Aimee Byrd

Inside the word. Outside the box.

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

There seems to be a lot of concern and “I told you so’s” on social media this week over my trajectory. I find that an interesting word. At first, I was bothered by it as it is being used in the sense that I started off in a good place and now I’m headed to the danger zone. That all along, I’ve been deceiving everyone. I’m the devil in the shape of a woman, trying to take everyone with me on my trajectory.

But as I think about it, I am on a trajectory. That’s why complementarianism, as it’s defined in contemporary evangelicalism, can’t hold me. Women in their spaces can only grow in limited ways.

My trajectory is nothing less than communion with the triune God and all his beloved. My trajectory is the union of heaven and earth, Christ and his bride, behind the veil, joined with all who love the Son, the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:11).

Because, typologically speaking, the last man standing is a woman. I think of Christ’s words to his church/bride:

 “Your neck is like the tower of David, constructed in layers. A thousand shields are hung on it—all of them shields of warriors.”

Song 4:4

Perhaps we can learn more about how to speak to women, here. Maybe we can help men understand our trajectory. After all, she has the perspective of the tower. I write about this some in The Sexual Reformation:

Her neck is likened to a military structure.[1] We see the advantage of a tower throughout the Old Testament canon. As Carol Meyers explains, “Whether as an isolated structure in the field (Isa 5:2; Mic 4:9; Gen 35:21) or as the stronghold of a city (Judg 9:46–49; Neh 3:1; 12:39), a tower represents strength and protection.”[2] Meyers notes how we don’t ever read about an actual tower of David, the military commander extraordinaire, so this is more of an abstraction.[3] It would be the tower of towers. In this verse, this sweet nothing whispered to the bride before lovemaking on her wedding night associates her neck with top-notch military language: tower, David, a thousand shields, warriors. This is how the Groom sees her.

The word tower pops back up again in another wasf about the bride. Here he says that her neck is a tower of ivory, and her nose is “like the tower of Lebanon looking toward Damascus” (7:4). This Damascus reference is again alluding to military advantage, whether referring to an actual tower or to the mountains of Damascus being towering. Damascus was situated on a high plateau and was a “major military threat to Israel between the reign of Solomon and the Assyrian conquest in 732 B.C.E.”[4] Meyers continues regarding the military language used in Song 7:4: “The ‘pools’ in Hebron to which the woman’s eyes are likened are most likely artificial pools—reservoirs— constructed for military, not agricultural, purposes (Paul and Dever, 1973, pp. 127–43). And the ‘gate’ of Bat Rabbim is part of the military defenses of a city and also a public place, a place frequented by males (cf. Prov 31:23) and not by females.”[5] What is all this about? How does this challenge our own view of gender imagery?

We all know where I’m going. Well, I would hope so after all the harping I’ve done on Song 8:10:

I am a wall and my breasts like towers. So to him I have become like one who finds peace.

There she is, standing strong, using her own voice to describe herself as a wall. Now her breasts are towers. Something that is associated with male desire and motherly nurture is described as a militant force. And another plot twist: “The one to whom all the military allusions have been made secures the opposite of what they represent.”[6] In his eyes she finds peace. But that is just it. All this military language from the male world ascribed to the woman and her own appropriation of it goes back to what Anna Anderson says about our symbolic nature—the homecoming after the war. Woman is a type of the second order. Grasping this typology, really understanding it, changes how we see. Is not that the advantage of the tower? Perspective! Sight! What strength there is against enemies and temptation in the advantage of sight!

Peter implores husbands to treat their wives with honor, as they are the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7). Is this a contradiction? No, Peter is likely referring to the physical differences women have in strength, but mostly in conjunction to their resulting status in the world. Men throughout history have held their power over women, and Peter says, No, you are heirs together and your own prayers will be hindered if you treat your wife the way the world does. See her as Christ sees his bride. Her whole body and presence points you to true strength—in receiving the love of the Lord, you have the strongest advantage. Her very breasts point to your absolute dependence on her for life, just like the collective bride is absolutely dependent on Christ, who nurtures her by his Word and sacrament in his church. She sees. She feeds. She is a city on a hill (Matt. 5:14).

