Eighth Month 31

And Yahweh restored Job’s condition … He had seven sons and three daughters; his first daughter he called “Turtledove,” the second “Cassia” and the third “Mascara.” Throughout the land there were no women as beautiful as the daughters of Job. And their father gave them inheritance rights like their brothers. – Job 42:1,13-15 (NJB)

*   *   *

Look closer, and see: the daughters are named at the end of the story, after Job’s enlightenment and transformation, but not at the beginning – and the sons go unnamed!

Stephen Mitchell uses “Dove,” “Cinnamon,” and “Eye-shadow” as the daughters’ names. These are terms of affection and delight, no doubt arising in their unique personalities.

I think they inherited even more than their brothers.

*   *   *

It was by this Light that Job walked through Darkness, and it is by this Light that we come to see our Darkness. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

 

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Eighth Month 30

Now the two of them, the human and his wife, were nude, yet they were not ashamed. – Genesis 2:25 (Everett Fox translation)

*   *   *

So where does shame originate? Especially shame of the human body?

Don’t blame the serpent, either.

Could it be they simply got cold? The kids weren’t yet on the scene.

Human-husband and wife, eh? They’ve obviously been fooling around, and ever so delightfully.

*   *   *

Neither is there any Creature that is not manifest in his Sight, but all Things are naked and open unto the Eyes of him with whom we have to do, even as it is written. … This is that Word to whom the Scriptures directs us, as a Light unto our Feet, and a Lanthorn unto our Paths, to guide our Feet into the Way of Peace; the very Entrance of which giveth Light; yea, it giveth Understanding to the Simple. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Eighth Month 29

Once Sara saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian-woman, whom she had borne to Avraham, laughing. …
She said to Avraham:
Drive out this slave-woman and her son,
for the son of this slave-woman shall not share-inheritance with my son, with Yitzhak!
The matter was exceedingly bad in Avraham’s eyes because of his son. – Genesis 21:9-11 (Everett Fox translation)

*   *   *

Human affections can be so entangling. Sarah is fine with Abraham’s having a son by her servant, until she has a child of her own, and then she becomes more than a protective mother. Yes, she becomes jealous and crosses a line. The she-wolf would destroy the rival offspring. Or we can see the conflict arising, once again, over money and possessions.

Hagar and Ishmael are banished and would seemingly vanish from awareness. But there are hints of continuing support and care.

When Abraham dies, both of his first-born sons come to bury him: Ishmael and Isaac, together.

*   *   *

Then this is it, O Lord! that I would most earnestly implore of thee, even that thou wouldst cast up, cast up a Way for me, and remove all Lets and Stumbling-blocks from, and mark cut a plain Path before me, in which I may walk straight forward towards thy heavenly Country; and that amidst the various Forms there are for worshipping of thee, my Soul may certainly know how to serve thee aright, and wherewith to bring an acceptable Sacrifice unto thee. So that this being the Prayer which the Lord often put into my Heart, as I then took it, to pray unto him when my Soul was seeking the Way to his Kingdom, Promises of outward Promotion, had they been proposed, could not have given me Satisfaction. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Eighth Month 28

Now Sara’s life was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years, (thus) the years of Sara’s life.
Sara died in Arba-Town, that is now Hevron, in the land of Canaan. – Genesis 23:1-2 (Everett Fox translation)

*   *   *

Curiously, that is all that is said of her after the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael, which was immediately followed by the near human sacrifice of Isaac.

Fox notes that Sarah is the only woman in the Bible who’s age is given – a token of her great esteem.

What is easily overlooked, in all the hubbub over Hagar the Egyptian and Sarah, is that Abraham married again, to Keturah, who bore him both sons and daughters, in addition to his concubines, who also had sons.

From the start, then, the genealogy soon tangles.

