Women of the Word: the 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: 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: Midian Women

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The Midianites were enemies of Israel, and in Numbers 11 God tells Moses to carry out His vengeance on them. So twelve thousand Israelite men go to battle against the Midianites. They kill every single Midianite man. They burn all the towns of the Midianites. But the women and children, they keep alive, claiming them and all other plunder for themselves. Numbers 31:9 reads:

The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder.

When the Israelites return to their camp, however, they meet Moses who is angry that the women have been kept alive. This is because in an earlier event, the Midian women had followed the advice of the wicked prophet Balaam and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord. So, Moses commands the Israelites to kill all the Midian boys and kill every Midian woman who was not a virgin. All other women and girls could be spared. Numbers 31:15-18 reads:

“Have you allowed all the women to live?” he [Moses] asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”

This must have been a very sad day – one that was filled with the shedding of blood and tears. One moment, these Midian women were living their lives, some of them with husbands and children. And then the next day, they had everything ripped from them – their homes, their fathers, their husbands, their brothers, their sons; and some of them even had their own lives ended. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Daughters of King Zedekiah

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Zedekiah was the last king of Judah before it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. According to 2 Kings 24:19-20 and Jeremiah 52:2-3, Zedekiah did not listen to the Godly advice of the prophet Jeremiah and he did “evil in the sight of the Lord.” His evil not only caused problems for him. It caused problems for his entire family. None of his sons survived the fall of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar killed them while Zedekiah stood by and watched, unable to save them. Then his own eyes were put out, he was bound in chains, and carried off to Babylon. His royal house was burned. His daughters were taken as captives. Jeremiah 41:10 reads:

Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king’s daughters and all the people who were left at Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah took them captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites. Continue reading

A Time for War and Peace

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Besides both having a time in the world, as Ecclesiastes 3:8 notes, war and peace are about as different as hot and cold. In times of peace, people work hard to set aside their differences and no matter what their race, religion, or nationality they choose to love one another. People give up the sins of anger, pride, envy, and bitterness that may have been in their hearts and instead of loving power; they choose the power of love and give of themselves selfishly.

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