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Category Archives: Courage

Achsah: The Daughter Who Asked for More

Caleb watched as distant figures, shimmering like a mirage from the arid Negeb, gradually assumed familiar shapes, and he waited. It was his lovely daughter, Achsah, with her new husband. She was no longer under his protective care in the family compound near Hebron. She now dwelled with the one who had won her hand by his acts of bravery and courage—Othneil, slayer of giants, conqueror of Debir. Caleb wondered why they were coming.

How it all began[1]

Over forty years before, Caleb, Joshua, and ten others, leaders all of Israel’s twelve tribes, embarked on a reconnaissance of the land of Canaan, one commissioned by the LORD through Moses. Their mission? Spy out the land, and its inhabitants. Were the Canaanites a people strong, or weak? Many, or few? Did they dwell in fortified strongholds, or tents? Was the land fertile? Were there ample forests for Israel’s needs?

English: Joshua and Caleb, as in Numbers 13

English: Joshua and Caleb, as in Numbers 13 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was around the month of Elul, the season for the first grape harvest. What better time to bring back samples of the ripening fruit of the land? Above all, Moses exhorted them to be of good courage. Much depended on their findings, as would soon become evident.

The twelve tribal emissaries set out immediately, and for forty days furtively scouted the land, covering some 300 miles[2] before returning to their launch point, Kadesh-barnea. En route they saw date palms, pomegranates, ripening grapes, all thriving in abundance. There was ample pasture for sheep and cattle, and fields suitable for growing barley and wheat. Olive and fruit trees dotted certain regions of countryside. The coastline provided fishing, and perhaps even dye works. Canaan, indeed, was full of resources and promise.

Its inhabitants, however, were an entirely different matter—especially the hulking sons of Anak!

An ill wind

 “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey,” the returning  spies reported to eager ears. “Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there.” Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Canaanites—all formidable and well-armed—would have to be dealt with as well.

Anak! Apprehension swirled through the ranks of Israel. Caleb quieted the people, then exhorted them, saying, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” The agitators would have none of it, and retorted, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we. . . . The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

With weeping and wailing, Israel turned on Moses and Aaron, demanding new leaders, and refusing to enter Canaan. Moses and Aaron, in shock and horror, fell on their faces before the unruly assembly, undoubtedly recognizing a grievous affront to the LORD, their Deliverer.

Only two of the twelve, Joshua and Caleb, confronted the growing spirit of revolt, warning the tribes not to rebel against the Lord. They implored them rather to trust that “if the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us . . . .” Those words only moved the mob to violence, and cries of, “Stone them! Stone them!” filled the air. Little did the tribes of Israel realize that their own fates were sealed in the wake of that murderous intent. The LORD had had enough!

And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I the LORD have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die'”[3] 

To be continued…


[1] Please read Numbers 13 for the entire account.

[2] I estimate that the trip northward was roughly 150 miles based on an atlas scale. The envisioned round-trip could have covered approximately 300 miles using that scale.

Two Mothers, One Son

In a previous post, we considered the identity of Pharaoh’s daughter and concluded there does not seem to be enough evidence to settle on any one name with confidence. However there is information about daughters of pharaohs in general which could have a bearing on the Moses story.

Who is her mother?

Though we can’t answer the following conclusively, we’ll explore a couple of general questions regarding this elusive princess:  who her mother was, and where she might have lived. If she was a daughter of Pharaoh’s principal wife, it’s probable that she would have lived in the environs of the royal palace. If, however, she was the daughter of a secondary wife, she and her mother could have taken up residence in one of many royal compounds scattered throughout Egypt. In that case, Pharaoh would visit or call for them as he desired.

