Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Prophetess (Wife of Isaiah)

Isaiah 8:3
2 Nephi 18:3

: 8th century BC

Isaiah's ministry was during the time when the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were divided. He began his ministry during the reign of King Uzziah of Judah and continued through three more, Jothan, Ahaz and Hezekiah. At the time that these scriptures were given Judah was under threat of attack from Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, King of Israel. Isaiah obviously did not have a high opinion of Pekah because he often refused to refer to him by name, simply calling him "Remaliah's son." Not long after these prophecies were given the children of Israel fell into captivity and the ten tribes were scattered.

Facts about her:
  • She was the wife of the prophet Isaiah;
  • She bore a son to Isaiah named Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means "destruction is imminent"
  • Isaiah refers to her as "the prophetess";
  • After Isaiah received the prophesy on Christ (chapter 7) he was commanded to write on a great roll with a "man's pen" (perhaps meaning that it was easy to be read) the prophecy the Lord had given him about "Maher-shalal-hash-baz" (referring to the destruction which is to come to the children of Israel from Assyria). After Isaiah wrote the prophesy he "went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz" (Isaiah 8:3);
  • In Isaiah 8: 18 Isaiah stated that "... I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and wonders in Israel..." His sons were living testaments to the coming of Jesus Christ and the future of Israel.
Speculations about her:

  • The scriptures don't specify but it is very likely that she was also the mother of Isaiah's other son Sherajashub, whose name means "a remnant shall return" ;
  • Since Isaiah was from upper class society it is likely that she was as well;
  • There is much controversy about the correct translation of the Hebrew word "almah" in Isaiah 7:14 which says, "Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Traditionally Christians have translated the word as "virgin" and have seen this scripture as a reference to Mary, the mother of Christ and his divine birth. Jews on the other hand claim that the word should not be translated as "virgin" but as "young woman" and doesn't denote a woman's sexual status. They claim that Isaiah's prophesy in 7:14 was either a referring to a random woman in the crowd that Isiah was preaching to or that he was referring to his own wife (perhaps indicating that Isaiah's first wife, the mother of Sherajashub, had died and that Isiah had remarried a young woman). This is a highly contested issue between Christan and Jewish scholars and there is a lot of literature on it. I think that this article gave a good concise explanation of both sides, even though it is a little skewed to the Jewish side.
My Thoughts:

It is so interesting to me that Isaiah, out of all the words he could have used to describe his wife, choose to call her "the prophetess." It may be that he was just referring to her status as the wife of a prophet but he may also have been referring to her ability to speak by the spirit and testify of truth. Throughout the scriptures it is not unusual for women who have the ability to receive and use the gift of prophecy to be called "prophetesses". James E. Talmage wrote, 
“No special ordination in the Priesthood is essential to man’s receiving the gift of prophecy. … This gift may be possessed by women also.” (Articles of Faith, 12th ed., Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1924, pp. 228–29.) 

In addition Bruce R. McConkie taught that, 

“Where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all of the gifts of the Spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness and which are brought to pass as a result of personal righteousness in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord. He is no respecter of persons nor of sexes, and he blesses those men and those women who seek him and serve him and keep his commandments.” (Ensign, Jan. 1979, p. 61.)

Seeing as Isaiah's wife was a very active participant the conception, birth, and naming of Maher-shalal-hash-baz, who was a living testament of Isaiah's prophecy on Christ given in chapter 7, I think that it is fair to assume that Isaiah was referring to her as a "prophetess" in the very essence of the word. She literally, by giving birth to her son, "brought forth" prophecy. Also, one can only imagine that people thought her son's name was strange even back then. I'm sure it made people ask questions and wonder why anyone would name their child "destruction is imminent." Every time she spoke her son's name she had the opportunity to testify of Christ and prophesy of the future.

In addition if Sherajashub (whose name "a remnant shall return" prophesied of the scattering and gathering of Israel) was also her son, then both of her sons had prophetic names that testified of the coming Savior and the future events that awaited the children of Israel. While we may not have a written record of any of the words she spoke, through her sons we have evidence of her daily dedication and faith in God. She lived and breathed her testimony just like her husband did.

