Eshet Chayil: Women of Valour

Saturday 8 March is International Women’s Day. This is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women. (1)

Throughout history, the value and status of women has been hotly debated. Even today, there are parts of the world in which being a woman puts you at a significant disadvantage for everything from your health to your education to your ability to be seen and heard in society and politics. According to UN Women, being born a girl is one of the greatest risk factors leading to a life of poverty. Globally, women perform an estimated two thirds of the worlds work yet earn only ten percent of the world's wages, and less than half of all girls in developing countries finish primary school. (2)

When Jesus walked this earth he demonstrated that he valued women. Some of us first-world Gen-Y readers we may not think it’s that big a deal that he spoke to a woman who was alone at a well (John 4), or the fact that he stood up against the abuse of a woman caught in adultery (John 8) or that he defended a woman who poured perfume on His feet (Luke 7). In that time and culture, these gestures were a big deal. Women did not enjoy the same social status as men and there were social rules discouraging men – particularly ‘rabbis’ like Jesus – from publicly conversing with women. When Jesus reached out to them, it was a signal that He valued these women just as He valued the men. These gestures were significant and would have been noticed.

When it comes to celebrating women, there is one particular Bible passage that is regularly quoted. Any woman who grew up in a youth group will have no doubt come across it, and perhaps it’s been the theme of your ‘girls youth camp’ or inscribed on the cover of a journal given to you for your sixteenth birthday. Yes, it’s the Proverbs 31 Woman. It’s a poem about a woman who displays a host of admirable qualities. We won’t explore it in detail here (though it is interesting and warrants a separate post), except to highlight that the title of this poem is Eshet Chayil, translated as ‘Woman of Valour’. In Jewish tradition, it is is sung as a hymn, and the phrase Eshet Chayil is used to praise women for their accomplishments and character.

Eshet Chayil: the poem that spawned a thousand jewellery pendants.

Eshet Chayil: the poem that spawned a thousand jewellery pendants.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day, we thought it would be great to check out a few ‘women of valour’ who are doing some interesting things as they live out the calling God has placed on their lives. They’re not perfect, and they don’t want to be presented as a model for what all women should be. But they’re genuine, they’re strong, they’re capable and they’re interesting.

Join us as we celebrate what God’s doing through them, and cry Eshet Chayil! to cheer them on.

[1] Source: International Women’s Day

[2] Source: UN Women