Can’t Have My Proverbs 31 Without My Jael

I have a speaking engagement coming up and as it’s Women’s Month in South Africa (what a cool holiday month by the way), I decided to talk about Women.

I’ve grown up in the church and in Christian school, and I’ve endured an onslaught of preachings, teachings, and admonishings about how girls and women are to behave. What’s classified as Biblical Womanhood and how my degree of submission is the most interesting thing about me. Saying that even now brings up nausea that is not profitable to fully express.

After sitting under not only men but women who let’s just be honest with ourselves, profited or advanced themselves by leaning into misogyny; I understood that I would have to seek God’s face on the many instances in scripture that presented itself differently than how I knew His character to be in relationship to me. I didn’t know Him to only consider men, I didn’t know Him to force a woman to marry her rapist, I didn’t know Him to allow only men to inherit land to pass on generational wealth. I’ve known God by way of the Holy Spirit, I’ve known Him to show up when I’ve needed Him and lift my head supernaturally.

I had to read for myself.

I found that the way scripture was often presented had a lot to do with my utter confusion. If men or anyone is presenting the scripture from their cultural bias and skew, of course we’ll have a communicated lessening of the female presence in the Story of God. (This goes for the male narrative, the racist narrative, the identity narrative and the homosexuality narrative.)

So let’s talk about what scripture revealed as I prepared to speak.

I love Proverbs 31, it’s a beautiful depiction of an incredible wife, engaged doting mother, woman about her business (#Boss BAE), and an all around catch! The Proverbs 31 Woman is a confident, kind, benevolent and savvy community leader.

She sounds lovely.

However, women are more complex than the flat image that has been presented at nauseum, and sometimes required at command. I’m so thankful that God, in His infinite wisdom, saw fit to include many women with different origin stories and varied approaches to work out Gods will in their lives.

For instance, Deborah in the book of Judges was both a prophetess and a judge. She had both character and courage, she even went into the physical battle at the request of Barak. She prophesied that since there was hesitation from the commander a woman would receive the honor from battle. “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh.” Judges 4:9

Reading through scripture and finding Deborah: being awesome, sitting under trees, advising people, hearing from the Lord, giving prophesy, being a wife, and going into war, was amazing! Deborah’s story reads as easy power, she didn’t have a struggle to get to the top, she didn’t have to claw, she didn’t speak poorly of other women, to the contrary she had the privilege of explaining to Barak that another woman was on the come up.

Now Jael, is a very interesting character. What’s known about her is her boldness at first glance.

Straight out of the gate, Jael is painted as a woman with a plan. She saw Sisera stumbling from battle, scurrying to find a place to recover and hide, and like a lioness laying in wait to pounce, she invited the enemy into her tent.

This is where the story has always gotten murky; in my youth, this is the portion of the story where well meaning Pastor’s and teachers say that Jael was some sort of temptress, prostitute adjacent, inappropriate woman. The scripture says NOTHING of the sort!

“Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite.” Judges 4:17

Sisera went to the tent of Jael because there was an alliance in place between the king and her family. Jael wasn’t selling herself, or luring a man by dangling her goodies; this stereotype is subversive and destructive. Women are more than how we can fulfill the lustful desires of men.

Jael gave this bloody warrior a bit of milk and a blanket, ultimately she offered comfort to someone who wasn’t supposed to be comfortable. She caught him slipping. Then the scripture says,

“But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.” Judges 4:21

Jael saw an opportunity to destroy an enemy of the living God, she decided to do what needed to be done and the Spirit of the Lord led her to act and not wait. Specifically, not wait on a man to do what a woman could. Jael showed courage, her hand was steady enough to drive a stake through the temple of a hardened warrior, and drive it to the ground at that! A woman who can think strategically in the face of adversity, is a formidable opponent, not to be underestimated. As the brain matter, blood and milk spread throughout the tent; something tells me that Jael was not underestimated from that moment forward.

The women in Judges were powerful and capable, Proverbs 31 is flooded with incredible and admirable attributes. I however want to challenge the people of God with the insight that women don’t have to be either or, we are both and. Let’s be Deborah, Jael, and a Proverbs 31 kinda women.

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