Shawna Atteberry

Writer, Editor, Researcher

Blast from the Past: The Biblical Family?

This was originally published on 10/12/2006.

Abraham had two children with two different women. Isaac and Rachel had two children. Jacob has at least 13 children, 7 of them with Leah. What does the “typical biblical family” look like? It’s hard to tell by the patriarchs. Abraham had a wife and a concubine. Isaac and Rachel were monogamous regardless of the number of children they could produce. Then there’s Jacob with two wives, two concubines, and a brood of kids. I think it’s safe to say that there is no one “typical” family model in the Bible no matter how much some conservative Evangelicals want there to be. The New Testament is even foggier with Jesus changing the rules about family. In fact he redefined family saying “Whoever does the will of my Mother who is in heaven is my sister, my brother, my mother” (Matthew 12:15, NT: Divine Feminine Version). He also didn’t go in for putting family above all else mentality that we see in conservative evangelicalism. He said no one could put their family above him and still call themselves a disciple of Christ. This redefinition of family continues through the New Testament as the Church, the body of Christ, becomes family. Paul mentions several family members “in the Lord,” but he doesn’t mention one biological family member in his writing. We only know Paul had a sister and nephew thanks to Luke. We know Priscilla and Aquila were married, but we have no idea if they had kids: Paul and Luke never say. Then there’s Paul and Jesus–neither of them even bothered to marry. It also appears that Barnabas, Lydia, and Timothy were all single as well. And yet they are part of the body of Christ, part of the family of God.

When we see family in the biblical and Middle Eastern sense of the word, it is not the nuclear family we are used to. Family was the extended family, which usually lived together, may be not in one dwelling, but all of their houses or tents were right next to each other. When a son married, the parents built a room on top of their house for the couple. The couple then moved in. The family was run by the oldest living male–the patriarch–and everyone lived together: parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and children. This was family in the Old Testament and New Testament. In Acts we also see the concept of household, which included all the relatives plus the servants and slaves. How many people were added to the body of Christ when Cornelius and his whole household repented and were baptized? His wife (or wives), children, relatives, servants and slaves? Lydia’s household also were baptized. Who all did that include? Lydia’s relatives? An aged mother or grandmother, siblings, nieces, or nephews? Then there were her servants and slaves, all of whom repented and were baptized. Lydia’s household became the first church in Europe (Acts 16). Households and families were very different than the Western nuclear family. In fact, in many parts of the world, this is what family and households look like today. Not even Christians in other countries will agree with the American Evangelical definition of “family.”

There is a reason I’m bringing all of this up. I have seen a couple of articles about larger families starting to be more common than the typical 2-3 child norm our society worships. Of course these larger families are looked down upon, especially the mothers who decided that this is what they wanted: to have a large family. On the other end of the spectrum are couples like my husband and I. We’ve chosen not to have children. Both of these decisions should be fine with the church along with those who have chosen to remain single. All of these families are represented in the Bible. My husband and I should not be classified as “selfish” because we’ve chosen not to have the culturally accepted family. Neither should women like Leslie Leland Fields, who wrote, The Case for Kids at Christianity Today, be judged on why she and her husband have six children. In the article Leslie talked about the reaction outside of the church her big family receives, but I can see raised eyebrows in the church foyer when they walk by as well. It is more acceptable in the church for a larger family because we see children as a blessing from God. But I still have heard comments about “what were they thinking” directed at couples with a lot of children.

Back to my end of the spectrum: please do not believe that because I don’t have children that means I hate them or don’t want to be around them. I love children. And every child needs at least one adult in their life who shares their life and hangs out with them because they want to and not because they have to. I love being that person. I love being Aunt Shawna. When I told this to one of my friends, Virginia, she absolutely agreed. That meant a lot to me because Virginia is a mother (she has two kids), and she is called to children’s ministry: she’s a children’s pastor. I take very seriously the part of the infant dedication or infant baptism where the pastor turns to the congregation and asks the congregation to do all they can to help the parents raise their children in Christ and in the Church. When I say, “I will,” I mean it. I will do anything I can to help parents raise their children to know the love and grace of Jesus. Whether they have two, six, or ten, no set of parents can raise children by themselves: they need the church; they need a community. This was something the extended family provided in the Bible: parents weren’t all on their own raising a family. This is also the way neighborhoods used to be: the entire street helped parents raise their kids. It wasn’t a Lone Ranger thing.

