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TANATA is devoted to discussing the paradoxes and the mysteries of life, among which is the paradox of the coexistence of good and evil. “God is love,” John tells us. Evil exists, we would suggest, not because God is detached or unconcerned, but because free will exists which is required for true, unforced love to exist. Still, it is painfully hard to reconcile this paradox. We believe that all evil one day will be judged and destroyed, until then we must pray.

DANIEL 7:13-14

13 “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.

14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.

REVELATION 1:7

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

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Monday
Jan122009

A woman shall encompass a man ...

21  “Set up signposts, 
      Make landmarks; 
      Set your heart toward the highway, 
      The way in which you went. 
      Turn back, O virgin of Israel, 
      Turn back to these your cities. 

22  How long will you gad about, 
      O you backsliding daughter? 
      For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth— 
      A woman shall encompass a man.” (Jeremiah 31:21-22)

Welcome to a commentary on one of the most puzzling passages in all the scriptures.

A new thing. The Lord has created a new thing in the earth — a woman shall encompass a man. What does this mean? How is this arrangement that the Lord has promised to create involving a woman and a man … a new thing? What woman are we talking about? What man are we talking about? And what is the connotation of the word “encompass”? Would it be a new thing for a woman to encircle or surround a man? It would be if by encompassing a man this woman is giving birth to a man. Is the birth of a man what is implied here?

We’re reminded of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, when the Pharisee meeting secretly with Jesus asks the him what is in Jesus’ mind is required for salvation. Jesus tell Nicodemus that for a person to receive salvation he must be “born again.” This figurative statement by Jesus perplexes the religious ruler who wants to understand. Nicodemus asks, “Is it possible for a man to reenter his mother’s womb and be reborn?” But Jesus was speaking of spiritual rebirth, which, though not a physical birth, is just as tangible and real. To embrace Jesus and the life he offers is to be reborn on earth as a new creation … and to be a reborn soul for whom a place eternally has been reserved in paradise. 

 Is God being credited with creating in the earth a woman encompassing a man?

What happens in the earth when a woman encompasses a man?

This passage clearly appears to be one referencing Israel’s restoration: she has once more been made to be a virgin, and she has been set on the highway to Mount Zion, so her redemption draws nigh. The backsliding daughter, who is Israel, is being encouraged to stop wasting time, to turn her heart toward the Lord, to turn back to her cities to encourage them … so that she might witness this “new thing”: a woman surrounding a man in the earth.

Clearly several metaphors are at work in this passage.  

The commentary above is not far off the mark, we don’t believe. But it appears Jeremiah is delivering a second-advent messianic prophecy. While “encompass” or “surround” does not suggest conceiving, it does suggest deliverance of a baby from a birth canal. But we’re talking about a man and not a baby. So, how can a man proceed from a mother, a woman, who is beyond the age of having children, in the act of birth? You’ll recall Nicodemus wanted to know the same thing when Jesus spoke to him about being spiritually “born again.” Such a “birth” could happen literally and symbolically if the wife of God, Israel, not unlike Sarah, were to give “birth” in an advanced age to Jesus. What other “man” could the prophet have been referring to? A Messiah who appears on the scene for the first time in the last days after having been born of a woman who was not a virgin? 

God can and does perform symbolic events even as he performs literal ones: Jesus is described here as being delivered in a second virgin birth. Apparently, both Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Israel are being referenced here. Will Jesus be literally and symbolically reborn to Israel when he returns? That seems to us to be the correct interpretation. The broad metaphorical significance is very meaningful indeed. There are other verses which suggest that Jesus will be “born” to Israel, notably those which reference the husband-wife relationship God has with Israel.