Woman as Zion

My definition of typology is eschatology embedded in origins. As I have come to understand it, in theological anthropology male and female are two types, marking consummate union and communion with the triune God of the Scriptures in different ways. Though they share much in common, their differences ultimately tell a story. It is the divine unfolding of God’s work and all he has in store for those who love him. God has seen fit to stamp us with his story. No matter how alone we are, we cannot escape it. As male and female, we proclaim his decree and covenant.

This author of the Pentateuch does not dwell on sexual differentiation in Genesis 1. In the first chapter of the Hebrew Scriptures, the unity and parity of humankind is emphasized. Man and woman, ontological equals, commensurate in dignity, icons of the Creator God, are created in a bond of fellowship with God and called to fruitfulness and kingship over the lesser creatures.

Genesis 2 gives us a different angle. Distinction comes into view. It opens with eschatology. God enters his Sabbath rest on his holy mountain on the seventh day, and from there he beckons them to enter his rest through obedience to the command, “You shall not eat” (cf. Heb. 4:4). In other words, Genesis 2 builds on Genesis 1 by giving us the goal of mankind, which is not ultimately about rule, but about consummate union and communion with him in a place of consummate rest. It tells us that our creation is not only or ultimately about two kings ruling and subduing a probationary order, but about God and all He has prepared for them that love Him beyond the garden. In other words, Genesis 2 sets our sights above, on God Himself as our blessedness and reward.

In Genesis 2, Adam is created from the earth. As first and from the earth, he represents mankind under testing, pressing toward his goal. He strains forward toward the promise of eternal life, represented by the tree of life. The tree of life points to a time and place beyond the threat of the serpent, sin, and death. Eve is ontologically different. She is from his side, a word used almost exclusively as a wall of sacred space. As second and not of the earth, she uniquely typifies the heavenly, both its people and the realm where God is enthroned (Is. 66:1). In other words, the woman typifies the end, and the man represents the means to achieve that end.

Adam is the creature of the earth. In Genesis 2:15, Adam is formed to “work” and “keep,” verbs used for the priestly work of the Levites, protecting both Aaron and the sanctuary (Numbers 3). Not only is Adam installed as a priest, but as the representative head of the first order of humanity. He was charged with the command, “Do not eat.” If he obeyed, he would guarantee the ascent of all who would come from him extraordinarily, Eve, and ordinarily, their descendants. In this, he specifically fails.

Beside him to help him, God built the woman as the glory creature, a glory marker, to help Adam pass through temptation and enter God’s rest. By her presence, she evangelizes Adam. Her body tells him of life beyond the garden, a Sabbath city and temple. She speaks to him of the Mountain of the Lord in the heavens. Garden, city, temple, and mountain all portray the realm of Sabbath rest where God is enthroned and worshiped. Her words match her being. She does the work that no other creature can, speaking his language. She holds the message of the heavens which she is uniquely suited to speak, “Come” (Rev. 22:17). In this, she specifically fails.

Adam fails in his priestly task of guarding the garden-sanctuary from the unclean beast. Eve opens her mouth in theological conversation, but not with Adam. She dialogues with the snake. And though Eve is to help Adam as a troth of glory above, she instead offers him an alien glory by bringing him the fruit. Instead of beckoning him heavenward with “Come,” she is conspicuously silent with Adam. We all know by experience the conclusion. Instead of ascending the invisible mountain of the Lord into consummate Sabbath life, they (and we) fall back to the earth in sin and misery.

What is remarkable is that God resinstates and recommissions both Adam and Eve. The Seed of the Woman, a second Adam, is promised. He will succeed where Adam failed by guarding sacred space, casting out the unclean serpent, and spearheading his people’s ascent to Sabbath rest by his perfect obedience. Eve is recommissioned as the glory creature, which Adam recognizes by naming her “the Mother of the All-living.” It is quite remarkable. In Genesis 3:19, Adam is told “to dust you shall return.” In essence, Adam is told that he and all those united to him will die and return to the earth. And yet, in the next verse, Adam names his wife, the mother of the all-living, the meaning of “Eve.” She will continue to represent the city-garden-temple-people of God.

In Song of Songs, that city is the king’s chambers (SoS 1:4) and the mother’s house (SoS 3:4; 8:2), where God reigns to make his city fruitful in bearing and bringing her children to strength (John 3:3). She is foreshadowed not only in Eve, but the wives of the patriarchs, and also Deborah, who arose as a mother in Israel, and in the figure Mother Jerusalem in Isaiah. 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 realm and people throughout time in relation to God upon the throne and to the Lamb. Mother realm and bridal people point to a heavenly humanity on his holy mountain. Eve as mother is the city above that births her offspring (cf. Gen. 3:16a); Eve as bride is the city’s people, over whom God reigns to ensure his promises (cf. Gen. 3:16b). His bride, the heavenly throng, the trans-historical, multiethnic citizens of the New Jerusalem, desire him, and Christ himself rules over her to ensure her blessedness. Thus 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 and communion of God and man in the “mother’s house.”

Song of Songs comforts us with these truths as we yearn for that day, “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” (8:1-4). These verses are the end of a journey in the Song from city streets and squares to the mother’s house, then to the mother’s chamber, and finally to the mother’s womb. The mother’s house is a refuge. Deep within a 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 revealed in the mother’s house, eternity’s inner sanctum, where his people will apprehend the height and depth and breadth of God’s love for them (Eph 3:18-19). 

3 responses to “Woman as Zion”

  1. One of the cautions in theology or any discipline at a graduate level, is that a new lexicology is learned, which can take on a meaning of its own, independent of the facts (or in the case of theology, text) from which it is first derived.
    In science, particularly in medicine, and in theology, conceptual paradigms are helpful and we use them to explain complex problems as we come to understand them.
    It’s important to keep the text in primary view or we can develop an area of theology that takes on a life of its own; eschatology in the 70’s and complementarianism in the 90’s being very clear examples of this. Men and woman are not made identically; we are told about aspects of the differences in specific language used in particular verses. When we summarize these in conceptual language, then derive our premise from the conceptual language, without reference to the original texts, we can easily add connotations that are not stated; and before long, the original information becomes lost-and we no longer realize we’ve added to or taken away from the text, something important.

    The best academics I know, strive to understand complex paradigms well enough that they can explain them in very simple, straightforward language, with the supporting data from which they have developed their holistic paradigms of a very complex reality, in plain view.

    This is all the more important in theology. It truly becomes ‘wrangling over words’ when we bandy about the common jargon in a field; what is the purpose-to impress another that we have mastered the lexicon of a discipline? In science, new terms are common; but that is largely because there are no words in use to describe new observations made as the Creation is explored and described, as part of the process of subduing it and ruling over it. Adam named the animals, and we know from the larger context of the Word of God, the significance of naming.

    Scientists often try and capture what they have observed, when they describe something new, combining roots from the Latin or Greek.

    Theologians use a language that allows them to hold an air of superiority over others, evidencing their mastery, not for the sake of adding clarity, it seems, to an academic from another disicpline… and that seems to be an issue of simple boasting rooted in pride, not scholarly efforts to help the common man understand the Bible and apply it to life.

    Such use has the purpose not of edifying, but of puffing up; and can easily become ‘wrangling over words’. So it should be guarded against.

    Younger scholars in theology or any academic discipline, should be aware of this danger…


    1. Bill, I appreciate your warning and hope to be more clear in the future.


      1. I appreciate your thoughts and contribution to dialogue… keep engaging!


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