Friday, May 26, 2017

Women and the Jewish Kingdom

If tribal society such as is described in the three books following the Pentateuch was a kind of Wild West, with the establishment of the Jewish kingdom, Israel "normalized" and began to conform to the larger civilizations of Sumer, Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.  Indeed the Jewish people brought the analogy up themselves, when they demanded a kingdom of the prophet Samuel: "Appoint a king over us to rule us like all the nations."  Samuel pointed out, in response, that what the people were really asking for was higher taxes, conscription, and loss of their best youths to an overweening federal bureaucracy.  In his illuminating book The Discovery of God, sociologist Rodney Stark offers an even "starker" description of the great empires of the time, which were highly oppressive, treated kings like gods and citizens like chattel.   God tells Samuel, "The people have not rejected you, they have rejected me."  

The next six books, the Samuels, the Kings, and the Chronicles, tells the story of the centralized state of Israel, then the two daughter states in which it split. These books thus cover a less free-wheeling epoch than the period of the Judges which came before.  One of the "innovations" which kings soon introduce (Solomon being most guilty) is enormous harems.  God warns about the harm this innovation would bring, and indeed, the trouble begins even with the great King David and his lovers.  Later reigns are described more briefly, while I and II Chronicles reprises the story from a court perspective, with less gossip about women.  Finally, Ezra and Nehemiah tells the story of Israel's return from exile in Babylon. 

Israel, the historian Donald Treadgold argued, proved freer even as a kingdom that any other Middle Eastern state.  I believe the institution of the prophet is one of the chief reasons Israel managed to keep free even with a king and bureaucracy.  The Word of God to these flamboyant individuals was a like a bridge across which liberty passed into ancient and then modern states.  In addition, monotheism allowed less scope for deification of earthly rulers: a check on monomania.  Therefore the West could gain the best of both worlds: the security of a modern state, and the freedom of tribal society, which became what Burke called "little platoons" or the seeds of civil society. 

By my count, these eight books contain a total of 46 stories about women, counting (in two cases) repeats of earlier stories.   


(79) The Birth of Samuel

1. "There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.  He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.  Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord.  Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters.  But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb.  Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.  This went on year after year.  Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.   Her husband Elkanah would say to her, 'Hannah, why are you weeping?  Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted?  Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?' Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house.   

""In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.   And she made a vow, saying, 'Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”'

"As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.   Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, 'How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.'”

 “'Not so, my lord,' Hannah replied, 'I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord.   Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.'”

 "Eli answered, 'Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.'

"She said, 'May your servant find favor in your eyes.'  Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

 "Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her.   So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.  She named him Samuel, saying, 'Because I asked the Lord for him.'”

Yet again we encounter the theme of rivals in a polygamous marriage.  It is hard to think of any such relationship in the Old Testament that is described as positive, even though the system is never explicitly condemned.  (Kings are, however, warned against marrying too many women.)  Perhaps with constant warfare, the ranks of the men were depleted too much to make strict monogamy practical.

Note that the husband tries to "comfort" his wife by asking if (half of him) isn't enough for her.  She takes her case to God, though, and God seems to see things her way. 

(80) Hannah Dedicates Samuel

"When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, 'After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.'

“'Do what seems best to you,' her husband Elkanah told her. 'Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his word.'  So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

"After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, 'Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.  I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.'  And he worshiped the Lord there.

2.1-10: "Then Hannah prayed and said:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
    in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
    for I delight in your deliverance.

 “There is no one holy like the Lord;
    there is no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.

 “Do not keep talking so proudly
    or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
    and by him deeds are weighed.

“The bows of the warriors are broken,
    but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
    but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
    but she who has had many sons pines away.

“The Lord brings death and makes alive;
    he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
    he humbles and he exalts.
 He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
    and has them inherit a throne of honor.

“For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
    on them he has set the world.
 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
    but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

“It is not by strength that one prevails;
    those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
    the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to his king
    and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

This is a rather prophetic song.  Not only does it look forward to the kingdom of Israel which Samuel will introduce, but also to the Lord's universal rule and to the resurrection from the dead.  This is neither the first nor the last such song put into the mouths of godly female characters in the Bible. 

Later in Chapter Two, it is noted that Hannah afterwards gave birth to three sons and two daughters. 

