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The Wife As “Helper” – A Handy Chart

The Wife As "Helper" - A Handy Chart | RachelShubin.com

Which set of arrows describes your marriage? Which set do you think God put forth in Genesis 1 & 2?

Which side of the chart describes how you think the relationship between husbands and wives should work (or describes your relationship with your own spouse)? Does a wife primarily serve God by helping her husband with his God-appointed tasks or does she serve God by doubling the manpower for dominion work in general? These often overlap but frequently a wife feels called toward something that doesn’t directly help her husband. What then? Here are a couple things to consider:

 

Genesis 2:18 (NKJV)
18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

 

All the animals had gendered counterparts, male and female, but Adam did not. He was alone. So God knocked him out, pulled him apart, and made him a female counterpart out of his bodily stuff. She was equal to himself because she came from himself. This parity is reflected in the dominion mandate itself:

 

Genesis 1:26-28
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

 

Dominion over the whole earth was given not just to Adam, but to both Adam and Eve. The work of filling and subduing it was given to both, and both are created in God’s image. There is no role or hierarchy distinction here whatsoever.

 

Comparable in Gen. 2:18
Going back to Gen. 2:18, what about that word “comparable” or “suitable” as it is frequently translated? What does that mean? Here’s what Strong’s has to say:

 

5048. neged
neged: in front of, in sight of, opposite to

Original Word: נֶ֫גֶד
Part of Speech: substantive; adverb; preposition; adverb; preposition
Transliteration: neged
Phonetic Spelling: (neh’-ghed)
Short Definition: before

 

And here is the Brown-David-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon definition:

2 With prepositions:

a. כְּנֶגֶדaccording to what is in front of =corresponding to, Genesis 2:18 I will make himעֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֺ a help corresponding to him i.e. equal and adequate to himself, Genesis 2:20 among the animals there was no עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֺ. **Note that in Late Hebrew מכנגד = in front of, Ber 4:5; 9:5; Ab 2:10, מכנגד פני Git 7:7 and elsewhere.

I’d put in all the references, but there are 150+ and most of them are used as prepositions to denote location (e.g. “in front of the mountain”). Personally, I like the way the King James translates it, “I will make him an help meet for him,” but since no one uses the word “meet” this way anymore, modern readers tend to hear it as “help mate” which implies the wife’s purpose is to help her mate. What “meet” actually means here is closer to “perfectly fitted” or “apt.” It is an adjective describing the type of help she provides, not a noun. Eve is Adam’s counterpart, his equal, and is perfectly suited to fill and subdue the earth with him so that he won’t have to do it alone (the filling part would be tough to do alone anyway).

Helper in Gen. 2:18
What about the word “helper”? Hehe. I looked up every instance where the Hebrew word is used in the Old Testament, and it does not mean “head sock darner and diaper changer.” Neither of those things are bad, of course. Both are necessary, and if that’s what you feel called to do, you should definitely do it  with gusto (well, darning may not be necessary, but buying new socks occasionally is good). However, the word “helper” in Genesis 2:18 oddly carries no connotation of domestic help.

The most common usage of the Hebrew word is of a strong force coming to someone’s aid in battle. Often the helper who is coming to deliver someone out of trouble is the Lord himself. That’s the kind of helper God designed Eve to be. Not only a passive encouragement or support personnel, but an active participant and help in the real work of life. Adam and Eve were both designed to image God. Want to see the research? I have it posted here: A Suitable Helper

Why Was Eve Created?
The real question was what was Adam’s problem? Was his problem that the job was so big that he needed an assistant? The job was and is huge, but that’s not what Genesis 2:18 says was problem. Adam’s problem was that he was alone. God, being a Trinity, knew the value of equal companionship. The animals weren’t going to cut it; they weren’t equals. So God made Adam a counterpart.

Did he make her out of dirt? Nope. Adam couldn’t claim she was made of different dirt from his and therefore completely other from him. Did he make her from his feet? Nope. He couldn’t claim he was over her. Did he make her from his head? Nope. She couldn’t claim she was over him. God made Eve from Adam’s side (not just a rib, by the way), the spot that houses almost all the important guts and interior workings of the body, the softest part, the very center. Eve was part of his very body, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, the only instance of human asexual reproduction in history. This is the rending that marriage re-unites. This is the fit help. One becomes two; two become one.

~ Rachel

P.S. If you are a happy complementarian in a good marriage, then more power to you. I think there is room in the Bible and in Christendom for both positions, and I admire many couples of both types. If this post has completely confused you or you are wondering how that fits with Ephesians 5, I have a three part (so far) series on that herehere, and here. If you are curious about egalitarianism and how that can possibly be Biblical, please check out my friend Marg’s excellent post here.

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Response to a Trapped Wife

Daughter, Mother, Sister, Friend – How would you respond to one of them if they came to you for help? (Photo by The Guigo .en, http://bit.ly/LicenseCC)

Doug Wilson recently posted a second article in his Open Letter series, this time to a trapped wife. I’m not going to repost the entire thing here, but I did have a few thoughts on his post. Here is his original article: Open Letter to a Trapped Wife; and here is my response:

Continue Reading

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Modesty #1 – Bikini Motivation

Modesty #1 - Bikini Motivation

This woman is out to seduce! Oh wait, no. She’s just drinking soda at the beach, minding her own business…

A month or so ago, I got into a conversation on another blog with a woman I’ve never met. Since summer is coming up, naturally the topic was modesty and bikinis. She hadn’t worn one since her honeymoon, would never let her daughters wear one, would be kindly encouraging others to do the same, and said that the real issue is the motivations of our own hearts for why we would want to wear a bikini (that part I agree with!). Her comment closed by saying that she had hoped she had provided a Biblical perspective instead of just an emotional one. Continue Reading

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Reponse to a Reviling Husband

Response to a Reviling Husband | RachelShubin.com

This is not a “marriage problem.” In Christian parlance, this is called “reviling.” (Photo by The Lamp, http://bit.ly/LicenseCC)