Questions to think about:
  • Who would you consider to be a prophetess? How does one develop the characteristics of a prophetess?
  • How do you think she felt being married to a prophet like Isaiah who received much criticism and skepticism as he warned and chastised his people?
  • In what ways do you bear testimony of Christ in your daily life?
  • This is one of only a few instances where we learn anything about the wife of prophet. Still we know that most of the prophets must have wives. I challenge you, the next time you come across a prophet in your reading of the scriptures, to try to imagine what their wife must have been doing, feeling or experiencing at the time they were writing. How does that change your perspective?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

All the Thanks and Praise

"... if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice...if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

...And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you."

I'm feeling really grateful this Thanksgiving for the things for which I will never be able to repay God for, the blessings that I take for granted each day of my life but which shape the quality and rhythm of my life.

Grateful to be a woman,

to live in a land free from war

to have my basic needs provided

for knoweldge of the restored gospel

for a healthy body

for daily miracles

and God's tender mercies.

My heart is full.

How can I ever really thank Him ?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Scripture Power

Every morning my husband gets our family together for scripture study. Our children are still really young so it is hard to get them interested, but lately we've started singing the song "Scripture Power" before we start and it has really made a huge difference. Each of the kids has their own little set of scriptures and every morning we they get them off the shelf and sit on the couch. Then someone, usually me or my husband, sings the song and pretends be the "bad guy" while sneaking up on them. When we get close enough, and to the chorus, they scare us away by opening their scriptures and using their "scripture power". (We tell them that the scriptures only have power when they are open. If you never open your scriptures they don't have very much power for you. )

My three-year-old is really into this game. It is a great way to start our morning off because he is always excited about playing "stipture powder". A few weeks ago he took to carrying his scriptures around EVERYWHERE and wouldn't go to sleep unless his "scripture power" was tucked in next to him. It was pretty cute. Lately my 14 month-old has been getting into this song as well. Every morning when my husband mentions scriptures she will run over the shelf where we keep the scriptures, pulls one out and run to climb up on the couch. She has even started to try to sing along in a screechy voice and giggles uncontrollably as she holds her scriptures up. It is fun to see her already excited about scriptures!

Here is a video of us singing "Scripture Power". My husband was a little embarrassed I was going to post this on my blog, but I think he sings beautifully. Also, please forgive the silly "mommy voice" at the end. I hope that isn't what I really sound like :)

They don't listen at all while we read the scriptures but at least they are excited about getting them out. It is a step in the right direction, right?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Real Meaning of the Term "Help Meet"

One of the most frequently misunderstood terms in the bible is the term "help meet" in the book of Genesis. In Genesis 2:18 it says, "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him."

The common way in which the term "help meet" is interpreted is to mean that Eve, unlike the other beasts of the earth, was "appropriate for" or "worthy"  of Adam and was to be his helper or companion on the earth. While there are some really good things about this interpretation it doesn't do full justice to what the term "help meet" really means. The term, in it's original Hebrew, means something much more profound and powerful than just a "helper" and when we understand what God was saying to Adam we come to see Eve's role and the role of women on this earth in a much different light.

In Hebrew the two words that "help meet" are derived from are the words "ezer" and the word 'k’enegdo".

Ezer which is commonly translated as "help" is really a rich word with a much deeper meaning. In her book Eve and the Choice Made in Eden, Beverly Campbell explains,
“According to biblical scholar David Freedman, the Hebrew word translated thee into English as “help” is ezer. This word is a combination of two roots, one meaning “to rescue”, “to save,” and the other meaning “to be strong.” Just as the roots merged into one word, so did their meanings. At first ezer meant either “to save” or “to be strong,” but in time, said Freedman, ezer “ was always interpreted as ‘to help’ a mixture of both nuances.”
Diana Webb in her book Forgotten Women of God also clarifies this word by explaining,
"The noun ezer occurs 21 times in the Hebrew Bible. In eight of these instances the word means “savior”. These examples are easy to identify because they are associated with other expressions of deliverance or saving. Elsewhere in the Bible, the root ezer means “strength.... the word is most frequently used to describe how God is an ezer to man. "
For example the word "ebenezer" in 1 Samuel 7:12 is used to describe the power of God's deliverance. "Eben" means rock and "ezer" means "help" or "salvation". Ebenezer therefore means "rock of help" or "rock of salvation". The root "ezer" is the same word that God used to describe to Adam who Eve was. She was not intended to be just his helper or his companion, rather she was intended to be his savior, his deliverer.

