zeborah: I believe in safe, sane, and consensual Christianity. (christianity)
Maakah (2 Samuel 3:3 and identically 1 Chronicles 3:2) is the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur. "Geshur and Maakah" are a people subdued by but not driven out by Israel back in the day, so they continue to live in the country and apparently keep on having a king; 'Maakah' appears to be a not uncommon personal name.

When this Maakah marries David, then, it's probably (like I suspect Ahinoam of Jezreel) for political reasons; probably shortly after he returns from exile to be crowned king of Judah. She gives birth to his third son Absolom, and to an ill-fated daughter Tamar, about whom more another week.
zeborah: I believe in safe, sane, and consensual Christianity. (credo)
One of various interludes among the various wives of David.

A woman in Endor is known as a medium (1 Samuel 28:7-25). This isn't a terribly safe trade since King Saul has driven all its practitioners out of the land and she now risks death, so when a man turns up one night asking for her to summon a spirit she demurs. Not for too long, though.

Her client wants to talk to the late prophet Samuel (son of Hannah). She brings up his spirit and then realises: her client is King Saul himself. This makes her Somewhat Nervous, but Saul's too desperate to talk to Samuel to worry about how this is all against a law he created himself. He demands to know what she sees (spirits coming out of the earth) and what he's wearing (an old man wearing a robe).

"That's him!" Saul says at once, convinced by even less evidence than most clients of mediums need.

He asks spirit-Samuel what to do now that the Philistines are fighting against him and God isn't talking to him anymore. Spirit-Samuel says, "Too late, bub: tomorrow the Philistines are going defeat your army and you and your sons will die." At which Saul collapses in fear and exhaustion, having eaten nothing all day.

The medium asks him to let her feed him so he'll have strength to go on his way. (Whatever's to befall him tomorrow, one can see how it'd be inconvenient to her life and liberty to have a monarch fall sick in her house after she's committed a crime for him.) He's not hungry, but she and his advisors prevail on him. She immediately butchers a fattened calf and bakes unleavened bread; he eats; and the men all leave.

(The Philistines defeat Saul's army, kill three of his sons, and badly wound him; he falls on his sword so he won't be killed by uncircumcised men.)


Jan. 20th, 2013 08:52 am
zeborah: I believe in safe, sane, and consensual Christianity. (credo)
Abigail (1 Samuel 25:3-42) has brains and beauty; unfortunately she's married to a stingy fool.

The country's in the midst of civil war and the leader of one party, David, sends to Abigail's husband for food for his army. Her husband refuses outright. Luckily for him one of his servants runs to Abigail to see if she can fix things, because a) David's been really polite, not taking anything without asking and making sure his soldiers don't loot the place, and b) this doesn't mean he'll carry on being so polite.

Abigail (as the servant expected) knows what to do. She ignores her husband's orders and goes to meet David with five of her handmaidens and donkeys laden with food. She makes a long speech:

"Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant."

And David blesses her good judgement, accepts the gift and decides not to murder all the men of the household after all.

When Abigail goes home Nabal's drunk, so she waits until morning to tell him. At which point "his heart failed him and he became like a stone" and ten days later he dies. When David hears of this, he sends to ask her to become his wife (I'm guessing partly considering himself responsible in a 'he totally deserved it' way for Nabal's death, and partly super impressed by Abigail). She accepts and goes to him with her five female servants, thus becoming his third wife though at this point Michal is off with her other husband.

Later events in Abigail's life:

She travels with David and his first-apart-from-Michal wife Ahinoam into exile to avoid Saul. (1 Samuel 27:3) While there she's captured by the Amalekites; (1 Samuel 30:5) and carried away with them until David kills them and rescues her and Ahinoam. She returns with him when he's anointed king of Judah. (2 Samuel 2:2) There she gives birth to his second son (named either Kileab (1 Samuel 3:3) or Daniel (1 Chron 3:1), oh biblical inerrancy!)
zeborah: I believe in safe, sane, and consensual Christianity. (christianity)
(I swear one day I'll get my calendar alert to actually alert me, and post these on Sunday as planned.)

Ahinoam (1 Samuel 25:43 - 2 Samuel 3:2) is David's first wife apart from the absent Michal. Being married to someone on the run from the current king means a lot of travelling and danger: she and his second wife go with him into exile to Philistine territory where David fights local battles for a local king.

When he goes to join the Philistines in battle against Israel - in fact against her hometown - Ahinoam and the other wives and children left behind by David's troops are captured by a local raiding party. Luckily the Philistines don't trust David that much and they send him back. When he finds Ahinoam et al missing he catches up with them, kills their abductors, and liberates the women and children and a lot of loot (which he deploys politically to his allies back home).

