Her name was Dinah. #metoo

Her name was Dinah. #metoo

Like all of the abuse allegations recently, the story of Dinah is ugly.

Dinah was the only daughter of Israel (Jacob). Ironically, her name means ‚Äėthe one who brings justice.‚Äô It is the feminine version of the name Dan. Lady Justice. I say ironically, because Dinah’s story has little justice. She was kidnapped in broad daylight and nearly abandoned to the men who stole her. Because of the violence perpetrated on her, she was ruined. Her line was barren.

Dinah’s story (Genesis 34)

Newly settled in the land of Canaan, Dinah, who was the imminent matriarch of Abraham’s clan, made the rounds getting to know the women in the area. While she was out and about, Shechem, the local chief‚Äôs son, saw her. He wanted her. But instead of pursuing a marriage contract with her parents, he stole her. This was common in ancient times – bride capture. Both Dinah’s grandmother and great grandmother were captured to be brides and escaped unmolested and unharmed through Divine intervention. Where was God’s deliverance for Dinah?

Shechem stole Dinah, a woman from outside his tribe, and carried her home as plunder. He sexually assaulted her. This is where we get the modern day custom of carrying the bride over the threshold. It is a leftover and forgotten symbol of taking your woman home and declaring her “mine!”

The news traveled quickly to her father, but instead of immediately running to her rescue, he decided to wait until her brothers got home from work. He might have been thinking something along these lines, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm new to this land, and I don‚Äôt want to make waves here.‚ÄĚ Or, ‚ÄúThis must be the way they do things.‚ÄĚ Boys will be boys. Jacob waited. In fact, Shechem‚Äôs father Hamor is the first to act. But instead of taking Dinah home and condemning his son, he sought to pacify his son, the perpetrator.

‚ÄúMy son can‚Äôt live without your daughter!‚ÄĚ Hamor told Jacob. He offered to pay for Dinah. ‚ÄúI‚Äôll even let your sons marry our women! And you can have some of our land. Our tribes can unite with the marriage of Shechem and Dinah.‚ÄĚ

Surprisingly, Jacob didn’t answer one way or the other! Was he considering allowing his daughter to marry these barbarian wife thieves? Who would rescue Dinah? The local government was complicit! Jacob was silent. Who would bring justice for Lady Justice?

Teenagers. Teenagers rescued Dinah.

Moral outrage in the hands of youth is passionate, loud and often inappropriate. But, for Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi, the truth was clear. Dinah must be rescued. The perpetrator and those who were complicit in the crime must be punished. If the local government and her father wouldn’t protect her safety, then they would.

At the age of thirteen, Dinah’s two brothers knew they were at a disadvantage against the local strong arms protecting their sister‚Äôs abuser. And so, taking the lesson from their family history, they tricked Shechem into agreeing to circumcise his entire clan. When the pain from the crude surgery was at its worst, they attacked the camp. They plundered. They captured women and children. They killed the men. They brought their sister home.

Yes, it was literally overkill. They went too far in vengeance. Their character was scarred from their retribution (Genesis 49:5-7), but they had punished their sister’s abusers.

Jacob, thinking only about his reputation, condemned their action. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôve made my name stink to high heaven among the people here.‚ÄĚ

Jacob, thinking only of his safety says, ‚ÄúIf they decided to gang up on us and attack, as few as we are we wouldn‚Äôt stand a chance; they‚Äôd wipe me and my people right off the map.‚ÄĚ

The boys, who became men that day, replied.

‚ÄúNobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.‚ÄĚ

A timely lesson

The Jewish bar mitzvah is the ceremony celebrating the ‚Äúcoming of age‚ÄĚ for boys. It marks the transition to personal responsibility at age 13. Ever wonder why the age is 13? Because that‚Äôs the age Simeon and Levi are calculated to be when they take up their swords to defend their sister. It signifies the ability to gauge right from wrong; to be held accountable for action ‚Ķ or inaction.

Dinah was delivered to safety, but she never had a family of her own. Sexual violence destroys women’s lives. I think Simeon and Levi‚Äôs words should help us point our moral compass better than Jacob‚Äôs.