“‘The pharaohs of the New Kingdom period (c. 1570-1085 B.C.) maintained residences and harim not only in the great capitals of Thebes, Memphis, and Pi-Ramesse (Ra’ amses) but also in other parts of Egypt, especially in pleasure resorts….Papyrus documents indicate that this Harim was no prison of enforced idleness for its inmates in pharaohs [sic] absence; the royal ladies supervised a hive of domestic industry, spinning and weaving done by servants….’”[1]

Women of substance

Some may wonder about the role of women in Egypt.  According to Nahum M. Sarna, in his book, Exploring Exodus (1986),  the social and legal position of an Egyptian woman was considerable. “Descent was strictly matrilineal, so that property descended through the female line. This meant that the woman possessed inheritance rights and could dispose of property at will. As a result, she enjoyed a certain measure of economic independence” (p. 31).  It should not seem strange that Pharaoh’s daughter made several on-the-spot decisions with confidence and without apparent reservation (Ex. 2:1-10), likely based not only on her position generally, as a woman in Egyptian society, but especially on her place within the royal family.

The princess commissions a wet-nurse

Wet-nurses were hired to care for foundlings. Ancient Mesopotamian legal texts provide specifics for proper payment regarding such services. Typically, a wet-nurse suckled and reared a child in her home for a specified period of time, usually two to three years, until it was weaned. Then it was returned to the finder for adoption.[2]

The account in Exodus 1 records an interesting departure from the normal procedure. Royal wet-nurses were generally members of elite families, perhaps wives or mothers of high officials. This connection brought with it a certain prestige, one which could result in possible advancement in rank for their husbands and sons.[3] For Pharaoh’s daughter to listen to a young Hebrew girl and follow her suggestion to enlist the services of an unknown woman, represents, to my mind, evidence of the providence of a much higher Power in this whole episode.

Moses and Jochebed

Moses and Jochebed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The role of Jochebed

Of course, there is no doubt as to Jochebed’s ability to nurse her own baby. Her breasts were probably aching for relief by the time Moses was once more in her arms. However, what she might have done additionally, in the long term, is well worth contemplating.

There are those who speculate that this mother had carefully planned for her baby’s rescue, positioning him deliberately in a place where Pharaoh’s daughter would find him.[4] Why, one might wonder. Had she secretly watched this princess over time, and knew vicariously her disposition for kindness? Did she have a God-given understanding that hers was no ordinary son and that his future would require the best education the world of her day could offer?[5] Did she feel that the safest place for him would be in the care of this royal princess–one whom Jochebed knew to be influential and strong-minded enough to set aside her father’s bloody policy?

Training her child

Others discuss a different matter. Since Jochebed likely had Moses for three years or longer, what did she do during that time? Several feel she carefully laid a foundation for his eventual worshipping of the God of Israel. She was a daughter of Levi (Ex.2:10) and according to one source her name (Hebrew yokebed) apparently means “YHWH is glory.” She is noted as the first person in the Bible to have a name with the divine element yah, a shortened form of YHWH.[6] Does her name indicate that she came from a family of believers who worshipped the true God? Such a notion seems worth considering.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary offers the following opinion concerning Ex. 2:10: “His [Moses’s] age when removed to the palace is not stated; but he was old enough to be well instructed in the principles of the true religion; and those early impressions, deepened by the power of divine grace, were never forgotten or effaced. He had remained long enough to be thoroughly imbued with the true national feeling of a Hebrew; and though he may have actively engaged in the varied scenes to which his royal station afterward introduced him, he never ceased to cherish a spirit of sympathy with the race from which he had sprung.”[7]

If the ruling pharaoh was indeed Thutmose III, he worshiped a form of the sun god (sometimes depicted as a sphinx), Amun-Re. It would have been important to introduce knowledge of the true God of Israel to Moses early on. Stephen, in Acts 6:20, says “Moses was born and was well-pleasing to God,” indicating that God was already involved in his life, beginning with his brave and faithful mother.

