Women of the Word: Women Who Ate Their Children

In 2 Kings 6:24-33, we come to another one of the Bible’s tragic stories. It is truly a sad, nauseating retelling of a horrible event that took place, but this tragic story is yet another reason why we know the Bible is true. In His Holy Word, God honestly tackles difficult subjects – rape, murder, adultery, lies, war, famine, and betrayal; and He honestly shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about His people’s lives from Adam and Eve to Peter and Paul.

In the Scripture passage we’re looking at today, the city of Samaria was under siege by the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, and his army. The siege lasted so long that a famine fell upon the city and people began to suffer the terrible effects that often accompany war – starvation, grief, and madness. Madness is the best word I can think of to describe the horrible thing that two mothers did to their children because the famine was so terrible.

One day during the siege, the king of Israel was walking along one of the city’s walls when a woman cried out to him, “Help me, my lord the king!” She then told him her horrible story. To avoid starving, she had made an agreement with another woman to eat their children. They agreed to eat the first woman’s son first and then to eat the second woman’s son the next day. So, they killed the first woman’s son, cooked him, and ate him. But when it was time to do the same with the second woman’s son, that woman hid her son, and now the first woman is full of anger and despair and is demanding the king help her.

What is the king’s response to this horridity? He tears his clothes and wears sackcloth. And then he blames God and the prophet Elisha for causing such a disaster to come upon his city and his people. There is nothing he can do to help the woman who has sunk to such a desperate low as to eat her own child and then has the audacity to ask for help in eating another woman’s child. What is there to learn from the women who ate their children? Continue reading

Women of the Word: Women Who Mourned for Tammuz

Ezekiel was a Hebrew prophet who lived during the fall of Jerusalem and was among those who were exiled to Babylon like Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. During his prophetic ministry, Ezekiel spent much of his time telling those in exile that Jerusalem would fall, the temple would be destroyed, and they should not expect a fast return to their homeland. He urged them instead to focus on repentance and being obedient to God while living in exile. Much of Ezekiel’s prophetic messages are recorded in his book of the Bible which ends on an optimistic note when Ezekiel has a vision of dry bones coming to life and dancing, a prophecy that Jerusalem would rise again, the temple would be restored, and the exiled people would one day return to their homeland.

In Ezekiel chapter 8, Ezekiel is lifted by the Spirit and through a vision is taken to Jerusalem where he sees how the Israelites have turned to idolatry and filled the temple with idols. Ezekiel 8:15 reads, “Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord, and I saw women sitting there, mourning the god Tammuz.” After seeing this sight, the Spirit asks Ezekiel, “Do you see this, son of man? You will see things that are even more detestable than this.”

Ezekiel does see more detestable things. He sees men worshiping the sun instead of God. He sees the elders of Israel offering incense to idols. He sees idols and crawling things and unclean animals portrayed all over the temple. Even though the people think that God does not see their ungodly behavior, God promises to deal with them in anger and not have pity or spare them or listen to them. Continue reading

Women of the Word (Recap 14)

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 140 different female figures in the Bible. They all have something to teach us. So, (drum roll, please). Here is our fourteenth series recap:

View the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninthtentheleventhtwelfth, and thirteenth series recaps.

Good for Us

Why is Good Friday considered “good”?

Christ was betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, and deserted by the others. He was mocked and beaten, stripped and slapped, interrogated and jeered. He was declared innocent, but put to death anyway. The perfect became a sacrifice for the imperfect. He was forsaken by God, His Father. Body broken. Isolated and alone.

Why is this good? Continue reading

Women of the Word: Foreign Women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab

The book of Nehemiah is largely dedicated to describing how Nehemiah, with the help of others, rebuilt the wall and the city of Jerusalem. Many interesting characters make an appearance – namely, Sanballat and Tobiah. But there are also several women, including: Artaxerxes’ queen, the prophetess Noadiah, and Shallum’s daughters. Now, we come upon another group of women in the book of Nehemiah.

During the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, Nehemiah reminds God of a number of things that he did faithfully for God’s house. In chapter 13:23-29, he talks about how he rebuked the men of Judah for marrying foreign women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. His rebuke included calling curses down on them, beating them, and pulling out their hair! The main reason he rebuked them is because he was worried that by marrying these strange women who did not worship the one true God, the men of Judah would be led into sin and away from God just like Solomon (you can read about Solomon’s array of wives and concubines here). Nehemiah did not want women of another religion and culture to cause God’s people to become unfaithful. Continue reading

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

I Rise Today

I rise today
with the power of God to pilot me,
God’s strength to sustain me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look ahead for me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to protect me,
God’s way before me,
God’s shield to defend me,
God’s host to deliver me,
from snares of devils,
from evil temptations,
from nature’s failings,
from all who wish to harm me,
far or near,
alone and in a crowd.

—”Saint Patrick’s Breastplate,”
Old Irish, eighth-century prayer

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