Eve's name in Hebrew means "life." She is called Chavvah (in the Septuagint, Eva; in the Vulgate, Heva because she is the mother of all the living (Gn 3:20). Her initial appearance in the Hebrew Scriptures is one of beauty, goodness, wisdom, and life.... The rabbinic writings praise the beauty and adornment of Eve while commenting on Genesis 2:22: "The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from man." For example, Rabbi Chama ben Chanina (260 C.E.) wrote that certainly God first clothed her (Eve) with twenty-four precious decorations (those which describe the women of Israel in Isaiah 3:18-24) and then God brings her to the man. Therefore the Lord through the mouth of Ezekiel applies the following (which was originally addressed to the prince of Tyre) to her:
In Eden, the garden of God, you were, and every precious stone was your covering [carnelian, topaz, and beryl, chrysolite, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, garnet, and emerald]; of gold your pendants and jewels were made, on the day you were created (Ezk 28:13).
You are stamped with the seal of perfection, of complete wisdom and perfect beauty (Ezk 28:12; cf. Genesis Rabbah 18, 1 and 2, 22 and the Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 75a).
Later Jewish writings contrast Eve's disobedience with the fidelity and obedience of the Israelites to God on Mount Sinai.... In the New Testament, Eve is never mentioned in the Gospels. Adam is mentioned only in Luke's genealogy (Lk 3:38). Eve is mentioned in two Pauline writings:
"For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God, since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts may be corrupted from a sincere [and pure] commitment to Christ " (2 Cor 11:2-3).
"For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Further, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. But she will be saved through motherhood, provided women persevere in faith and love and holiness, with self-control" (1 Tm 2:13-15).
Both passages emphasize the negative aspects of Eve's role in salvation history. Early Christian writers will contrast Eve's disobedience with Mary's obedience. However, it is only through the comprehensive reading of all texts of the First Testament that we will fully appreciate the greatness of Israel's first mother, Eve, the mother of the living.
Eve and Mary
Parallels are seen between Mary's dialogue with Gabriel and Eve's dialogue with the serpent (Gn 3:17, Lk 1:28-35). The text of Genesis 3:15 is also compared with the scene of Mary at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:25-28a).... One could view the process of salvation history from Eve to Mary as a double movement: first the breaking up of the human race into many disparate individuals, and then the gradual concentration of all expectations of salvation in the Messiah born of Mary, the Mother of God. All the eminent women in the Old Testament are concrete and partial realizations of the primal mother from ancient times (Eve) who perdures and extends herself in them. As the new Adam extends himself in the "Mystical Body" of Christ (the ecclesial community of the new People of God), so also does Mary represent all those "children of God, once dispersed, but now brought together" by her Son.
Jesus' words on the cross, "There is your mother" (Jn 19:27), may point to the popular etymological explanation of Eve's name in Genesis 3:20: "The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living." Just as the Church is "the Jerusalem above ... our mother" (Gal 4:26), so also is Mary the mother of believers, who, at the cross, were concretely present in the person "of the disciple whom Jesus loved."
God's loving-kindness for humanity continues with the call of Abram and extends throughout the
two testaments in the vocation stories of the followers of Abraham and Sarah.
Abraham is the archetype for responding in faith to God; together with Sarah, this patriarch
responds to the divine initiative. Through him God promises the future of the People of God.
The testing of Abraham's faith is an important pedagogical and spiritual model for our own
pilgrimage and our growth in faith. He was chosen and he freely
responded to Divine Providence, to salvation, and to the future of a
People. Abraham is rightly called "our Father in faith."
It is Sarah, Abraham's wife, who brings the promise to fruition and helps Abraham to live out
his faith in God. Sarai, the beautiful and dominant wife of Abraham, has her name changed by
God thereby signifying her election and vocation to be the mother of Isaac and the mother of
believers. Her story commences in Genesis 12 and ends with her burial in the cave of
Machpelah (Gn 23:19; 25:10; 49:31).
In the Bible she is described as beautiful, generous in hospitality, faith-filled and gifted with a
sense of humor! The New Testament Epistles mention her four times (Rm 4:19; 9:9; Heb
11:11; and 1 Peter 3:6). These passages show how God worked through her to bear a son despite
her barrenness; she is the believing wife and mother of the promise; she is also compared to
the heavenly Jerusalem (Gal 4:21-30). Her faith and her obedience are extolled in Hebrews
11:11 and 1 Peter 3:6, respectively. Sarah initiates the series of matriarchs of the Hebrew
Scriptures (Rebekah and Rachel).
