15 March 2019
Our reading group has just finished Joshua and Judges in our journey through the first third of the Old Testament. There is a lot of bloodshed and some of it initiated by God. People are driven out of the land. Thumbs and toes are cut off. Hailstones are sent to punish.
There are some strong women. The prophet, Deborah, commands Barak to lead his soldiers into battle. He isn’t so sure. ‘If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go!’ Was he a scaredy custard?
There was the enterprising woman who dropped a millstone on Abimelek’s head. He is ashamed of the circumstances surrounding his imminent demise. So he saves his honour with a quick word to his armour-bearer, ‘Draw your sword and kill me so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him!’’
And then there is Jael, famed for hammering a tent peg into Sisera’s temple. The coward had escaped the battlefield and sought hospitality in Jael’s house whilst his mother waits patiently looking out of her latticed window longing for the return of her beloved son.
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?’ she asks. ‘Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?’ You sense the disquieted heart, soon to be filled with grief, never to be consoled. But who is going to tell her of Sisera’s cowardice and death by a woman’s hand?