Who’s your mother?

Who’s your mother?

The most-loved title that Jesus uses for God is “Father.” God, who is not male, chose this designation to describe the protective care that is provided to all God’s children. It was an apt symbol for a patriarchal society that confirmed all relational, legal and public authority on the male head of households. But does the use of the title of “Father” negate the metaphor of God as “Mother?” Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we find motherly metaphors of God. This article looks at the role of Mother in the life and teaching of Jesus.

Jesus was born of a woman.

In Genesis 3:15, God prophesies that Eve and Eve’s descendant will defeat the serpent with whom she is at war. The promised one is the seed of Woman. Thousands of years later, we learn the fulfillment is found in the birth of Jesus, son of Mary.

“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1 NIV)

It was Mary, recognizing the promise to Eve, who said, “May your promise be fulfilled to me.” And it was. Mary’s virginity meant that Jesus was not fathered by a man, but was supernaturally the Son of God. Jesus’s birth has its roots in God’s promise to Eve. The one born to woman would defeat the enemy. In Galatians 4 , Paul cements this fulfillment further.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman… (Gal. 4:4 NIV)

Because Jesus was born from a woman, he is human. Because Jesus was born of a woman, he uniquely fulfills the ancient prophecy that the seed of Woman would destroy the evil one. Jesus’s mother was as important as his Father in providing an atoning sacrifice for humanity. Without the humanity he inherited from Mary, Jesus would have no kinship with us to save us.

Jesus teaches that Supernal Parents are critical.

Father

As a son born under illicit circumstances – by an unwed teen mother – Jesus was particularly enamored with paternity. “Father” was Jesus’s favorite title for God. He used the Aramaic term “Abba” to reveal his close relationship with God as “Dad.”

Jesus famously argued with the Pharisees over paternal descent, (which was their way of subtly discrediting him as a bastard) accusing them of devilish origins. “But our father is Abraham!” they protested. Jesus agreed that they were literal descendants of Abraham, as he was, but he points them beyond the physical heritage to their spiritual heritage. Jesus teaches that the proof of heavenly patronage is belief. Those who believe Jesus’s  words, have God as “heavenly” Father (John 8). Those who do not believe his teaching are “fathered” by The Liar.

God becomes Our Father when we believe the words of Jesus.

Mother

But, maternal origins are as important as paternal descent throughout the Bible. And, we find our Supernal Mother is just as important as our Supernal Father in the gospel.

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:12-14a)

Katherine Bushnell points out in God’s Word to Women, that in these verses, the children of God are not born of three things:

  • natural descent (genetics)
  • human decision – (sexual desire)
  • a husband’s “will” (ditto)

In this discussion on Godly birth, one thing is left out of the options involved in a birth… The mother. The mother’s birth-role is not excluded.  This is because we are birthed from God as our Heavenly Mother, like Jesus became flesh through Mary as her earthly son: without the aid of a husband’s “will” or carnal passion. This motherly metaphor ties our spiritual birth with Jesus’ fleshly birth -The Word became flesh- to illustrate how through Jesus, we become children of God.

The seed of Woman is Jesus, but it is also those who have received Jesus and believed in his name. We are born of God, like Jesus was born of a woman.

You must be BORN…again.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. John 3:5-6

Who gives spiritual birth to us? The Spirit, our Mother. We are the fruit of Her womb. Unless we change and become like little children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Mat 18:3). Unless we are born of our Heavenly “Mother,” we have no right to call God our “Father.”

Who’s your mother?

Women in the Text: Sarah’s Shame

Women in the Text: Sarah’s Shame

Mother Sarah had many sons. And I am one of them. And so are you. So let’s just praise the Lord! 

Sarah birthed a baby at the age of 90 after being barren her entire life. It was no accident, but the miraculous plan of God, who brings honor to the shamed.

If you have ever struggled with infertility or walked alongside of someone who has, I’m sure you understand the enormity of Sarah’s decades of struggle as a barren woman. In an ancient setting, she not only dealt with her personal desire for children, but also with the community’s judgement on her as a barren wife. The ancient world blamed the woman for marriages with no children. Also, the woman herself carried the guilt of impotence.  I wonder if Sarah felt the reproach and shame intensify with each new promise of God to her husband? We know her story in entirety, but she made her decisions with limited information, and as each of God’s promises were revealed, she must have felt the stress of her shame increase.

