The Fall. The fall disturbed humanity’s relationship to God, thus, the relationships between humanity and nature, and man and woman were also disturbed. In Gen. 3:16 we read, “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be [against]1 your husband, and he shall rule over you.’” Prior to the Fall man and woman walked side-by-side, both reveling in the difference and similarities of each to the other. After the Fall, Eve was thrown into subjection to Adam, and Adam was placed over Eve. Neither of these positions is inherent in the creation, they are products of the fall.
“There can be no doubt that the condition of man as fallen from God is betrayed first and foremost by the fact that it is the condition of secret and open, conscious and unconscious, organized and unorganized shame at the relationship between man and woman; the condition in which one or other of the constituent elements in the order of this relationship is either over-emphasized or neglected, so that the whole order as such is lost” (Barth, III/i 309-11).
As Woman loses her freedom, so too does Man. Woman is no longer free to reign and rule creation alongside man, and man stands alone to wrestle against the earth. Relationships disintegrate. Chaos resumes. Shame reigns. God’s very creation: stained and distorted.
The Hope. Because this man and woman were made in the image of God, we can rest assured that the Fall does not have permanent effects upon this man and this woman or upon us as men and women. Even in the power of the Fall and the Curses the image remains, and it is the hope. Barth writes,
“…[humanity]2 may grasp and hold this hope because [humanity] is God’s image and likeness, and because [humanity] was originally blessed, and is still blessed in spite of the fact that the blessing has been turned into a curse…[and] God is faithful to Himself and work and Word; that the creation of man as male and female, and therefore in the image and likeness of God, is not overthrown by the episode of the fall, but remains…” (III/i 190).
In Gen. 15 we read, “‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’”(emphasis mine). The curse will not always be fact; chaos will be put in order; shame will not always reign. As God is faithful to His word and faithful to Himself, we know that his image, male and female, will be saved. Humanity will not be saved by their own doing or efforts, but solely by God’s desire for a restored relationship and a restored creation. And, in this restored relationship with God rests the hope of the restored relationship between man and woman.
The Glimpse in Proverbs 31. Rather than as a check list of what to look for in a woman or wife, we should look to the woman in Proverbs 31 for hope—the hope of full restoration: restoration of woman to God and the restoration of the relationship between man and woman. It is my contention that she is an expression of the hope for the reversal of the curse of Genesis 3. The hoped for reversal that would be completed in the coming Messiah—the Messiah to whom all of the Old Testament points. The poem would draw those who heard it back into the garden, when woman walked alongside man and they communed together in the presence of God, as co-vice-regents of the earth. The Proverbs 31 Woman is fighting a battle, not just keeping house. The warfare imagery throughout the poem leads us, the reader, to see a woman who is fighting against the chaos established by the fall. The Proverbs 31 Woman is pointing back to Eve, and at the same time pointing forward—through the chaos of the fall—to Christ.
She awakes early, and greets the near dawning sun; her arms are strong, she has full confidence of who she is—better yet, in her creation. She looks about the room; her feet hit the floor. She glances over her shoulder, and casts her glance—recognition intertwined with love—and she watches him sleep soundly. She stands, stretches, and walks to the closet door to remove the purple, silk robe from the door hook; she dons it. Tying the sash around her waist, her glance is drawn to the frost-covered window. She approaches the glass and presses her hand against the pane; winter is loosing its chilly breath upon the earth, she smiles. Hers is a warm house; the cold is suspended outside. Evidence of melt from the heat off her hand is left on the glass; she has left the room while he sleeps, restful.