What does God have to say about man and woman? Who did He create them to be?
I decided to study the words used in the Old Testament for man (see Part 1) and for woman, specifically using the Old Testament Hebrew because the Old Testament is where we find the roots, beginnings and original design of things.
So, here are six of the most common words for woman used in the Old Testament Hebrew. This study was enlightening to me, and I hope it is to you as well. You will not only see different aspects of womanhood, but also some of the progression of a woman’s development.
1. The Creation Woman: Adam (pronounced ah-dahm). This word refers to both male and female at times; but can also refer to mankind in general. It’s talking about a person from a creation or design point of view. God created this person in two primary ways: in the image of God, with value and dignity, and also finite (with limitations). It’s very important for a woman to realize she is created in the image of God but that she also has limits, by design.
2. The Sexual Woman: Neqebah (pronounced nek-ay-baw). The word, translated “female,” technically means “to be pierced.” This word is also used to mean “scrutinized” (pierced through with the eyes.) She is made to attract a man. God designed her to desire, pursue and consummate a sexual relationship with a man. She is that kind of person and she needs to be authenticated in this design. But she also needs to remember that in being a Sexual Woman she can abuse this and use her body in inappropriate ways.
3. The Feminine Woman: Ishshah (pronounced ish-shaw). This word for woman is a noun, but it comes from the root word idea for “soft or delicate.” This soft and delicate side of a woman is something that is very attractive, even magnetic to men. But part of what makes her attractive, her delicateness, like fine china, also makes her vulnerable to being broken or deeply hurt. Trying to make a woman tough when she is designed to be soft and delicate usually creates problems. Just because a woman is strong and capable does not mean that she doesn’t have this soft and delicate side that needs to be nurtured.
4. The Nurturing Woman: Rechem (pronounced rekh-em). One of the words used for woman in the Old Testament is the word “womb.” It is translated as the technical “womb” of a woman but also the woman herself, referring to that place or person of nurture. A baby is taken care of and given all that it needs to survive, grow and develop into a birthed baby. She will naturally invest herself in helping others get through difficulties and develop them. She will often be attracted to the wounded puppies of life, literal puppies sometimes, but also men who are like wounded puppies. While the nurturing part of her is God-given, she needs to be careful to not let nurture turn into enablement.
5. The Capable Woman: Chayil Ishshah (pronounced chah-yil + Ish-shah). This is the same word used for the soft, delicate woman, but is combined with a word that means strong and capable, and this word is used very selectively. It’s not used just in terms of what she can do; it’s also used regarding her character. It means someone who has a lifestyle or reputation for displaying both soft and delicate, and strong and capable. She is the Proverbs 31 woman who oversees the household, creatively helps with supporting the family, engages with others in the community and brings honor to her whole family. A mature, developed woman will have a good balance of being both soft and delicate, and strong and capable, without sacrificing one for the other.
6. The Praised Woman: Ishshah Halal (pronounced Ish-shaw + haw-lal). This too is a combination of words for “soft and delicate” and “praised.” This picture, combined with other New Testament commands, makes it clear that women were designed for praise and honor. Praise can be private but honor is always public. A woman is made to need praise and honor from the leading man in her life, whether that be a father or a husband. She is made to achieve this praise and honor by her actions. Without being given this from a father or husband, she will find herself unfulfilled, and often look for praise and honor from other, less significant men.
Three of these words for woman contain the idea of “soft and delicate,” and this is important for both men and women to remember. Our culture tends to not value this in a woman as much as they exploit it. Consequently, even Christian men and women tend to not value this part of women in a healthy and balanced way. Without embracing this part of God’s design, women will not be able to attain the full maturity God has for them.
Men and women have similarities in design as well as significant differences, yet both are uniquely designed by God. The more we understand these differences the better we will be at working together to achieve God’s mission.
 This idea was fascinating to me after reading a book by Bob Hicks titled, The Masculine Journey, where Mr. Hicks did a biblical study of the most common words for man in the Old Testament.