Eventually the exile is over: Ahinoam can return with David to Hebron in Judah when he's to be annointed king. And there she gives birth to his first son Amnon.


Jan. 8th, 2013 10:05 pm
zeborah: I believe in safe, sane, and consensual Christianity. (christianity)
Michal (1 Samuel 14:49 - 2 Samuel 6:23) is King Saul's younger daughter. She's fallen in love with the rising star David, her father has his own machiavellian reasons to approve the match, and after letting her older sister Merab get away, this time David lets himself be convinced.

But her father's not completely balanced. After their marriage, he sends men to kill her new husband. Michal finds out about this and warns her husband to run for it. She lets him out a window and makes a decoy out of an idol and some goats' hair. When the soldiers arrive, she tells them that he's ill; and when her father sends them a second time, they discover the decoy. Her father's pretty mad at her letting his enemy escape. She implies that she only let David go after he threatened her life, but this does her little good: at some point while David's on the run, her father marries her off to someone else entirely.

David, despite accumulating a good number of other wives in the meantime, doesn't forget about her. When her father's dead and her brother Ish-Bosheth inherits the war against David, David demands her back. (He refers to her as "betrothed" to him, so they probably hadn't had time to consummate the marriage.) Her second husband is pretty cut up about losing his wife in this way: he goes with her, weeping, until he's forced to go back home.

And, though Michal was head over heels for David in her youth, he's not nearly so perfect in her eyes now. I suspect it's something to do with how he's been at war with, and responsible for the deaths of, her father and a couple of her brothers. Becuase when Ish-Bosheth is murdered, making David king over all of Israel, Michal watches his triumphal procession from a window. She sees him "leaping and dancing" and "she despised him in her heart". (This line is so important the Bible mentions it twice.) When he gets home she scolds him for disrobing in front of slave girls like a vulgar commoner. He retorts that he was celebrating before the Lord, and will be as undignified in that cause as he likes.

And then they never have sex again; or at least I'm guessing that's why she never has any children. It may well not have been her decision (David isn't fond of other men stealing his wimminz) but I can't imagine her being terribly cut up about it.


Dec. 30th, 2012 07:02 am
zeborah: I believe in safe, sane, and consensual Christianity. (christianity)
Merab (1 Samuel 14:49 - 18:19) is the older daughter of Saul, first king of Israel. Saul promises his daughter in marriage to the man who can defeat Goliath. For some reason he doesn't actually keep that promise at once, but later he does offer David Merab. David the ex-shepherd is too humble to accept, however, and she marries someone else instead.

In due course she has five sons, but when famine strikes (2 Sam 21:8), King David kills all five to appease a tribe who her father attempted to wipe out.
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[It's been ages since I've done a Women in the Bible post, even though I've got a bunch ready to go. Today The Most Interesting Chapter in the Bible and Three poems from the book of Judges inspired me to tidy up a few more and get started posting again.

[The first one is super short, so go and read those two links up there; and I'll try to post one each Sunday morning for at least the next couple of months.]

Ahinoam (1 Samuel 14:50 - 20:30) is the wife of Saul, first king of Israel; they have three sons and two daughters. When Saul is mad at his eldest son, he calls him "You son of a perverse and rebellious woman" but of course we never hear enough about Ahinoam to even guess if there's any literal truth to this epithet.

[See, told you it was short.]
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A bunch of girls (1 Samuel 9:11-13) are on their way to get some water when some guy asks them for directions. They answer him and go on their way, not knowing that they've just helped him meet the person who's going to anoint him the first king of Israel.

Always be helpful to strangers! They might be going to a really important appointment!
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This woman (1 Samuel 4:19-21) has had the misfortune to marry into a family of priests so corrupt that God finally says he's going to kill them all and arrange things so that even their descendants die in the prime of their lives.

Thus she's heavily pregnant when the ark of God is captured by Israel's enemies and her husband Phinehas and his brother are killed. The news is brought first to the men's father, who dies when he hears it. When it reaches her, she goes into labour and gives birth.

There are complications. As she's dying, her midwives try to encourage her by telling her she's given birth to a son, but this doesn't really cheer her up: she even names the boy "no glory" because, with the ark captured and the deaths of her family, she says "The glory has departed from Israel."


Aug. 9th, 2009 01:01 pm
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Hannah (1 Samuel 1:2 - 2:21) is one of her husband's two wives. She has no children and is pretty miserable about it, though her husband does his best to comfort her by giving her extra meat and saying "Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?" -- but the other wife, who has a number of children, keeps teasing her about her barrenness, year after year, until she weeps and loses her appetite.