‚ÄúNobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.‚ÄĚ

(re-written from a previous post on Nov. 20, 2011: A time to act or be silent? )


Women in the Text: Sarah’s Submissive Reputation

Women in the Text: Sarah’s Submissive Reputation

Thousands of years after Sarah lived, we learn she was a well-admired woman by those who studied the Hebrew Scriptures.¬†Peter describes her as submissive to Abraham and full of courage (1 Peter 3:5-6). The author of Hebrews extols her faith in God’s promise (Hebrews 11:11). At face value, these may seem like different aspects of her character, but I’d argue they are both referring to the same episode in Sarah’s life: the time¬†Isaac was conceived.

Sarah did not submit to Abraham’s sin.

In 1 Peter 3, the author¬†uses Sarah’s submissiveness to Abraham as an example for women who are married to unbelieving husbands. Sarah herself was not married to an unbeliever, so what aspect of her life is to serve as an example? What was Sarah known for in the time Peter was written? It has been proposed by many preachers, theologians and women’s studies that Sarah submitted to Abraham’s lie and endured the sexual attentions of Pharaoh and Abimalech for his protection. But as I wrote in a previous article, The Sister Story was not a¬†lie, but the truth that Abraham and Sarah publicized in order to¬†survive the culture of licentiousness surrounding their family in Canaan. Abimalech and Pharaoh’s gifts of honor support the facts that they had abused and dishonored Sarah through no fault of Abraham and Sarah. Sarah did not submit to Abraham’s sin because Abraham did not sin in these circumstances of bride theft. Wives married to unbelieving husbands should not use a misunderstanding of The Sister Story as¬†the example to submit to their husbands, even in some twisted way for their husband’s protection.

My lord is old.

So what part of Sarah’s reputation is Peter referring to? Verse ¬†6 says Sarah¬†called Abraham, “lord.” Glancing back at Sarah’s story, this title for her husband was only recorded once. Doesn’t that simplify the context Peter is referring to for us?

So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‚ÄúAfter I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?‚ÄĚ Genesis 18:12

Sarah was 89-years-old. She was infertile. This verse records her reaction to God telling her the time had come for God’s promise to materialize as a baby. It was a sensible reaction, yes? She was not a virgin. She understood that to have a baby, she and Abraham were first going to have to make the baby. ¬†Yada-yada-yada, if you understand my Yiddish. Hence her first concern was that her lady parts were worn out and that her “sire” was decrepit. At 99, Abraham would have difficulty fulfilling his job as well. Hebrews even says “he was good as dead.” Even in her cynicism, Sarah’s faith shines bright, and she submits in faith to try once more to make a baby. She believed God.

If you have ever struggled with infertility or walked alongside of someone who has, I’m sure you understand the enormity of Sarah’s submissiveness to the promise of a baby. The fear of failure is overwhelming, yet the hope of success urges you on again and again until your optimism is exhausted. You are wrung out and your heart can only survive with callouses. You learn to quarantine¬†your desire for a child… so you can stay alive. Sarah knew all this for 7 1/2 decades. She probably thought she was over it. Until God’s Word sparked her amusement and re-kindled the dreaded desire to try. just. one. more. time.

She believed God and submitted to Abraham again.

Submissive Sarah cooperated with God (and Abraham).

In the recorded stories of the Bible, God seeks human participation in God’s work in the world. I was recently reminded of this as I discussed baptism with my daughter. Baptism is a person’s action of faith. It is a submissive response that proves to witnesses that we’ve formed a heavenly alliance. My favorite prophet, Elisha, was the master at getting others involved in God’s work. Sure, we could look at this participatory involvement as a “test of faith.” But, I’ve never liked that perspective. Instead, I believe these are acts of grace designed to attract our affections through our cooperation with the Divine. And that is my personal definition of submission.

Sarah cooperated with Abraham to procure their tiny bundle of grace, who she named “Laughter (Isaac)” after the pivotal moment in her life when she faced her fears and hopes with action and courage.

The [women of old] submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 1 Peter 3:5-6

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. Hebrews 11:11

Sarah¬†believed God’s¬†promise.

Sarah’s submissive reputation was the result of her faith in God’s Word that she would birth a royal family. She cooperated with God’s plan for her and joined Abraham to participate in the act of grace required to conceive a child. Against all the odds, Sarah birthed the¬†promised child.

