One: The Historical Data from the Monarchy-period narratives.
We can arrange this material under the following categories:
One preliminary remark should be made here. The main thematic focus of the bulk of these narrative texts will be the establishment and expansion of the Monarchy: the request for a king, the mistake of Saul, the rise of David, the flowering of the nation under Solomon. Most of the characters (although the 'extras' are few in number, due to this theme) play integral parts in this royal plotline. Therefore, it is significant when details--apparently incidental to this theme--are kept and even highlighted in this historical flow.
Accordingly, the mentions of women in the narrative portions must be given additional weight, when compared with those in the pre-monarchy narratives.
Observation: Samuel tries to talk Israel out of asking for a king. One of the arguments he uses is that they will lose their daughters to royal service. Daughters were valued enough to be used in such an argument (along with sons).
Observation: The judgment of the cruelty of the Amalekites was couched in terms of a mother's loss!
Observation: Saul insults Jonathan's mom (his wife!), but STILL appeals to the principle of not 'shaming her'--on the same par with not 'shaming himself'. The reputation of a mother was strong enough of a value to be used as an appeal in this argument.
Observation: This moving account in the Lament of David over Saul and Jonathan shows how wonderful the love of women was held to be. In finding something 'wonderful' to base the comparison with the loyalty of Jonathan for David, David can find nothing higher than 'the love of women.'
Observation: This passage is the famous 'thou art the man' confrontation between Nathan the prophet and David the sinner. For our purposes, we simply must note that the picture Nathan paints, of the total affection of this father for this lamb, is summarized by "it was like a daughter to him." The highest expression of a father's love was seen in his relationship to a DAUGHTER! The description in this passage is replete with terms and actions of closeness and affection. There can be no doubt that the people of Israel knew that a father had a special love for a daughter (and this is what made the passage so powerful against David). And, to a woman who calls the God of the Universe "Father," the implications should be obvious!
Observations: This sordid tale of Amnon's male treachery and violence, and the portrayal of the utmost nobility, virtue, wisdom on the part of Tamar, draws these two characters in sharpest relief. Rape was not excused--even for those in authority. Although David is outraged by this action, he is paralyzed into inaction (perhaps by his own recent heinous sin with Bathsheba). Revenge is dealt out later by Absalom. By all accounts, this passage highlights the virtue of this woman, the evil of Amnon, the absolute wickedness of this crime against a woman, and the value of a good reputation of women in the society.
Observations: This woman from a nearby rural town was admitted into the presence of the king to make a formal/legal request! (Forget appearing at the gates--who needs that, when you can appeal to king himself?!) It is not obvious to David that she is in any way a sage--the text is clear that there is some level of disguise going on here. Women had access to the king (we can also see this in the reigns of Solomon and later kings).
Observation: This incredible passage shows the value placed by the wisest king of Israel on his mother. Giving her a throne is not mere affection--it is empowerment! (Queen mothers in the ANE exerted considerable power.) He bows to her, rises to met her, and places her at the place of highest honor ('at his right hand').
Observations: Although this passage does not indicate that these girls were planning to go to the sacrifice, they certainly had in-depth knowledge of the ceremony and proceedings. They knew that Samuel had arrived in the town, that the sacrifice was scheduled soon, that the sacrifice had NOT started yet, where the sacrifice was to be held, that the sacrifice would be accompanied by a feast, that the blessing must be administered by the seer BEFORE the eating could start, that participants had to be invited. This strongly suggests that they either had participated in these before, or were educated about the cultic practices.
Observations: This was a public religious ceremony that accompanied the arrival of the Ark in Jerusalem. This ceremony is complete with burnt offerings, fellowship offerings, and official blessings. The food given to the men and women Israelites in vs. 19 MAY HAVE BEEN a wave or thank offering. In any case, this ceremony included both men and women equally--and both received the gifts from the king. A very public ceremony (and the women were NOT 'staying at home'!).
Your procession has come into view, O God,Observations: Although the Psalms are not narrative lit per se, they do occasionally provide historical views of actual cultic practices of the day. In Psalm 68, called a 'psalm of David', the author described one of the major cultic processionals. It was perhaps led by the ark (and maybe the king), then the singers, the musicians, and the 'maidens'. This passage is significant because, in the description of the Davidic/Solomonic 'offices' of singers and musicians, we see no mention of women. (e.g. I Chrn 15). However, in the Psalm 68 passage we see them accompanying the men(?), and they also show up in this capacity in post-exilic times as well (e.g. Ez 2.65 points out that there were male and female singers, and then in 2.70 these get grouped in with "The priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants "). What MIGHT be occurring in the I Chrn 15 passage is that David decides to model some aspects of the Levite ministry AFTER the beautiful pattern of the female ministry of song/celebration.
the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.
25 In front are the singers, after them the musicians;
with them are the maidens playing tambourines.
26 Praise God in the great congregation;
praise the LORD in the assembly of Israel.