One particularly bitter day, Hannah goes to pray at the temple and promises God that if he'll give her a son, she'll dedicate him to God's service in the temple. The priest notices that she's pretty emotional and she's silent even though her lips are moving, so he scolds her for being drunk; Hannah defends herself as "a woman who is deeply troubled", praying out of "great anguish and grief". He blesses her, and she goes away feeling better and with her appetite restored.

Even better, in due course she gets her long-desired son (Samuel, who the next two books are named for). She tells her husband, "After he's weaned, I'm going to take him to the temple to serve God for the rest of his life." He says, "If you like, dear." (...Well, I guess he's got other sons by his other wife. Or something.) So she does, and tells the priest, "Hi, remember me? I was praying for a son, and now I've got him he's all yours!"

She then gets her own Magnificat, which is actually quite a lot more magnificent than Mary's more famous one. It focuses, predictably, on the general theme of "She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away: HA ha, I win!"

Despite my eye-rolling above, Hannah doesn't completely abandon her son: every year when they visit the temple she makes him a new robe and takes it to him. The priest prays for her to have more children to replace Samuel, and lo, she gets another three sons and daughters. This probably makes her about even with her husband's other wife; one hopes they eventually stop gloating over each other and learn to get along.


Aug. 2nd, 2009 01:02 pm
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Peninnah (1 Samuel 1:2-7) is the fortunate one of a certain man's two wives: she has children (at least four -- she has both sons and daughters), but her rival has none. She's not a good winner, and takes every opportunity to rub it in until her rival's in tears.

Of course then things change, history's written by the winners, and this book isn't about any of Peninnah's sons -- so who knows? Maybe she isn't as spiteful as is made out, or maybe she's got reason to be: the writer does admit that her husband gives her rival a double portion of meat "because he loved her".


Jul. 26th, 2009 01:48 pm
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A family of economic refugees comes into Moab. After the head of the family dies, a local woman called Ruth marries one of the widow's two sons (Ruth 1:4 - 4:15). She lives uneventfully with her husband and in-laws until both her husband and his brother die. Then her mother-in-law Naomi decides to go back to her native land, Bethlehem.

On the way, her mother-in-law warns them that there's no future for them in Bethlehem. Ruth's sister-in-law heeds the warning and returns to her own family in Moab. Ruth stays with an impassioned speech which I would adore if it weren't so overused as an example of feminine virtue. (She was one of the three examples of women used in the sermon that inspired me to start this series.) I will note that, just as her sister-in-law doesn't explain why she's going home, nor does Ruth explain why she's sticking with Naomi. She just says, "Don't try to talk me out of it; I'm going with you and I'm staying with you until one of us dies."

She gets a book named after her.

They reach Bethlehem, but they've got nothing to call their own. Ruth, as a foreigner, has less social standing than a local servant girl. Fortunately it's harvest-time, and there's usually a bit of leftover grain that the men can't be bothered picking up off the ground. She decides to try her luck at gathering some of this from behind any men who'll tolerate her.

Fueled by hunger and spunk, she turns out to be a hard worker: when the owner of the field, Boaz, asks his foreman about this newcomer, the foreman says that she "has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter." Between this and her fame for having left her own parents to come here with Naomi -- and possibly her exotic looks -- Boaz is impressed, and takes her under his protection.

Ruth is suitably grateful, but not too humble to make the most of it. When Boaz invites her to eat lunch with him and the harvesters, she not only eats her fill but fills her pockets with food for her mother-in-law. When he tells his men to leave some extra grain for her, she takes everything she can get -- by the evening of that first day, she takes home about 22 litres of barley.

And, as she had promised, she keeps living with her mother-in-law.

Now her mother-in-law comes up with a plan to get Ruth married to Boaz. Boaz isn't the youngest guy around (he addresses her as "my daughter") but he is a relative of Ruth's late husband and he's been awfully generous to her. So she goes along with the scheme: she washes and perfumes herself, sneaks to the threshing floor (men only, no women allowed), waits while he eats and drinks, and watches where he makes his bed. When he's asleep, she quietly uncovers his feet and lies down there.

Presumably the weather remains clement, because it's a while before he wakes up. It's dark and he asks her who she is. "It's Ruth," she says. "Have sex with me, because you're my late husband's relative." (I paraphrase, but not much.) Boaz is impressed by the fact that she's not out chasing a younger sexier man, and lets her stay the night as long as she sneaks out before anyone wakes up.