(81) Death in Child-Birth

4. 19-22: "His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery.  When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains.   As she was dying, the women attending her said, 'Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.' But she did not respond or pay any attention.   She named the boy Ichabod, saying, 'The Glory has departed from Israel'—because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband.   She said, 'The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.'”

The sorrows of women in childbirth are often referred to in the Bible to represent a country's waning political prospects.  Which makes sense, of course, since the end of military power is to protect families. 

(82) Post-Mortem Gloating   

18. 6-7: "When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres.  As they danced, they sang: 'Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.'”

(83) Saul's Schemes

18. 17-20: "Saul said to David, 'Here is my older daughter Merab. I will give her to you in marriage; only serve me bravely and fight the battles of the Lord.'  For Saul said to himself, 'I will not raise a hand against him. Let the Philistines do that!' . . .  But David said to Saul, 'Who am I, and what is my family or my clan in Israel, that I should become the king’s son-in-law?'  So when the time came for Merab, Saul’s daughter, to be given to David, she was given in marriage to Adriel of Meholah.  Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased.   'I will give her to him,' he thought, 'so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.'  So Saul said to David, 'Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.'”

Saul is using his daughters in a way that we are meant to disapprove. 

(84) Michal Saves David

19: 11-17: "So Michal let David down through a window, and he fled and escaped. Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head. When Saul sent the men to capture David, Michal said, 'He is ill.'  Then Saul sent the men back to see David and told them, 'Bring him up to me in his bed so that I may kill him.'   But when the men entered, there was the idol in the bed, and at the head was some goats’ hair.   Saul said to Michal, 'Why did you deceive me like this and send my enemy away so that he escaped?' Michal told him, 'He said to me, "Let me get away. Why should I kill you?’”

Both Saul's son and daughter save his rival David from his assassination attempts. 

(85) Abigail Saves Her Family

25. 3, 18-19: "His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite . . .

"Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys.  Then she told her servants, 'Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.'  But she did not tell her husband Nabal."

25. 23-44: "When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground.   She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say.   Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent.   And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal.  And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

“Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live.   Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling.   When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel,  my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.'  David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me.   May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.   Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.'  Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, 'Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.'”

"When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk.  So she told him nothing at all until daybreak.  Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone.   About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.

"When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, 'Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.'

"Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife.   His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, 'David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.'

"She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, 'I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.'   Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife.   David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives.   But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim."

So, David loses one wife (who had saved his life), and gains two more.  One is a very clever and considerate woman who's husband had died of a heart attack upon hearing how she had saved his foolish life.

We'll have to rack up the total, but it does seem that a higher percentage of women whose stories are told in the OT are heroic, than men.

(86) Saul Meets a Witch
Image result for witch of endor

28. 7-14: "Saul then said to his attendants, 'Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.'

“'There is one in Endor,' they said.

 "So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. 'Consult a spirit for me,' he said, 'and bring up for me the one I name.'

"But the woman said to him, 'Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?'

 "Saul swore to her by the Lord, 'As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this.'

 "Then the woman asked, 'Whom shall I bring up for you?'

“'Bring up Samuel,' he said.

"When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, 'Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!'

"The king said to her, 'Don’t be afraid. What do you see?'

"The woman said, “I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth.'

 “'What does he look like?' he asked.

“'An old man wearing a robe is coming up,' she said.

"Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground."

Obviously the Witch of Endor is a villain.  But she doesn't seem to be a complete fool.  The focus, still, is on the sins of King Saul. 

(87)  A Witch Feeds a Depressed King

28. 21-25: "'Now please listen to your servant and let me give you some food so you may eat and have the strength to go on your way.'  He refused and said, 'I will not eat.'

"But his men joined the woman in urging him, and he listened to them. He got up from the ground and sat on the couch.  The woman had a fattened calf at the house, which she butchered at once.  She took some flour, kneaded it and baked bread without yeast.   Then she set it before Saul and his men, and they ate.  That same night they got up and left."

I think the point of this story is that even having been rebuked by the spirit of Samuel, King Saul is so shallow in his half-hearted repentance that he can't skip a meal to seek God's forgiveness. 

II Samuel

(88) 3.7: "Now Saul had had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah.  And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, 'Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?'