Father Abraham

Imagine her humiliation as Abraham told her about God’s initial promise to him to make him a great nation (Genesis 12:2). A great nation requires a child. She was unable to bear a child. I wonder if she felt she had no part in God’s plan? Did she feel in the way? Useless?

Perhaps she and Abraham speculated together the role Eliezer, Abraham’s right hand man, would play as heir to Abraham’s legacy. Abraham could adopt him! He could be a surrogate son! No. God clarified the first promise. Abraham’s own son would inherit (Genesis 15:4). Sarah must have felt confused again as she contemplated her exclusion from the plan. What was in this for her? Was God mocking her humiliation by exaggerating the hope of her husband? Count the stars, indeed. She had counted. Cycle after monthly cycle until her flows stopped. Her dishonor increased with every fertile promise God made to Abraham.

A Surrogate

The scenario of using a surrogate mother must have been in Sarah’s mind for years, but it wasn’t until God promised a son (Genesis 15:4) to Abraham that she felt the pressure to act. Many Bible expositors like to speculate she suggested Hagar, her personal servant, because she was impatient or because she doubted God, but I firmly believe she did it out of shame. I think Sarah thought that she was the problem. Her old and dried up body was a handicap to God’s great promises. Sarah’s suggestion of Hagar was not a second-rate plan. It was not a work-around to help God out. It was a heart-breaking act of desperation by a woman who was mortified. It was Sarah’s attempt to regain some honor by getting her broken body out of the way.

It was also legal.

In today’s world of liberation and social justice, we call what Sarah did to Hagar-sex trafficking. But in ancient terms, it was an acceptable legal transaction. The Code of Hammurabi gives us some insight into the everyday ethics that determined family life in the era of the Patriarchs. An infertile woman in that ancient time was vulnerable to divorce and a  refund (Law # 138). The husband could also choose to take a second wife, with the first wife claiming rank (Law #145). But, if the infertile wife did not wish to live with a harem of wives, she could offer her handmaid to her husband. If a child was born as a result, it was against the law (or custom) for the husband to remarry. Read for yourself:

144. If a man take a wife and this woman give her husband a maid-servant, and she bear him children, but this man wishes to take another wife, this shall not be permitted to him; he shall not take a second wife.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/ham/ham06.htm

Acting in accordance with the customs of her time, Sarah to Abraham: “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her. (Genesis 16:2) ” Sarah gives Hagar to Abraham, not as wife or concubine but as a womb. If Hagar conceived and bore a child, Sarah’s position as the sole wife of Abraham was secure, and she would have a child to raise as her own. Sarah’s disgrace would be lifted.

But it didn’t work out that way, did it?

More dishonor

Hagar, belly growing with Abraham’s child, violates the social customs of the day by flouting a status that did not belong to her. She condemned Sarah, her master. Genesis 16:4 says, “her mistress was dishonorable in her eyes.” It is hard to understand the vulgarity of Hagar’s behavior in today’s society of social equality and respect earned through merit. Hagar was assaulting the positional honor of Sarah, “a grave cultural faux pas on Hagar’s part” writes Marvin Newell, author of   Crossing Cultures in Scriptures: Biblical Principles For Mission Practice. “Sarah was rightfully offended, even dishonored, by her servant Hagar. Hagar’s attacks were a direct assault on her worth, value and personhood in the eyes of the community. Her position and her reputation were at stake. If she permitted Hagar to persist in her actions, her own worth of belonging would be compromised—even to the extent of a possible disconnect with her husband, Abraham. Hagar put Sarah in quite a vulnerable position.” (http://honorshame.com/sarah-hagar-a-struggle-for-honor/)

Not only did Hagar transgress the cultural values of honor and shame, her actions required a legal response. Consider Hammurabi once more:

146. If a man take a wife and she give this man a maid-servant as wife and she bear him children, and then this maid assume equality with the wife: because she has borne him children her master shall not sell her for money, but he may keep her as a slave, reckoning her among the maid-servants.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/ham/ham06.htm

Sarah had a case not only against Hagar, but against Abraham who was allowing Hagar to dishonor his wife. “May the wrong done to me be on you!” Sarah declares (Genesis 16:5). She calls on the Lord as witness that she had been wronged. Abraham agrees. “She is your servant. Do whatever you wish with her,” he says. 