God's loving-kindness for humanity continues with the call of Abram and extends throughout the two testaments in the vocation stories of the followers of Abraham and Sarah.
Abraham is the archetype for responding in faith to God; together with Sarah, this patriarch responds to the divine initiative. Through him God promises the future of the People of God. The testing of Abraham's faith is an important pedagogical and spiritual model for our own pilgrimage and our growth in faith. He was chosen and he freely responded to Divine Providence, to salvation, and to the future of a People. Abraham is rightly called "our Father in faith."
It is Sarah, Abraham's wife, who brings the promise to fruition and helps Abraham to live out his faith in God. Sarai, the beautiful and dominant wife of Abraham, has her name changed by God thereby signifying her election and vocation to be the mother of Isaac and the mother of believers. Her story commences in Genesis 12 and ends with her burial in the cave of Machpelah (Gn 23:19; 25:10; 49:31).
In the Bible she is described as beautiful, generous in hospitality, faith-filled and gifted with a sense of humor! The New Testament Epistles mention her four times (Rm 4:19; 9:9; Heb 11:11; and 1 Peter 3:6). These passages show how God worked through her to bear a son despite her barrenness; she is the believing wife and mother of the promise; she is also compared to the heavenly Jerusalem (Gal 4:21-30). Her faith and her obedience are extolled in Hebrews 11:11 and 1 Peter 3:6, respectively. Sarah initiates the series of matriarchs of the Hebrew Scriptures (Rebekah and Rachel).
Sarah and Mary
Sarah's only appearance in the reading of the liturgy for masses in honor of the Virgin is in the Mass called "The Blessed Virgin Mary, Chosen Daughter of Israel." This mention of Sarah points to Mary's continuity with the great matriarch who through faith overcomes barrenness. Mary conceives Jesus because of her faith. Sarah's barrenness is ended with the "Lord" saying to Abraham, "Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do? At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a son" (Gn 18:14). Mary is told something similar by Gabriel, the messenger of God: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God ... for nothing will be impossible for God" (Lk 1:35, 37).
Mary has Sarah's trait of generous hospitality seen in her visit to Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-45). Mary is also blessed by God with a son despite the problem of her status as a virgin. She also is a model in faith seen throughout her whole life in the few events recorded about her in the New Testament.
Rebekah is the second matriarch of Israel. She is described in Genesis 24:16: "The girl was very beautiful, a virgin, untouched by man." Her story is the conclusion of the Abraham saga.
She is the most clever and authoritative of the matriarchs, and yet she epitomizes womanly beauty and virtue, in her conduct (her virginity, her actions at the well), in her energetic speech, in her thoughtful courtesy, and in her self-assurance. " [See: David Noel Freedman, ed-in-chief., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol 5 (New York: Doubleday, 1992) 629.]
Rebekah as a woman of Israel, in fact the mother of Jacob who is later called Israel, is presented as virgin the first time she is mentioned in Genesis. As her story continues and she is married to Isaac, we discover she is sterile up to the moment when she prays God to deliver her from this situation. She gives birth to Esau and Jacob, but has a special preference for Jacob. It is through her mediation and cleverness that she wins for Jacob the blessing of the aging and blind Isaac. Jacob has to flee from Esau, thus creating a separation of the mother from her preferred child.
In Paul's letter to the Romans the following theological insight displays Rebekah's role in the history of God's People, Israel:
... when Rebecca had conceived children by one husband, our father Isaac before they had yet been born or had done anything, good or bad, in order that God's elective plan might continue, not only by work but by his call she was told, "The older shall serve the younger" (Rm 9:10-12).
Paul's marvelous commentary on the messianic promise, carried on in a more dramatic way in the history of salvation through Jacob, emphasizes the free election of God through the persons of faith, the great matriarchs and patriarchs of the Genesis account.
Teresa Okure, a Nigerian scholar, perceived a connection between Rebekah's role and that of Mary by pointing out that Rebekah's action of helping Jacob was not ingenuity directed toward personal gain, but it was her cooperation with God in her own way to bring about realization of the divine plan, for God had revealed to her the destiny of her two children before they were born. The mother of Jesus cooperated with God in the final and greatest stage in salvation history.