In her book Real Sex, Lauren Winner points out that both singleness and married life teach the church about God and her kingdom. Marriage teaches us about God’s love for us, the church. Marriage teaches us what faithfulness in a relationship looks like. It also teaches us about forgiveness and compromise. Just as marriage is not easy, it is not always easy to be part of the community, and it’s not always easy to be in a relationship with God. Singleness teaches the church utter dependence on God. Singles don’t have a partner always there to help. They have to depend on God for their intimacy. They teach us that there should always be an empty spot in our lives for God alone. They also remind us that in the end the only marriage is between Christ and his Church, and all of us will be siblings. Our primary relationship with each other is not as spouses, but as brothers and sisters in Christ. Before our marriage vows are our baptismal vows. Before we married, we were a sister or brother to our spouse.

Let’s take this a step further for families of all kinds. Large families teach us we don’t always get what we want in community. Siblings may have to share bedrooms and toys. They can’t hog the bathroom or the computer. They also have to conserve: their clothes will go to the next sibling. They have to learn to share. They also have to learn to compromise. They know life isn’t all about them when there are younger siblings too play with and care for.

Childless families remind us that we don’t always get what we want. Not all of us are called to be parents, just like not all are called to be parents to a large family. Childless families remind the church that family is a much larger concept than those who live under our roofs. We also remind the families with children that they don’t have to go it alone. We are here to help. We spend time with their kids because we want to. We also remind the church that marriage is not for children alone: we can use our marriages to build the kingdom of God. Childless couples have more time and resources for short-term mission trips, giving to those in need, and in helping the families at church raise their children in a godly way.

All of us together show the world what the kingdom God is like. It’s like the single person who depends on God for the intimacy she or he craves when they crawl into their bed alone every night. It’s like the married couple who does not let the sun go down on their anger and works through their argument to reconciling peace before they go to the bed. It’s like the family with two children who show us how important it is to know our limits and to do what is best for the entire family. It is like the family who has six children and teaches us that life does not revolve around us: we have to share, we don’t always have to space we want, and there are others who need us. All of this is what it looks like to be part of the church, part of the family of God.

You can work: As long as it's volunteer work

I’m very disturbed by some of the things I’ve been reading lately. It’s nothing that is in the news. I’m researching the opposing side for my book proposal, the complementarian side (I am not putting in links because I refuse to refer traffic to their sites. If you Google “complementarian,” you will find plenty of sites). This is a group who thinks that men and women were created equal as humans but that they have different roles due to their genders. They believe that woman was created to be a helper to her husband and must always submit to a man’s authority. They believe men were created to be leaders, protectors, and guardians. Women are to be helpers, nurturers, and mothers. A women’s place should be in the home, and she shouldn’t aspire to work outside of the home to keep herself free for ministry. When she doesn’t work then after she takes care of the kids and the house, her free time will be left for building God’s kingdom. Some of the voluntary suggestions for “ministry” are:

  • prison chaplain
  • ministries to the handicapped
  • ministries to the sick, including nursing and hospice work
  • being a teacher, including K-12 teacher

These are all full-time jobs, which take education and training to perform. Now they also suggest the truly voluntary ministries of music in the church, Sunday School teacher, PTA, and volunteering for organizations that work with the poor, abused, and addicitons. But several of these “voluntary” ministries are full-time positions and careers. So it’s okay for a woman to technically work full-time as long as she doesn’t get paid?

In her book Equal to Serve: Women and Men Working Together Revealing the Gospel, Gretchen Gaebelein Hull points out that once something that women did becomes something men do, then it’s worth charging for. How much did midwives make? Really? When men took over medicine then money came into play. Things that women do are normally seen as less valuable economically than what men do. Women having been cooking and feeding their families for years. But a small percentage of women are chefs who bring down big money.

When you consider the careers that women had in the Bible, I do not understand this “you can work as long as you volunteer” mentality. Deborah was a prophet and judge. The Proverbs 31 woman made and sold textiles and materials plus bought and sold land. She was a merchant. In the New Testament Lydia was also a merchant, and Priscilla worked with her husband Aquila to make tents. None of them volunteered their services. They worked, made money, and helped support their families economically.