*   *   *

Promises of outward Advantage and worldly Good, availeth nothing that can stand the Soul in stead.  … the Lord is my Witness herein, who subjected me unto himself, and made me willing to be at his disposing, and to have my Lot cast by him: The Truth is, Corn, nor Wine, nor Oil, I did not esteem, nor yet Length of Days to enjoy them; for in my Solitudes, the whole World seemed to me as a very little Thing, my Soul desiring nothing but a Part in God’s Kingdom, which made me earnestly intreat him, that he would lead me in the Way everlasting … (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Eighth Month 27

So now, my son, listen to my voice:
Arise and flee to Lavan my brother in Harran,
and stay with him for a few days, until your brother’s fury has turned away,
until his anger turns away from you and he forgets what you did to him.
Then will I send and have you taken from there – for should I be bereaved of you both in a single day?
So Rivka said to Yitzhak:
I loathe my life because of those Hittite women;
if Yaakov should take a wife from the Hittite women – like these, from the women of the land,
why should I have life? – Genesis 27:43-46 (Everett Fox translation)

*   *   *

And then, despite all the guile, Jacob gets a second blessing from his father! He’s dispatched to his mother’s brother, a man capable of similar deceptions.

*   *   *

And yet leads into an Heavenly Order, both in Doctrine, Principle and Conversation, according to the Diversity of its Gifts, whereby Man comes not to be at Liberty in his own Will, but bound again to God, which is the true Signification of the Word Religion. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Eighth Month 26

Moshe agreed to settle down with the man,
and he gave Tzippora his daughter to Moshe.
She gave birth to a son,
and he called his name: Gershom/Sojourner There,
for he said: A sojourner have I become in a foreign land. – Exodus 2:21-22 (Everett Fox translation)

*   *   *

The role of foreigners in the development of Judaism is significant. For example, Jethro (or Reuel), the father-in-law of Moses, is the priest of Midian and has seven daughters. (That symbolically important number seven keeps reappearing.)

The concept of sojourning in a foreign land is also significant, pointing toward the movement of the Jewish people throughout much of their history.

For Christians, it also points toward a way of being in the world without being of it.

Jethro gives Moses wise counsel. He suggests to Moses that judges be appointed to settle disputes among the people, which Moses then does. I’d argue it was a better way of ruling than were the kings and their courts that came later.

*   *   *

But the Truth is, such neither know how we came by it, nor can they tell what Progress we have made in it; how far any of us do witness a real Change, my Soul is made to rejoice therein, and for this I bow my Knee to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, That he would prosper and carry on this his own Work more and more in every one of our Hearts; yet dare we not be found false Witnesses for God, in speaking of Things beyond our measure, or boasting of that which we have not attained; for though it may be granted, we did feel an inward and effectual Call, much about a Time, to come out of spiritual Egypt’s Land, yet must we travel through the spiritual Wilderness, before we arrive at the Heavenly Canaan: Therefore I would have none mistake, so as to think that Conversion is wrought in an Instant, for it is a gradual Work, carried on by degrees in the Soul, which is not presently compleat and perfect; altho’ the very first Motion towards it, proceeds from a Principle which is perfect in itself; and which will in Time perfect the Soul, as it follows the Leadings thereof … (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Eighth Month 25

God spoke to Noah, saying:
Go out of the Ark, you and your wife, your sons and your sons’ wives with you. – Genesis 8:15-16 (Everett Fox translation)

*   *   *

The women, especially, stand as silent witnesses. They have been entombed for the duration of the tempest and flooding. (A night of hurricane can be terrifying enough. A month can drive a person into madness.)

 *   *   *

One of the reasons I value the Godwrestling approach to Scripture is that it welcomes many of the issues raised by feminist critiques. We are now free to question the actions of patriarchy or the assumptions imposed later.

We are free to recognize that the text itself can be faulty. Besides, the text is largely in what Erich Fromm calls The Forgotten Language (Rinehart & Company, 1951), the symbolic language of both myths and dreams; in this, the manifest story contains a much longer latent story that is waiting to be released. An issue of Atlantic Monthly, on Feminism and the Bible, quoted a number of observers who felt the research being led in large part by feminists has the potential of being the most revolutionary and socially profound scholarship of our time.

So here they come, off the boat, as if leaving Gotterdammerung. In a way, it’s yet another Creation story, with a whole host of new perspectives.