Her neck is a tower in this world. It holds the head and sets the eyes in the direction in which they will see. Her nose is a tower of Lebanon, for the church. It has the best vantage position—others have to align themselves with her to secure peace. And her breasts are towers. She has found peace in the eyes of her Beloved and is sharing her strength with her brothers and sisters, feeding them with the Word.

This is the church. Zion. The last woman standing.


[1] This reminds us of the military language saturated around the word helper/ ezer that is first used to describe women as man’s ezer (Gen. 2:18), and also used to describe God as Israel’s ezer (Ex. 18:4; Deut. 33:7, 26, 29; Pss. 20:2; 33:20; 70:5; 89:17; 115:9–11; 121:1–2; 124:8; 146:5; Hos. 13:9).

[2] Carol Meyers, “Gender Imagery in the Song of Songs,” HAR 10 (1986): 213, https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/159572290.pdf.

[3] 30. Meyers, 213.

[4] Meyers, 214.

[5] Meyers, 214.

[6] Meyers, 215.

9 thoughts on “My Trajectory

  1. Bill says:

    I’ve always had a simple paradigm in mind when I think about what a ‘weaker vessel’ is…

    I have a coal scuttle that I got as a white elephant gift that someone gilded, one Christmas season… I kept it; I found it very useful in my workshop, I can chuck and end cut of wood into it to clear it off my workbench; I use it to hold these pieces large enough they might find another use, until I can sort them and store them with my other lumber. But it’s also handy to use when I need to reach something from a high shelf-i can dump the few pieces of wood on the floor, flip it over, and f actually stand on it to reach the shelf. I’m not a small man, but there’s no danger this solid metal coal bucket won’t hold me up.

    But it’s not a vessel of honor. It’s a vessel of UTILITY.

    That metal coal scuttle is one kind of vessel…

    At a craft fair in Pennsylvania once, there was an artist who worked with the clay that is fired to make porcelain. This artist made beautiful objects, including several vases. I bought a delicate vase incorporating a rose in it, for my wife, that holds a single flower. A vessel of honor…but a vessel very different from my coal scuttle. Porcelain is pretty strong, though not like metal. and this narrow vessel has one use; it certainly would NOT make a good step stool! Not at all.

    Each vessel has its purpose. Women are made as ‘vessels of honor’… the primary focus of the verse.

    My wife is my glory. And I could describe many ways in which she is truly a ‘vessel of honor’! And my responsibility before God, as a husband to my one wife, for more than four decades, has been to know her well, and love her like God loves us; and a primary way to do that involves ‘nurturing’ her. in the priority–first-seminal relationship between human beings, that God ordained–the marriage relationship, men, created in the image of God, are called to walk worthy of our calling as husbands in the primary relationship we HAVE in life; the relationship with our wives; which mirrors our relationship with God, reflecting, or more accurately, REFRACTING His Love into our worlds, the places we walk out into, as citizens in a NEW KINGDOM wrought by a NEW COVENANT forged through the shedding of HIs Blood for us… to redeem us; to buy us back, to unite us to Jesus, where we become HIS BRIDE, collectively, and somehow, individually.

    I do believe that what God has ordained in that seminal relationship of all relationships between human beings; the relationship of the husband and wife, broadens. EVERY woman is created as a vessel of honor; I have a wife, and ‘mothers and sisters’ in the Body of Christ, and potential mothers and sisters in every other relationship I have with a woman…

    Thank you, Aimee, for bringing to clarity and reinforcing this basic truth-which I first heard from you in your book ‘Why can’t we be friends’…

    thank you for expanding on this, and showing me things I had not seen in the scriptures, the expand on and further elevate the glory God designed women to reveal-especially as those who are created with ‘sacred spaces’ where life is nurtured for months, until that new life can survive outside the womb. that’s a HUGE ‘WOW” in God’s fascinating design of us (and an area I am very familiar with, having worked specifically in that field in medicine; the process of God’s shaping of us in the womb is fascinating and wondrous-we are truly ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ as the Psalmist reminds us!).