Grooming a royal prince

While Jochebed likely concentrated on the religious upbringing of her young son, his adopted mother provided the means for a formal education. At about the age of four, boys in the royal court began attending school from early morning until noon–a routine lasting for approximately twelve years. Strict discipline was maintained, backed up with corporal punishment. “The school curriculum largely centered on reading, writing, and arithmetic,” with writing being especially important. “The art of penmanship and the cultivation of style were both highly esteemed as the indispensable prerequisites for a sound education. Drill and memorization seem to have been the chief pedagogic techniques.”[8]

As for Moses’s childhood, John Davis writes: “Children were generally carefree, and played much like children do today….Swimming, horseback riding, hunting, playing with household pets would all be part of the experiences of a young boy in Egypt.”[9] 

Mummy Portrait of a Boy

Mummy Portrait of a Boy (Photo credit: Taifighta)

The young prince would have sported the typical haircut for Egyptian boys of his day—a shaved head except for one long lock on the side, which was braided.[10]

Teen to early adulthood

Moses undoubtedly spent much time perfecting his skills at archery and horsemanship—both favorite pastimes of that dynasty. Learning languages and the geography of his land would have been important as well. Slowly and surely he was being equipped with skills that would serve him in the challenging days to come. In Davis’s words, what we know is a “remarkable example of the excellency of the providence of God” (p. 56).

One last piece

Moses spent forty years in Egypt before he went into exile in Midian. We’ve managed to piece together a collage of what life might have been like into his early adulthood. The Jewish historian Josephus records another bit of his story in The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 10. According to his account, when Moses had reached full maturity, he was appointed general of the Egyptian army, went against their enemies, the Ethiopians, conquered them, and returned victorious. The Bible nowhere mentions this activity.

One yet to come

So far we have noted five memorable women whose presences figured prominently in the epic story of Moses: Shiphrah and Puah, Pharaoh’s daughter, Jochebed, and Zipporah —all heroic figures, all courageous in dangerous times.

One woman yet remains—Miriam—the subject of our next post.


[1] Citation in Moses and the Gods of Egypt (1971), John J. Davis, p. 52.

[2] See Exploring Exodus, p. 32.

[3] Women in Ancient Egypt (1993), Gay Robins, p. 89.

[4] See Barnes’ Notes and Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary regarding Ex. 2:4-5.

[5] Josephus seems to think so. See The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 9.3; 9.4.

[6] Women in Scripture (2000), Carol Meyers, Gen. Ed., p. 103.

[7] Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc.

[8] Exploring Exodus, p. 33.

[9] Moses and the Gods of Egypt, p. 55.

[10] Ibid. Davis comments that this hairstyle was actually found on a mummy of a young boy.

The Midwives

Pharaoh’s growing problem

Pharaoh was anxious. The increasing size of the Israelite presence in Egypt’s Delta region was worrisome, and in spite of his imposition of harsh servitude, they just continued to multiply. These people were a strong, valuable workforce, and he knew they couldn’t arm themselves and turn against Egypt. After all, they were in bondage and dependent on Egypt for food. However, if his slaves ever aligned with an enemy, that would pose a significant threat. Three million slaves lived in Goshen and 600,000 of them were men—potential warriors. Something must be done.

A depiction of the Hebrews' bondage in Egypt, ...

A depiction of the Hebrews’ bondage in Egypt, during which they were forced to make bricks without straw. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pharaoh had to deal with the number of slaves without destroying slavery. His solution was to decrease the number of Hebrew males. Harsh servitude hadn’t worked. Perhaps a systematic elimination of baby boys would lower the slave birthrate, and the forcing of the females to marry Egyptian men or become household slaves in Egyptian homes would produce children loyal to Egypt. So he devised a plan.

He would require midwives to do the extermination. They assisted at Hebrew deliveries and could quickly drown the babies before suspicions were raised.[1] They could report that the infants had been stillborn.

Who were these midwives?

Scripture does not say if Shiphrah and Puah were Egyptian or Hebrew midwives. Likely they were Hebrew because of their Semitic names and their fear of God (Ex.1:17). The two women probably represented of a guild of midwives, and that may have been why Pharaoh singled them out. He explained the procedure they were to follow at the birth of a Hebrew boy and expected them to pass on the order.

When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools,[2] if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.