Last weekend Doug Wilson posted an excellent piece on his blog entitled “An Open Letter to an Angry Husband.” For some reason this topic seems to cause all kinds confusion on what constitutes an appropriate Biblical response, which I think is because so many people struggle to define it. Continue Reading

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Duggar Dissection

Duggar Dissection | RachelShubin.com

This is not a “marriage problem.” In Christian parlance, this is called “reviling.” (Photo by The Lamp, http://bit.ly/LicenseCC)

I didn’t want to post on this because I don’t really want to read about it or think about it. After Gothard and Phillips and everything else, I am starting to feel a whiplash effect. Nevertheless, I have been thinking about it and what I’ve been thinking about primarily isn’t the specifics of the case or how many times Josh Duggar referenced himself in his apology statement or what the police report said. What has interested me is the underpinnings, the dynamics. From his case particularly, I think “How common is this in family situations?” and “How do I know what to look for and/or how to prevent such things in our own family?” and “Where is the line between stupid kid and permanent pedophile?”  Continue Reading

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Website Recommendation: New Life

Been researching a new post for later this week and came across an interesting site I wanted to pass along. New Life has a bunch of excellent articles on equality and gender issues, and at the bottom of this post, I will post links to some of the articles I found most interesting. If either of these topics are of interest to you, you’ll want to spend some time reading.

Also, on the right sidebar there are now sections for links to external sites with interesting articles/information so that they are easy to find and organized together.

Here are a few of the articles I liked:

I think that’s it for today. If you know someone who is struggling with or interested in these things, please feel free to pass this along. Also, I’ve changed the comment settings so that you can leave comments anonymously if you would like to.

Rachel

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Ephesians 5, Part 3: The Mystery of One Flesh

In the last post we talked about what Paul means when he compares the unified nature of Christ and the church to a person’s head and body. So far this comparison holds up consistently, and that head/body metaphorical language wraps up with verse 30.

Then Paul puts in a reference to Genesis (actually, that one still refers to the body but this time relates it to marriage instead of the church) and a cryptic statement about how incomprehensible this all seems, but he seems to imply that we should be able to get his coded message since he explicitly tells us that he’s talking about Christ and the church. This got me puzzling, which is what happens when I’m breathing. Here’s the whole passage again.

Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Okay Paul, what is this mysterious mystery you’re talking about? Help me out here. Guess what? Paul does actually help out here. Ephesians is a letter written to the church in Ephesus, and we’ve been looking at chapter 5, right? I searched for other places that the word translated “mystery” is used and was surprised to discover that Paul uses it five times in the same letter before he even gets to Chapter 5. Here they are:

Ephesians 1:7-10

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

More unity. Here’s the next one.

Ephesians 3:1-12

1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles

2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,

5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 

and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 

10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

What was the mystery? Verses six and eight spell it out: we are members of the same body, partakers of the unsearchable riches of Christ, and that Gentiles are fellow heirs,. The mystery is that the church is one with Christ. Oh look! That verse has body metaphor in there too. How did I miss that one?

Last one:

Colossians 1:24-27

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 

25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,

26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.

27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

This one wraps up all the components we find in Ephesians 5: the church is Christ’s body (including the Gentiles) and Christ is in us. Again, the overriding image is one of unity.

And now, we get to my favorite verse in the whole passage: Ephesians 5:31. For years I couldn’t figure out why this verse was in here. If the whole point of this section were about how the husband was the head of his wife and how the wife’s duty was to obey what he asks unless he asks her to do something illegal or explicitly sinful, then why would verse 31 be in here? How is the one flesh mentioned in the verse 31 a picture of authority? Here is the passage from Genesis that Paul quotes:

Genesis 2:20b-25

20b but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh;

22 and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called Woman,

because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

If Paul is talking about unity, the inclusion of this reference makes sense. It’s in here because it is the perfect summation of what Paul is saying. When Eve was divided from Adam’s flesh, he lost part of himself. The marriage sacrament knits back together as one flesh the two pieces that were split, just like a head and body are two separate parts united in one flesh, and just like Christ and the church are united into one flesh through Christ’s death and resurrection which we commemorate with the sacrament of communion. This is the purpose of marriage. This is the point of the Ephesians 5 passage. This is the profound mystery.

 

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Ephesians 5, Part 2: The Head and the Body

When people suck out verses 22-24 from Ephesians 5:21-33, they tend to concentrate on the “head” part. In isolation, we apply our American idiom of head to the passage and see things like “CEO” or “head of state” which both imply ruling. When you look at those verses with the full passage, it looks less like that and far more like Paul is using pretty oblique language to say what he’s saying. He says the relationship between husbands and wives is like the relationship between Christ and the Church and both are like the relationship between the head… and the body. Let’s look at the text again.

Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)

 

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The first thing that jumps out at me here is that Paul talks far more about how the wife is like the husband’s own body and all the things that he is supposed to do to care for her, his body, than it does about how the husband is like the wife’s own head. In fact, Paul spends three verses talking directly to wives and seven speaking directly to husbands. Most of the commentaries I’ve read seem to argue about the meaning of “head,” which is used twice here, and whether or not it means “authority” or “source.” Paul isn’t using “head” here as a secondary metaphor for authority or for source. Paul isn’t comparing a husband to a head which symbolizes authority. Otherwise verses 25-30 would have to be comparing the wife to a body as a symbol for submission, which I’ve never heard anyone claim. He’s comparing a marriage to an actual head (the husband) that is an integral part of an equally necessary body (the wife). Paul says specifically in verses Eph. 5:23&29&32 that this comparison between man & wife and Christ & the church somehow relates to how a head & body operate.

What the holy hand grenades does that mean? When I think of my own head and body, I tend to think of them as rather inextricably connected. I’d prefer to keep my body in good working order, thank you. My heart, lungs, bladder, spine, legs? Yes, I’d like those to all remain properly functional. That would be nice. At the same time, my head seems equally necessary to my body. I need it for food stuffs and vision and speech and hearing. Rather important too.