    Yes-why can’t we be friends–as brothers and sisters in the Lord? Why can’t we set our minds to focus on what God says in His Word, about each other, and about His Design for us, as we seek to live in communion with God, and in the ‘communion of the saints’ with one another, that He created us to FIND OUR DELIGHT IN IN LIFE?

    we are made in HIS IMAGE, and designed to FLOURISH in COMMUNITY, not ISOLATION.

    If we haven’t learned anything else from two years of a global pandemic; we certainly have been TAUGHT BY OUR SOVEREIGN GOD, how ‘isolation’ is the OPPOSITE OF FLOURISHING as human beings!

    There is much more that could be said.

    I’ve always seen this biblical view, calling us to regard ‘woman’ as the ‘vessel of honor’ and the ‘glory of man’… I think it’s broader than the husband wife relationship; I’ve lived through most of seven decades; long enough to have gained wisdom from walking with God from my earliest years.

    God warns women against a focus on what is secondary, in a way that disregards her primary honor–the inward adornment of a creature made to show the beauty of God in her image; God warns men in the same passage, against the tendency of men to raise their hands not to God, in honor of Him, but in opposition to one another… men can lift their open hands to God in prayer, or their closed hands in combat against each other.

    The MINDSET of someone who DISREGARDS the FOCUS ON HONOR iand takes a comand Peter gives us, ignores it, and distorts it into meaning the REVERSE-and calls men to DISHONOR women, has taken the Word of God the way the enemy did, during the temptation of Jesus, twisting it to mean something else entirely… and that is just plain wrong.

    Those who IGNORE not just the TONE but the plain command Paul gives to HONOR half the human race, have earned the right to reap the fruit of what they sow, and should be disregarded and rebuked for dishonoring what God has plainly honored in His Word.

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  2. Chris C says:

    Talk about worries about trajectories! The last man standing is a man (Christ)…with his bride!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aimee Byrd says:

      Ah yes, the Total Christ: Christ and his church! I love that truth and write about this in the book. The union of Christ with his bride! And so he points us to her, “Who is this, coming up from the wilderness…how beautiful you are my darling”…and there she is radiating his glory, “Who is this, who shines like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awe-inspiring as an army with banners?” My analogy is pointing to this very union, the last woman standing, the picture of the bride of Christ in union with him, “coming down out of heaven from God.” She stands because of him. We beckon one another to him! You’re missing my point of the typology and corporate identity of the bride. Our trajectory. Our telos. In no way do I want her to overshadow Christ. Our radiance is a reflection of him. But he does bid us to look at her in all her glory, as it is a picture of his glory and his love for her.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Sam Powell says:

    Then there’s the woman that yeeted a millstone off the tower onto Abimelech’s head (I learned a new word) – along your same theme here.
    Abimelech, the one who usurped authority and sought to be a king in Israel, is stopped by a woman and a millstone.
    He saw the implications and said to his armorbearer “Please cut off my head lest my enemies say “he was killed by a woman”…
    The last was standing was the woman with the millstone…
    There is a lot here, it seems to me –
    I haven’t read your book yet, but it is on my list.,..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. annaandbrent says:

    Aimee, I think that your take on 1 Peter 3:7 is exactly right. That verse is always distorted among the patriachialists to indicate an ontological weakness that included a woman’s rational and emotional being. To this, Susan Foh added her ethical weakness. But Karen Jobes in her 1 Peter commentary says exactly what you have said. Because of a woman’s physical weakness, her voice in society is weaker, which is a call to Christian men to live counter-culturally, elevating her as a joint-heir of Christ himself and all that he has obtained for us through his death and resurrection. So 1 Peter 3:7 has a meaning opposite of that ascribed to it by the patriachialists. 1 Peter 3:7 is a confrontation, not an exaltation, of patriarchy.