Women in the Text: Sarah’s Abductions

Women in the Text: Sarah’s Abductions

The capture of wives  in the ancient world

Within a generation after the fall of humanity in Eden, we read that Lamech “took” two women. He became the first polygamist, thereby rebelling against God’s decree that two people become one, and that the man should leave his family and cleave to his wife. Lamech “took” and brought them to himself. The violence of this act is¬†indicated by the subsequent brawl, self-rationalized murder and implied threats to his women (Genesis 4:22-23). The need to guard his female conquests led to the invention of weapons by Lamech’s son, who learned to whet metal into sharp instruments. All the better to kill you with, my dear!

Brutal violence ensued and stealing women became necessary for each clan to procreate, since  men were taking more than their alotted one wife. Women quickly became a desired commodity, with the strongest men claiming monopolies through harems and multiple marriages.

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them,  the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took women Рany they chose. Genesis 6:1-2

The sad prophecy of Genesis 3:16 is exemplified in those verses with the heinous actions of rape and bride theft prevalent throughout the ancient world, resulting in the separation of young women from the protection of their familial home and kin. This is the setting of ancient Canaan that Abram and Sarai embarked through.

The Sister Story

“We are brother and sister.” This was the public story Abraham and Sarah told for decades. The Bible does not tell us their motive for this, except through Abraham’s words we learn that he thought it was the way to save lives.¬†In a discussion¬†he had with Sarah upon entering the wild lands of Canaan, Abraham said:

“Sarai, this is a dangerous land where no one knows God. I’m afraid they will kill me so they can have you. Let’s tell everyone you are my sister only. It would be a mercy for you to call me your brother.” (Gen. 20:11-13)

And Sarah agreed with him.

Traditionally, theologians have guessed that this “lie” was a character flaw in Abraham and Sarah, but¬†Dr. Gordon Hugenberger disagrees. (The following theory is based on his sermon to¬†Park Street Church in Boston, found here.) Sarah and Abraham did not lie, but used the truth -Abraham and Sarah were siblings – to¬†survive the culture of licentiousness surrounding their family in Canaan. They both wished to avoid inciting a violent situation in a land known for lawlessness.

Did Abraham use Sarah to protect himself at her expense?

Consider the ramifications of the traditional understanding that Abraham used this “lie” to protect himself at Sarah’s expense. By telling the world she was his sister, was he advertising she was available for marriage or something worse? Did he want her to consort¬†with a pagan? Did he want to “sell” her off? No. Of course not. No normal¬†husband wants his wife to sleep with another man. So, claiming she was a sister was not to put her on the marriage/sex market to save his own skin.

Did Abraham want to get rich off Sarah’s eligibility?

There is also the¬†bride-price to consider. Some claim that Abraham wanted to get rich off the gifts given by the two kings for Sarah. But, this is a misunderstanding of ancient bridal customs. A maiden girl owned nothing. But when she was married, her husband’s family paid a bride-price which was hers to keep as insurance in case of widowhood. The bride-price was hers alone, often worn directly on her person. (The parable of the lost coin is about a woman losing a part of her bride-price.) So, if Pharaoh gave bridal gifts, they would go to Sarah, not Abraham. This cultural understanding erases a motive of greed on Abraham’s part.

Not only does a cultural understanding of bridal customs expunge Abraham’s motives, it actually validates the reason for The Sister Story. As a sister, she had no inheritance at Abraham’s death. It all went to a male heir. A man who stole her and forced marriage on her would get nothing.¬†But, as a wife, she had a sizable fortune that did belong to her alone and would go to her husband upon her death.¬† As a wife, Sarah¬†¬†was a titled –remember her name is her title – and loaded target. As a wife, Abraham also becomes a target for any unscrupulous, greedy bride thief, especially considering her¬†advanced age.

The Sister Story acted as insurance for both of them. And it worked.

Except when it didn’t.

Sarah was abducted.

Sarai was taken into Pharaoh’s house (Gen 12:15).

No marriage contract was negotiated between Pharaoh and Abraham. Sarah was kidnapped and forced to the will of this powerful man, and her “brother” was placated with gifts of honor to offset the shame of having a sister stolen out from under him. In a foreign land, at the mercy of Pharaoh, facing starvation for the hundreds of people under his care, Abraham’s hands were tied.

Pharaoh is to blame.

