The other day I happened to go through some old writings from college and I stumbled upon something. It was a reflection I wrote in a Theology class where we had discussed the “texts of terror.” “Texts of Terror” is a term created by Phyllis Trible to refer to four narratives of disturbing violence against women that are depicted in the Old Testament. The class was, understandably, triggering for me. I had never heard these stories before. After the class I wrote a reflection to process.
It’s just one line from a single verse in the third chapter of Nehemiah, but it fascinates me:
Shallum, son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters (Nehemiah 3:12).
Shallum, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, rebuilt a section of the wall with the help of his daughters. His daughters. Really?
To understand the role of Shallum’s daughters in rebuilding the wall, we first have to understand why the wall was torn down. The Babylonians invaded Judah and captured Jerusalem in 587/586 B.C. The Jews were carried into exile. Seventy years later, the exile ended when King Cyrus began to allow the Jews to return home. But while the returning exiles began to rebuild the temple and restore their homes, the city’s broken wall left Jerusalem vulnerable and undefended. God eventually made a way for Nehemiah to travel to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall with the king’s full permission and support. Upon arrival, Nehemiah quickly got to work surveying the damage, rallying the people, and organizing the work. Nehemiah 3 lists the names of all those who rebuilt a section of the wall, and right there in the middle of his list Nehemiah included Shallum and his daughters.
The creation accounts in Genesis are of utmost importance when discussing gender relations within the Church. “Creation order” is a foundational claim of complementarians, who root their beliefs in the idea that since man was created first, it means that men must lead women. But does Genesis truly reveal a God-ordained male headship through creation order? A close look into the creation account will provide us with a fuller understanding of God’s intentions for men and women.
Genesis 1:27 states that, “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”. Verse 28 goes on to say that God blessed “them” and spoke to “them”. This is the first mention of mankind. It’s important to see that male and female are mentioned, and the blessing that was bestowed on “them”.
The Hebrew word used for mankind in verse 27 is “‘adam” which refers to humanity as a whole .
We don’t see the proper noun, Adam, used until Genesis 4:25, so this common noun refers to the whole human race. One thing that is important to note is that the Hebrew language does not contain a gender neutral pronoun, therefore the word mankind was used.
Many complementarians do not refer to Genesis 1 in the formation of their doctrine, unless it is to make the announcement that God created Adam first, not necessarily acknowledging the fact that the more accurate definition of ‘adam would be humankind. Egalitarians find Genesis 1 to be very telling of God’s heart for equality because these verses make it clear that both men and women were created in God’s image, after which he blessed them.
Athaliah was the daughter of Jezebel and King Ahab of Israel. Her marriage to King Jehoram of Judah was a political alliance that eased the tensions between the two kingdoms but also brought the negative influence of her family line along with it. Upon the death of her son the king, she seizes the throne and all the young heirs are set to be murdered. In the face of that atrocity, one person stands in the way – the princess Jehosheba. Read more about these two interesting agents of rebellion and redemption in today’s post by Lydia Leigh.
In doing some research on Genesis 3, I came upon this provocative poem by Carmen J. Bryant:
God said to man, “The earth will bring forth thistles.” Man replied, “I’ll weed them out. I’ll develop weed killers and make my garden a paradise.”
God said to man, “You will work by the sweat of your brow.” Man replied, “I’ll invent tools that will make my work easier: the plow, the hoe, the tiller and the John Deere tractor.”
God said to woman, “You will have pain in childbirth.” Man responded, “Yea, so be it, let her suffer so my quiver can be full. It is God’s will. My work was made hard because of her.”
God said to woman, “Your husband will rule over you.” Man responded, “Of course that’s the way it should be. I am to be her master. I was created first.”
And woman bowed her head and said, “I am indeed under a curse.”
The poem prefaced an academic paper on Genesis 3 and was accompanied by this note…
Although the book of Nehemiah has long been one of my favorite bible stories, it was only recently that I noticed an interesting connection between Nehemiah and the story of Esther. In Nehemiah 1 we read that the setting is the “citadel of Susa”. This happens to be the same city in which the young Esther was forced to participate in a “beauty pageant” at the whim of a king named Xerxes (Esther 1). As you may remember, Esther becomes the next Queen of Persia and eventually risks her life to save the Jewish exiles living in Persia from extermination.
Like many other children raised in the church, I grew up hearing the famous stories of Scripture. Noah’s ark, Samson’s strength, and Gideon’s fleece colored my childhood imagination. From very early on I noticed that the women of the Bible, with the exceptions of Esther and Ruth, always seemed to have boring, sidekick roles to […]
It may seem strange that I became an egalitarian through the back door of Old Testament patriarchal culture and history. But it worked for me because the whispers of subversion became louder than the voices of patriarchy and oppression. Those whispers sounded like God. My Old Testament studies gave me permission to rethink the New Testament and how its writings might also be subversive to patriarchy. Eventually I followed those whispers into the egalitarian camp. I was all in.
The story of Jericho is a gruesome one. When the Israelites took the city they destroyed the inhabitants, men, women, children, and animals, and burned it all. When Achan, an Israelite, disobeyed God and took some of the devoted things from Jericho, he and his family were destroyed as well. Sin, destruction, and loss of life abounds. But in the midst of the chaos, destruction, and calamity, the story of Jesus is there – in Rahab.
One of the things I love about the Bible is that has so much to say about the ability and calling of women and men. As I read through I continually encounter story after story of God using unexpected people without condemnation. In the midst of a hierarchical culture we see women, slaves, foreigners, poor people and outcasts continually gifted, blessed, called and accepted by God. It was reading through the Bible like this that brought me to my understanding of mutuality: There are small tales everywhere which undermine inequality and bring the Kingdom of God into even the darkest times.
I’ve recently been reading the Old Testament, about Moses being called back to Egypt, where I came across this little section:
“On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the Lord met him and tried to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it, and said, ‘Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!’ So he let him alone.” – Exodus 4:24-26a
One of our goals this year is to publish more content that enriches our understanding of women in the bible and their importance in the story of God’s people. In keeping with that goal, we are pleased to present this post on Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives who defied Pharoah in the story of the Exodus, written by Dr. Craig Anderson.
Displays of power transcend culture. And power is the main concern of a scene in Exodus 1 that occurs between Pharaoh and two Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah. Exodus 1:15-21 poses a question of power. It offers a contrast of opposites. It asks us as readers to consider, “Wherein does true power reside?”