How about thought? That’s pretty important and comes from the head, right? Isn’t Paul implying that husbands should be doing the thinky bits? Well… not really.  While we now know that thinking comes from the brain, the anatomy information at the time was based on Aristotle who thought that the heart, not the head, controlled the mind. Paul adheres to this idea in several places like the ones below.

Rom. 1:21 …but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…

Rom. 2:15 …the law written in their hearts…

Rom. 10:9&10 …it is with your heart you believe…

I Cor. 2:9 …no heart has conceived God’s plans…

I Cor. 7:37 …he who has decided in his own hear…

Eph. 1:18 …may the eyes of your heart be enlightened to know…

Nowhere does he associate the mind with the head. So, he’s not talking about the husbands being the decision-makers either. All of this implies a profound unity since you can’t lop off the body without killing the head, and you can’t lop off the head without killing the body. That’s all grand when talking about a human body, but how does that work with Christ and the church? Surely Christ can survive without us (not so much in reverse though), right? Why would Paul use the body metaphor for Christ and the church? To answer this question, we need to look around and see if he uses body-related imagery in relation to Christ and the church anywhere else and see if it was more obvious what he was talking about there. Turns out, he does!

I Corinthians 12:15-27

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?

20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,

24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,

25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 

Did you catch that? We are Christ’s body. We are his hands and feet. We are one with and in Christ. While the subheadings in your Bible usually tag the Ephesians passage as being about submission in marriage, they almost always tag this section in I Corinthians as being about unity even though it shares very similar language.

Romans 12:3-7

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,

5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;

7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;

8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

I couldn’t even figure out what to highlight on this passage without ending up highlighting the entire thing. First, verses 4 and 5 reiterate again that we form one body in Christ just like each component of our personal body combines to form one being. Same thought as the head & body idea in Ephesians 5. Second, verse 3 specifically speaks against hierarchical thinking. Then verses 6-8 go through multiple giftings that God blesses members of the body with – prophesy, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, showing mercy – and tells each member to do these things as grace is given to us.

Paul gives no indication that these giftings are given on any sort of gender or marital role basis. Nothing about wives can’t teach their husbands or women can’t lead or men shouldn’t encourage women or husbands can’t serve their wives. (Don’t get all excited; I’m sure some of those specifics will come up when I finally get around to writing about Timothy). The overriding impression from this passage is unity of the body of Christ with Christ, and language follows the same body-metaphor language as the Ephesians 5 passage.

And now, a really long one. Sorry.

Colossians 2:8-19

8 See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 

10 and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ;

12 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 

14 having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

15 He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath.

17 These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,

19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

This passage seems even stronger than the last one. Here Paul says in verse 10 that we have come to fullness of life in Him with the strong implication that since He is the head of all rule and authority, we are joint heirs in this since we are part of him. Verse 11 makes us the heirs of his circumcision. Verse 12 buries us in baptism and raises us from the dead because we are one with Christ and He was raised from the dead. Verse 13 reiterates points out a second time that we are alive and forgiven because we are one with Christ, and He lives. Then verse 19 wraps up that we are Christ’s body and what happens when that bond between head and body begins to dissolve.

Again, this entire passage is a picture of our unity with Christ. Does Christ rule the church? Of course. But is that the aspect of the church’s relationship with Christ that Paul is trying to get across here through use of the head/body metaphor? It would seem not. One last point for now, and that is that this idea is reflected even in communion:

I Corinthians 10:16,17

16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?

17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

We are one body with Christ, and this is reflected in both of the sacraments we do in church today: baptism in Colossians 2:12 and communion in I Corinthians 10:16&17. When we see head/body language in relation to Christ and the church, what we are supposed to be reminded of and think of is oneness to the point where we are joined together as a unified whole. How does that work? Doesn’t that seem kind of mysterious? Oddly, going back to the Ephesians 5 passage, Paul even refers to exactly the same thing in Ephesians 5:32. What could he be talking about? Conveniently, he tells us elsewhere exactly what that mystery of Christ and the church is, and that will be the subject of the next post.

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Ephesians 5, Part 1: vs. 21 & 22

When people talk about submission, Ephesians 5:22-24 comes up quite regularly as a proof text for the idea of the marriage relationship being primarily hierarchical in form. Because everyone covers vs. 22-24 and the standard interpretation of that colors the entire rest of the passage, I am not going to discuss that until the last post. Several other pieces of the passage give a much different but consistent view of what Paul is talking about. This post is just a short preface in which we are going to talk very briefly about Greek.

You know how English has that handy punctuation and capitalization to tell you where thoughts and sentences begin and end? Greek doesn’t have that. It has one option for writing letters (not two, uppercase and lowercase, like we do) and no punctuation at all, so everything runs together and you have to figure out where the thoughts start and end based on the tenses and cases of the words themselves. For the most part, this seems to work ok. Sometimes thought, not so much. Here is the full passage in the NIV. In a minute we’ll look at the first two verses in other translations.

Ephesians 5:21-33 (NIV)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

See how that looked like two separate commands? 1) Submit to one another. 2) Wives, submit to your husbands. Now look at the ESV:

Ephesians 5:21-22 (ESV)

21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

While the NIV puts verse 21 as its own sentence, the ESV places it as the end of the sentence begun in verse 18 like this:

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The KJV puts it back as its own sentence like this:

Ephesians 5:21-22 (KJV)

21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

But by the time we get to NKJV, it is back as part of the previous sentence (Ephesians 5:18-21 NKJV)

Ephesians 5:21-22 (NKJV)

21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

The NASB does the same.

Ephesians 5:21-22 (NASB)

21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands,as to the Lord.

But the RSV has it back as its own sentence again.

Ephesians 5:21-22 (RSV)

21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.