But God’s were not. God protected Sarah with a plague on Pharaoh’s house.¬†She had God’s promise, and God proved faithful. God punished Pharaoh. God did¬†not punish Sarah nor Abraham. This reveals God’s appraisal of the situation. Pharaoh was the one who sinned. Pharaoh reacted in anger when he learned the full truth, but neither did he¬†punish or harm Abraham for his deception. He did not demand his gifts back. This indicates Pharaoh knew he was the one to blame. Of course he tries to shift ¬†responsibility to The Sister Story with his words, but he does not require anything of Abraham or Sarah except to leave the country – and take your God with you! –¬† because they had done nothing wrong.

Why didn’t Abraham and Sarah learn from their mistakes the first time?

After the story failed to protect Sarah in Egypt, why did they continue to tell The Sister Story for another twenty years? Were they too stubborn to repent? Or does the fact that they continued to publish their sibling relationship indicate it was a successful cover? After all, Isaac and Rebekah used it as well throughout their life. Because The Sister Story acted as insurance for both of them. And it worked.

Except when it didn’t.

Sarah was abducted, again.

Abimalech …took Sarah (Gen 20:2).

Again, no marriage contract was negotiated with Abraham. Sarah was stolen, and a forced marriage was planned. God, once again, intervened to protect Sarah, not in spite of her lies, but because of the outrageous wickedness of this king toward¬†those God promised to bless. Abimalech, like Pharaoh, responded¬†to God’s curses and revelations with anger. His abundant, blame-shifting words tempt us¬†to be distracted from the truth of the situation, but ¬†Abimalech’s guilt is exposed by his extravagant gifts served to placate the anger of Sarah’s God. ¬†If Abraham and Sarah had been to blame, the tale would have ended much differently. And again, we get no sense of God’s judgement on The Sister Story, but on the greedy, licentious behavior of Abimalech.

Sarah’s “beauty”

The Sister Story was used¬†during Abraham and Sarah’s entire lives in Canaan. Why did it fail with¬†Pharaoh and Abimalech? My English Bible says it was because of Sarah’s irresistible¬†beauty. ¬†I find that hard to believe. She was an old woman at 65 in Egypt and 89 with Abimalech. But, I also recognize it is hard to believe she birthed Isaac at age 90. God could supernaturally have kept her looking gorgeous in her old age. Nevertheless,¬†I think it more likely that the Hebrew words describing her fair countenance should¬†be interpreted less literally,¬†indicating¬†the attractiveness of her person as a whole, considering her status as a foreign princess and sister to the esteemed and important Abraham. Kings marry foreign women with the purpose of making¬†alliances and trade agreements. Sarah was royalty with family connection to Ur, and¬†the “sister” of a man with¬†350+ men under his command. She had the blessing of a most powerful new god.¬†Most likely these were the reasons¬†why Sarah was desired by these kings, who did not need wealth, but connections.¬†¬†And¬†they were used to taking what they wanted.

Sarah’s Abductions foreshadow Israel’s story

Generations after Sarah is abducted in Egypt, her grandchildren suffer a similar fate. Like Sarah, they were¬†mistreated even though they had done nothing to deserve it. Again, “Pharaoh tried to kill the boys and¬†keep the girls alive.” –¬†Dr. Gordon Hugenberger. And again, God cursed those who cursed¬†Sarah’s children.



Don’t Tell a Soul

Don’t Tell a Soul

“Do you wish to talk today, my lady?”

I whispered the words, leaning in to show her my face. Her tired eyes opened and focused. She gestured for the cup in my hand, and I helped her upright. She drank the honeyed goat milk and nodded.

“Are we alone?” she asked, unable to see farther than my face.

“Yes, my lady.” She¬†had¬†requested me to listen to her orality. She was dying and tradition dictated¬†it was time for her to pass along her¬†history. I was honored, because she had never spoken of it, as far as anyone knew, ever.

She shifted her hips and cradled her cheek to the pillow, and began in a wooden tone.

“When I was 14, I¬†was summoned to the palace to see the king. My mother had prepared me to expect a betrothal. There was talk of an alliance with the Danaii. At that age, my mind was filled with¬†gossip and silly songs. I was excited by the idea. I wasn’t so scared then.¬†I didn’t know.” Her mouth tightened with bitterness, but she continued to talk.

“But it wasn’t to discuss marriage that my father had me summoned. My brother…” and at this, she spat the words “…it seemed, had gotten himself ill. My father thought it was humorous that he was asking for me instead of the court healers, but he was the crown prince and my father encouraged his frivolities. He told me to go to Amnon and do whatever he wanted. I was dismissed.

