Women of the Word: Sisera’s Mother

Sisera was the captain of the army of King Jabin of Canaan. Together, they and the powerful Canaanite army were enemies of Israel and often oppressed them and fought against them. One day, Jabin sent Sisera and the Canaanite army to fight against Barak, Deborah, and the Israelite army. To Sisera’s shock, he and the Canaanite army were defeated and Sisera fled from the battle scene on foot. He soon came to the tent of a man named Heber the Kenite. But Heber wasn’t home. Only his wife, Jael, was. Jael welcomed Sisera into the tent and gave him milk to drink. Tired from fighting, Sisera lay down and soon sank into a deep sleep. When Jael saw that he was sleeping, she took a tent peg and a mallet (which is a hammer) and used these items to kill him.

When Barak and Deborah found out how and by whom Sisera died, they sang Jael’s praises in a song which is recorded in Judges 5:24-27:

Most blessed among women is Jael,
The wife of Heber the Kenite;
Blessed is she among women in tents.
He asked for water, she gave milk;
She brought out cream in a lordly bowl.
She stretched her hand to the tent peg,
Her right hand to the workmen’s hammer;
She pounded Sisera, she pierced his head,
She split and struck through his temple.
At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still;
At her feet he sank, he fell;
Where he sank, there he fell dead.

The stanza following this one (Judges 5:28-31) makes mention of Sisera’s mother. Barak and Deborah imagine that when Sisera’s mother did not see him returning home victorious, she peered out the window and cried: “Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?”

Barak and Deborah further imagine that a wise lady tried to assuage the concerns of Sisera’s mother by suggesting that he was dividing the spoils and captives of the Israelite army of which he had conquered. But this was not the case. It was not Sisera and the Canaanite army who had conquered, but Barak, Deborah, Jael, and the Israelite army.

We don’t know the exact response of Sisera’s mother to her son’s delay or how she reacted when she found out about his death. We can imagine, like Barak and Deborah, that she was initially worried and then grief-stricken when she learned of his fate. Sisera’s mother may have found it hard to believe that her son – a fearless warrior, mighty army captain, and all that jazz – was felled by a simple stay-at-home (or in those days, stay-at-tent) wife and an audacious female judge. What she probably did not realize was that it was not two women who defeated Sisera and the Canaanite army. It was the God in those two women. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Singing and Dancing Women

David and Goliath is one of the most popular stories in the Bible. For forty days, the infamous Philistine giant held the Israelite army hostage – defying them, taunting their God, and flaunting his might in their faces. For forty days, King Saul and all the other Israelites were dismayed and terrified. They didn’t know how they were going to get out alive of the pickle they were in. Thankfully, David volunteered to fight Goliath. Because David relied on the power of God, he was able to defeat Goliath with just a slingshot and a stone.

After Goliath was defeated, David became the de facto leader of the Israelite army. Whatever mission he was sent on, he was successful. All Israelite troops and officers, and Saul’s son, the prince Jonathan, admired and loved him and were eager to follow him into battle. Even the common Israelite people loved David. 1 Samuel 18:6-7 reads:

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

This little ditty made Saul very angry and jealous, of course, but we’re not focusing on him. We’re focusing on the women who sang and danced because of the great miracle that God had worked for them through a simple shepherd boy who would later become their warrior and king. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Sherah or Sheerah

1 Chronicles 7 lists some of the descendants of six of the tribes of Israel during the reign of King David. Most of the descendants who are mentioned by name are sons. There is one man named Zelophehad who only had daughters, but their names are not given. Another man, Beriah, had a daughter named Sherah (also spelled Sheerah), who built three cities. Verse 24 says:

His daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah.

As we found out in a previous Women of the Word post regarding Shallum’s daughters, women in Biblical times worked. Sheerah was no different. She worked so hard that she built not one, not two – but three cities, of which the latter bore her name. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Shelomith

The book of Leviticus in the Bible is often referred to as the Book of the Law because it contains numerous guidelines and rules for how God wanted His people, the Israelites, to live and handle various matters. One such matter was what should be done to someone who blasphemed the name of the Lord. Leviticus 24:10-12 reads:

Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them.

So what was the will of the Lord regarding Shelomith’s son? The passage goes on to tell us that he was taken outside of the camp and stoned by the entire assembly. This was to happen to anyone who cursed God or blasphemed His name. Even though she is mentioned in this passage, Shelomith is silent about her son’s behavior and she is silent about the punishment that took her son’s life as a result of his behavior. What can we learn from her reaction to this unfortunate situation? Continue reading

Women of the Word: Ministering Women In the Tent of Meeting

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After leaving Egypt, the Israelites took part in the construction of God’s sanctuary, also called the tent of meeting, while they sojourned in the desert. So dedicated were the Israelites to the sanctuary that they contributed more than was needed for its construction. They gave so much that the craftsmen in charge of construction told Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” Moses then had to tell the people, “Stop! Do not do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.”

