A couple of weeks ago, I shared a project I completed with you all that is really special to me. Although I explained the meaning behind it with you already, I wanted to share in more detail why I used each specific character.
Here is the final product. Unlike the last post, I was able to tighten the fabric so that it was not so wrinkled. From left to right, the stories portrayed are that of Deborah, the unnamed concubine, the Tamars, and Elkanah and Hannah.
Deborah, the judge (Judges 4-5)
Not only was Deborah the only woman judge recorded among the story of the judges, but she was a legitimate leader, not just for a woman, but in her own right. Deborah has become one of my biggest inspirations. Many women were used by God to accomplish his purpose in the Old Testament. However, oftentimes, because of their role in society this was done inconspicuously. Deborah, however, was an outright leader over men and women alike. They came to her to mediate disputes, and they followed her in battle. Deborah was legit!
The Unnamed Concubine, Judges 19
This story is considered one of the four “texts of terror” in the Old Testament. It’s horrible, it’s gruesome, it’s completely unjust. This “unnamed” concubine was essentially tossed outside to a group of horrible men threatening to come in and rape her husband. Instead, he threw her outside to spare himself. She was brutally sexually abused throughout the night and left at the threshold of her masters home in the morning. Alive or not – we aren’t told – he cuts her into twelve pieces and sends each piece to the 12 tribes of Israel appealing to them to act because of this injustice. What is so tragic about this story is that at the end, her husband is treated as the victim, while she is left unnamed. This story touched me to the core. I chose this picture of the unnamed concubine for all those who have experienced domestic violence or sexual abuse. Though we don’t even know her name, she will not be forgotten.
The Tamars, 2 Samuel
There are multiple Tamars mentioned in the Old Testament, but this is a picture of Tamar, son of David. Tamar was the sister of Absalom. Amnon was Tamar and Absalom’s half brother, and he was in love with Tamar. One day, he decided to rape Tamar because he wanted her so badly. She appealed to him to ask David for her hand in marriage, but he did not listen, and she was dishonored. She was forced to live as a desolate woman in Absalom’s house. Absalom loved Tamar, and was so upset about what happened, but David did not punish Amnon or really even acknowledge the situation. Over time, Absalom became bitter, and he ended up killing Amnon and trying to overthrow his own father, David. This story is so sad because it shows how awful things can happen when those of us in ministry focus on being good leaders, to the detriment of our families. Before the story ends, Absalom names his daughter Tamar. He loved them both so much; he spoke out for Tamar when no one else did. Though she was forced to live a life of dishonor through no choice of her own, I like to imagine the peace she felt when she held the beautiful babe that shared her name.
Elkanah and Hannah, 1 Samuel 1
Elkanah and Hannah were the parents of the great prophet Samuel. I love their story because Elkanah loved Hannah and saw her identity even a part from bearing children. I like to imagine them walking side by side, true lovers, a real team. They are one of the only examples of exceptional parenting I have been able to find in the Hebrew Bible. You can tell that they are great people from their great faith and character, but mostly from how great their son turns out. Samuel is one of the few great heros of the Hebrew Bible to not only start out well, but to also finish well. He was a consistent, faithful servant of God from beginning to end, and I think his parents played a large role in that!
That was a lot of reading, but if you made it this far, you can probably see that pretty much all of these stories revolve around women. When I started this project, I reflected a long time on who I would use as lasting memories of my learning from this course. I knew I wanted to use people who did great things in my eyes, but are often overlooked. I compiled a long list, but these are the final four I chose. If you are interested, other people whose stories spoke to me include: Benjamin (brother of Joseph), Shiphrah and Puah (Midwives in Egypt), Caleb (in the story of Joshua), Othniel (Caleb’s brother and a judge), Huldah the prophetess, and Josiah (last good king of Judah).