“Amnon was in bed when I arrived with my women. I’ll never forget what gown I was wearing that day, because it was blue and I’ve never worn blue again.” I looked toward her wardrobe and the monotonous dirty white that hung from the knobs. She continued.

“And the sleeves were embroidered with pomegranates. It was belted in purple. I think I left that sash there, in his room. I never saw it again.” Her voice caught and she scratched it with a clicking noise. Her inflection soured.

“He¬†was supposed to be sick, but¬†when I saw him he appeared in high spirits. No fever. No pain that I could tell. He dismissed everyone with the excuse he wanted¬†me to feel comfortable to serve him without the servants around to interfere. Then, he¬†made me play at baking while he watched. In my naivety, I thought he was simply hungry.” Her face hardened. “I guess he was.”

“My cakes were not very good, and the heat of the oven had me flushed. He paid little attention to my food and reached to loose my collar. He said I looked too hot. I¬†had never been around Amnon before. I thought maybe he was just affectionate by nature, and allowed¬†the intrusion. But his hand…” She crossed her arms at the memory of the trespass and stopped talking.

“My lady,¬†you don’t have to tell me the details.” I said, trying to be kind.

“Okay.” She readjusted her weight and said dully, “He ruined me.”

“I know.” I reassured her. The whole kingdom knew. There were many rumors of the exploits of Amnon. I suspected she wasn’t the first virgin he’d raped, or the last.

“He kicked me off the bed when he was done, ¬†and told me to get out. I was aghast. I had comforted myself through the ordeal with the¬†acknowledgement that marriage to my half-brother would not be so bad. I would be allowed to live in my homeland and be close to my mother and brother.¬†And so I asked him if he would speak to our father to settle the dowry that very day.” She spoke in a staccato lilt. “But he didn’t even look at me. He threw my clothes at me and pushed me out the door.”

She rolled on to her back and pressed her palm over her eyes. Her mouth opened in a gash of misery. An unuttered wail swelled her chest, and her body shuddered in memory.

“I wasn’t allowed to make a scene. My mourning rags were burned and replaced with normal attire. The king, when he heard the gist of what had happened, sent word that I was to keep quiet. Even your father, after questioning me on the specifics, told me to keep my humiliation a secret. Only, its hard to keep a princess who has been taken off the auction block a secret, eh? With my virginity gone, I was useless to the king.”

“Please. Don’t tell a soul.” Her last words to me. She was my aunt and my namesake: Tamar.


Diary of Judas, a betrayer (Conclusion)

Was Judas’ remorse over his betrayal of an innocent man evidence of the repentance of his sin? Even though Jesus said Judas did not believe early in his ministry,[1]¬†could he have come to belief at the end of his life? If the priests had shown mercy and a proper spirit of helpfulness when he approached them, would he have condemned himself as he did? How could a close intimate who daily witnessed the love, forgiveness and power of Christ be tempted to turn him over to his enemies in the first place?

 In a very true sense, all sin is a mystery. And the difficulty is greater with the greatness of the guilt, with the smallness of the motive for doing wrong, and with the measure of the knowledge and graces vouchsafed to the offender. In every way the treachery of Judas would seem to be the most mysterious and unintelligible of sins.[2]

Some have speculated that Judas never believed or loved Jesus. The Apocryphal Arabic Gospel of the Infancy says that Judas was possessed by Satan even as a baby to paint him evil his entire time spent with Christ; as someone groomed to betray, a sleeper agent.

Others, namely a sect of Gnostics considered to be heretics by the early church fathers, taught that Judas was the only disciple enlightened to the truth. His betrayal was a self-sacrifice of sorts that led Christ to the cross in order for mankind to be redeemed. Judas was revered and worshiped because of this reasoning.

A popular, modern theory is similar to that outlined in the fictional diaries presented here. Judas, like most of the other disciples, dreamed of a messianic, earthly kingdom. He formulated a plan to provoke the uprising of the people at the arrest of Jesus. The people would then free Jesus and set him on the throne. Hence, Judas’ remorse when he finds out the people did not revolt.