Is that enough redundancy for today? Who cares which way it is translated and why does it matter? Well, I need to show you one more thing, and then you’ll be able to see very clearly why it matters. If you translate verse 21 as its own sentence, it looks very much like Christians are all to be subject to one another (with no gender distinctions) and that however you translate that as applying to everyone what it also must mean regarding what is required of wives. Since it’s a little on the fuzzy side even between the various English translations, here it is in the Greek interlinear. Remember that Biblical (koine) Greek didn’t use capitalization or punctuation, so wherever you see that, it has been added in.

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So, the direct translation of those two verses looks like this:

21 submitting yourselves to one another in reverence of Christ

22 wives to the own husbands as to the lord

Do you notice anything weird about verse 22? Such as… no verb? Where did “submit” go? Well, it’s not there. It’s in verse 21.

Verse 22 about wives is a subordinate clause to verse 21 (which doesn’t really come out in any of the translations) and actually borrows the verb from there. Whatever submit means for Christians submitting to each other is what it means for wives. So, what does it mean? Ahhh, that’s the million dollar question and the one I’m going to get to last (sorry).

Next up: The Head and the Body

2

A “Virtuous” Wife

 She’s quite the celebrity, that virtuous woman. Countless women’s Bible study books have been written about her and she shows up in conference speeches all the time. But what does that word “virtuous” mean in the Bible? Did you know that it is used 224 times, but only three are translated “virtuous” – the same (and also only) three instances that refer to women. Here they are:

Proverbs 31:10 (NKJV)

Who can find a virtuous wife. For her worth is far above rubies.

 

Proverbs 31:29 (KJV)

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

 

Ruth 3:11 (KJV)

And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.

 

If only three refer to women and those three are the only instances translated “virtuous,” then what do the other ones say? Almost every other instance implies strength or courage in battle or occasionally wealth. Oddly, this is quite similar to what “helper” means in Genesis 2:18&20. To save space (although it’s still long) I am including here only the 98 occurrences that use the exact form of the word as these passages in Proverbs and Ruth.

 

Strong’s Concordance definition:

chayil: strength, efficiency, wealth, army
Original Word: חָ֫יִל
Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
Short Definition: army

(From BibleHub)

 

Here is a list of every other instance of the specific form of the word used in the above verses in Proverbs and Ruth.

 

Englishman’s Concordance

ḥa·yil — 98 Occurrences

 

Genesis 47:6 

HEB: בָּם֙ אַנְשֵׁי־ חַ֔יִל וְשַׂמְתָּ֛ם שָׂרֵ֥י
NAS: any capable men
KJV: [any] men of activity among them, then make them
INT: any men capable put charge

 

Exodus 18:21 

HEB: הָ֠עָם אַנְשֵׁי־ חַ֜יִל יִרְאֵ֧י אֱלֹהִ֛ים
NAS: the people able men
KJV: out of all the people able men,
INT: the people men able fear God

 

Exodus 18:25 

HEB: מֹשֶׁ֤ה אַנְשֵׁי־ חַ֙יִל֙ מִכָּל־ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל
NAS: Moses chose able men out of all
KJV: chose able men
INT: Moses men able of all Israel

 

Numbers 24:18 

HEB: וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עֹ֥שֶׂה חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: While Israel performs valiantly.
KJV: and Israel shall do valiantly.
INT: Israel performs valiantly

 

Deuteronomy 3:18 

HEB: כָּל־ בְּנֵי־ חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: it; all you valiant men
KJV: all [that are] meet for the war.
INT: all the sons valiant

 

Deuteronomy 8:18 

HEB: כֹּ֖חַ לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת חָ֑יִל לְמַ֨עַן הָקִ֧ים
NAS: to make wealth, that He may confirm
KJV: to get wealth, that he may establish
INT: power to make wealth because of may confirm

 

Judges 3:29 

HEB: וְכָל־ אִ֣ישׁ חָ֑יִל וְלֹ֥א נִמְלַ֖ט
NAS: all robust and valiant men; and no
KJV: and all men of valour; and there escaped
INT: all one and valiant and no escaped

 

Judges 11:1 

HEB: הָיָה֙ גִּבּ֣וֹר חַ֔יִל וְה֖וּא בֶּן־
NAS: the Gileadite was a valiant warrior,
KJV: was a mighty man of valour, and he [was] the son
INT: become warrior was a valiant he was the son

 

Judges 18:2 

HEB: אֲנָשִׁ֨ים בְּנֵי־ חַ֜יִל מִצָּרְעָ֣ה וּמֵֽאֶשְׁתָּאֹ֗ל
NAS: out of their whole number, valiant men
KJV: men of valour, from Zorah,
INT: men the sons valiant Zorah and Eshtaol

 

Judges 20:44 

HEB: אֵ֖לֶּה אַנְשֵׁי־ חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: all these were valiant warriors.
KJV: men; all these [were] men of valour.
INT: these warriors were valiant

 

Judges 20:46 
HEB: אֵ֖לֶּה אַנְשֵׁי־ חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: all these were valiant warriors.
KJV: all these [were] men of valour.
INT: these warriors were valiant

 

Ruth 2:1 

HEB: אִ֚ישׁ גִּבּ֣וֹר חַ֔יִל מִמִּשְׁפַּ֖חַת אֱלִימֶ֑לֶךְ
NAS: of great wealth, of the family
KJV: man of wealth, of the family
INT: A man of great wealth of the family of Elimelech

 

Ruth 4:11 

HEB: יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַעֲשֵׂה־ חַ֣יִל בְּאֶפְרָ֔תָה וּקְרָא־
NAS: and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah
KJV: and do thou worthily in Ephratah,
INT: of Israel achieve wealth Ephrathah and become

 

1 Samuel 2:4 

HEB: וְנִכְשָׁלִ֖ים אָ֥זְרוּ חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: But the feeble gird on strength.
KJV: are girded with strength.
INT: the feeble gird strength

 