Looking back over 3500 years, it’s hard to imagine what happened when Shiphrah and Puah stood before Pharaoh. Did they say anything in his presence? Did they remain silent and feign compliance? Did they tell the other midwives to secretly disobey? How did they evade his order? Scripture doesn’t say. But they were successful for some length of time because “the people multiplied and grew very mighty” (Ex.1:20).

Amazing Intervention

Eventually Pharaoh realized that the Hebrew baby boys were being saved, and he asked the midwives for an explanation.

Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?

Shiphrah and Puah came up with what seems like a barely credible excuse for all the live baby boys.

The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before a midwife can get to them.

As Pharaoh listened, God must have endowed their words with believable-ness, creating a reasonable delusion in his mind—His plan wasn’t working because Hebrew women had faster rates of delivery than Egyptian women.

God blessed the midwives in additional ways: Pharaoh didn’t execute them for disobedience; the Egyptian king shifted the responsibility for killing babies to the Egyptian people; and God provided households for the midwives (Ex. 1:20).

Legacy

The names of Shiphrah and Puah[3] were recorded in Exodus for succeeding generations to understand that their courage mattered to God. It made a difference in history.[4]

I wonder if they ever knew that one of the baby boys who lived was Moses—the one destined to become the deliverer of Israel.—Mary Hendren

.

 

 


[1] According to John J. Davis, in his book Moses and the Gods of Egypt (1971), p. 50, midwives aided at childbirth by “taking the newborn child, cutting its umbilical cord, washing the baby with water, salting, and wrapping it.” Some propose that babies were to be drowned under the guise of washing them immediately after their birth.

[2] Egyptian women were often delivered while squatting on two large bricks. There is some evidence that, at least in the New Kingdom, birth took place, if possible, in a specially built structure erected perhaps in the garden or on the roof of the house. (See Women in Ancient Egypt, Gay Robins, 1993, p. 83.)

[3] It is interesting that the specific names of the midwives are given, but the pharaoh of the Israelite oppression remains anonymous and a subject of continuing debate and discussion. (See Exploring Exodus (1971), Nahum Sarna, pp 24-5.)

[4] The Nelson’s StudyBible, NKJV, 2007, p. 91, note on v. 15.

Of a mother and her child

The Creator definitely had a master plan when He put all the elements needed for growth and success in place. He created two beings—a man and a woman, each made in His image—and told them to become one, and to multiply. He gave them guidelines for happiness, a beautiful place in which to live, and the ability to produce offspring, also in their own image.

The miracle of reproduction is still amazing these thousands of years later. The fact that an infant is not only born with its parents’ likenesses, but that its mother can continue to sustain it with life-giving nourishment from her own body is awesome. From its very first cry, she is there to hold her baby close, to suckle it, and establish a bond meant to last a lifetime.

Janis Rozentals - Mother and Child

Janis Rozentals – Mother and Child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The mother who laughed

The first reference in the Bible to nursing is in Genesis 21:6-7, when Sarah rejoiced at the birth of her miracle-son, Isaac:  “And Sarah said, ‘God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.’ She also said, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Treacherous times

The next episode of note involves the birth of a beautiful baby boy during treacherous times. Moses, Jochebed and Amram’s third child, was born under a death sentence. Pharaoh’s maniacal efforts to curb the growing numbers of Israelites resulted in a chilling edict: All newborn baby boys must be thrown in the river and drowned!

It is possible Jochebed delivered Moses without the aid of midwives in the interest of secrecy; for three months she succeeded in hiding him. No doubt worried about informers or the risk of discovery by palace troops, she embarked on a courageous plan to save her precious boy.

Taking an ark of bulrushes, she waterproofed it with a coating of asphalt and pitch. Then she secreted it among water plants fringing the river’s shore. How heartbreaking it must have been to nurse her tiny son one last time, place him securely in his miniature vessel, and then walk away!

Would he stay safe, and warm, and dry? His sister stood a silent sentinel, watching from afar.

