Female Metaphors in Scripture

The female metaphors for the Old and New Testament saints as related to God are manifold. Strictly correlating the images of the church produces a perplexing picture; yet assuming their compatibility, a full picture emerges of the church as pleroma. She is a chaste virgin, daughter Zion (and her synonym, daughter Jerusalem); yet, she is also a bride, betrothed to both Yahweh and to Christ. In addition, she is a fruitful mother, birthing and bringing her children to strength. As such, she is foreshadowed in Eve, the mother of all-loving, the wives of the patriarchs, and also Deborah, who arose as a mother in Israel, and in the figure Mother Jerusalem in Isaiah 66. In Galatians 4, she is Sarah, an allegorical covenant-city, whose child through promise is the free Jerusalem above (vv. 23, 26-27).  In Revelation 12, she is mother of both the “male child” (vv. 4-5) and “the rest of her offspring” (v. 17), and in Revelation 21-22, she is the fruitful bride of the Lamb ( 21:9; cf. 22:2).  It soon becomes apparent  that daughter, bride, and mother are all images representing the one reality of God’s people throughout time in relation to God upon the throne and the Lamb. From various relationships comes forth the one telos of humanity, union with the triune God.

The biblical-theological trajectory of feminized, collectivized redeemed humanity is not summed up in God enthroned alone, neither the saints in congregation before Him alone, but rather the church finds her consummate end in the union of God and man in eternal unrestricted access to one another in the “mother’s house”:

“Oh that you were like a brother to me who nursed at my mother’s breasts? If I found you outside, I would kiss you, and none would despise me. I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother—she who used to teach me. I would give you spiced wine to drink, the juice of my pomegranate. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me! I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (SoS 8:1-4).

Not only in the Song (3:4; 8:2), but also in Genesis, the place of consummation for Isaac is his mother’s tent (24:67). In SoS 3, the movement is from city streets and squares to the mother’s house, the mother’s chamber, and the mother’s womb. The mother’s house is a refuge. Deep within the structure of concentric circles, outer, inner, and innermost, the lovers find security and peace, where love can be consummated.  The catholicity of the church is found not only in her Head, her sacraments, her structure, and her canon, but also in her mother’s house, eternity’s inner sanctum, where his people will comprehend the height and depth and breadth of his love (Eph 3:18-19). 

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