(There's a few legal loose ends to tie up before they can marry: it turns out that there's a closer relative who should have first dibs on Ruth. So Boaz goes to have a chat with him, and the other guy decides marrying Ruth isn't worth it financially to him. Originally I was going to skim over this part but then I noticed a parallel between Ruth/Orpah and Boaz/Other Guy: Ruth and Boaz both want above all to do their duty by family, whereas Orpah and the Other Guy are more pragmatic and stick with the life they already know. When you think about it this way, it's less about Ruth 'winning' marriage by being all virtuous and stuff, and more about both of them being a really good match for each other: much more romantic.)

So Ruth marries Boaz and in due course gives birth to a son. The boy becomes the grandfather of King David, the ancestor of Jesus. But the important thing is that her mother-in-law helps raise the boy: Ruth is still keeping her promise to never leave her mother-in-law.
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(To avoid derailment in racism_101, but of course anyone else is welcome to join in.)

Paul has taken a bad rap. And I have a nagging resentment against the anti-Paulites - not those who dislike him due to his bad rap, but those who have twisted what he said.

When I was in Korea I flatted for almost two years with a wonderful sweet woman who had grown up in a church that said "Wives, submit to your husbands" - and stopped there, without going on to the next verses that says that "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her". And remember that Christ didn't just die for the church; he submitted to it: he washed the feet of his disciples.

Paul was writing in a time when saying "Wives and husbands, respect each other and submit to each other" would likely have been met with blank stares if not calls for a straitjacket. I'm not saying he deliberately muted his teaching because of that, but that, like us, he was a product of his own time. For his time, what he said was pretty radical. And I'm confident that if he lived today, he would be one of the most radical in promoting justice for women.


Feb. 1st, 2009 01:33 pm
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A family of economic refugees comes into Moab. After the head of the family dies, a local woman called Orpah marries one of the widow's two sons (Ruth 1:4-14). She lives uneventfully with her husband and in-laws until both her husband and his brother die. Then her mother-in-law Naomi decides to go back to her native land, Bethlehem.

This is foreign territory to Orpah, but she and her sister-in-law dutifully go along with Naomi. But on the way, Naomi tells them there's no future for them in Bethlehem, and they should go back home to their mothers and marry again. They weep and refuse to leave her, but when she insists -- either she's forgotten that she has kinsmen who might marry them, or considers the link too tenuous -- Orpah decides that she's right. She kisses her mother-in-law good-bye and goes back home "to her people and her gods".

The book is not named after her. (Oprah Winfrey, on the other hand, is.)


Jan. 25th, 2009 03:28 pm
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There is a famine in Bethlehem. Naomi (Ruth 1:1 - 4:17), her husband, and her two sons emigrate to Moab where the streets are paved with gold. Her husband dies and her sons marry local girls named Orpah and Ruth (who I'll write about individually later). Then her sons die too, leaving her alone with her daughters-in-law: no income, no protection, and no descendants.

Then she hears that the famine in her hometown is over. She sets off for home, telling her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab where they can marry again. (She considers herself too old to marry, certainly too old to have any more sons.) Orpah stays, but Ruth insists on coming with her back to Bethlehem.

The women in Bethlehem are excited to see Naomi again: "Can this be Naomi?" Naomi isn't so excited: her name means 'pleasant', and she says, "Don't call me that -- call me Mara ('bitter') because I've lost everything I had."

Naomi has a relative in Bethlehem, one of her "kinsman-redeemers", Boaz. (Tradition was, if a man died then his wife married the closest kinsman available, and their children (or possibly just the first-born?) are considered the children of the dead man and inherit his estate.) She doesn't seem to think to mention this to Ruth until after Ruth, picking up trash barley from behind the harvesters, happens to work in Boaz' field one day and he is kind to her. Once Ruth tells her about this, however, she tells Ruth to keep working there: not just because he's letting her take extra grain home, but because in someone else's fields she mightn't be safe. (She didn't seem to mention this danger to Ruth before sending her out in the first place. But then they didn't really have any choice so why worry the girl?)

A little after this, Naomi starts plotting: "Should I not try to find a home for you?" she asks her daughter-in-law. She tells Ruth to pretty herself up, go to Boaz' place, and when he goes to bed, lift up the covers at his feet and lie down there -- Boaz will know what to do then...

All goes well. Boaz marries Ruth, they have a son, and as the women of the town congratulate Naomi on her good fortune, she "took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him."

--I wrote this a while ago but as I came to post it I noticed an interesting parallel going on in the 'kinsman-redeemer' thing.