I think Christians need to reclaim the word “vocation.” At one time Christians believed that you brought God with you on any job you had, whether you were a priest or a blacksmith. You did your work as unto God because God governed all of life. You built God’s kingdom in whatever career you had. It did not have to be a church position. We need to reclaim vocation, especially women. God calls women, as well as men, to work in the secular world in business, schools, government, and a myriad of other careers. We are called to bring God with us, and build God’s kingdom where we’re at. Just as the women in the Bible worked outside of the home, so can women today.

Related Posts:

Why Career Women of the Bible?
Does It Really Mean “Helpmate”?
The 12th Century B. C. E. Career Woman
Made in the Image of God: Female

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Updated Book Review: Saving Women from the Church

I have upadated my book review after comments Susan left. Please make sure you read her comment. There’s somef good stuff there. Thank you Susan for stopping by!

Today is the release date of Susan McLeod-Harrison’s first book Saving Women from the Church: How Jesus Mends a Divide (Barclay Press, 2008). Upfront I have to say I’m not sure I can review this book objectively. Susan’s story is very close to my own. Reading this book, I wished it had been published about eight years earlier. That is when I was going through my own struggle on whether or not to remain in the Church. And I do mean Church with a big C. I wasn’t thinking of only leaving my denomination, I was thinking of leaving the Church period. I was in seminary and on the ordination track. I did not see a place for myself in Christian ministry. I was single; I was evangelical; and I was called to preach and pastor. I was also asked in various churches if I was going to seminary to be a pastor’s wife. I had come to the point where I wanted to leave. I wanted to walk away. I just did not see a future for myself in the Church.

Saving Women from the Church addresses several of the myths that woman hear in church. Some of the chapter titles are: “If you’ve felt alienated and judged in the church,” “If you believe women are inferior to men,” “If as a single woman, your gifts have been rejected or overlooked,” and “If you’ve been encouraged to deify motherhood.” In the Introduction, she starts with my favorite starting point on women in the church: creation. Both men and women are created in the image of God, and therefore, image God with their gifts and talents God has given them. In each chapter she starts with a fictional account of a woman who is experiencing and living one of the myths. She follows it with a imaginative portrayal of how Jesus treated women in a similar position in the New Testament. She follows the biblical story by explaining what Jesus was doing and with questions for discussion. Each chapter ends with a meditation meant for healing. Saving Women does a great job of translating theology into practical, everyday examples in language normal people use. The history and sociological work she does for each passage, explaining the culture of the people, at the time is also well done.

I think this book would make an excellent woman’s study or small group study. It addresses most of the myths women in the evangelical church have grown up with and still deal with. It would be a great conversation starter, and it is a valuable addition to other books on this subject. The language and tone of the book make it much more accessible and understandable to the typical lay person than most books in this genre. In the conclusion, Susan recommends women in abusive churches leave and gives a list of churches that are egalitarian and open to women in ministry. Saving Women does a good job of acknowledging and describing the myths, and encourages women to get out of these environments. The Recommended Reading at the end of the book also has books that would help in this regard.

Overall I am very pleased that this book is on the market. It starts with the premise that women are made in the image of God and called to build God’s kingdom. Then it deals chapter-by-chapter with the destructive myths that have prevailed in evangelical culture to keep women as second-class citizens and powerless in the pews. It is an excellent resource to begin busting these myths and helping women find their God-given ability to be equal partners in building God’s kingdom with their brothers.

Career Women of the Bible: Introduction

Editor’s note: This post was updated on 9/30/2010.

One of the largest Southern Baptist seminaries, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), in Louisville, Kentucky began a new core of programs for women in 2007, which included:

Seminary Wives Institute is an innovative program designed to prepare the wives of seminary students for their role in their husbands’ ministries.

Women’s Ministry Institute offers women the opportunity to improve their skills and ministry through a variety of classes geared toward women’s ministries in the local church.

Classes included housekeeping, budgeting, being your husband’s best friend, keeping an organized house, and sewing. There were Bible classes, but the descriptions sounded like the women taking these classes had never been to Sunday School. There were “leadership” classes, but the brochure and class descriptions made it clear that this was leadership for womens and children’s ministry. The counseling classes made it clear that women were to counsel only other women according to the Titus 2 model. In 2007, when this post was first written, my favorite class module was this one:

Redeeming the Time looks at setting goals and priorities but also tackles practical issues including day planners; handling paper, avoiding clutter; home management; housekeeping and kitchen organization. This course is aimed to challenge those who are already skilled in areas of organization as well as to motivate those who have room for vast improvement.