Sarah punishes Hagar harshly to regain the honor she lost through Hagar’s abuse. In this ancient setting, Sarah’s reprisal was just punishment intended to re-establish the household hierarchy. Sarah was “chief.” Hagar, though carrying an heir, was still a slave.

Abraham had his son. But what about Sarah?

Sarah is honored-finally.

Thirteen years later, God reveals that the promise of family, home and royal lineage was not just for Abraham, but for Sarah as well. What a wait?! Sarah was not in the way of God’s plan. She was not incidental. The shame she bore in the eyes of the community for almost a century was about to become her greatest honor. She was chosen -old, infertile and cynical- to birth the promised son.

In the cardinal chapter of Judaism (Genesis 17), God ultimately completes the Great Promise and seals it with an ancient male ritual signifying fertility: circumcision. It is easy to stop at this significant detail cut into the male flesh of Abraham’s family and overlook the distinction given to Sarah – and to the women of her house. (Paul, God bless him, saw it! Galatians 4)

  • God adds a vowel to both names, changing husband and wife into the people of God. (Read more.)
  • God promises to bless her.
  • She will bear a son.
  • She will birth a royal nation.
  • Her offspring is the miracle son of promise.

Who mothers is equally as important as who fathers.

The ancient stories of the Hebrew Scriptures are male-dominated. I believe this androcentrism is a result of the way the world works, not the way God works. Woman has always been a pivotal part of God’s plan. Sarah’s faith in submissive action continued the war against the age-old enemy that her mother Eve began in the garden. Eve’s, and now Sarah’s descendants will defeat the serpent with whom she is at war. The promised one is the seed of Woman.

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 – any 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.

 

 

Women in the Text: The Name of Sarah

Women in the Text: The Name of Sarah

Exploring the family descent from Eve is an uncommon way to work through the ancient stories of the Hebrew Scriptures since its pages are male-dominated. I believe this androcentrism is a result of the way the world works, not the way God works. Woman has always been a pivotal part of God’s plan, and we can see how God uses her in the pages of the Bible. My reasoning for following female lineage is based on Genesis 3:15. God prophesies that Eve, as yet unnamed and called woman, and Eve’s descendants will defeat the serpent with whom she is at war. The promised one is the seed of Woman.

After Eve, the next woman who is detailed in Scripture is Sarah. It was to Sarah and her children that God promised His unique blessing (Genesis 17:19).

Sarah’s Lineage

Sarai was the daughter of Terah, like Abram, but from a different mother. Having a different mother was a crucial point for her marriage to Abram (Gen 20:12), and this distinction gives us some hints about how ancient peoples figured lineage. Society frowned on intermarriage between siblings from the same womb, perhaps because family relations were determined through the mother, not the father. Think of the Egyptian line of royalty which intermarried sons and daughters of Pharoah. We may have a similar case with Terah’s family especially considering Sarai’s name, which I will address further down. Either way, Abram and Sarai left these pagan relations and idolatry behind as “God caused them to wander” to a new land and began to reveal God’s friendship to them (Josh 24:2; Gen 20:13).

Sarah’s Name From שרי to שרה

Sarah began her life as Sarai, a pagan in Ur. Her name is her title. Princess. Sar in Hebrew means prince, chief, ruler. A tiny vowel mark at the end of Sar feminizes the title. She was royal, a legendary beauty and wealthy. Her titled name is not a reflection of Abram’s status, but it is her own, most likely handed down by her mother.*

In Genesis 17:15, God tells Abraham to stop calling his wife Sarai, princess, and call her Sarah. The subtle shift – God changed the final letter- is significant. God alters Abram’s name in the exact way by adding a Hebrew ה (H) to the middle. Joel Hoffman, who wrote ln the Beginning: A short history of the Hebrew language, makes a convincing case for what he calls “the Magic H” which is how the Hebrews  set themselves apart from other people groups. He argues the Hebrews transformed written language by re-using three consonants as vowels, and the premier vowel “H” was used to identify all things Hebraic. God’s name is also transformed with the “H” from Elym, the common name for gods, to Elhym, the Hebrew “gods” characterized by being One. Replacing the final vowel in Sarah’s name changes the feminizing letter to one that marks her not as female, but as God’s. A Hebrew.