We have already seen sage-like behavior in the pre-monarchical period, but here it becomes explicit. We have two specific women who are called 'wise women' (2 Sam 14 and 20).
"The narratives contained in 2 Samuel 14 and 20 tell the tales of two unnamed women, one from Tekoa and one from Abel, who clearly exhibit the qualities of leadership. Analysis of these stories allows the following observations about the female sage:.....................................................................................1. The use of the epithet "wise woman" without any further identifying comments suggests that the role was one known at least to the original audiences of the stories.
2. Allowing for some possibility that a Judean editor may have harmonized an originally more diverse picture, the fact that wise women are said to live in both a northern and a southern city suggests a commonality of experience between north and south with respect to this role.
3. The use of the mother-imagery in both of these stories, though metaphorical, seems to point back indirectly to a certain social reality, namely, that the authority vested in designated wise women derives from their primary social role in the education of children and management of the patriarchal household (the bet-'ab).
4. The possibility for female leadership beyond the family level is suggested by N. K. Gottwald's analysis of the tribe as "an autonomous association of segmented extended families grouped in village/neighborhood protective associations . . . functionally interlocking through inter-marriage, practices of mutual aid, common worship, and a levy of troops." In such settings, young women were the bonding elements between families and often between villages. They were intimate with at least two family groups and trained, however informally, to function as interfamilial diplomats. Such factors-combined with the pre- and early monarchic periods' decentralized leadership and its demands for the contribution of women to the survival of the community-would have expanded the scope of the wise mother's potential authority.
5. The use of proverbs (2 Sam 14:14, 20:18) by these women as part of their negotiating strategy mirrors one of the defining activities of the sage as seen both in the wisdom literature and in narrative texts portraying counselors (e.g., 2 Sam 16:23; 17:8, 10-12). From this verbal acumen, and from the overall skill and authority with which the women accomplish their sensitive tasks, we should infer a significant degree of training and experience in positions of leadership.
6. The stories about the wise women provide two of the clearest representatives of what has been called clan or family wisdom. Their performances suggest that the distinction between the educative wisdom of the familial patriarchs and matriarchs and the political wisdom of diplomats is not absolute, nor is politics the exclusive domain of sages in the royal court. As Carole Fontaine has shown throughout her "Traditional Sayings in the Old Testament", we must be alert to inter- and intra-tribal negotiation and conflict as possible Sitze im Leben for specific sapiential genres.
7. The narrative presentation of the two women shows an overlap with narratives concerning other types of Israelite leaders. The parable enacted by the wise woman of Tekoa parallels that told by the prophet Nathan to David on another occasion (2 Samuel 12). The positioning and verbal strategies of the wise woman of Abel are identical to those used by military leaders in three different incidents (2 Sam 2:18-23, 24-28; 2 Kgs 18:17-36). Although these comparisons may be more the result of literary stylization than historical representation, there is an other feature of their roles that cannot be ignored. These women, especially she of Abel, seem to be doing what we would expect elders to do, in particular, representing their people in national political military situations. It is at least possible that the wise woman of Tekoa has a personal interest in the restoration of Absalom, given his popularity among the people (cf. 2 Sam 15:2-6). As for the wise woman of Abel, although the storyteller focuses on her surrendering Sheba to Joab, there is an elliptical suggestion that her negotiations have the equally important purpose of protecting the rest of the rebel's followers (cf. 2 Sam 20:1, 14, 21-22). She, too, seems to have a discreet hand in national politics.
8. The concerns voiced by the wise women reveal that they were active tradents of the Yahwistic covenantal values of land and inheritance (2Sam 14:16, 20:19). This latter point should caution against arbitrary division of a so-called secular wisdom tradition from 'religious' Yahwism."
The above analysis highlights the fact that the sage-role was NOT peculiar to females, nor limited to a certain geography or political alignment.
This woman was a master of many arts. She masterfully engineers and controls the conversation, with the desired outcome achieved--a true Sage.
Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel Beth Maacah and through the entire region of the Berites, who gathered together and followed him. 15 All the troops with Joab came and besieged Sheba in Abel Beth Maacah. They built a siege ramp up to the city, and it stood against the outer fortifications. While they were battering the wall to bring it down, 16 a wise woman called from the city, "Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him." 17 He went toward her, and she asked, "Are you Joab?" "I am," he answered. She said, "Listen to what your servant has to say." "I'm listening," he said. 18 She continued, "Long ago they used to say, `Get your answer at Abel,' and that settled it. 19 We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the LORD's inheritance?" 20 "Far be it from me!" Joab replied, "Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bicri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I'll withdraw from the city." The woman said to Joab, "His head will be thrown to you from the wall." 22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bicri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home. And Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.Observations: (1) This woman gets a hearing in the middle of a battering-ram event! (2) She negotiated with Joab, the commander of the army. (3) He listens to her! (4) She appeals to his tradition and to covenantal-theological values. (5) She makes the commitment without even asking the elders! (6) She succeeds and saves the city! (7) In the process she averts the dividing of Israel at this point (Sheba was leading Israel to revolt against David--"So all the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba son of Bicri. ", verse 2). (8) She calls the city a "mother in Israel" -- and appeals to this in the argument. This is a masterful woman, dealing well with both military leaders, the elders of the city, and in controlling her responses in a very threatening situation.
