Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sometimes a Girl’s Gotta ’ Bludgeon Someone

But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Judges 4:21

I have such a love/hate relationship with the Old Testament. It can be very complicated theologically to marry the New Testament message of love and forgiveness with the Old Testament's slayings and smitings. Even though I accept that the Old Testament was written from a very different paradigm and understanding of how God can and will act in the world, it would be far more comfortable if God had gone with unconditional forgiveness from the start. But that is not the story we have. Instead we have a sometimes brutal depiction of war, pillaging, smiting, raping, and bloodletting. Despite that, I'm grateful for the record of God and human interaction. It reveals the depth, the breadth, and the complexity of our relationship with the divine. That relationship is not simple, so, despite the many gospel tracts you may have seen to the contrary, let's not pretend it is.

But that's another topic…

If we're going to have to deal with all that Old Testament bloodlust, I'm at least grateful for Judges 4 and 5. People want, with great frequency, to use scripture to oppress and silence women. I revel in a good counter-message.

First you have the judge, Deborah, who should have been home tending to children and making torches, instead going to battle with military leader Barak. He demands her presence because he's too chicken to use the bathroom without her telling him to.

Then when the enemy leader, Sisera, flees the battle, Heber's wife Jael finishes him with a tent peg. It's not enough for the scripture to say she bludgeoned him with a tent peg; it's a Quentin Tarantino special. She sneaks up to him while he's sleeping and hammers the peg through his temple so hard it pins his skull to the ground. This gal has spent her whole life having to submit to men. Her dad chose her husband, her husband has ownership privileges over her, her sons will tell her how to live out her old age, but when this powerful, oppressive, feared leader happens into her tent, she lulls him with false comfort and takes his life with the tools of a woman's trade (the women were responsible for putting up the tents).

Judges 4 and 5: Old Testament Girl-Power. Women do the judging, call the shots in battle, hear the voice of God, and drive tent pegs through villains' temples. Just try to tell Deborah and Jael that women shouldn't teach men or preach the Gospel.

The end of Deborah's song, however, is the most amazing part of the story, to me. Deborah acknowledges the mother of the bludgeoned leader, the anxiety and confusion she must have felt when Sisera did not return from battle. The real source of girl-power is compassion. While gals can definitely get it done, they also seem to comprehend the humanity of others more deeply. In my opinion, it's one of the most amazing things about "Girl-Power," and one way women most often reflect the nature of Christ.

"Through the window peered Sisera's mother;behind the lattice she cried out, 'Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?' Judges 5:28

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