Sarah’s Nation

As God marks Sarah and Abraham with “the Magic H,” God applies their name-meanings to each other. What a unifying moment! God defined what their new names signified, and God also declared the new meaning as prophetic. The prophetic meaning of Abraham, meaning exalted father, is that he and Sarah will parent many nations (Genesis 17:5, 16). The prophetic meaning of Sarah, which we detailed above as ruler, is that she and Abraham will produce royalty  (Genesis 17:6, 16). It is through Abraham that children will come, but it is through Sarah that kings will come.*

Consider the source of the name of the great nation Israel? The promised nation carries the name of their matriarch Sarah. God renames Sarah’s grandson from Jacob to  I(sar)el, because he “sarah” with God (Genesis 32:24). The verb “sarah” is only used in this story. Hebrew is a very rich language and one word rarely has a single meaning, and this is the case with “sarah”. It carries the idea of struggling, wrestling, control, negotiation, and craft. From this it is easy to understand the interpretation of royalty, government and rule that in English we interpret as “Prince.” Israel means Prince of Elohim. Jacob, in struggling with God was not doing battle in enmity, but to guarantee an heaven-earth alliance as a form of statecraft – the role of a prince.

Sarah’s grandson Israel is the first ruler of her line, but he is not the last. Many more would rule over Israel, but only one more would carry her name. Sar Shalom -the prince of peace.

*Credit to Katharine Bushnell paragraph 277, God’s Word to Women.

 

 

A Time to Act or Be Silent?

The story of Dinah is ugly.

Dinah is the only named daughter of Israel (Jacob). Her name means ‘female judge’  as it is the girl version of the name Dan. Katharine Bushnell speculates Dinah was the heir of the female lineage of women “chiefs”…the line of God’s promise to Satan that woman’s seed would destroy him.  But Dinah’s line was barren. Why? Perhaps because she was kidnapped in broad daylight and nearly abandoned to the men who stole her. In that day, she was ruined; unmarriable and childless.

Dinah’s story (Genesis 34)

Recently settled in Canaan, Dinah – the female judge – made the rounds getting to know the women in the area. Shechem, the local chief’s son, saw her. He decided she was the woman for him and utilized the horrific custom of his day; bride capture. Shechem stole Dinah, a woman from outside his tribe, and carried her home as plunder. He sexually assaults her. (Sadly, this is where we get the modern day custom of carrying the bride over the threshold…leftover and forgotten symbol of taking your woman.)

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. Probably thinking something along these lines, “I’m new to this land, and I don’t want to make waves here;” or “This must be the way they do things.” Jacob waited. In fact, Shechem’s father Hamor is the first to act. But instead of taking Dinah home and condemning his son, he seeks to pacify the perpetrator.

“My son can’t live without your daughter!” Hamor offers to “buy off” Jacob. “I’ll 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.”

But Jacob doesn’t answer one way or the other! Is he considering allowing his daughter to marry these barbarian wife stealers? Who will rescue Dinah? The local government is complicit! Jacob is silent. Who will bring justice for the “judge?”

Teenagers.

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 innocence, then they would.

At the age of thirteen, the two young men knew they were at a disadvantage against the local strong arms protecting their sister’s 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 brought justice to their sister’s abusers.

Jacob, thinking only about his reputation, condemned their action. “You’ve made my name stink to high heaven among the people here.”

Jacob, thinking only of his safety says, “If they decided to gang up on us and attack, as few as we are we wouldn’t stand a chance; they’d wipe me and my people right off the map.”

The boys, who became men that day, replied.

“Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.”

A timely lesson

The Jewish bar mitzvah is the ceremony celebrating the “coming of age” for boys. It marks the transition to personal responsibility at age 13. Every wonder why the age is 13? Because that’s the age Simeon and Levi are calculated to be when they take up their swords to protect their sister. It signifies the ability to gauge right from wrong; to be held accountable for action … or inaction.

With the ever-increasing-snowball-rolling-down-the-hill accusations against institutions for covering up sexual abuse or mishandling victims in favor or shielding the “victors,” I think Simeon and Levi’s words should help us point our moral compass better than Jacob’s.

“Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.”

Sign the petition asking Bob Jones University to remove Chuck Phelps from its board.

*I hope its obvious, I am not condoning the extravagant violence perpetrated by Simeon and Levi. Praise the Lord, we have a government who will punish sexual abusers for us…but we must report what we know.

