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It is About Strength

I happened upon a copy of Edith Deen's Wisdom from Women in the Bible and found a chapter "Radiance in Daughters: Grace and Beauty."  Building off of Psalms 144:12 Deen lays out an essay that highlights the major problems with much of Biblical interpretation and Christian church application of such interpretations.

For those unfamiliar the verse says :" May our sons be in their youth like plants full grown, our daughters like pillars cut for the structure of a palace."

Even at first glance it is apparent what theme connects those two phrases.  Yet, for Deen, and dozens of commentary writers (especially the Pulpit Commentary), the section about daughters is referring to issues of loveliness, grace and beauty.

Barne's Notes says of the sons they are to be "stout, strong, vigorous, well-formed, even in early life; that they may not be stunted in their growth, but be of full and manly proportions" and of the daughters "the idea of grace, symmetry, fair proportions: that on which the skill of the sculptor is most abundantly lavished."

Both elements of the verse address strength.   Attempts to define the meaning as having lovely and well-proportioned daughters (yes, that was one interpretation!) falls short, as do attempts to say that the writer would look to the artistic values of Egypt or Greece to define a daughter of Israel.

What does a pillar do?  It holds up the roof, it supports the superstructure, and it may do so unseen or hidden out of sight. It is, however, crucial to the soundness of the building.  Some translate this as "cornerstone" which adds additional nuances because a cornerstone is unconcerned about looks but is vastly crucial to building stability.  A cornerstone was the most important piece in the building because it determined the straight lines of the walls and without those the building, and its roof, would collapse.  It was often hidden as well, unseen, forgotten about but so important. 

So, I do not believe that it is accurate to translate this as some paen to having beautiful daughters but having daughters who are strong, capable, and steadfast - just like the pillars that would be used in a palace because a ruler would want nothing but the best keeping his roof steady.

In a society that is today vastly concerned with vapid externals of looks and appearance to continue to translate this couplet in such a shallow manner is to do a dis-service to young women.  It is more important that they be strong, steady, and solid in their faith than pleasing to the eye.  It is the difference between being "eye candy" and "rock solid".  


Noel Brooks: A Life Shining and Burning, 1914-2006



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