Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Role of a Woman as a Wife and Keeper of the Home, Part 2

Continued from yesterday ...

“virtuous”—as in the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. We have this idea that this means merely purity. Not that purity is a bad thing …

But this word comes from the Hebrew chayil—Strong’s #2428: “probably a force, whether of men, means or other resources; an army, wealth, virtue, valor, strength:--able, activity, (+) army, band of men (soldiers), company, (great) forces, goods, host, might, power, riches, strength, strong, substance, train, (+) valiant (-ly), valour, virtuous (-ly), war, worthy (-ily).

That’s quite a bit more than just purity! Virtuous, then, carries the connotation of strength … and how many of us would not like to be regarded as a woman of strength?

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“keeper at home”—nearly every Bible translation I checked translates this as a worker at home, and I’ve often heard it used to prove that a woman should be a stay-at-home mother when possible. But again—there’s a bit more going on here in the original language.

The word is oikouros, #3626 in the Strong’s … a stayer at home or domestically inclined. But get this—it roots from two Greek words, oikos (a dwelling or by implication a family) and ouros (a guard, or to be “ware”). So, to be a keeper at home means to be, literally, a guard of or watcher over the dwelling and/or family.

The first time I read this, I had the image of me standing at the door, hand on hip, declaring, “THAT is not coming in MY house!” What a completely different connotation this gives to the concept of “housekeeper” or stay-at-home mother. It goes back to the verse in Proverbs 31, “she looks well to the ways of her household,” and suggests that it isn’t so much about the grunt work of raising a family—cooking, cleaning, diapers, etc. We are not merely “domestic slaves,” but our family and home’s guardians. It isn’t demotion to serve our family, but promotion—an awesome privilege and responsibility.

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More thoughts from Lee:
It goes along with what Steve and I have always taught -- the woman has domain of the household … if you read through various snips (I'd have to look them up anymore), the woman is the one who sets the 'tone' or 'mood' of the home. It's her spirit that 'controls.' You don't find where it's better to sit in the corner of a drippy roof than in a house with a nagging man, do you? The idea that we've always contended for is that man is the head shed -- the big boss, but the woman is the boss of the home. Prov 31 bears it out. He is the big boss, but trusts her to do what is needed and goes off to do his thing. She manages the whole household. Her word rules.
Afternotes ~ I think all this could be used as pretty compelling evidence that, when possible, a woman should indeed be a stay-at-home mother, but from a slightly different perspective than I have always heard taught. Proper management of a household, especially one that includes several children and possible business ventures (in my case, helping to oversee the rental properties and my writing), is a full-time job all by itself. And, I've often reminded myself when things seem all drudgery and tedium that despite everything, I am still queen bee of our little hive ... why would I want to go be a mere worker for someone else?

2 comments:

  1. Oh, this so reminds me of a study I went to at my MIL's church. Something was said about oikos there, and that keeper of the home is "despot" of the "oikos." And the word despot (and here I'm sifting through seven+ years of memory-fuzz) means a manager. An "executive" position, so to speak. One who keeps the home running as the business owner keeps the business operations smooth and profitable. So, exactly, queens of our hives.

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  2. I'm really enjoying these posts, Shannon!

    I would note that even not-so-competently or carefuly tending a home is still a time-consuming, mentally crowding thing. Lots to do, remember, keep track of. With kids, it's monumental. I, frankly, don't know how single moms tend to children and home without considerable outside help (governmental or otherwise). Wow.

    I happen to believe that the domestic sphere IS the female sphere. I think the New and Old Testaments support this. HOwever, the way it was misinterpreted through the ages to imply women were lesser than or that raising families and tending homes was lesser than or that a woman couldn't be educated and do profitable enterprises in addition to is stupid. (and doesn't jive with Proverbs 31, not to mention the smart women of the Scriptures who exhibited smarts, wisdom, prudence, and industriousness in a variety of ways.)

    It's more complex, and more simple, both, than many have construed.

    Keep posting.
    Mir

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