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  5. John Summers says:

    On 1 Peter 3:7 – this is where I struggle when Theological Interpretation of Scripture methods are used in such a way that they seem to stray from original meaning/context. I suppose I could be accused of being an ignorant biblicist. But when Aimee says above, “Peter says . . . her very breasts point to your absolute dependence on her for life,” I immediately ask, “Was Peter really thinking about breasts when he wrote this?” Now obviously, we can’t get inside the mind of the author – but did Peter really mean for me to look at my wife’s breasts when he wrote 1 Peter 3:7? I mean, he had Song of Solomon to refer to – why didn’t he just quote it if that was his point? I dunno.

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    1. annaandbrent says:

      Hi, John. I do think Peter’s reference to Sarah comes loaded with the backstory. There is no doubt that Sarah was extremely beautiful. And that her beauty evoked desire. She is taken into royal harems twice as an elderly woman. Peter’s passage highlights that Sarah’s beauty was made to reflect something greater than herself, an imperishable beauty. Aimee is saying that the woman’s typology points to the (imperishable) church, Zion, mentioned in 1 Peter 2:6, and an imperishable inheritance kept in heaven (1:4). So I don’t think it is a stretch to say that your wife should reflect something unfading and eternally glorious to you, which she is best able to do if she hopes in God, directing your eyes to the story he is telling through her outward and inward beauty. Consider Psalm 50:1-2, “The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth, from the rising of the sun to where it sets, From Zion, perfect in beauty.”
      God shines forth.

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      1. John says:

        Anna,

        You may very well be right. My only point is that it is not clear to me yet from the text itself that Peter is thinking about all the backstory in the manner mentioned when he writes. And while I do not believe that original authorial intention exhausts the meaning of a passage, it is a factor that we should consider when exegeting passages – contra what the literary critics think these days. I love biblical theology. But, in my view, biblical theology can easily leave its moorings in progressive revelation and run into something quite different – even with all the imaginative power it has for biblical interpretation. One only has to look at some scholars’ papers in the area to see how it can easily turn into intertextuality gone crazy. I am not suggesting that Aimee’s presentation has done so – I have not read her new book. All I am saying is that it can very easily do so and I’m not yet convinced that the exhaustive biblical theology of womanhood is on Peter’s mind when he writes. And, this brings up questions in my mind as to the right meaning of 1 Peter 3:7.

        Blessings,

        John

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  6. Andrew Bartlett says:

    “Peter implores husbands to treat their wives with honor, as they are the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7).”
    But that is not what Peter actually wrote. Here’s how I tried to explain it on p106-107 of ‘Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts’ (IVP, 2019):
    “Many versions follow a tradition of translation of 3:7 which contains a mistake. For example, the NIV says: ‘Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.’ This translation appears to make two points: the first point is that husbands should be considerate; in the second point the idea of ‘respect’ is somehow linked, paradoxically, to the wife being ‘the weaker partner’. Compared with the Greek, this is a muddle. In the Greek we can usefully distinguish three elements in what Peter writes in this part of verse 7, which can be translated as follows (with numbers added for clarity):
    [1] the men [that is, husbands] in the same way
    [2] dwelling with [them] according to knowledge as with a weaker vessel the female,
    [3] showing [them] honour as also co-heirs of the grace of life.
    Unlike most English versions, NASB translates verse 7 correctly: ‘You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.’

    So Peter’s three points here, leading up to what he says about prayer, are as follows:
    [1] Husbands should behave in the same way as previously stated for household slaves (2:18–25) and wives (3:1–6), that is, in a humbly submissive way.
    [2] Husbands should live with their wives in a way that is considerate of their wives’ being less strong than they are.
    [3] Husbands should honour their wives, who are not in a subordinate position but who are equal with their husbands in having the high standing of being heirs of God’s gift of life.”

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