1 Samuel 9:1 

HEB: יְמִינִ֑י גִּבּ֖וֹר חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: of a Benjamite, a mighty man of valor.
KJV: a mighty man of power.
INT: right A mighty of valor

 

1 Samuel 14:48 

HEB: וַיַּ֣עַשׂ חַ֔יִל וַיַּ֖ךְ אֶת־
NAS: He acted valiantly and defeated
KJV: And he gathered an host, and smote
INT: acted valiantly and defeated the Amalekites

 

1 Samuel 14:52 

HEB: וְכָל־ בֶּן־ חַ֔יִל וַיַּאַסְפֵ֖הוּ אֵלָֽיו׃
NAS: man or any valiant man, he attached
KJV: man, or any valiant man,
INT: any man valiant attached about

 

1 Samuel 16:18 

HEB: נַ֠גֵּן וְגִבּ֨וֹר חַ֜יִל וְאִ֧ישׁ מִלְחָמָ֛ה
NAS: a mighty man of valor, a warrior,
KJV: and a mighty valiant man, and a man
INT: musician A mighty of valor man A warrior

 

1 Samuel 18:17 

HEB: לִּ֣י לְבֶן־ חַ֔יִל וְהִלָּחֵ֖ם מִלְחֲמ֣וֹת
NAS: only be a valiant man
INT: become man valiant and fight battles

 

1 Samuel 31:12 

HEB: כָּל־ אִ֣ישׁ חַיִל֮ וַיֵּלְכ֣וּ כָל־
NAS: all the valiant men rose
KJV: All the valiant men arose,
INT: all men the valiant and walked all

 

2 Samuel 2:7 

HEB: וִֽהְיוּ֙ לִבְנֵי־ חַ֔יִל כִּי־ מֵ֖ת
INT: become afflicted able for is dead

 

2 Samuel 11:16 

HEB: כִּ֥י אַנְשֵׁי־ חַ֖יִל שָֽׁם׃
NAS: he knew there [were] valiant men.
KJV: where he knew that valiant men
INT: for men there valiant in it

 

2 Samuel 13:28 

HEB: וִהְי֥וּ לִבְנֵי־ חָֽיִל׃ 
INT: become afflicted able

 

2 Samuel 17:10 

HEB: גַם־ בֶּן־ חַ֗יִל אֲשֶׁ֥ר לִבּ֛וֹ
KJV: [is] a mighty man, and [they] which [be] with him [are] valiant men.
INT: and even the one are valiant whose heart

 

2 Samuel 17:10 

HEB: אָבִ֔יךָ וּבְנֵי־ חַ֖יִל אֲשֶׁ֥ר אִתּֽוֹ׃
NAS: and those who are with him are valiant men.
INT: your father man are valiant who for

 

2 Samuel 22:33 

HEB: הָאֵ֥ל מָעוּזִּ֖י חָ֑יִל וַיַּתֵּ֥ר תָּמִ֖ים
NAS: God is my strong fortress;
KJV: [is] my strength [and] power: and he maketh
INT: God fortress is my strong sets the blameless

 

2 Samuel 22:40 

HEB: וַתַּזְרֵ֥נִי חַ֖יִל לַמִּלְחָמָ֑ה תַּכְרִ֥יעַ
NAS: For You have girded me with strength for battle;
KJV: For thou hast girded me with strength to battle:
INT: have girded strength battle have subdued

 

2 Samuel 24:9 

HEB: אֶ֤לֶף אִֽישׁ־ חַ֙יִל֙ שֹׁ֣לֵֽף חֶ֔רֶב
NAS: hundred thousand valiant men who drew
KJV: hundred thousand valiant men that drew
INT: thousand men valiant drew the sword

 

1 Kings 1:42 

HEB: כִּ֣י אִ֥ישׁ חַ֛יִל אַ֖תָּה וְט֥וֹב
NAS: Come in, for you are a valiant man
KJV: unto him, Come in; for thou [art] a valiant man,
INT: for man valiant you good

 

1 Kings 1:52 

HEB: יִהְיֶ֣ה לְבֶן־ חַ֔יִל לֹֽא־ יִפֹּ֥ל
NAS: If he is a worthy man,
KJV: said, If he will shew himself a worthy man,
INT: become man worthy not will fall

 

1 Kings 11:28 

HEB: יָרָבְעָ֖ם גִּבּ֣וֹר חָ֑יִל וַיַּ֨רְא שְׁלֹמֹ֜ה
NAS: Jeroboam was a valiant warrior,
KJV: [was] a mighty man of valour: and Solomon
INT: Jeroboam warrior was a valiant saw Solomon

 

1 Kings 20:25 

HEB: תִֽמְנֶה־ לְךָ֣ ׀ חַ֡יִל כַּחַיִל֩ הַנֹּפֵ֨ל
NAS: and muster an army like the army
KJV: And number thee an army, like the army
INT: you and muster an army the army you have lost

 

2 Kings 2:16 

HEB: אֲנָשִׁ֜ים בְּנֵֽי־ חַ֗יִל יֵ֣לְכוּ נָא֮
NAS: fifty strong men,
KJV: fifty strong men;
INT: men afflicted strong go please

 

2 Kings 5:1 

HEB: הָיָ֛ה גִּבּ֥וֹר חַ֖יִל מְצֹרָֽע׃
NAS: The man was also a valiant warrior,
KJV: man in valour, [but he was] a leper.
INT: become warrior A valiant a leper

 

2 Kings 6:15 

HEB: וַיֵּצֵ֕א וְהִנֵּה־ חַ֛יִל סוֹבֵ֥ב אֶת־
NAS: out, behold, an army with horses
KJV: and gone forth, behold, an host compassed
INT: and gone behold an army was circling the city

 

2 Kings 7:6 

HEB: ס֔וּס ק֖וֹל חַ֣יִל גָּד֑וֹל וַיֹּאמְר֞וּ
NAS: of a great army, so that they said
KJV: of a great host: and they said
INT: of horses the sound army of a great said

 