(89) King David Don't Dance and My Hubby Shouldn't Rock 'n Roll

6.16: "As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart."

6.20-23: "When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

"David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord.   I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

"And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death."

(90) David and Bathsheba

Another of the most famous love-stories (or lust stories) in the Bible.

11. 1-11 "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

"One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”  Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home.  The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

"So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David.  When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going.  Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him.   But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.

"David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”

"Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents,and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

Following a page in King Saul's book, David then plots Uriah's "death by enemy fire."  Uriah having died, David waits a short while, then makes his next move:  
11.26-27: "When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him.  After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.  But the thing David had done displeased the Lord."

Nathan then famously confronts David by telling him the story of rich and poor neighbors, and how the rich neighbor steals his poor neighbor's only sheep.  Nathan rebukes David for his similar crime: "You are the man!"   David repents, but the child of his union with Bathsheba dies.
12.23-24: "But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”  Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him."

(91) The Aftermath

More problems emerge within the polyamorous household of King David, among Generation Next:  
13.1-22: "In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.  Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.  Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man.  He asked Amnon, 'Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?' Amnon said to him, 'I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.' 'Go to bed and pretend to be ill,' Jonadab said. 'When your father comes to see you, say to him, "I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat.  Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand."' So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill.  When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, 'I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.'
"David sent word to Tamar at the palace: 'Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.'  So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down.  She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it.   Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.
"'Send everyone out of here,”'Amnon said. So everyone left him.  Then Amnon said to Tamar, 'Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.'  And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom.   But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.'
“'No, my brother!' she said to him. 'Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel!  Don’t do this wicked thing.   What about me?  Where could I get rid of my disgrace?  And what about you?  You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel.  Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.'   But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.
"Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred.  In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her.  Amnon said to her, 'Get up and get out!'
“'No!' she said to him. 'Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.'
"But he refused to listen to her.   He called his personal servant and said, 'Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.'   So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her.  She was wearing an ornate robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore.   Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing.  She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.
"Her brother Absalom said to her, 'Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you?  Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother.  Don’t take this thing to heart.'  And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.
 "When King David heard all this, he was furious.   And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar."
Absalom then plots the revenge murder of his half-brother.  He runs away to escape punishment. 

(92) In Chapter 14, there is an incident in which Joab hires a "wise woman" to persuade David to accept Absalom back, by spinning a yard about her two sons getting into a fight and one killing the other.  (Maybe taking a clue from Nathan's successful story-telling.)  At first the king buys the story, and issues an order letting the remaining son live.  Then when she applies the story to David's own situation, he realizes Joab has put her up to this, but accepts Absalom back anyway. 

Absalom returns, but frustrated with David's stand-offish refusal either to punish or forgive him, he forms a coalition and rebels against his father.  All of this, the narrator seems to imply, arises as consequences of David's own sexual and other consequence immorality. 

The story concludes with King David's party victorious but the king heartbroken.  "Alas, Absalom!  If only I could have died in your place!"

(93)  Yet another Wise Woman Saves a City
20.16-22: "A wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him.”  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.
 She continued, “Long ago they used to say, ‘Get your answer at Abel,’ and that settled it.   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?”
 “Far be it from me!” Joab replied, “Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy!  That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bikri, 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.'
 "Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bikri 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."

(94) A Faithful Daughter
21.10-11: "Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock.  From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds touch them by day or the wild animals by night.   When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done,  he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead."

I Kings

(95) Cuddles for the King

1.1-4: "When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him.   So his attendants said to him, 'Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.'  Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful young woman and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king.  The woman was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her."

(96) Bathsheba Sticks up for her Son

1.11-21: "Then Nathan asked Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, 'Have you not heard that Adonijah, the son of Haggith, has become king, and our lord David knows nothing about it?  Now then, let me advise you how you can save your own life and the life of your son Solomon.  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?"  While you are still there talking to the king, I will come in and add my word to what you have said.'”

"So Bathsheba went to see the aged king in his room, where Abishagthe Shunammite was attending him.  Bathsheba bowed down, prostrating herself before the king.

“'What is it you want?” the king asked.

 "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."  But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, do not know about it.   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.   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.   Otherwise, as soon as my lord the king is laid to restwith his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals.'”

Needless to say, no such tragedy occurs.  David makes Solomon king.