Judas is guilty of ultimate treachery. That is undeniable. Judas was also an intimate hand-chosen by Jesus, which implies admirable attributes and a gift of grace.[3] Take an exaggerated view of any theory and you can miss a valuable lesson about the effects of unfaithful, sinful thinking. Judas’ story serves as a warning, if you will, for those considered “close to the Master.” Because even in familiarity with the “rabbi”, a gradual slip into selfish desire can result in tragedy.

Read the fictional diary of Judas penned during the last week of his life, Passion Week.

Friday’s Entry; Thursday‚Äôs Entry;¬† Wednesday‚Äôs Entry; Tuesday‚Äôs Entry;¬†Monday‚Äės Entry; Sunday‚Äės Entry

[1] John 6:62-71

[2] Written by W.H. Kent. Transcribed by Thomas M. Barrett.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

[3] It could be argued that wisdom is keeping your enemies close by! (John 6:64)

The Diary of Judas, a betrayer (Friday)

The Diary of Judas, a betrayer: Thursday’s Entry;¬† Wednesday‚Äôs Entry; Tuesday‚Äôs Entry;¬†Monday‚Äės Entry; Sunday‚Äės Entry

I hid in the olive grove until sunrise tormented by what I had done.[1] How could I have deceived myself into believing the rabbi was a military general? He was simply a good man, a prophet. He was not one to make war. I was harassed by memories of his voice.

“Blessed are the peacemakers.”[2]

“Don’t fight with an evil person. If someone strikes you, allow him the opportunity to do right. Keep giving him another chance.”[3]

“Don’t tell people about the miracles I’ve done.”[4]

“I am going away and you will look to find me. But, where I go you cannot come.”[5]

“The man who betrays me will be miserable. He will wish he was never born.”[6]

I hid my face with my shawl, and made my way back to Jerusalem to discover the fate of my teacher. I went to the house of Abbas, my friend, for the news.

“Judas! Come in and celebrate with us!” Abbas cried when he saw me. He thrust a wine cup into my hand and slapped me across the back. I stared at him blankly, uncomprehending.

Pinching my cheek roughly, he said, “Silly boy! Haven’t you heard the news? Where are your ears?” He checked the sides of my head, smirking. “It is being shouted from the rooftops! The son of Abbas is reprieved of all crimes. My son is free!”[7] Abbas danced around the room in joy.

“What? How?” I asked.

“Governor Pilate gave the people a choice for Passover amnesty, and they chose my son!”

I grabbed the man by his shoulders to make him stand still.

“A choice? Who was the other prisoner?” I could feel my face flushing and my legs began to weaken.

Abbas buried his index finger in my chest.

“Your rabbi!” The man I once called a friend laughed at my misery. “Some messiah he is.”

“Trust those Romans fools to convict the innocent and release the guilty,” I said under my breath.

“Eh? What’s that? The Romans? No boy, it was the Jews who demanded it. My son, he is a hero of the people!” the old man said in earnest. “The people demanded your Rabbi Yeshua be crucified.”

Crucified? Already? The sun had just risen! It was only six hours ago that he was arrested! When did they have time to hold a proper trial?

Bitterly, I shrugged off the old man’s presence and ran through the streets, up the stairs and into the temple. I pushed through the old men crowding the Court of the Women and into the Men’s Court, when a priest collared me and prevented my entry.

“You are uncovered and unclean,” he said motioning to my bare head and the dried blood on my hands and sleeves.

“I’ve done something terrible, sir.”

My anguished emotions and dashed hopes came out in one gasp of agony. I fell to my knees and touched the tassels on his robe, sobbing.

The priest, angered that I’d spread my uncleanness to him, gripped my elbow and pulled me into an inner room and said, “Wait here.”

That, I could not do. Immediately, I pulled the money sack I’d been given, jingling with 30 pieces of my broken heart inside and re-entered the court. I covered my head with my shawl and stalked into the Men’s Court, up to the group of chief priests officiating the morning service.

“I’ve done something and you must fix it.” I looked at each of the men hoping to find a glimmer of pity. I found arrogant disapproval. I tried again because there was nothing left to do but beg. I dropped to my knees.

“Take it.” I held out the coin sack to the nearest priest. “I made a mistake. I never meant for Rabbi Yeshua to be crucified!”

“So what?” the son of Caiaphas, the high priest said. “It’s not our fault he was convicted of crimes against the state.”

My head thundered.

“But he is innocent! You know he is no Zealot!”

