Biblical Poetry, Continued by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

This is the 4th in a series of work I have been doing to translate passages of the bible into poetry that strips out the patriarchal overlays. You can read the previous ones here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

In this installment I have picked out some passages I really like but that I feel their power and beauty have been deeply hidden. I seek to reveal those hidden wisdoms.

To review; my usage of the 2 main names of divinity:

YHVH or LORD, I translate as Vibration.Being

EL or god, I translate as All-Potential Powers.

I discuss my reasons for these translations in my prior posts referenced above.

Genesis 3:6

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
 and that it was pleasant to the eyes,
and a tree to be desired to make one wise,
she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat,
and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
KJV (King James Version)

and the woman saw that the function of the tree
is for nourishment and that he is yearning to the eyes
and the tree was a craving to make calculations
and she took from his produce and she ate
and she gave also to the man with her and he ate
Benner Mechanical Translation[i]

When the woman saw the tree, she recognized herself
She recognized and remembered beauty and wisdom
She took its seeds within her in knowing wholeness
She gifted its seeds to her husband in knowing wholeness
MPV (Mystic Pagan Version – my own translations)

Note for Genesis 3:6 – the word for “food” in the KJV version of this passage is “maakal” (Strong’s 3978). The word used for to eat is “akal” (Strong’s 398). Both are built on the root word “kl” which means complete or whole and traditionally refers to how food or nourishment makes us whole.[ii] I would add that in the context of spirit, it is that essence or element that we fill ourselves with to achieve a sense of wholeness.  

Genesis 49:25

Even by the God of thy father,
who shall help thee;
and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that lieth under,
blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:

from the mighty one of your father,
he will help you,
and with Shaddai [my breasts] he will respect you,
presents of the sky from upon
the presents of the deep sea stretching our underneath
presents of the breasts and bowels.

The All-Potential Powers of your ancestors
Who watches compassionately over you
With nourishment from the dripping milk of the cosmos
And blessings from the misty cauldrons of the goddess Tiamat
Blessings of the breast, and the loving womb

Notes on Genesis 49:25: this passage had to have been a very old pre-biblical blessing. We don’t often see blessings that are clearly given by female divinity figures, or in this case, a divinity that has breasts and womb. Even in the conservative, male-centric King James Version the blessing is of the breast and the womb. The word for breasts is “shad.” To take this theme a step further, the phrase El Shaddai or Shaddai appears 48 times in the Bible. In English, El Shaddai is usually translated as “God Almighty” and Shaddai as “Almighty.” Sometimes they are translated as “God, the One of the Mountain.”[iii] Both are almost always referred to in scholarly discussions with the pronoun “he.” 

I have put the following two passages together because they speak to the same theme. One is a Psalm and the other a Proverb. I really like them because they both speak to the condition of our hearts. As some of you know I am an alaka’i of Aloha International. That is a spiritual guide of Huna or Hawaiian Adventure Shamanism. I love the lessons of Huna which foremost and foundationally remind us to keep a loving and open heart. Aloha not only means hello and good-bye, it means “the breath [ha] we all share,” and it means LOVE. Picture this, the Hawaiian people greet and part from each other which a statement of connection and love. The first principle of Huna is “the world is what you think it is.” The lesson behind this is that what is in our hearts will shape our experiences and ultimately our world. I believe that this is the lesson behind these biblical passages. (I have also included the New International Version for Proverb 4:23 because I think it is particularly beautiful.)

Psalm 37:4

Delight thyself also in the LORD;
and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Cherish thyself in harmony with Vibration.Being
And gifts will be returned as per the radiance of thy heart.

Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life. 

Above all else, guard your heart,
For everything you do flows from it.
 (New International Version)

Treasure your heart in lovingkindness,
For it is the wellspring of your life.



[ii] Benner, Lexicon; 146-147.

[iii] The Jewish Study Bible; 37.


Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a ShamanWhen Eve Was a Goddess, (now available in Spanish, Cuando Eva era una Diosa), and One Gods. In Ardor and Adventure, available in Spanish. Cuando Eva era una Diosa

My Problem with the “Proverbs 31 Woman” by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsIn my home, in my journals and notebooks, and in my office, I display proverbs and quotes of all kinds around me to inspire me to live meaningfully. Proverbs and fables from around the world are stacked on my bookshelves and bedside tables. I love reading what is called “wisdom literature” in the Christian Scriptures. But when I get to those final lines of the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, Proverbs 31 sets me on edge.

Proverbs 31 is a poem that begins with sayings of King Lemuel described as “an inspired utterance his mother taught him.” Lemuel’s mother instructs him to not spend his strength on women, to refrain from drinking and to defend the rights of the poor and needy. Verses 10-31, the ones I’ve heard most often read in church settings, follow that advice. They are an acrostic poem of verses that begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet to describe a noble wife. Instead of reciting the entire A-Z list (A is for adoring, B is for busy, C is for caring, D is for dutiful…), Christians will frequently read aloud only the verses selected below.

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

I’ll admit it–the woman described here does sound honorable and praiseworthy.   My problem with this poem has more to do with the way I’ve heard it used than its content. In all but one setting, I’ve heard these verses proclaimed as a model for the ideal woman or as a guide to virtuous living for young women.

My first concern about that is a common feminist criticism: Not all women aspire to be wives and mothers. Some of the poem’s statements could apply to all women, like verse 21: “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” But others are specific to marital domestic life, like verse 28 (above) and verse 15: “She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family.” Women without husbands and children cannot meet all Proverbs 31’s standards. And while family is of primary importance to many women, it is not the only area of a woman’s life that can provide her value and meaning.

I am also concerned that defining Proverbs 31 as a standard of womanhood communicates the idea that it is about women only. While there are references to tasks that have been traditionally gendered (women cook and sew, men take leadership roles outside the home), many of the qualities extolled here are commendable for adults of all genders. Strength, dignity, wisdom, and care are not gender-specific virtues. So why haven’t I heard this proverb set as an example for men, too?

My third concern about making this a guide to womanhood is that it seems to reinforce a standard of perfection. The Proverbs 31 woman is certainly industrious—no one can call her idle! But she also sounds exhausted. By my count, this woman does 23 things surpassingly, including buying fields, planting vineyards, making clothes and selling them. I’m concerned that when emphasizing the Proverbs 31 woman tells Christian women that they are not good, are not lovable, or are not enough until they meet this standard. For me, the message of the Christian gospel is about God’s radical, all-encompassing love for humanity in the face of our imperfection. While I do know some women with a healthy self-image, many are painfully aware that they do not meet some standard set for them. They could stand to be told more often that they are loved simply because they exist, not for what they do.

When I heard Proverbs 31 read at my Aunt Ruby’s funeral , I began to see something more meaningful in these words than an impossible standard for women to attain. The preacher quoted “She is worth far more than rubies” noting my beloved aunt’s name and her character. However, the message he preached that day wasn’t to set a standard of a good wife. It was to honor a woman who had lived a noble life. She was strong, dignified and wise. Her family knew she was blessed and that they were blessed by having her in their lives. She worshiped God and communicated her love of the Lord to successive generations.

When I heard Proverbs 31 spoken about my aunt, I began to find resolution to my concerns. In that setting, the poem was an affirmation of a life lived well, not an exhortation to perfection. Honoring someone is primarily about demonstrating love or respect to that person, not a list of qualities or accomplishments. Certainly, the person we admire may have qualities we seek to adopt to our own lives, but following their model involves more creativity and agency than reducing a poem like Proverbs 31 into a list of standards allows. Integrating those qualities into our own lives requires adapting their traits to our own circumstances and even rejecting some of our model’s qualities that don’t fit the unique vision of our lives that we (or God) have. While I admire the Proverbs 31 woman’s work ethic, I strive for a life with regular periods of rest and renewal.

Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or

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