*   *   *

But if any shall sit down by the Way, on this Side the Mountain of true Holiness, notwithstanding they began in the Spirit, yet if they end in the Flesh, how far soever they have travelled on in their Journey, still may their Carcasses fall in the Wilderness. Howbeit I write this not to discourage any, but to provoke to Diligence, as well myself, as others, that after we have set out towards the promised Land, and had a Sight of it, none of us may grow weary, nor faint in our Minds and so fall short of the everlasting Rest; for ’tis not a bare Convincement of the Truth in our Understandings, which may produce a Change in the Judgment, Opinion and Profession, that will serve our Turn, without there be a Change wrought in the inward, as well as the outward Man, whereby the Heart may be throughly sanctified and made clean, else there can be no real Conversion. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Eighth Month 24

And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shown to me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thine husband: and how thou has left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. – Ruth 2:11

*   *   *

Ruth can be seen as a headstrong woman, capable of making difficult decisions and implementing ways to achieve her goals. In her resolve to leave her native land, she brings something new to the Jewish people and becomes, in the Scriptural genealogies, an ancestor of both King David and Jesus.

We are discovering and admitting that the early church, too, had women in high positions such as bishop, something that seemed so inconceivable to the latter-day church that the record now appears smudged.

In the Hebrew Bible, too, we find Deborah as powerful judge (arguably the most powerful of the judges), Miriam as powerful prophet, Abigail as independent enough to become queen in spite of a disastrous first marriage, Ruth as the most significant of King David’s ancestors, and so on. Even many of the women villains, such as Delilah, are worthy opponents, more so than a bully like Goliath or a treacherous monarch like Sennacherib.

She, too, sets out to find justice according to Jewish law – and is blessed with Boaz’ answer.

*   *   *

And Friends, let no outward Things overset your Minds, but sit loose in Heart from all that here you have, that nothing may be preferred like the Favour of the Lord. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Eighth Month 23

She pulled his head out of the bag and held it for them to see. “This is the head of Holofernes, general-in-chief of the Assyrian army; here is the canopy under which he lay drunk! The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman! Glory to the Lord who has protected me in the course I took! My face seduced him, only to his own undoing; he committed no sin with me to shame me or disgrace me.” – Judith 13:15-16 (NJB)

*   *   *

David Rosenberg, himself co-author of the Book of J, argues in A Poet’s Bible: Rediscovering the Voices of the Original Text that the books of Ruth, Jonah, Lamentations, and Judith were written by women. Others would add the Song of Songs and much of Hebrews to that list, possibly even the author upon which much of the Hebrew Bible is based. Rosenberg explains: “Among the women writers (who inherited a tradition of creative women dating back to Deborah, Abigail, and Hulda), some may have been widows and orphans, as well as sisters, wives, and daughters of the elite classes – even during times when custom circumscribed the sexes in the general population. … Can we imagine a rabbi, priest, or professor of religion having authored such subtle and ironic poetic texts as Jonah or Ruth? Do we know of any religious writers who could equal the poetry in Psalms or Isaiah?”

Or for that matter, a woman warrior who destroys the enemy general.

*   *   *

Friends read inwardly, so you’ll understand me, I do not mean that you should avenge yourselves on any with carnal Weapons of War; no, no, but as you stand and wait in the Light of the Lord, though you can handle neither Sword nor Spear, he will make you shew comely as Tirzah, and terrible to the Wicked, even as an Army with Banners. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)

Eighth Month 22

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served King Ahasu-erus as chamberlains, to bring Queen Vashti before the kind with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was fair to behold. But Queen Vashti refused … – Esther 1:10-12 (RSV)

*   *   *

The glimpse we are given of Queen Vashti and her action to preserve her honor is enough for me to see her as a great tragic figure. She is summoned to dance naked, wearing only her crown – displayed as a prize possession. Ultimately, the esteem of his drinking companions means more to Ahasuerus than does any respect of his queen and her other virtues. She alone in the book of Esther is thoroughly noble; Esther, on the other hand, must apply cunning and subterfuge to achieve justice in the end.

In the aftermath of her refusal, the king’s counselors see Vashti’s action as threatening the very authority of men throughout the kingdom. What if their wives followed suit?

Ahasuerus emerges as a moral weakling, easily manipulated by his advisors, which would soon prove treacherous for the Jews in his kingdom.

But we are left with only silence regarding Vashti. Was she in effect imprisoned? Divorced, though no other man dare approach her? Returned to her father’s household?

*   *   *

Yet ’tis very likely the Wicked will be pushing at you, and casting scandalous Calumnies upon you; in which I cannot but tenderly sympathize with you, having myself lately passed those Piques of the Enemy. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)