1 Chronicles 5:18 

HEB: מִן־ בְּנֵי־ חַיִל֒ אֲ֠נָשִׁים נֹשְׂאֵ֨י
NAS: of Manasseh, [consisting] of valiant men,
KJV: of Manasseh, of valiant men, men
INT: at afflicted men men to bear

 

1 Chronicles 5:24 

HEB: אֲנָשִׁים֙ גִּבּ֣וֹרֵי חַ֔יִל אַנְשֵׁ֣י שֵׁמ֔וֹת
NAS: mighty men of valor, famous men,
KJV: mighty men of valour, famous men,
INT: men mighty of valor men famous

 

1 Chronicles 7:2 

HEB: לְתוֹלָ֔ע גִּבּ֥וֹרֵי חַ֖יִל לְתֹלְדוֹתָ֑ם מִסְפָּרָם֙
NAS: [were] mighty men of valor in their generations;
KJV: [they were] valiant men of might in their generations;
INT: Tola men of might their generations number

 

1 Chronicles 7:9 

HEB: אֲבוֹתָ֔ם גִּבּוֹרֵ֖י חָ֑יִל עֶשְׂרִ֥ים אֶ֖לֶף
NAS: 20200mighty men of valor.
KJV: mighty men of valour, [was] twenty
INT: of their fathers mighty of valor twenty thousand

 

1 Chronicles 8:40 

HEB: אֲנָשִׁ֨ים גִּבֹּרֵי־ חַ֜יִל דֹּ֣רְכֵי קֶ֗שֶׁת
NAS: men of valor, archers,
KJV: men of valour, archers,
INT: men were mighty of valour archer arch

 

1 Chronicles 10:12 

HEB: כָּל־ אִ֣ישׁ חַיִל֒ וַיִּשְׂא֞וּ אֶת־
NAS: all the valiant men arose
KJV: They arose, all the valiant men,
INT: all men the valiant and took the body

 

1 Chronicles 11:22 

HEB: בֶּן־ אִֽישׁ־ חַ֛יִל רַב־ פְּעָלִ֖ים
NAS: the son of a valiant man
KJV: the son of a valiant man
INT: the son man of a valiant mighty deeds

 

1 Chronicles 12:26 

HEB: שִׁמְע֗וֹן גִּבּ֤וֹרֵי חַ֙יִל֙ לַצָּבָ֔א שִׁבְעַ֥ת
INT: Simeon champion able appointed time seven

 

1 Chronicles 12:29 

HEB: נַ֖עַר גִּבּ֣וֹר חָ֑יִל וּבֵית־ אָבִ֥יו
INT: babe champion able to the house fathers

 

1 Chronicles 12:31 

HEB: מֵא֑וֹת גִּבּ֣וֹרֵי חַ֔יִל אַנְשֵׁ֥י שֵׁמ֖וֹת
INT: hundred champion able by name

 

1 Chronicles 26:6 

HEB: כִּֽי־ גִבּ֥וֹרֵי חַ֖יִל הֵֽמָּה׃
NAS: for they were mighty men of valor.
KJV: for they [were] mighty men of valour.
INT: for were mighty of valor like

 

1 Chronicles 26:7 

HEB: אֶחָ֖יו בְּנֵי־ חָ֑יִל אֱלִיה֖וּ וּסְמַכְיָֽהוּ׃
NAS: Elihu and Semachiah, were valiant men.
KJV: whose brethren [were] strong men,
INT: brothers men were valiant Elihu and Semachiah

 

1 Chronicles 26:8 

HEB: וַאֲחֵיהֶ֔ם אִֽישׁ־ חַ֥יִל בַּכֹּ֖חַ לַעֲבֹדָ֑ה
NAS: and their relatives [were] able men
KJV: and their brethren, able men
INT: and their brethren men able strength the service

 

1 Chronicles 26:9 

HEB: וְאַחִ֛ים בְּנֵי־ חָ֖יִל שְׁמוֹנָ֥ה עָשָֽׂר׃
NAS: and relatives, 18valiant men.
KJV: and brethren, strong men,
INT: and brethren men valiant eight teen

 

1 Chronicles 26:30 

HEB: וְאֶחָ֨יו בְּנֵי־ חַ֜יִל אֶ֣לֶף וּשְׁבַע־
NAS: 1700capable men,
KJV: men of valour, a thousand
INT: and his brethren men capable A thousand and seven

 

1 Chronicles 26:31 

HEB: בָהֶ֛ם גִּבּ֥וֹרֵי חַ֖יִל בְּיַעְזֵ֥יר גִּלְעָֽד׃
NAS: and men of outstanding capability were found
KJV: among them mighty men of valour at Jazer
INT: were found and men capability Jazer of Gilead

 

1 Chronicles 26:32 

HEB: וְאֶחָ֣יו בְּנֵי־ חַ֗יִל אַלְפַּ֛יִם וּשְׁבַ֥ע
NAS: and his relatives, capable men,
KJV: men of valour, [were] two thousand
INT: and his brethren men of valour thousand and seven

 

1 Chronicles 28:1 

HEB: וּֽלְכָל־ גִּבּ֥וֹר חָ֖יִל אֶל־ יְרוּשָׁלִָֽם׃
NAS: men, even all the valiant men.
KJV: and with the mighty men, and with all the valiant men, unto Jerusalem.
INT: all men the valiant at Jerusalem

 

2 Chronicles 13:3 

HEB: בָּח֖וּר גִּבּ֥וֹר חָֽיִל׃ ס
NAS: men [who were] valiant warriors.
KJV: men, [being] mighty men of valour.
INT: young warriors valiant

 

2 Chronicles 14:8 

HEB: וַיְהִ֣י לְאָסָ֗א חַיִל֮ נֹשֵׂ֣א צִנָּ֣ה
NAS: had an army of 300,000
KJV: And Asa had an army [of men] that bare
INT: become and Asa were valiant bearing targets

 