The priest shrugged and turned his back to me. The others joined him at the treasury door and went inside. I hurled the coins after them and erupted with rage. I ripped my tunic from neck to hem, screaming for Yahweh to bring justice on these men and me.

I cannot bear what I have done. My guilt … how can I live with it? I am a dead man, and there is no Yeshua to raise me.

Then he went away and hanged himself.[8]

[1] Matthew 27:3

[2] Matthew 5:9

[3] Matthew 5:39

[4] Mark 7:36, Mark 3:12, 1:44, 5:43,

[5] John 8:21

[6] Mark 14:21

[7] Matthew 27:15-26

[8] Matthew 27:5

Diary of Judas, a betrayer (Thursday)

The Diary of Judas, a betrayer: Wednesday’s Entry; Tuesday‚Äôs Entry;¬†Monday‚Äės Entry; Sunday‚Äės Entry

At the Seder, we locked eyes across the bowl of bitter herbs, and the rabbi told me he knew I was turning him over to the authorities.[1] In fact, he said it was prophesied.[2] He understands that I will give him the reason he needs to revolt, armed with the swords he asked us to prepare.[3]

It was almost midnight by the time I reached the palace of Caiaphas.

“It’s time,” I said to the high priest. “He will go to the olive press on the Mountain of Olives with only a few. Are you ready?”

“Oh, I’m not going, boy.” Caiaphas scoffed. “Traipsing about the outskirts of town at this time of night?” He shook his head. “No, you take my guard and raise a mob from the leaders, and bring him to me.”

It took an hour to tour the Sanhedrin’s precinct for the rulers and rabble-rousers willing to join us, and by the time we crossed the Kidron Valley, we had a sizable crowd. Our torchlight cut through the darkness and marked our progression for any who was awake to see. And the noise we made! Swords clinking, and the Passover-drunk crew were singing and banging their clubs against the tree trunks. The rabbi knew we were coming. Only the deaf and blind could miss us. But, I knew he would wait for me. He would not run away.

We came up on him sitting on a stone in the dark. My excitement that the moment had come made me say jubilantly,

“Good evening, Rabbi!”

I reached for him, pressed my cheek on his and kissed the air beside his ear. I began to pull back, but he embraced me in a hug and spoke into my ear.


He held me at arm’s length and questioned me with a look.

I answered him with a grin. He sighed, and dropped his arms.

“Do what you came to do.”

When I pulled away, my cheek was damp. I rubbed across the wet, and there was blood on my fingers.[4]

Jesus looked past me and asked the mob, “Who do you want?”

The captain of the guard said, “Are you the Rabbi Yeshua of Nazareth?”

“I am,” Jesus answered.

The breath was knocked out of me as the ground rushed to meet my chin. A couple of the men yelped in pain and a few were burned from falling torches. I peered up and saw that every man was lying prone on the ground[5] except the rabbi, who stood holding his hands in front to him, waiting for us to rise. We did, with speed. Then, the tussle began.

I was pushed aside as the high priest’s soldiers grabbed for the rabbi. I unsheathed my knife and pointed it at the nearest neck, but Peter beat me to first blood by mutilating the ear of Caiaphas’ valet.[6] I cheered the action, and was about to mimic it, when Jesus roared.

“PUT YOUR SWORDS AWAY!” He spread his hands wide to calm everyone and gently reached for the valet who had fallen in agony. The rabbi touched the side of his head, smoothed back his hair and helped him to his feet. The ear was restored.[7]

“Don’t you think I can call on my Father’s help and 50,000 angels will fight for me? But I must fulfill the prophecies that say it will happen this way. There will be no fighting. Swords will only bring more death.”

He looked at me, then at all the others.

“There will be no revolt.”

Phillip and Thaddeus were the first to back away into the darkness. Mark was being held by two men and he struggled so hard to flee, he left his tunic in his captor’s hands, and fled naked.[8] I don’t know how long the others stood by his side because I ran into an empty night.

[1] Matthew 26:23-25

[2] Matthew 26:24

[3] Luke 22:35-38

[4] Luke 22:44

[5] John 18:6

[6] This wasn’t a miss, but a brutal attack on this man that disqualified him for priestly service, thereby instantly unemploying him. (Leviticus 21:16-23)

[7] Luke 22:50

[8] Mark 14:51-52