Different cultures have different ways of understanding the genders. When it comes to femininity, they range from feministic self-sufficiency to effeminate, helpless, second-class citizenship. Both are unbiblical pictures. One seeks to create a dependent, weak (or effeminate) gender while the other reacts by painting an aggressive, non-gendered identity. In Scripture, God affirms the female gender attributes by reference to Himself in that they reveal aspects of His character.
Word pictures are used to describe the heart (or the emotional burden) of God. Isaiah 66:13 likens God’s comfort to the comfort of a mother. Isaiah 42:14 likens God’s pain and passion to that of a woman experiencing labor pains. Paul uses the same illustration for himself in Galatians 4:19. The woman’s ability to create through childbirth and the womb motif are used in Isaiah 66:9, Psalm 71:6, and Psalm 22:9, 10. Though a mother’s love is great, Isaiah 49:15 contrasts it with the love of God, extolling His compassion and lovingkindness above any human love for a child.
The Scripture testimony is not limited to human mothers but also uses maternal examples from the animal world. Deuteronomy 32:11 uses the motif of a mother eagle destroying her nest to teach her offspring to fly, while using her wings as a means of safety, protection, and forbearance. Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 describe Christ’s statement of God’s tender love to gather His children together like a mother hen. Not only highlighting the passion of protection and love, Hosea 13:8 likens God’s heart to the passion and fury of a mother bear that is bereaved of her cubs.
One of the clearest passages on ideal femininity is found in Proverbs 31. Here the traditional virtues of beauty, diligence, and wisdom are highlighted. A further look into the passage shows the woman to be entrepreneurial, embodying the characteristics of diligence, sacrifice, insight, intelligence, enterprise, initiative, innovation, and courage.
These pictures do not posit a passive gender, but one that is merciful, tender, and patient, as well as just, energetic, and strong. These characteristics are not exclusive to the female gender, where one gender is completely absent of them while the other is their fullest manifestation. Rather the genders reveal different embodiments of God’s character and are best revealed together in the form of a union of the two, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.