2 Chronicles 14:8 

HEB: אֵ֖לֶּה גִּבּ֥וֹרֵי חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: all of them were valiant warriors.
KJV: all these [were] mighty men of valour.
INT: another warriors were valiant

 

2 Chronicles 17:2 

HEB: וַיִּ֨תֶּן־ חַ֔יִל בְּכָל־ עָרֵ֥י
NAS: He placed troops in all the fortified
KJV: And he placed forces in all the fenced
INT: placed troops all cities

 

2 Chronicles 17:13 

HEB: מִלְחָמָ֛ה גִּבּ֥וֹרֵי חַ֖יִל בִּירוּשָׁלִָֽם׃
NAS: and warriors, valiant men,
KJV: mighty men of valour, [were] in Jerusalem.
INT: and warriors men of valour Jerusalem

 

2 Chronicles 17:14 

HEB: וְעִמּוֹ֙ גִּבּ֣וֹרֵי חַ֔יִל שְׁלֹ֥שׁ מֵא֖וֹת
NAS: and with him 300,000 valiant warriors;
KJV: and with him mighty men of valour three
INT: with warriors valiant three hundred

 

2 Chronicles 17:16 

HEB: אֶ֖לֶף גִּבּ֥וֹר חָֽיִל׃ ס
NAS: and with him 200,000 valiant warriors;
KJV: thousand mighty men of valour.
INT: thousand warriors valiant

 

2 Chronicles 17:17 

HEB: בִּנְיָמִ֔ן גִּבּ֥וֹר חַ֖יִל אֶלְיָדָ֑ע וְעִמּ֛וֹ
NAS: Eliada a valiant warrior,
KJV: a mighty man of valour, and with him armed men
INT: Benjamin man of valour Eliada with

 

2 Chronicles 24:24 

HEB: נָתַ֨ן בְּיָדָ֥ם חַ֙יִל֙ לָרֹ֣ב מְאֹ֔ד
NAS: Indeed the army of the Arameans came
KJV: For the army of the Syrians came
INT: delivered their hands the army great A very

 

2 Chronicles 25:6 

HEB: אֶ֛לֶף גִּבּ֥וֹר חָ֖יִל בְּמֵאָ֥ה כִכַּר־
NAS: also 100,000 valiant warriors
KJV: mighty men of valour out of Israel
INT: thousand warriors valiant hundred talents

 

2 Chronicles 26:11 

HEB: וַיְהִ֣י לְעֻזִּיָּ֡הוּ חַיִל֩ עֹשֵׂ֨ה מִלְחָמָ֜ה
NAS: had an army ready
KJV: Moreover Uzziah had an host of fighting
INT: had Uzziah an army ready battle

 

2 Chronicles 26:12 

HEB: הָאָבוֹת֙ לְגִבּ֣וֹרֵי חָ֔יִל אַלְפַּ֖יִם וְשֵׁ֥שׁ
NAS: of the households, of valiant warriors,
KJV: of the mighty men of valour [were] two thousand
INT: of the fathers men of valour thousand and six

 

2 Chronicles 26:13 

HEB: מִלְחָמָ֖ה בְּכֹ֣חַ חָ֑יִל לַעְזֹ֥ר לַמֶּ֖לֶךְ
NAS: their direction was an elite army of 307,500,
KJV: war with mighty power,
INT: war power great to help the king

 

2 Chronicles 26:17 

HEB: שְׁמוֹנִ֖ים בְּנֵי־ חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: priests of the LORD, valiant men.
KJV: of the LORD, [that were] valiant men:
INT: eighty men valiant

 

2 Chronicles 28:6 

HEB: הַכֹּ֣ל בְּנֵי־ חָ֑יִל בְּעָזְבָ֕ם אֶת־
NAS: all valiant men,
KJV: day, [which were] all valiant men;
INT: all men valiant had forsaken the LORD

 

2 Chronicles 32:21 

HEB: כָּל־ גִּבּ֥וֹר חַ֙יִל֙ וְנָגִ֣יד וְשָׂ֔ר
KJV: all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders
INT: every mighty of valour commander and officer

 

2 Chronicles 33:14 

HEB: וַיָּ֧שֶׂם שָֽׂרֵי־ חַ֛יִל בְּכָל־ הֶעָרִ֥ים
NAS: Then he put army commanders
KJV: captains of war in all the fenced
INT: put commanders army all cities

 

Ezra 8:22 

HEB: מִן־ הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ חַ֣יִל וּפָרָשִׁ֔ים לְעָזְרֵ֥נוּ
NAS: from the king troops and horsemen
KJV: of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen
INT: from the king troops and horsemen to protect

 

Nehemiah 2:9 

HEB: הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ שָׂ֥רֵי חַ֖יִל וּפָרָשִֽׁים׃ פ
NAS: with me officers of the army and horsemen.
KJV: captains of the army and horsemen
INT: now the king officers of the army and horsemen

 

Nehemiah 11:6 

HEB: וּשְׁמֹנָ֖ה אַנְשֵׁי־ חָֽיִל׃ ס
NAS: in Jerusalem were 468 able men.
KJV: threescore and eight valiant men.
INT: and eight men able

 

Nehemiah 11:14 

HEB: וַאֲחֵיהֶם֙ גִּבּ֣וֹרֵי חַ֔יִל מֵאָ֖ה עֶשְׂרִ֣ים
NAS: and their brothers, valiant warriors,
KJV: mighty men of valour, an hundred
INT: and their brethren men of valour an hundred twenty

 

Job 20:15 

HEB: חַ֣יִל בָּ֭לַע וַיְקִאֶ֑נּוּ
NAS: He swallows riches, But will vomit
KJV: He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again:
INT: riches swallows again

 

Job 21:7 

HEB: גַּם־ גָּ֥בְרוּ חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: on, also become very powerful?
KJV: become old, yea, are mighty in power?
INT: also become very

 