It could not have been long before Pharaoh’s daughter heard cries of a tiny infant as she neared the water. When she discovered Moses she immediately called for a nurse. The Hebrew phrase is literally “a woman causing to be breastfed” (‘ishah meyneqet); some translations have “a wet-nurse.” Miriam was there to suggest just such a person—his own mother, Jochebed.

Lent to the Lord


Another incident concerns a certain woman named Hannah. Hers is a well-known story. Unable to bear children for years, Hannah begged God to hear her pleas, promising that if He should grant her desire for a son, she would give him back to His service. God heard, and Samuel was born. Scripture says, “…The woman stayed and nursed her son until she had weaned him” (1 Samuel 1:23). Then she took him to the house of Lord along with sacrifices, saying,  “For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD” (vs 27-28).

Weaning

While suckling an infant promotes early bonding, there comes a point when it is no longer possible or practical to do so. The child is weaned, and depends predominantly on other forms of nourishment.

There is some discussion about the age when weaning took place. Burton Scott Easton, in his explanation in The International Bible Standard Encyclopedia, remarks that the Hebrew word for “wean,” gamal, “covers the whole period of nursing and care until the weaning is complete (1 Kings 11:20). This period in ancient Israel extended to about 3 years, and when it was finished the child was mature enough to be intrusted [sic] to strangers (1 Sam 1:24).” He continues that the “completion of the period marked the end of the most critical stage of the child’s life, [and] it was celebrated with a feast (Gen 21:8), a custom still observed in the Orient” (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc.).

On the other hand, Adam Clarke in his commentary on Genesis 21:8 presents different opinions: “The time that children were weaned among the ancients is a disputed point. Jerome says there were two opinions on this subject. Some hold that children were always weaned at five years of age; others, that they were not weaned till they were twelve” (from Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc.). The practicality of either of these ages can easily be disputed.

Conventional wisdom seems satisfied that the age for weaning was between two and three years of age, when a child could walk and chew solid food.

The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Bible Commentary furnishes the following regarding the celebration when Isaac was weaned (Genesis 21:8): “In Eastern countries this is always a season of domestic festivity, and the newly weaned child is formally brought, in presence of the assembled relatives and friends, to partake of some simple viands. Isaac, attired in the symbolic robe, the badge of birthright, was then admitted heir of the tribe [Rosenmuller].”

Wet nurses and nursemaids

When Moses was rescued by Pharoah’s daughter, the fact that she called for a nursing woman indicates such services were available should the need arise. Sometimes these women would stay on past the weaning stage, and become a nursemaid or, more modernly, a nanny, to the developing child.

Jochebed may have continued with Moses for some time before bringing him to the Egyptian princess—likely due to a grander plan of a higher power at work. It would not be out of the realm of possibility, in my opinion, that she began teaching him about his heritage as well as simply caring for his physical needs in those formative years. However, the Bible does not directly say.

In New Testament times

Among the Roman elite, it was not uncommon for a new mother to rely on the services of a lactating slave or a professional wet nurse. However a certain respect and symbolism existed for the mother who suckled her own young. Lynn H. Cohick, in her book Women in the World of the Earliest Christians (2009), writes, “Reflecting commonly held sentiments, Favorinus (ca. AD 85-165) attacks matrons who refuse to nurse their own infants as consumed by concerns for beauty” (p 145). She continues, “Plutarch, writing from the early second century AD, laments the emotional distance between mother and infant resulting from employing a wet nurse” (p 146).

To this day

Whether or not to nurse one’s baby when it is physically possible continues to be a controversial subject. Although wet nurses are still common in some parts of the developing world, scientific and nutritional advances have provided much of the world with additional means for proper nourishment for infants. There is however a rigorous movement advocating breastfeeding. The only thing missing, at least in this country, is the grand celebration when a child is finally weaned.

Two wise women

I find two of the most intriguing women who lived during the time of David are known only as “wise women.” While tradition assigns names to the wise men mentioned in Matthew, these individuals are identified only by the cities in which they lived—Tekoa and Abel. One speculation is that there were other such women in the land, and specific identification was of less importance than what they did. This post will concentrate largely on the woman from Tekoa, and incidentally with her counterpart in Abel.