Rev. Anges Diffee pastored one of the largest Nazarene churches in the 1940s, Little Rock First Church of the Nazarene.In their 2010 class schedule, I noticed SBTS no longer offers this module, and for good reason. Most seminary students are at least 22, and I was 28 when I started seminary. I have friends who started seminary in their 30s and 40s. I’m thinking most seminary wives, along with most seminary husbands, have an idea of how to use a day planner and set goals. In 2007 SBTS module also made it clear that a woman’s role is to keep house, period. There was a core of courses on homemaking (link no longer available). Classes include homemaking, sewing, taking care of children, and cooking. Basically SBST’s courses of study for women are degrees in home economics. The classes they now offer in their certificates for Seminary Wives and Women’s Ministry still make it clear that women that a women’s place is in the home and leading only women and children at church, but they have dropped the home economics classes in their 2010-11 offerings.

This is why I am writing Career Women of the Bible. There is a disturbing trend in evangelicalism that takes the 1950s Leave It to Beaver family and elevates it to the biblical model of family. The “biblical” model of being a woman means staying at home, raising children, and taking care of the household. But does the Bible really say that?

This book began as my thesis in seminary. During my time at Nazarene Theological Seminary (NTS), I would be asked in churches if I was going to seminary to be a pastor’s wife. I wasn’t. I was called to be a pastor. This question asked in church foyers, potlucks, and Sunday School classes struck me as odd. It seemed odd because The Church of the Nazarene has been ordaining women for over 100 years. The first women in my denomination was ordained in 1903. In the 1930s 30% of Nazarene ordained elders were women. The largest Nazarene church, First Church of the Nazarene, in Little Rock, Arkansas was pastored by a woman in the 40s–Agnes Diffee. Little Rock First ran 3,000 then. Agnes also became the first female radio evangelist in the United States.

This question also made me a little angry. Why would anyone think I was pursuing a Masters degree to find a husband? With what it cost? And the time? It was insulting to me. It wasn’t until after I had graduated that I found out that in the 1970s NTS had a course for guess who? Yes–for pastors’ wives. In a denomination that had been ordaining women since the turn of the twentieth century, they had a pastor’s wives (not spouses) course.

“Are you going to seminary to be a pastor’s wife?” This question sparked my thesis: a Theology of Single Women in Ministry. I wanted to show that God called women in their own right to be prophets, judges, and leaders. Even women like Deborah and Huldah were not leaders because of their husbands. They were leaders because God called them and they obeyed. I have since thought more and more about women in the Bible–and not just the ones called to leadership positions. Even those who appear to be the typical mother and housewife on the surface belie these apparent roles. Women such as the matriarchs–Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah–helped define the covenant with God and literally birthed God’s chosen people. The Proverbs 31 woman, who is usually prooftexted into the domestic diva of her day, did not just keep an orderly house and raise kids. She was also a business woman: she spun and wove cloth and sold it. She also had her own property, which she bought and sold. Taking a closer look at the women in the Bible shows there is much more complexity to who they were and their roles than what a cursory glance gives.

But one thing I do not want to do is gloss over or demean the women who have chosen to stay home and raise their children. I believe being a mother is a full-time job and then some. That is why I have made sure to include mothers in this book. In the Bible mothers make covenant decisions regarding their children. Women’s decisions regarding their children have led to mighty movements of God’s Spirit. Think of Rebekah making sure Jacob receives Isaac’s blessing as God had told her years before. Think of Hannah giving Samuel into God’s service, and the revival that came to Israel due to Samuel’s leadership. Women’s fingerprints, mothers’ fingerprints, are all over the purposes and plans of God for God’s chosen people: both Israel and the Church.

I think by taking a closer look at the women in the Bible, we will see that they wore as many hats as women do today: wives, mothers, students, prophets, judges, evangelists, pastors, and apostles. There were also business women: Lydia and the Proverbs 31 woman; harvesters like Ruth, and a queen who saved her people, Esther. Women in the Bible lived many different roles as women today.

