely linked the idea of the five books of the 'Megillot' mentioned below as being closely linked to femininity. For more information, please see that book. In this post, I am building on the foundation laid in that book.

Of late, I have been doing a great deal of thinking on the feminine voices of Scripture and now the thinking has moved into the research phase.

If you read my recent post (http://samuelmartin.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/the-original-order-of-old-testament.html) on the original order of the Biblical books and how a specific section of books are sectioned off focusing on feminine themes, you be expecting me to talk about the books of:

  1. Song of Songs
  2. Ruth
  3. Lamentations
  4. Ecclesiastes
  5. Esther

Yes, these books are known in ancient times by the Hebrew name, Megillot (meaning festival scrolls because they were read on specific festivals in the Hebrew calendar) and they appear in this order in the Hebrew Bible. We’ll have much more to say about this in future posts because I believe these books are full of feminine voices.

However, a major feminine voice appears in the book of Proverbs, which merits investigation. This text, in fact, is so obvious and presents us with an urgent blinking light telling us to pay attention, I think. So, of late, I’ve given Proverbs a fresh look and I am indeed glad that I did.

Before we get into that though, let’s look at this obvious text with a specific feminine voice. It is found in Proverbs 31 and I think it provides a type of a key of understanding.

No, it is not the “perfect woman” text per se that I want to draw your attention to. No! It is who the author of it is! The source of that section of Scripture is a woman! The evidence cannot be clearer.

“The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:” (Proverbs 31:1 ESV)

Much more research is needed on this issue because not only did Lemuel’s mother teach her son some exceedingly beautiful and inspiring teachings, she did it in such a way that the English reader might not catch.

This is because the last 22 verses of Proverbs 31 are written in acrostic form. This is a fancy word for which describes a type of poetic structure used which is also known as abecedarian poetry.

Abecedarian poetry means exactly what it says. The structure of the poem is in an A,B,C to X, Y, Z style, except in the case of the last 22 verses of Proverbs 31, the A, B, C’s are not English letters, but Hebrew letters. For that reason, this issue is not so apparent, but many Bible versions point this out to the reader.

“The earliest examples are Semitic and often found in religious Hebrew poetry. The form was frequently used in ancient cultures for sacred compositions, such as prayers, hymns, and psalms. There are numerous examples of abecedarians in the Hebrew Bible;” http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5767

Each verse of this poem in the last 22 verses of Proverbs 31 begins with a separate Hebrew letter starting with the first Hebrew letter and ending with the last Hebrew letter.

Now, what was the purpose of using abecedarian poetry? CBTEL tells us in the article “Abecedarians” the following:

In imitation of the 119th Psalm. it was customary in the early Church to compose psalms of this kind, each part having its proper letter at the head of it: the singing of the verses was commenced by the precentor, and the people joined him in the close. … This custom was probably introduced into the Christian church from the Hebrew service, and was intended to aid the memory.” (CBTEL, Vol. 1, pg. 27)

Now, if we take a look at this abecedarian poem in Proverbs 31 through Mediterranean eyes a bit, what we may see here is a glimpse of a song/poem that a mother made up for her son (which is exactly what the text of Proverbs 31;1 says) with the idea that it would help him remember the qualities of a woman that she hoped him to find.

And who better to know the desirable qualities of a woman than a woman herself? A mother knows and cares more than anyone else about the type of woman that their sons marry! This is especially the case in a patriarchal society where daughters would leave the home and join the families of their husbands whereas wives would enter the home from outside of the immediate family and become a part of a new family.

The investment and interest that a mother has over who her future daughter in law is in such a society is of prime importance because it is her son who will be caring for her in her old age as she will probably outlive her husband. So, this is no small point for the future harmony of households in ancient and even modern times.

Now, this is just a taste of where I am going with this, but in the next post I will do, we are going to look at Proverbs 1-9 anew.

Read that text and ask yourself: Do I hear the voice of a mother? We’ll revisit this question shortly and I think you will agree with me that the answer may very well be “Yes!”


Juana said...

Very interesting Samuel! Your comment on my twitter also caused me to investigate further, and I had just found out the final section of Proverbs was an acrostic poem as you pointed out as well!

Samuel Martin said...

I think that there is much more to this abecedarian poetry as I have herein referenced.

Male theologians view these acrostics through male eyes, but how many men have sat down and read Dr. Suess to their kids? I have by the way :)

I don't think we need to read more into the whole thing than we can, but I just don't think it is a coincidence that we have the last 22 verses of Prov. 31 is abecedarian and that it was inspired by a woman and it says is was something she taught her son.

More investiagation into acrostical poetry is merited. My guess that the fingerprints of godly women that we know from Scripture are all over this!