Psalm 18:32 

HEB: הָ֭אֵל הַמְאַזְּרֵ֣נִי חָ֑יִל וַיִּתֵּ֖ן תָּמִ֣ים
NAS: who girds me with strength And makes
KJV: that girdeth me with strength, and maketh
INT: the God girds strength and makes perfect

 

Psalm 18:39 

HEB: וַתְּאַזְּרֵ֣נִי חַ֭יִל לַמִּלְחָמָ֑ה תַּכְרִ֖יעַ
NAS: For You have girded me with strength for battle;
KJV: For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle:
INT: have girded strength battle have subdued

 

Psalm 33:16 

HEB: נוֹשָׁ֣ע בְּרָב־ חָ֑יִל גִּ֝בּ֗וֹר לֹֽא־
NAS: by a mighty army; A warrior
KJV: by the multitude of an host: a mighty man
INT: saved A mighty army A warrior is not

 

Psalm 60:12 

HEB: בֵּֽאלֹהִ֥ים נַעֲשֶׂה־ חָ֑יִל וְ֝ה֗וּא יָב֥וּס
NAS: we shall do valiantly, And it is He who will tread down
KJV: we shall do valiantly: for he [it is that] shall tread down
INT: God shall do valiantly who will tread

 

Psalm 62:10 

HEB: אַל־ תֶּ֫הְבָּ֥לוּ חַ֤יִל ׀ כִּֽי־ יָנ֑וּב
NAS: If riches increase,
KJV: in robbery: if riches increase,
INT: not vainly riches If increase

 

Psalm 73:12 

HEB: ע֝וֹלָ֗ם הִשְׂגּוּ־ חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: they have increased [in] wealth.
KJV: they increase [in] riches.
INT: and always have increased wealth

 

Psalm 76:5 

HEB: כָל־ אַנְשֵׁי־ חַ֣יִל יְדֵיהֶֽם׃
NAS: And none of the warriors could use
KJV: and none of the men of might have found
INT: and none of the men of the warriors his hands

 

Psalm 84:7 

HEB: מֵחַ֣יִל אֶל־ חָ֑יִל יֵרָאֶ֖ה אֶל־
NAS: from strength to strength, [Every one of them] appears
KJV: from strength to strength, [every one of them] in Zion
INT: strength before to strength appears before

 

Psalm 108:13 

HEB: בֵּֽאלֹהִ֥ים נַעֲשֶׂה־ חָ֑יִל וְ֝ה֗וּא יָב֥וּס
NAS: we will do valiantly, And it is He who shall tread down
KJV: we shall do valiantly: for he [it is that] shall tread down
INT: God will do valiantly who shall tread

 

Psalm 118:15 

HEB: יְ֝הוָה עֹ֣שָׂה חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: of the LORD does valiantly.
KJV: of the LORD doeth valiantly.
INT: of the LORD does valiantly

 

Psalm 118:16 

HEB: יְ֝הוָה עֹ֣שָׂה חָֽיִל׃ 
NAS: of the LORD does valiantly.
KJV: of the LORD doeth valiantly.
INT: of the LORD does valiantly

 

Proverbs 12:4 

HEB: אֵֽשֶׁת־ חַ֭יִל עֲטֶ֣רֶת בַּעְלָ֑הּ
NAS: An excellent wife is the crown
KJV: A virtuous woman [is] a crown
INT: wife an excellent is the crown of her husband

 

Proverbs 31:10 

HEB: אֵֽשֶׁת־ חַ֭יִל מִ֣י יִמְצָ֑א
NAS: An excellent wife, who
KJV: Who can find a virtuous woman?
INT: wife an excellent who find

 

Proverbs 31:29 

HEB: בָּ֭נוֹת עָ֣שׂוּ חָ֑יִל וְ֝אַ֗תְּ עָלִ֥ית
NAS: have done nobly, But you excel
KJV: have done virtuously, but thou excellest
INT: daughters have done nobly you excel

 

Isaiah 5:22 

HEB: יָ֑יִן וְאַנְשֵׁי־ חַ֖יִל לִמְסֹ֥ךְ שֵׁכָֽר׃
NAS: wine And valiant men
KJV: and men of strength to mingle
INT: wine and men and valiant mixing strong

 

Isaiah 43:17 

HEB: רֶֽכֶב־ וָס֖וּס חַ֣יִל וְעִזּ֑וּז יַחְדָּ֤ו
NAS: and the horse, The army and the mighty man
KJV: and horse, the army and the power;
INT: the chariot and the horse the army and the mighty together

 

Jeremiah 48:14 

HEB: אֲנָ֑חְנוּ וְאַנְשֵׁי־ חַ֖יִל לַמִּלְחָמָֽה׃
NAS: And men valiant for battle’?
KJV: ye, We [are] mighty and strong men
INT: we men valiant battle

 

Ezekiel 28:4 

HEB: עָשִׂ֥יתָ לְּךָ֖ חָ֑יִל וַתַּ֛עַשׂ זָהָ֥ב
NAS: You have acquired riches for yourself And have acquired
KJV: thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten
INT: and understanding have acquired riches acquired gold

 

Ezekiel 37:10 

HEB: עַל־ רַגְלֵיהֶ֔ם חַ֖יִל גָּד֥וֹל מְאֹד־
NAS: an exceedingly great army.
KJV: an exceeding great army.
INT: on their feet army great an exceedingly

 

Nahum 2:3 

HEB: מְאָדָּ֗ם אַנְשֵׁי־ חַ֙יִל֙ מְתֻלָּעִ֔ים בְּאֵשׁ־
KJV: is made red, the valiant men
INT: are red the warriors the valiant are dressed flashing

(From BibleHub)

 

So, what does the Hebrew word translated “virtuous” in the three verses that it is used to reference women typically mean? Well, it doesn’t mean “having or showing high moral standards” or “chaste,” which is the English dictionary definition of “virtuous.” This is a term of strength. It is a term denoting valor. King Lemuel’s mother is not telling him to go find a sexually pure woman; she is telling him to go find himself a strong, valiant one.