Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Retaining Honour--Post 6

Let me direct you to the book of Judges, chapter 4, in the Bible.

 It’s the vivid and gruesome story of how Sisera, the ruler who “cruelly oppressed” Israel for 20 years, met his end.

Most of the Old Testament war stories are entirely full of men and their exploits, but this one features two women—Deborah, who was leading Israel, and Jael, who let Sisera believe she was an ally and who very decisively proved otherwise.

Actually, rather than retell the whole story, I’ll let you read it for yourself here.

The narrator is so matter-of-fact.  We see Deborah riding off to battle with a timid commander and 10,000 men.  And we see Jael, calmly inviting Sisera into her tent to rest, covering him up with a blanket, and giving him milk to drink.  And then just as calmly driving in that tent peg—of all the weapons...

Nowhere does the story imply anything but that they did what they did entirely as women.  They didn’t dress up in men’s uniforms or armor.  They are not described as being like men or of having man-like qualities of bravery or cleverness.

They did what they did fully as women.

“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

In the next chapter, Deborah and Barak sing a song of celebration.  In it, they refer to Deborah and Jael in the most female roles possible—wife and mother.

Most blessed of women be Jael,
    the wife of Heber the Kenite,
    most blessed of tent-dwelling women.

Villagers in Israel would not fight;
    they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
    until I arose, a mother in Israel.

I think we would all agree that fighting was generally the men’s domain.  But, in this case, when the need arose, the women did what needed to be done, and their success was celebrated.

The land then had peace for forty years, so we assume that Deborah went back to judging and Jael went back to her tent and was a good wife for Heber and milked the cow twice a day and ordered a new tent peg off of Amazon.

We don’t read that they went around trying to change women's roles in society and spoke at high schools and told girls they can be anything they want to be, including warriors going to battle.

Conclusions I think one can draw from this without stretching the lessons too far:
a)      Some roles, duties, and exploits are normally the domain of men, and that’s ok.
b)      If the occasion calls for it and they have the skills, women may and can do them as well, and that’s ok too.
c)      The reverse is also true.
d)  Doing the occasional task of the other gender doesn't make you less of yours.

Tomorrow: a few Biblical examples of gender role reversals and a few that differ from our culture


  1. Good point. Deborah has always been one of my favorite Bible characters for exactly these reasons.

  2. I very much appreciate your teaching on this issue. I find much wisdom in it.

  3. Thanks for #3 & #4...this past summer I was on strict bed rest for 15 weeks of my pregnancy. God gave my husband/hero the grace & strength to do his 8-5 job & then come home to take care of the house and our daughter. He did an amazing job and I was/am so proud of him! --Sherri Y.

  4. so true! Why is it so hard for us to move beyond generalizations and stereotypes? Why can't we just notice individual differences and let it go?