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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Deborah and Jael and Modern Women

The reading for Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015:

Judges 4:  1-24

I have always been on the lookout for women in the Bible--it seems we get so few stories of women.  And here, in today's reading, we get two.  Why am I so deeply uneasy?

Once again, it's hard to relate to this story, to the roles in the story.  On the one hand, it's a tale of brutal war, so there are plenty of military commanders.  There's an older prophet, one of few (the only?) female judges in the book of Judges.  There's Jael, who kills the opposition military leader by inviting him into her tent and driving a tent stake through his head while he slept.

As a female, I'm uncomfortable with these women being held up as models of behavior for modern women.  These stories do not provide balance or help me argue that our religion is gender neutral.

On the contrary--and yet, it's important always to keep in mind that the cultures that gave birth to both Judaism and Christianity were deeply patriarchal.  In some ways, it's astonishing that women have any place in these stories at all.

We could read these stories as God making a way out of no way.  That's a fairly standard interpretation.

I also want to take a minute to reflect on the miracle of the ministry of Jesus.  When I think about the Gospels, I'm amazed at how many women are there.  Of course, by the time of the Gospels, we are centuries further along than the time of Deborah and Jael.  But throughout the Gospels, we see women looking out for their families, women asking questions, women providing food, women in even more central roles.

Throughout these texts it's clear that we all have a role to play.  God has a vision, and God invites us to be part of it.

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