The book of Exodus gives a very detailed account concerning the construction of the temple and the men who were involved in its work. But men weren’t the only ones involved; women and children were involved, as well. Exodus 38:8, in particular, reads:

He [a craftsman named Bezalel] made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting.

From the verse above we see that these women not only ministered in the tent of meeting, but they also assisted in its construction by allowing the bronze basins to be made out of their mirrors. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Shallum’s Daughters

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Nehemiah’s self-titled book in the Bible details how he and many others rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem after the city had been destroyed by its enemies. We have already looked at two characters who had a role in Nehemiah’s story. The first was the queen of Persia, who likely influenced her husband, king Artaxerxes, to give Nehemiah permission to build the wall. The second was the prophetess Noadiah who tried to hinder Nehemiah from building the wall by making him afraid. Now, we look at another group of women who had a role in Nehemiah’s story. They weren’t queens or prophetesses. They were simply the daughters of a guy named Shallum.

Nehemiah chapter 3 lists the names of some of the people who helped Nehemiah rebuild the wall. Verses 11-12, in particular, read:

Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.

We aren’t given the names or ages of these daughters. They could have been grown women with families of their own or they could have been rather young. The important thing to notice is that the work they did for the Lord alongside their father did not go unnoticed. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Rufus’ Mother

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In Romans 16:13, Paul gives a shout-out to Rufus and his mother. He calls Rufus “chosen in the Lord” and identifies Rufus’ mother as a woman “who has been a mother to me, too.” The Bible gives scarce specifics about Paul’s family. We know that his father was a Pharisee. In Acts 23:6, Paul says, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.” We also know that he had a sister who raised her son to be brave. No mention is made of Paul’s mother, so we can only speculate about who she was. Perhaps she died while Paul was young and he grew up without knowing his mother. Or perhaps she was a devout Jew who was proud of the Saul version of her son as he persecuted Christians, but was displeased when he became a Christian and changed his name to Paul.

This latter speculation is quite possible. Jesus often warned His twelve disciples (of which Paul was not one), that they risked losing everything – their lives, their friends, and even the affection of their families – by choosing to follow Him. When Paul gave his heart to Jesus the Christ, Paul’s mother may have disowned him, and Rufus’ mother may have taken him in and loved him as she did her own son.

Whether Paul grew up without a mother or whether he and his mother just weren’t on good terms, it is clear that he found a maternal figure in Rufus’ mother, from whom we can learn to care for others. Continue reading

Women of the Word (Recap 13)

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When God created woman, He made a very special creation. He made us beautiful and unique. He made us strong and resilient, gutsy and spirited, sassy and sweet. And He loves us. God really, really loves His girls. And the Bible is filled with many women – some good, some bad – all of who God made, who God loved, and who we can learn many lessons from.

So far in our Women of the Word series, we have looked at over 130 different female figures in the Bible. They all have something to teach us. So, (drum roll, please). Here is our thirteenth series recap:

View the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninthtentheleventh, and twelfth series recaps.

Women of the Word: Judith and Basemath

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Jacob and Esau were brothers, twin brothers at that, but they were as different as hot and cold. One area in which they were different was in their choice of marriage partners. Jacob married the daughters of his uncle, Leah and Rachel. Later, he was also given their servants, Bilhah and Zilpah, as partners. Genesis 26:34 tells us that Esau married Judith and Basemath. Judith was the daughter of Beeri the Hittite and Basemath was the daughter of Elon the Hittite.

Jacob’s wives were pleasing to his parents, Isaac and Rebekah. But Esau’s wives were not. Genesis 26:35 says that Judith and Basemath “were a source of grief” to them. Talk about a classic case of in-law discord. They were such a grief that in Genesis 27:46 Rebekah said, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women.” She was so disgusted with them that she didn’t want Jacob to follow his older brother, Esau, and marry one of them. Rebekah would not have considered her life worth living if both her sons married Hittite women. This is one reason why Isaac and Rebekah sent Jacob away to Laban. They didn’t only send him away to keep him safe from Esau’s wrath. They also sent him away to keep him from marrying a Hittite woman or any Canaanite woman for that matter. Before Jacob left home, Isaac explicitly told him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.”

It should be noted that Esau later married another woman. When he saw that Judith and Basemath did not please his parents, he wed Mahalath. She was the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth. There’s no word on how she fared with Isaac and Rebekah. But back to the women at hand: What did Judith and Basemath do to cause such grief to their in-laws? We aren’t told. But we can learn from them to live in such a way that we are a joy, not a grief, to those around us. Continue reading