The other part of the term "help meet" which is commonly translated as "meet for" or "fit for" is the word "k’enegdo". It is hard to know exactly what the word k’enegdo means because it only appears once in the entire Bible. Yet Diana Webb explained that,
"Neged, a related word which means “against”, was one of the first words I learned in Hebrew. I thought it was very strange that God would create a companion for Adam that was “against” him! Later, I learned that kenegdo could also mean “in front of” or “opposite.” This still didn’t help much. Finally I heard it explained as being “exactly corresponding to,” like when you look at yourself in a mirror."
Eve was not designed to be exactly like Adam. She was designed to be his mirror opposite, possessing the other half of the qualities, responsibilities, and attributes which he lacked. Just like Adam and Eve's sexual organs were physically mirror opposites (one being internal and the other external) so were their their divine stewardship designed to be opposite but fit together perfectly to create life. Eve was Adam's complete spiritual equal, endowed with an essential saving power that was opposite from his.

I've pondered a lot about this clarification of Eve's role and how it is that she has been given a saving power equal but opposite to Adam's saving power. As I've thought about it I realized that while women do much to help and assist men in their stewardship they have been given a stewardship that is uniquely theirs and which is every bit as important as men's stewardship.

Women are "saviors" to men by the fact that they give them life and nurture them towards the light of Christ. By conceiving, creating and bearing mortal bodies women make it possible for God's children to start on their mortal journey and have the opportunity to become perfected. Without women there would be no gateway into this world and no opportunity for progress or exaltation. In addition, by being willing to sacrifice ( their very lives if necessary) to bring children into this world women demonstrate the true meaning of charity. From the very first breath a child takes he or she has been the recipient of charity and unconditional love. This is a powerful gift that a mother gives her child and it is her love which first reminds the child of God and points them towards Christ. Each woman, regardless of her ability to give birth, is a savior to mankind when she loves men and nurtures a child closer to Christ.

Even Adam, whose physical body was not created by a daughter of Eve, was saved and delivered by a woman. For it was through a woman, Mary, that Jesus Christ came to conquer the bonds of death and sin and atoned for Adam's transgression. Without a woman to bear the body of Christ mankind would have been lost and fallen forever and Adam's work and purpose on the earth would have been meaningless. Mary was the gateway that made Christ's work possible and her nurturing the catalyst for his success. Even though Eve didn't give physical life to Adam she literally saved him from spiritual death by opening the way for the Savior and Redeemer to come into the world. Salvation, in the form of Christ, literally came to the earth through a woman.

This perspective on Eve is so powerful for me. It is so different from what we normally hear about her and about women's roles in the world. I love how Beverly Campbell concluded her remarks about the term "help meet", she said,
"Thus, it seems that through imprecise translation, our understanding of the powerful words used originally to describe Eve’s role have been diminished. As a result, our understanding or Mother Eve has also been diminished. Suppose we had all, male and female alike, been taught to understand Genesis 2:18 as something like the following, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a companion of strength and power who has a saving power and is equal with him.”"
I know that understanding the real meaning of the term "help meet" earlier in my life would have made a huge difference in how I understood my role and mission as a woman. I think that if I had caught the vision of who we are as women and what a marvelous stewardship the Lord has given us I wouldn't have wasted so many years and so much energy being angry that I couldn't have a man's stewardship. I realize now that true power come when men and women understand that they have been blessed with different gifts, abilities and stewardship's and truly work together as equal partners to help each other be successful. Men and women need each other and it is only when they are united, body, soul and mind, that God's work moves forth. We are nothing without each other and nothing without Christ.