[See: Teresa Okure (Nigeria), "Women in the Bible," With Passion and Compassion: Third World Women Doing Theology (New York: Maryknoll, 1988) 47-59.]
Rebekah and Mary
Mary's call comes to her through Gabriel and she is named the Virgin Mary. She, too, is eventually separated from her son both in the three days of searching for him and in the year or years of his active ministry. Her role in the messianic promise continues what had begun in her ancestors Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel.
Carol Meyers in her epilogue shows the importance of the biblical women such as Rebekah when she states that women who occasionally appear in leadership roles in the biblical record should not be viewed as exceptions but as representation of perhaps a larger group of publicly active females whose identity was lost because of the male-controlled canonical process; that the female prophets and wisdom figures could not have found their place in the canon if they were not part of an acknowledgment of female worth and authority.
Rebekah is a virgin at the time of her marriage to Isaac. Her single-mindedness, fidelity, and love of predilection for Jacob are qualities that perdure in the narratives about her. She is creative in her manner of helping Jacob to steal the blessing of the firstborn from Isaac (Gn 22:23; 24; 26:6-11; 27). Mary is a virgin in the accounts of Matthew (1:16; 18-25) and Luke (1:26-38). Her blessedness is extolled by Elizabeth (Lk 1:45). Her single-mindedness is seen in the events which relate her to her son Jesus on almost every occasion in which she is mentioned in the New Testament.
It is from Rachel that the most genuine of the Israelite tribes issue, Hence she is a woman of Israel par excellence since she is the mother of Joseph and Benjamin by Jacob. "The story of Rachel is a story of unparalleled love and devotion in the biblical narrative." [See: Anchor Bible, vol 5, 605.}
Matthew 2:17-18 sees the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah which speaks of Rachel's great sorrow: "A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more." This citation from Jeremiah 31:15 refers to the taking of Israel by Assyria in 722-21 BC. Rachel's death in giving birth to her second son (Gen.` 35:16-19). Matthew, who is clearly speaking of the birth of the Messiah Jesus, uses the text from Jeremiah to show that the Holy Family escapes the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem.
Rachel gains God's ear because she speaks of love and of family relationships. There is a healing of blood relationships because she not only speaks of love but has lived out of love and experienced it throughout her life. "Rachel's message to God is to relate to Israel with the love that comes from within the family, the holy family" [Neusner's words].
Rachel and Mary
Rachel overcomes her sterility through the help of God. She is clever in her stealing of the teraphim, or household gods, of Laban, her father; thereby securing her independence and the predominance of the heritage of Israel. Her sorrow is evident in the loss of Joseph, her son. This is recalled by Jeremiah, the prophet (Jr 31:15). She is the beloved bride of Jacob who labored extensively for her hand.
Mary's virginity is blessed through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, and she gives birth to Jesus. Matthew recalls the incident of Rachel's weeping when narrating the slaughter of the Innocents. Mary, like Rachel, is a sorrowful mother who endures the death of her son, Jesus on Calvary.
Leah is an important mother of the Israelites. She stems from Terah of Mesopotamia through Nahor and Bethuel. Her father is Laban, son of Bethuel and brother to Rebekah. Leah is the mother of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulus, and Dinah. The sons of her slave are Gad and Asher who are also reckoned as her sons. Leah through divine Providence is the ancestor of two great figures in Israel, namely, Moses and David. This gift to her is from God despite Jacob's preference for Rachel. The last mention of Leah is Genesis 49:31: "There Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried, and so are Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there, too, I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it had been purchased from the Hittites."
During the patriarchal age the marriage laws were not as strict as those prescribed in Leviticus 18:6-8. How does Leah fit into the Marian tradition? Through the fact that Judah, one of her sons, is the originator of the Davidic lineage. Though she is not mentioned in the genealogy of Matthew 1:1-17 there is a connection through Judah and through her unusual marriage to Jacob. She is the prolific mother of eight of the twelve tribes named after her sons.
Leah and Mary
Leah's fidelity to Jacob is among her strengths. She is the mother of ten sons, the "Leah tribes." Her devotedness to family life and parents is among her virtues. She is a person who is no stranger to self-sacrifice.
Mary gives birth to Jesus who is a descendent of Judah (a son of Leah). Mary likewise is faithful to her family throughout the hidden years and in the public life of Jesus. Her presence in John's Gospel at the foot of the Cross attests to her compassion, her suffering, and her love.