(97) An Egyptian Wife for David

3.1: " Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the Lord, and the wall around Jerusalem."

(98) Wisdom of Solomon

3.16-27: "Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him.  One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me.  The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him.  So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast.  The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
 "The other woman said, 'No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.'
But the first one insisted, 'No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.'  And so they argued before the king.
"The king said, 'This one says, "My son is alive and your son is dead," while that one says, "No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”
"Then the king said, 'Bring me a sword.'  So they brought a sword for the king.   He then gave an order: 'Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.'
"The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, 'Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!'

"But the other said, 'Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!'

"Then the king gave his ruling: 'Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.'”

Why do so many stories in the Old Testament involve prostitutes?  Perhaps the term was used in a broader sense in ancient Hebrew, referring to an "unwed mother" or a "loose woman."  Or perhaps many women were forced by the economics of the time to take in lonely men. 

(99) 7.8: "Solomon also made a palace like this hall for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom he had married."

A geo-political link his father had already made. 

(100) The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon
Image result for solomon's wives
Why aren't any of these baking cookies?
10. 1-10: "When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind.  Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her.  When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built,  the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.  She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true.  But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.  How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!  Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”  And she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon."

(101) Solomon’s Wives

11. 1-8: "King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites.  They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, 'You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.'  Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.  He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.  As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.  He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.  So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.  On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.  He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods."

The emphasis, again, is on how polygamy affects the nation and introduces polytheism.  But many stories in the OT relate the harm all that catting around does to the wives, children, and society as a whole. 

(102) 14.1-2, 6: "At that time Abijah son of Jeroboam became ill,  and Jeroboam said to his wife, “Go, disguise yourself, so you won’t be recognized as the wife of Jeroboam. Then go to Shiloh. Ahijah the prophet is there—the one who told me I would be king over this people . . . "
"So when Ahijah heard the sound of her footsteps at the door, he said, “Come in, wife of Jeroboam. Why this pretense? I have been sent to you with bad news."

(103) 15.13: "He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley."

(104) 16.31: "He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him."

(105) Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath

17. 7-24: "Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.  Then the word of the Lord came to him:  “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.”   So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?”   As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

"Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.  For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

"She went away and did as Elijah had told her.  So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.   For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.   Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.  She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

“'Give me your son,' Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.  Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”  Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

"The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.  Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

"Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

Note that this is the story of a boy's salvation, but also of his mother's salvation.  She herself supposes that she is being punished for her sins -- though in passive-aggressive style, also tries to blame Elijah for punishing her.  But God rescues her and her son, after twice putting her faith to the test. 

(106) Jezebaal issues a Threat

19.1-4: "Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.  So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

God does deal with Jezebel severely, and does our very language. 

(107)  Ahab is Threatened

20: 2-3, 7-8: "He sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, saying, 'This is what Ben-Hadad says: "Your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine.”'

(108) Grapes to Die For

21.4-11, 15-16: "So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.  His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”  He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”  Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”  So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote:

“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people.  But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death . . . "

"As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.”   When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard."

Jezebaal remains a byword for a femme fatale.  Such queens are not uncommon in history, so of course we need a word to describe them. 

II. Kings

(109) The Widow’s Olive Oil

Image result for elisha widow
4. 1-37: "The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord.  But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”  Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you?  Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
 Elisha said, 'Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars.  Don’t ask for just a few.  Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.'
"She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring.   When all the jars were full, she said to her son, 'Bring me another one.'
"But he replied, 'There is not a jar left.'  Then the oil stopped flowing.
"She went and told the man of God, and he said, 'Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.'”

As in the New Testament, the assumption is that widows who are of good character in particular deserve such aid. 

(110) The Shunammite’s Son Restored to Life

"One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat.  She said to her husband, 'I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God.  Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.'

"One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there.  He said to his servant Gehazi, 'Call the Shunammite.'  So he called her, and she stood before him.  Elisha said to him, 'Tell her, "You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you?  Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?"'

She replied, “I have a home among my own people.”

 “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked.

Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.”

Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway.  “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.”

“No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”

 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

 The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers.   He said to his father, “My head! My head!”

His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.”  After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died.  She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out.

She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.”

 “Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.”

“That’s all right,” she said.

She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.”  So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.  When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite!  Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’”

“Everything is all right,” she said.

 When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.”