“It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a companion of strength and power who has a saving power and is equal with him.”

How different our world would be if men and women really understood that!

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Good Guys" and "Bad Guys"

Lately my little three year old has been obsessed with "bad guys" and has been fascinated with violence.

Example #1: A few days ago we were watching the movie "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" and he wanted to watch the battle scene at the end (you know the one where the armor comes to life and takes on the Nazis) over and over again. He spent the next 24 hours telling me about how the bad guys "shooted" the other guys. How they "bonked da heads" and how they used their "swourds".

Example #2: My husband and I are pretty strict about not allowing toy weapons in to our home or watching or reading violent things. Obviously this hasn't stopped him because the other day he picked up one of the tomato stakes out of our garden and spent a good half hour thrusting it around and yelling "I kill you bad guy!"

Example #3: Whenever he is playing with a group of other little boys they ALWAYS end up playing some sort of shooting or fighting game-- even when there are no weapons to be had-- that involves "bad guys" and "good guys". They spend hours chasing each other around and taking turns being good and bad.

Example #4: In church on Sunday we were looking at the pictures of Christ on the cross and I mentioned that the "bad guys" had put Jesus on the cross and pointed out the Roman soldiers in the background. For the rest of church all he wanted to do was look at the picture of the "bad guys" and have me tell him about how they gave Jesus "owies" in his hands and feet.

I know that these things are fairly mild incidents but I have to admit they have sort of horrified me. I feel like my husband and I have been really, really careful about what we let him see and participate in and so to see him-- my pure, clean, perfect little boy --practicing these sort of violent things really terrifies me. How can I have already failed as a mother at three-years- old?!

Yet after praying and pondering on this sort of behavior, and getting over my initial feelings of horror and guilt, I realized something important.

In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" when it talks about gender it says, "By divine design, fathers are to... provide the necessities of life and protection for their families." It dawned on me that perhaps one of the reasons that my little boy is so interested in "bad guys" and in fighting against them is that there is a part of his eternal soul that feels the need to protect. Perhaps, just like little girls will play with a doll to practice their nurturing responsibilities, little boys will play "bad guys" and "good guys" to practice their protection responsibilities.

When I mentioned this idea to my husband a little light went on in his head. He told me, "Heather, you have no idea how strongly the need to protect is imprinted on men's souls. I don't ever leave this house without worrying about you and the children. Protection is constantly on my mind. It comes from somewhere deep." As we talked more about it we realized that by playing at "bad guys" and "good guys" our little boy is trying to figure out what is right, what is wrong, and what his role is in all of that-- even at three- years- old.

Seeing our boy's actions in this light has really changed the way we've started approaching his games of "bad guys" and "good guys". We see his play time as a way for my husband and I to teach him about what it means to be a righteous man and prepare him for his role as a husband and protector. Through playing with him we have the opportunity to teach him:

.... that there is no glory in violence....

.... that a man of God values life above all else....

.... the difference between protection and aggression....

....how to handle anger and hurt in a peaceful way....

.... good communication skills....

... that weapons are not "toys" and that to wield one is to carry a heavy responsibility....

... that taking a life, even if it is pretend, is a serious thing and is never something to be taken lightly....

... that what you think and do, even for entertainment, determines the state of your soul...

.... to recognize that each person is a child of God and has innate worth....

.... and that love is a more powerful weapon that hate.

Who knew that playing "bad guys" and "good guys" could be full of such powerful eternal lessons?

I still don't think that we will ever allow toy weapons in our home, but I guess the next time my little boy picks up a tomato stake and spends the afternoon "getting the bad guys" I'll try not to be too horrified. I'll try to see it as an opportunity to teach him about his role as a righteous man here on earth and how to fulfill it...

... just as long as he doesn't try to spear his sister with his tomato stake.