I hope this book will help you see that God has not limited what women can do. In fact, the biblical witness is just the opposite: we see God calling women to build God’s kingdom in both the sacred and secular realms as well as the home.

Pictures:

Rev. Agnes Diffee (1889–1970) who pastored Little Rock First Church of the Nazarene in the 1940s.

Rev. Santos Elizondo (1867–1941) who preached and led 100s to Christ in El Paso and Juarez. She was in charge of Nazarene work in Juarez for 35 years.

Rev. Emma Irck (1888–1984) pastored the largest Nazarene church in Houston, Texas. She was also a renowned evangelist who traveled thousands of miles to hold revivals.

Pictures and descriptions are from the Weselyan Holiness Women Clergy website. For more information on these women and other women leaders influential in the holiness movement visit WHWC Picture Gallery.

(Hat tip to Feminary and Church Gal for bringing this up on both of their blogs, and a very big thank you for giving me the thing I needed to spark off the introduction for this book.)

Related Links:
Updated: Potential “Career Women of the Bible” Outline
Viewpoint of a Female Minister

What Is a Mother?

In the RevGals Wednesday Festival, EarthenSoul was mourning that, at this point in her life, she would never have children. I am unable to have children due to health problems. Like EarthenSoul and Her Mate, My Hubby and I have decided not to adopt due to how old we will be when we get the kids off to college! Sally posted the wonderful prayer below in the comments on the post. It spoke to me and resonated in my heart. In the past few years, I have come to realize that just because I cannot have children does not mean I cannot nurture and love others and give birth to new ideas, books, and projects for the Kingdom of God. In fact, as a pastor I get to do one of the most incredible things there is: I get to love, nurture, and lead people into an intimate relationship with God. If that’s not mothering, I don’t know what is! I take my example from Deborah, who is called “a mother in Isreal” (Judges 5:6). Deborah is not called a mother because of her biological children. She is a mother for leading and defending the people of Israel, which were her children. Here is the prayer that Sally left for earthsoul and the rest of us who are unable to have children. It is from Nicola Slee’s “Praying like a woman.”

Though this belly has never been swollen with the burden of a baby, let me grow big with the longing for justice which will be for all of the children of God.

Though these breasts have never suckled an infant, let my largess of love nurture those who are hungry for the feast of life.

Though these arms have never cradled my own child, let them reach out tenderly to those who pine for a mothers love.

Though these lips have never spoken my own babies name, let me croon blessing and balm and healing on many a charmless unlullabied life.

Though this mind cannot truly imagine my own childs life, may I dream dreams for children whose prospects are pitiful and whose hopes are slender.

And though I have wept over my unborn child’s unfulfilled possibilities,
may I never be so absorbed in my own small griefs that I have not compassion to weep with the motherless child, and the childless mother, to grieve the abandoned infant and to rage over the still born babe.To sorrow over the squandered life and to lament over each uncherished son and daughter.

May I offer these arms,
Open this heart,
proffer this body,
to each baby screaming for justice,
each child reaching for love
each neighbour longing for mercy
each mother mourning the useless spilling of blood.

Childless and childbearing we belong together

We are each offspring of the body of God.

The Image of God and Sexuality

There is a very disturbing thing going on to encourage abstinence among Christian teenagers and children. It started with Purity Balls “a memorable ceremony for daughters to pledge commitments to purity and their fathers to pledge commitments to protect their girls.” I could not find the pledge the daughters make on their website, but here is the pledge the fathers make:

I, [daughter’s name]’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.

This year the same organization put on an Integrity Ball for mothers and sons. There was no mention of the mothers making a pledge to their sons, but here is the pledge the sons take:

I, _________________________, choose before God to remain pure in my lifestyle, as I grow toward the goal of manhood, and until such a time that I marry.

I will be a young man of integrity and accountability as I strive to be an example to those around me. I will be bold and courageous, no matter what.

Today, I choose to seek after the high calling of God in every area of my life.

During the Purity Balls girls and teenagers are told to keep themselves pure for their future husbands, and as seen in the pledge, fathers pledge to “cover” their daughters and protect their virginity. During the Integrity Balls boys are told that the every girl they will date is someone else’s daughter and potentially someone else’s future husband. Would these young men want another man messing around with their future wife? Boys pledge to take charge of their lives and body; fathers pledge that they will protect their daughter’s virginity. Exactly how does Generations of Light (the organization behind the balls) view women?

