The Armour of God: Introduction to the Layers

Ever had that moment when the scales fall off your eyes? When the veil falls away and it strikes you the situation is not what you think it is?

I had such a moment recently when I was digging (yet again!) in Ephesians 6. As I noted in The Story of a Cover, there’s an allusion to the rose of Sharon in the armour of God. Actually, upon further investigation, it transpired there are—surprise, surprise!—seven flowers.

What’s an entire layer of subtle references to Israel’s flora doing in the Armour of God? Good question. But it’s not the only layer:

  1. Surface layer: the accoutrements of Roman armour—helmet, breastplate, belt, sword, shield, shoes—plus an extra bit of protection in prayers and hymns.
  2. Sub-surface layer 1: the elements of a threshold—pillars, lintel, gates, threshold stone, mezuzah, seals, door. These do not correspond in a one-to-one fashion to the Roman armour, but are based on puns. For instance, the word for ‘darts’ (as in fiery darts of the Evil One) comes from belos, threshold while the word for ‘shield’ doubles as a word for door. With a single exception, these are Greek puns and I have no doubt the average reader would have spotted them immediately.
  3. Sub-surface layer 2: mathematical structure. These were the days when letters doubled as numbers and pupils were taught from their earliest lessons how to bring beauty into their writing by keeping to ‘due measure’. The numerical structure of the section is a metaphor for covenant defence. This layer would have been as obvious to the average reader as the ‘threshold layer’.
  4. Hidden layer: the kiss of heaven and earth. This layer would have been apparent only to Greek-speaking Jews. It relies on a knowledge that ‘to kiss’ and ‘to put on armour’ are the same word in Hebrew and that righteous justice and loving mercy are naturally opposed to each other but are reconciled in a kiss, along with truth and peace, in Psalm 85:10.

Even more hidden is that flower layer. But it immediately occurred to me that maybe there would be other layers. What about music? It took an entire quarter to crack the musical layer once I suspected its existence.

Could there be a seventh layer? What would it be? Sometimes the best way to guess is to put yourself in the author’s shoes and ask what you’d do in his position. I’d have done seven gemstones myself. And that’s what seems to be there.

This was when I stopped thinking how amazing Paul was, and how deep and profound the Holy Spirit’s inspiration was. The scales fell off. As far as armour goes, this is such overkill with ‘shock and awe’ something else must be going on.

What? I’m not sure.

But I hope you’ll journey with me as I begin a series on Armour of God and explore the magnificence of God’s pageantry in these seven verses!



  1. Mandy Adams

    Oh my goodness! Anne, the morning before the Sandra Sellmer seminar last week, I felt the Lord say…it would behoove you to put your spiritual armour on each and every morning, not just sporadically ( even though that is quite often.)
    and then, here you are unpacking the armoury, with a level of detail that I had never thought possible. Need to come back and stay with your blog.

  2. Did He really say ‘behoove’? What a confirmation and re-doubled confirmation! I have to laugh about those ‘behooves’.

  3. Annie,

    I appreciated your version of the Armour of God in God’s Panoply. A great book!


  4. Janette

    As you know Annie, my life has been more than a little fraught lately. However, despite having almost zero concentration, I couldn’t resist having a skim read through God’s Panoply when it arrived. I was so excited when I read the part about the armour of God and the link to the threshold convenant; to the extent that I now use those words when putting on the armour rather than the traditional ones. Thank you so much for providing me with a “light bulb” moment.

    God bless


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