Women in the Text: Female Lineage

As I have been slowly digesting and contemplating God’s Word to Women, I’ve had many “aha!” moments. I am struck that God’s Plan included women. Not just as wives, mothers or incidental extras, but as lead roles. I mourn the dearth of sermons expounding His plan for using women in ages past and present.

(Is it different than His plan for men, you may ask? Only different in the same way preachers have expounded on the differences, yet altered 180 degrees looking at things emphasized on women instead of men. Should we throw out the man parts? Of course not! But as my husband says, “To correct imbalance, you’ve got to put more weight on the opposite side.” Forgive me if I continue to go heavy on women for a while?)

One of the “ahas” I’ve experienced is matrilineage; lineal descent traced through the female line. Much of this post will, again, be postulation. But, I hope you’ll recognize that much of what I’m assuming is little more than what is concluded about Patriarchy: a man emphasized plan of God. As Katharine Bushnell puts it, both are “sweeping conclusions from small premises.”

Patrilineage alone may not be God’s intent.

In the beginning God intended man to leave his family and cleave to his wife.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Christ and Paul repeat this marriage direction in the New Testament. (Mathew 19:5, Mark 10:7, Ephesians 5:31) Here we find the only gender requirement established at creation by the word of God. Man leaves his tribe and unifies with his wife. Since He doesn’t say woman is to leave her family, we can assume the man joins her kin. What are the reasons for this?

  • Picture of Christ

For sure, there is a mysterious picture hiding. Christ too leaves His Father in heaven to become one flesh with His wife, the church. The many metaphors get jumbled up, but you can glimpse the truth.

  • Protection

It may be an added protection for the weaker gender. By taking away the necessity of leaving her parents, it gives the woman another layer of family protection if her husband turns out to be a scoundrel. We know God was concerned for the weaker sex. He gives the wife rights in marriage, whereas the husband is given specific duties.

  • Woman’s Seed

It may be because it is through the woman’s children the promised one comes. (Genesis 3:15) It is the mother’s line that would then be important. The mother’s side of the family would pass on the family lineage traced back to the Mother of the Promise, Eve herself.

  • It is natural.

It is impossible for a woman not to know that a child is hers. You birth it, its part of you. Even Eve herself said, “I [not we] have gotten a man;” showing the unique author-ity of woman to child. Every woman knows who her children are; although the father can only be proven today through DNA – a thing impossible 25 odd years ago. Hence, paternity could always be argued. For a man to know his children are his, he must either 1) ask the mother if he was the father, 2) trust in her fidelity, or 3)  imprison her in some fashion (physical or societal) to guarantee no access to another sire. Matrilineage is inherently legitimate.

(How dependent man is on woman for this crucial knowledge! Can you see how man, who God foretold would desire to dominate women, would not be satisfied with this dependency? )

Patrilineage festers the subjection of women.

Because maternity is always unmistakeable, the rights of parentage naturally fall to the mother. But when man requires parentage for himself, he can either trust his wife or own her.  This “ownership” is the root cause of a culture’s denigration of women. Some examples would be foot binding, a physically restricting torture; seclusion, as seen in modern Islamic cultures and in ancient Greece; female circumcision, a method of removing a woman’s desire for sex; or societal expectations of chastity as seen in extreme in Victorian times, necessitating constant chaperones and supervision. These cruel methods were a way to guarantee a wife’s virtue and to remove the husband’s dependence on woman’s superior knowledge of paternity.

But if legitimacy was through the mother’s line, the man has no need to protect or insure his family name. The protection of the family name, hence the virtue of the wife, falls to her family. It is now in her kin’s interest to ensure the safety and health of her and her children (which are guaranteed part of the family through the mother), the future of their tribe.

[M]an has set it aside [the custom of female kinship],and invented many cruel customs for accomplishing the same result – the virtue of women. And this has been done not because he values morality in itself (he holds a lower standard of purity for himself), but to keep in continuance knowledge with which his Creator never endowed him apart from woman – a record of male kinship. (Katharine Bushnell, God’s Word to Women, para 482.)

Patrilineage festers the abuse of children.

A bastard is one with out a “legitimate” father. History is filled with these poor souls denied a name, denied respect and denied shelter in his kin’s home.  In a matrilineage system, there would be no such thing. All children are legitimately their mother’s kin.