Observations: Similar to the stories in Genesis, this story shows the cunning of Michal. She advises David on a course of action, assists him in the escape, implements a rather clever deception that fools the king's envoy, and comes up with a clever explanation to save her own life! This certainly fits the pattern of independent action--part of the profile of the sage.
This woman is so highly praised in this account, and demonstrates quick-thinking, a deep understanding of human nature, solid theological understanding, excellent persuasive/argumentation skills, and independent action.
First, passages in which women were heroes or critical contributors in the sequence of events.
Observations: The woman patriot of Thebez (which we looked at in the pre-monarchy discussions) is STILL REMEMBERED at this time, by Joab and probably David!! The details of the story are current knowledge on the part of the commander-in-chief of David's army. [I wonder if Joab was thinking about this event, as we talked up the wall at the Wise Woman of Abel?!!!!]
Observations: Here you have another sage-like action, that parallels the famous action of Rahab in Jericho. This action of hiding the spies and deceiving the forces of Absalom, probably saved David's life, and consequently, had a massive impact on the future of the nation.
Then Nathan asked Bathsheba, Solomon's mother, "Have you not heard that Adonijah, the son of Haggith, has become king without our lord David's knowing it? 12 Now then, let me advise you how you can save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go in to King David and say to him, `My lord the king, did you not swear to me your servant: "Surely Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne"? Why then has Adonijah become king?' 14 While you are still there talking to the king, I will come in and confirm what you have said." 15 So Bathsheba went to see the aged king in his room, where Abishag the Shunammite was attending him. 16 Bathsheba bowed low and knelt before the king. "What is it you want?" the king asked. 17 She said to him, "My lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the LORD your God: `Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne.' 18 But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, do not know about it. 19 He has sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and has invited all the king's sons, Abiathar the priest and Joab the commander of the army, but he has not invited Solomon your servant. 20 My lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to learn from you who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise, as soon as my lord the king is laid to rest with his fathers, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals." 22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet arrived. 23 And they told the king, "Nathan the prophet is here." So he went before the king and bowed with his face to the ground. 24 Nathan said, "Have you, my lord the king, declared that Adonijah shall be king after you, and that he will sit on your throne? 25 Today he has gone down and sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep. He has invited all the king's sons, the commanders of the army and Abiathar the priest. Right now they are eating and drinking with him and saying, `Long live King Adonijah!' 26 But me your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he did not invite. 27 Is this something my lord the king has done without letting his servants know who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?" 28 Then King David said, "Call in Bathsheba." So she came into the king's presence and stood before him. 29 The king then took an oath: "As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 30 I will surely carry out today what I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place." 31 Then Bathsheba bowed low with her face to the ground and, kneeling before the king, said, "May my lord King David live forever!"Observations: This pivotal passage shows Nathan and Bathsheba together REVERSING the actions of Adonijah, and putting Solomon on the throne! God had told David that Solomon was to succeed him, and David, in turn, had promised Bathsheba (cf. I Chrn 22.9; 17.11). David, on his deathbed, was unaware that a different son than Solomon had proclaimed himself king (and undoubtedly would have killed Solomon at the earliest opportunity). Nathan and Bathsheba act quickly and sagely to reverse this situation, and arouse the King to proclaim Solomon king. Thus, God's will is achieved in spite of human attempts otherwise, by the actions of a prophet and a woman. History would not have been the same but for these actions.
Observations: In the history of Israel, many queen-mothers exerted great influence over the nation. This single scene is the most in-depth look at how much respect they could garner, from their king-sons. Bathsheba is accorded much power and influence by virtue of this action of Solomon.
Observations: (1) The women came out of ALL the towns (indicating a social/community role?). (2) Their song was somehow UNIFORM throughout the towns already(!) (3) Saul is surprisingly alarmed by this song of "mere women"--indicating that it had more importance than might be surmised from the text.
Now, if we attempt to get behind this reaction of Saul, we can see a pattern emerge.
David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):Observations: The interesting thing is that the daughters are somehow chosen to represent the voice of the nation--either rejoicing over victory or lamenting over loss. The 'daughter' was somehow in tune with the fortunes of a nation and was illustrative of its heart and feelings. This motif occurs often in scripture (esp. in the prophetic lit--e.g. Is 10.30; Jer 4.31; La 4.21).
19 "Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights.
How the mighty have fallen!
20 "Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.
24 "O daughters of Israel,
weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.
One can easily see from this data, that women were VERY important in both the history and consciousness of Israel. As sages, they spoke and practiced wisdom; as singers, they shaped the national identity of Israel; as worshippers, they co-celebrated with all the men; as agents, they were critical in the establishment of the RIGHT kings! God used His daughters mightily in His service, and undoubtedly delighted in their every victory and every song.