With Naomi's husband dead and unable to produce any more heirs, the 'kinsman-redeemer' enters the scene. But Naomi is unable to produce any more heirs either -- and so Ruth enters the scene, to become a kind of 'kinswoman-redeemer'. The child that is born is only related to Naomi by marriage, but she takes him into her lap as if he were her own child.
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About six hundred Benjamites (out of tens of thousands) survive the war occasioned by their protecting a gang of rapist/murderers. Their wives have been killed. The other tribes of Israel have sworn not to give their own daughters to them as wives (Judges 21) -- but on the other hand, they don't want the tribe to die out. Dilemma.

The solution, part A: one group of Israelites skived off from the war, so the other Israelites massacre them, sparing only their virgins, who are summarily given to the Benjamites. Four hundred down, two hundred to go.

The solution, part B: there's a festival coming up in which the local girls will be dancing outside. The Israelites tell the Benjamites to go and kidnap these girls -- that way no-one's giving their daughter away, so it's all okay.

Except for the wives, who -- having had their entire families massacred, and having been abducted from their families -- are forced into marriage with a bunch of guys who closed ranks around a gang of rapists. Joy.

(I seem to be whittling away my backlog of posts to be posted. Better go read some more.)
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This woman (Judges 17:1-4) is robbed of "eleven hundred shekels of silver", which the NIV equates to about 13kg. I note the phrase 'eleven hundred shekels' was also used for how much each person would pay Delilah to betray Samson, which makes me think it might be similar to phrases like "forty days" and "thirty sons", ie "not sure how many exactly, but a heckuva lot".

So on losing this money she utters a curse, as one would. A while later her son Micah tells her that he has the money. (His phrasing in the NIV is awfully ambiguous; if I were feeling snarky I'd suspect him of stealing it from her himself. But if I were to make such a suggestion I'd feel honour-bound to research how other versions phrase it, and I can't be bothered. Let's just assume he took it back from the thief.) "Bless you, my son," his mother says.

He returns the silver to her, and she consecrates it to the Lord for her son to make a carved image and a cast idol; that is, she gives about a fifth of the silver to a silversmith to make the image and the idol. Remember that line in the 10 Commandments about not making idols (Exodus 20:4)? Apparently neither she nor her son does. You would think that No Good Could Come Of This, but it turns out a bit more complicated than that. The worst that seems to happen to them is that some rival tribe steals the image and idol away from them again.

Undoubtedly there was a point to the story somewhere, but I've no idea what it is. C'est la vie.


Dec. 23rd, 2008 07:35 am
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We all know the story of Samson and Delilah (Judges 16:4-20), right? A couple of details:

a) Delilah is being paid a whole heck of a lot of money to betray him.

b) If I had a dirty mind, I'd note that it's kind of kinky of them to be playing games in which she ties him down. But I don't. Not at all. Such a thing would never occur to me.

c) Samson is really stupid. Telling Delilah the truth the first time would have been understandable: incautious, but the sort of thing one could chalk up to being in love and hopeful. But telling her lies, discovering that she was passing those lies on to his enemies, and then telling her the truth is just bad OpSec.
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At the moment, the Philistines are ruling Israel, and one of the young Philistine women becomes the object of devotion of a young Israelite called Samson (Judges 14-15:6). We don't know what she thinks of the match, but that's beside the point; a wedding is arranged.

During the festivities, a bunch of guys confront her with a dilemma: her groom has wagered that they can't guess his riddle, and as he happens to be right they've decided to cheat: they demand that she coax the answer out of him, or else they'll burn her and her father's household to death.

Caring more for her and her family's lives than her groom's pride, she goes to do what they say. She's not exactly subtle -- "If you loved me you'd tell me the answer!" -- but then Samson isn't exactly bright. He points out that he hasn't even told his parents; but, weeping desperately, she perseveres and eventually wears him down. He explains it to her, she explains it to the extortionists, they gloatingly explain it to Samson, and in a fit of rage he storms out of the wedding.

This public abandonment leaves her in some disgrace, so her father gives her to Samson's friend instead. She doesn't get much chance to live a happy married life. After a few months Samson comes back for her and discovers her already married. In another fit of rage he goes and razes some fields belonging to the Philistines. The Philistines inquire as to the background of the arson and, on hearing the whole story, decide that the thing to do is clearly to burn the woman and her father to death.

This inspires Samson to a third fit of rage in which he slaughters a whole bundle of Philistines. In a sidenote, an early verse assures us that "this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines". Sheer bad luck, it seems, that this particular young woman got embroiled in it.


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