Women of the Bible! What a huge topic. I mean who do you pick? I'm not going to lie it has been an interesting one to think about. There are stories upon stories of women throughout the scriptures who walk by faith and bring so many different characteristics, aspects and factors to being women of valor, as Proverbs 31 so eloquently puts it.
There are stories that seem to have elements of repetition, like that of Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, Hannah and even Samson's mother who are all highlighted as being barren but then all go on to have babies who have a huge impact on the Biblical narrative. There are other women such as Miriam, Ruth, Naomi and D'vorah who seem to do some pretty outrageously courageous things, and there are other women who play a role in the life of Jesus on earth that give us a framework for communal living, love and discipleship. So, who do you choose?
It is Mothers Day here in the UK (only Fathers day falls on the same Sunday as in the USA), and this inspired me to choose a woman in the Bible who actually doesn't have a huge amount of narrative to work with, and that person is Eve. As I sit here thinking about her life, but more than that, thinking about her name, I found myself diving a little deeper into what scholars say about the roots of meaning in those simple three English letters, and the original Hebrew text.
Many translators derive the name Eve from the Hebrew verb haya which means to live or have life. One of the resources that I use for diving into studies is called Abarim-Publications (https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Eve.html ) and in their simple translation they highlight both "life" and "symbiosis" as the meaning of Eve's name. The etymology goes a little further and gives a lovely description too, pointing out another connected verb, hawa which means, "to lay out in order to attain life collectively."
Wow, to attain life collectively. I guess that just draws out that symbiosis element, that with life everything comes forth accordingly. This morning I was remembering how God created Eve because it wasn't good for Man to be alone, and their mission to "work and guard the garden" being a God-ordained purpose. God also gave them instruction to not eat from just one tree in the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and as far as I can see that still left them many other trees including the Tree of Life open for consumption.
Gosh, can you imagine if Eve's story took that turn and she ate from the Tree of Life? What if desire had lead her to eat from the tree of life? She would have, in theory, been eating of her name, living from essence and eating of essence. What a powerful force that would have been to work and guard the garden. However, we know the question that set humanity on a rather different path: "Did God really say?" Which consequently lead to a swift exit from their first home, and goodness me does that question echo in the hearts of humanity to this very day.
There are so many theological opinions around the story of Eve and her husband but you will be pleased to know I won't be going any further with the hows and the whys. I am more interested in a subtle aspect of the meaning of her name that could have something to teach us. Part of the word study at Abarim Publications describes Eve in this way:
"The name Eve denotes the collectivity that is common to the behavior of living things."
Her original design, taken out from Adam (earth) in the form of a rib, which is actually the Hebrew word, "side", is this idea that Adam and Eve, "Earth" and "Life" became a face to face symbiotic life force truly "made for each other" in the original sense. Fast forwarding to today we are actually faced with the choice all over again. Earth and Life, do we hear the choice to create as earth and as life. Flesh and breath.
There is a Sara Groves song called Generations (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cK_WmVFAIP8) which starts with the these lyrics.
"I can taste the fruit of Eve.
I'm aware of sickness, death and disease
The results of her choices are vast,
Eve was the first but she wasn't the last."
The song goes on to talk about generations to come and how our choices today will have an impact on it all.
Understanding more about Eve seems to be the gateway to what it means to choose life. As I mentioned at the beginning, that aspect of Eve's name which means "to lay out, prostrate oneself in order to live collectively," is what life is all about and maybe that is what Jesus is referring to in John 15 v 13 when he says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for a friend."
True life is always about future in a sacred way. It is believing that our choices are the greatest super powers we own, and that to choose life is to lay it down without our "desires" getting in the way. Our need for control, getting in the way, distraction from face-to-face relationship with God and with each other, getting in the way.
Jesus says: "I am The Way, The Truth and The Life", and we must be brave, we must say yes to believing that our life matters and the life force we bring to the world matters. Eve is the best example we have for all the above. If you read all the other stories of women throughout the text the question always comes back to Eve/Life and what it means to believe God's voice over the noise, of remembering we are designed to live in the garden of Eden, a place of guarding and working in community for the sake of the generations to come.
I am really glad I chose Eve; I resonate with her story deeply and want to remember what her life meant and what it means to beliEVE today.