 “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”

 Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.”  But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her.  Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response.  So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.”   When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.  He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord.  Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands.  As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more.  The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.  Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, 'Call the Shunammite.' And he did. When she came, he said, 'Take your son.'   She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out."

In a society in which diseases of childhood took about half of all children, one of the most natural miracles one would expect to see during a divine visitation of some sort would be these ones.  Jesus also brought life back to children who had died. 

Many instances are given in the OT of women who yearn for children, who are given them.  Those of us who are parents know that no greater gift could possibly be given a woman, or a man, than the life of a child. 

(111) Horrors of Siege Warfare

6.26-30: "As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried to him, 'Help me, my lord the king!'   The king replied, 'If the Lord does not help you, where can I get help for you? From the threshing floor?  From the winepress?'  Then he asked her, 'What’s the matter?'

"She answered, 'This woman said to me, "Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son."  So we cooked my son and ate him.  The next day I said to her, "Give up your son so we may eat him," but she had hidden him.'  When the king heard the woman’s words, he tore his robes. As he went along the wall, the people looked, and they saw that, under his robes, he had sackcloth on his body.  He said, 'May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!'”

Again, the fate of mothers and their children represents the terrible fate of the nation as a whole. 

(112) The Shunammite’s Land Restored

8. 1-6: "Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, 'Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the Lord has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.'  The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years.  At the end of the seven years she came back from the land of the Philistines and went to appeal to the king for her house and land.  The king was talking to Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, and had said, 'Tell me about all the great things Elisha has done.'  Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to appeal to the king for her house and land."

"Gehazi said, 'This is the woman, my lord the king, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.'   The king asked the woman about it, and she told him.

"Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, 'Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now.'”

The House of Ahab

8. 18: "He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord."

9.8: "The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free."

(114) Jezebel Gets Shredded

9. 31-37: "As Jehu entered the gate, she asked, 'Have you come in peace, you Zimri, you murderer of your master?'   He looked up at the window and called out, 'Who is on my side? Who?'  Two or three eunuchs looked down at him.  'Throw her down!'  Jehu said.  So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot.  Jehu went in and ate and drank. 'Take care of that cursed woman,' he said, 'and bury her, for she was a king’s daughter.'   But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands.   They went back and told Jehu, who said, 'This is the word of the Lord that he spoke through his servant Elijah the Tishbite: On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel’s flesh.  Jezebel’s body will be like dung on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say, "This is Jezebel.’”

So righteousness, or lack thereof, trumps royalty, in the eyes of God. 

(115)  Athaliah vs. Jehosheba

11.1-3: "When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family.  But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered.  She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed.  He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the Lord for six years while Athaliah ruled the land."

11. 13-16: "When Athaliah heard the noise made by the guards and the people, she went to the people at the temple of the Lord She looked and there was the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was.  The officers and the trumpeters were beside the king, and all the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets. Then Athaliah tore her robes and called out, 'Treason! Treason!'  Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders of units of a hundred, who were in charge of the troops: 'Bring her out between the ranks and put to the sword anyone who follows her.' For the priest had said, 'She must not be put to death in the temple of the Lord.'   So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds, and there she was put to death."
Here is the story of two women: one so depraved she attempted to kill all her own grandchildren to retain power, the other of whom thwarted her by saving the life of a boy who would prove one of Judah's better kings. 

(116) 22. 14-20: "Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe.  She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.  She said to them, 'This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, "This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read.  Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched."  Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard:  Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.  Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace.  Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’” So they took her answer back to the king."

Here is a second woman in the Old Testament who is given the function of a prophet. 

I Chronicles

(117) Michal Mention.

15:29: "As the ark of the covenant of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart."

II Chronicles

(118) The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon

9.1-12: "When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions. Arriving with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all she had on her mind.  Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for him to explain to her.  When the queen of Sheba saw the wisdom of Solomon, as well as the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, the cupbearers in their robes and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.
 "She said to the king, 'The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true.  But I did not believe what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard.  How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!  Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on his throne as king to rule for the Lord your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness.'
"Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. There had never been such spices as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.  (The servants of Hiram and the servants of Solomon brought gold from Ophir; they also brought algumwood and precious stones.  The king used the algumwood to make steps for the temple of the Lord and for the royal palace, and to make harps and lyres for the musicians. Nothing like them had ever been seen in Judah.)
"King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for; he gave her more than she had brought to him. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country."

