Deborah is one of the few women in scripture depicted as a strong leader who does not need the help of a man. The start to Deborah’s story appears bland, a mere introduction to a narrative that will later become juicy, surprising, and even a bit gory. Judges chapter four merely introduces us to a woman named Deborah, a judge over Israel. Judges is a book that records a time when Israel was without a king, so judges had to arbitrate justice, command, lead, and settle disputes. The book of Judges involves a constant downward spiral in which the people of Israel experience God’s grace; they forget God and do evil; they get into trouble and cry out for help; a judge arrives to help; the people get better; the judge dies and the people repeat the cycle.
When Deborah appears on the scene, the people have gotten themselves into trouble. We, as readers, know that because she is a judge, she will deliver them. But it’s easy to pass over Deborah’s uniqueness in reading her seemingly boring introduction. As in most texts, when we take time, we realize there is much more than meets the eye. Continue reading “Painting Deborah by Angela Yarber”
The story of Jephthah’s daughter – found in the Hebrew Bible, Judges 11:29-40 – is a difficult story to read. The first time I read it, I was in my Christian high school Bible class and I could not understand why our teacher did not address the violence done by a father to his daughter. In my experience, Christians dismiss much of the violence done to women in the Hebrew Bible as evidence that ancient fathers, brothers, and husbands really did not care for their daughters, sisters, and wives. Since today men love the women in their lives, the ancient problem is no longer an issue, and we can continue with more pressing issues – or so the unspoken logic goes.
However, some feminist scholars – such as myself and Dr. Tammi Schnider – argue that it was common for fathers to love their daughters in the Hebrew Bible, and Jephthah is no exception. His daughter is his only relative in the text, and presumably the only person impatiently waiting for him to return from the war he led. Yet, because of the vow he makes to the deity – a vow the deity does not request or acknowledge – he sacrifices his only loved one. Why would he make such a vow? Why would his daughter go along with it? These are two of the questions I could not help but yell as I struggled with the text. Continue reading “Painting Women from Judges – Part 1: Jephthah’s Reflective Daughter by Melinda Bielas”