The first encounter

Tragedy and heartache had visited David. His daughter Tamar was raped by her half-brother, Amnon, David’s firstborn son. In an act of passionate vengeance, Absalom (her full brother) murdered the rapist, and then fled his father’s wrath to the safety of his mother’s people in Geshur (2 Samuel 13:37-39). For three years, David mourned for his exiled son.

Joab, David’s nephew and commander of his army, was astute and knew his king well. Unless David reconciled with Absalom, the fate of the monarchial line was at stake. He devised a plan which included a wise woman in Tekoa.

Who is this woman?

Though nameless in the Bible, the fact that Joab knew of her and sought her out indicates she was a familiar figure. Presumably, she enjoyed some reputation in the environs of the area in which she lived.

What made her wise?

Claudia Camp, in her essay, The Wise Women of 2 Samuel,[1] presents a plausible scenario in my opinion. The Book of Proverbs has much to say about wisdom, its value indicated by the abundance of cautions and advice contained within its pages. Proverbs also “gives an indication of a mother’s role in the training of her children, not only as infants and toddlers, but also in the proper attitudes and actions of adult life,” she says. Furthermore, she notes that Proverbs 1:8 and 6:20 speak of the commands and instructions of fathers as a parallel to the law of mothers. Teaching children about life was a joint venture.

In Camp’s view, this woman likely heard axioms concerning wisdom repeatedly during her upbringing. She probably even memorized them and had them emphasized as object lessons at every opportunity. In turn, she passed these on to her own children. As she grew in wisdom from her life experiences, she might also have grown in stature not only in her family, but in her community as well. As others began to seek her counsel, she was gradually regarded as the village wise woman.

Wise women in action 

Both women exhibited some similarities of approach. First, they spoke with confidence and a certain authority (though not officially as a prophet or judge). They both were courageous—one in presenting a total fabrication to her king in order to change his mindset, and the other in effecting the decapitation of the secessionist and rebel, Sheba (2 Samuel 20).

Joab pursues Sheba to the city of Abel.

Joab pursues Sheba to the city of Abel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Additionally, each woman used a common wisdom device, the utterance of proverbs or sayings (14:14; 20:18). Camp comments, “A saying, then, is employed by a wise person for a particular purpose, possibly to educate another (which always involves some implicit directing as to what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’) or, as in this case [referring to the wise woman of Abel’s exchange with Joab], to exert influence over another’s action in a way that carries some authority” (pg 198).

“Acts” of persuasion

The wise woman of Tekoa, through her believable performance of a purely fictional scenario, was able to change King David’s perspective enough to bring about reconciliation and preservation of his line of succession. Though Joab had “put words in her mouth” (2 Sam. 14:3)—by essentially giving her a script—she had to draw on her own instincts and “wisdom” as to timing, and method of presentation.

The power of reasoning

On the other hand, the proverb spoken by the woman in Abel informed Joab that to attack the city to get at Sheba would be wrong (2 Sam. 20:18). After all, she reminded him, Abel’s reputation was as a “mother in Israel,” given to counsel, peace, and faithfulness. Perhaps she drew on her store of sayings, learned from her childhood, as she reasoned with this commander bent on assault. Principles such as, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger…” (Pro. 15:1) or “by long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone” (Pro. 25:15) come to mind. Whatever the case, her wise words carried weight with Joab (he was willing to listen) and the citizens of Abel (they were willing to act). The imminent attack averted, a potential flashpoint for civil war among the tribes of Israel was effectively quenched.

More to learn

These two anonymous women, sought out for their wisdom, positively affected David’s reign. The Bible notes other women who exhibited good judgment and insight. We will meet them in future posts and explore the impact of wisdom in their lives and in the lives of others.

Meanwhile, now might be a good opportunity to review the sayings of the Book of Proverbs. One never knows when she might find herself thrust into the role of a “wise woman.”


[1] Alice Bach, editor, Women from the Hebrew Bible (1999), pg 201

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