Jesus would cite the Queen of Sheba's long journey and open-minded questioning in contrast to contemporary Jews who showed much less interest in the truth, even though one greater than Solomon was now on hand.  (Certainly Jesus was right about that!) 

(119) 11.21: "Rehoboam loved Maakah daughter of Absalom more than any of his other wives and concubines. In all, he had eighteen wives and sixty concubines, twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters."

(120) 15.16: "King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley."

(121) 21.6: "He (Jehoram) followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord."

(122)  Athaliah vs. Jehosheba (repeat)

22.10-12: "When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family of the house of Judah.   But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes who were about to be murdered and put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Because Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of the priest Jehoiada, was Ahaziah’s sister, she hid the child from Athaliah so she could not kill him.  He remained hidden with them at the temple of God for six years while Athaliah ruled the land."

34.22-28: "Hilkiah and those the king had sent with him went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.  She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people—all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the king of Judah.  Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all that their hands have made, my anger will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.’  Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard:  Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord.  Now I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here.’”  So they took her answer back to the king."


(123) Mixing With the Nations

When some of the upper class among the Jews returns from Babylon to rebuild the city, the leaders are upset that some of them marry from among neighboring peoples "with their detestable practices."  Those practices no doubt include idolatry, and perhaps the ultimate obscenity (to them if not unfortunately to us) the sacrifice of children to Moloch or his heavenly henchmen. 

The longest part of this story is a merely a list. 

9.1-2: "After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, 'The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites.  They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them.  And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.'

10.17-44: "And by the first day of the first month they finished dealing with all the men who had married foreign women."

Those Guilty of Intermarriage

"Among the descendants of the priests, the following had married foreign women:
From the descendants of Joshua son of Jozadak, and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib and Gedaliah.  (They all gave their hands in pledge to put away their wives, and for their guilt they each presented a ram from the flock as a guilt offering.)  From the descendants of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah. From the descendants of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel and Uzziah.  From the descendants of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad and Elasah.  Among the Levites: ozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah and Eliezer.   From the musicians: Eliashib.  From the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem and Uri.  And among the other Israelites: From the descendants of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malkijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malkijah and Benaiah. From the descendants of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth and Elijah.  From the descendants of Zattu: lioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad and Aziza. From the descendants of Bebai:
Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai and Athlai.  From the descendants of Bani: Meshullam, Malluk, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal and Jeremoth.  From the descendants of Pahath-Moab: Adna, Kelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui and Manasseh.  From the descendants of Harim: Eliezer, Ishijah, Malkijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluk and Shemariah.
 From the descendants of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh and Shimei.
 From the descendants of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Keluhi, Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Mattenai and Jaasu.
From the descendants of Binnui: Shimei,  Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, Maknadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah and Joseph.
From the descendants of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel and Benaiah.
 All these had married foreign women, and some of them had children by these wives."



7.  Sons of . . . The people are counted by sons. 

12.43: "Even the women and children" rejoice over building of wall. 

(125) Nehemiah: also upset over intermarriage

13.23-27: "Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah.  I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I  beat some of the men and pulled out their hair.  I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: 'You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves.  Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned?  Among the many nations there was no king like him.  He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women.  Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?'”

In defense of Ezra and Nehemiah and views so far out of the mainstream of modern assumptions, one might note that their opposition to intermarriage may well be what has kept the Jewish race alive for the past several thousand years.  It is one of the most remarkable stories in history, how Israel scattered around the world for two thousand years, just as the prophets foretold -- then came back to Israel!  In many of those countries that they scattered to, the people around them were not always doing such detestable things, and intermarriage must have seemed the easy way out of the ghetto.  (And many did marry, which is why there are fewer than 15 million Jews today -- their percentage of the world's population was much higher during the Roman period.)   But their attitude towards the goyim, as captured for instance in In Praise of Baal Shem Tov in 18th Century Poland, was so contemptuous, and so forbidding of intermarriage (Fiddler on the Roof gets this right, too), that the Jewish people survived, against all odds, and unlike any other such people ultimately went home. 

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