Consider

Matrilineage is foreign to us today. For centuries upon centuries, young girls have been primed for marriage; the necessity of leaving her home and going to her new husband. Most western cultures that have descended from Roman traditions take the man’s name in marriage. In Christian circles, to keep your maiden name is considered brazen. Patrilineage  is our culture. So does  this idea of female kinship seems weird and somehow wrong to you?

And here’s a theory for you: If today’s Christians practiced matrilineage instead of patrilineage, would DNA testing be the “soapbox platform” of conservatives instead of contraceptives? I can hear them now. “DNA testing takes away the mother’s right to her child! Who cares who the father is. Children belong to their mothers!” Just a funny thought.

I will continue to detail matrilineage in history and in the Bible.

Sin is inherited from your father, not your mother.

In my last series exploring if Eve was guilty, I assumed that sin was inherited from your father, not your mother. I was questioned why I believed this? So, I started to think more about it. Here are three reasons why I assume sin transfers from our dads to us. These are speculative, I realize. But, thinking never hurt anyone! I’d be honored if you gave it some thought.

Before I start, my disclaimer once again:

My disclaimer

  • Neither gender is superior to the other. God judges character – heart motivation evidenced (to us) by persistent behavior. Assuming sin and death is inherited from males is in no way arguing the superiority of women. All have sinned. We are all God’s enemies without the mediation of His Son, and as Christians we are all co-heirs as siblings of Christ.
  • The more I study this topic, the deeeeeeper it goes. This is a simple nut shell.

Jesus did not have a human father.

This point, of course, is the most convincing. God promised the serpent that the woman’s Seed (not man’s) would crush his viper head. (Genesis 3:15) Jesus was born of a virgin according to the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14.  Jesus was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit, not a human father. (Matthew 1:18, 20) Galatians 4:4 says He was born of woman. He had no sin nature. (Hebrews 7:26, 4:15)  The virgin birth circumvented the transmission of sin to Jesus by an earthly father.

  • Side note about other suggestions: The Catholics solve the transmission of sin problem in a different way… by declaring Mary herself sinless. Others reject the transmission of sin entirely. They believe all children are born innocent. Jesus alone kept his pure state.

Circumcision is required for men, not women, to enter the Assembly of Israel.

Jewish fathers were required to cut the foreskin of their sons as a sign of the covenant Abraham made with God. If they didn’t, the sons were not allowed access to the benefits of the covenant and could not worship. He was cut off from his people and had broken God’s covenant. (Genesis 17:14) Adult male converts had to circumcise as well. Women and girl babies never received this physical restriction. (That’s why there were so many more female converts to Judaism!! Ya-ouch!) Females could access worship and the covenant as they were.

Colossians 2:11-14 tells us that circumcision is a picture of cutting off sinful flesh. Being uncircumcised is a picture of being dead in your sins. Uncircumcised men were not allowed to worship as a Jew. Why was this picture required in male flesh alone? Over the last few thousand years there have been a variety of answers from proposing the female counterpart of menstruation to reducing the male sex drive to chauvinism.

Some traditionalists argued that the circumcision of men indicate their social and religious primacy within the Jewish polity, and that the absence of circumcision from women betokens their second tier status…The egalitarian influence is modern. (Shayne J.D.Cohen, Why Aren’t Jewish Women Circumcised? pages 214-215.)

One reason could be that sin was inherited through the male seed, and circumcision acts as a symbol of cutting off the sinful flesh. Again, I’m not saying females are sinless. After all it takes a man to make a woman. But, Jewish women did not have this physical sign of sin to cut off since they didn’t pass the sin along. Both men and women need to have a spiritual circumcision of the heart to enter God’s family by grace through faith. Both Jews and Christians actually agree today that faith is necessary, not circumcision.

Death passed from Adam to Moses.

Romans 5:12-19 says one man brought death to the world because he broke God’s command. Verse 14 says death then passed from Adam to Moses. The context of Romans 5 is contrasting sinful man to the Righteous Man. I realize there could be a few explanations why men are mentioned here and not women. Adam and Moses could be the representative heads for their time. They both had direct dealing with God regarding the context of this chapter. And it could also be that inherited sin passed along through the man’s seed.

Wierdness

I admit, it is a little weird thinking in terms of sin transmitting through semen? Throw in Mitochondrial Eve and things get even more speculative! It was an interesting study, but can’t be proven as definitively “biblical.” Take away what you will if it helps your faith. Leave if it doesn’t.