Generations of Light view women as objects to be managed by men: first by fathers then by husbands. Instead children and teenagers should be taught that they are created in the image of God, and for that reason alone they need to respect each other. Boys should have been told that every girl they date is made in the image of God, and he needs to respect her and treat her accordingly, and girls need to hear the same thing. Christian teenagers also need to realize that first and foremost they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They might date, and they might break up. They will eventually get married, but through all those transient relationships, they are still brothers and sisters in Christ.

Another thing that needs to be addressed is that girls and women have sexual drives and needs as well as boys and men. This assumption that men are aggressively sexual and women are to be passive resistors of temptation is a horrible patriarchal myth that needs to end. Both men and women have sex drives, and both men and women have access to the fruit of self-control that the Spirit gives us. We should be teaching our teenagers how to cultivate self-control and set boundaries that will help them keep these pledges they make. It goes with saying that girls should be making their own pledges to take control of their lives and bodies as do the boys.

When men and women view each other as made in the image of God, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can respect each other and cultivate the self-control that is necessary to resist sexual (and all other) temptations. When a woman is a person in her own right and a man respects that, then they can set biblical guidelines and boundaries to their relationships.

Dear Mary

Dear Mary,

What was it like? What was it like when Gabriel appeared and told you that God had chosen you to carry and bear the Messiah–to give birth to the divine; to birth the holy? What was it like to fear losing everything you loved, the only life you’d known, when you chose to obey God? Were you called crazy when you said God made you pregnant? Did you hear whispered “insane,” “not quite right” behind your back?

What was it like when Joseph decided to divorce you? He was a good man and didn’t want to shame you, but what was it like knowing you’d never marry? You’d always be considered an adulteress? Is that when you went to Elizabeth’s? When did you know Joseph changed his mind? When did he tell you about the dream? Before or after that trip?

You made the long journey to Elizabeth’s. Did you somehow know she would understand because Gabriel told you, she too was pregnant by divine means–like Sarah and Hannah?

What was it like to embody theology? To have The Magnificat rise from your womb and out of your lips? Some say other people put those words in your mouth, but I don’t believe it. Women are in the perfect place to proclaim the justice and mercy of God. We know those injustices in our bodies. And still we are the ones to extend mercy. Yes–The Magnificat is yours–you who bore the injustices of people shaming and maligning you. You were the perfect person to proclaim the justice of God that was coming into the world through your body.

Did you have any idea how your life would change when you heard the words: “Hail Mary, full of grace. Blessed are you among women”? Did you think you were blessed and full of grace?

Did it freak you out to think you would have to raise the Son of God? I bet you and Joseph talked about that–a lot. And Joseph–God gave him a dream and told him everything: he immediately obeyed. He married you, and you raised Jesus together. Did your heart sing when he told you of his dream? Were you relieved to know you wouldn’t be bearing the holy and raising the Messiah alone?

I wish we knew more about you. Your hopes, dreams, and fears. I wish we knew the things you pondered and stored up in your heart. God asked incredible things of you. Difficult things. Impossible things. And you said yes. Yes, Mary–you are blessed–not only among women, but blessed among the world.

The Matriarchs of Israel

Bible study was excellent last night. All those years in religion classes and seminary, and the matriarchs were passed over. Never focused on–never part of the promise. But Disciple brings the matriarchs front and center: Sarah and Rebekah. God partners with them to realize his covenant promise. In God’s eyes they are not expendable as they are in the eyes of men–including their husbands. Abraham was not enough to begin the covenant people: Sarah was needed too. The son of promise had to come from both Abraham and Sarah. Abraham might think of Sarah as disposable (by giving her to two different kings), and Sarah might think she was expendable (by giving Hagar to Abraham), but God knew Sarah was vital for his plan of redemption.

Rebekah’s steps of faith and trust in God reflects Abraham’s faith and trust. She too leaves her country and goes to a land she does not know. Unlike Abraham, she leaves her family behind (whereas Abraham brings his), and makes the long journey to Canaan to be Isaac’s wife. When her hard and difficult pregnancy makes her wish she were dead, she goes to God directly to find out what is going on. What is happening to her? What does this mean? God answers her, and tells her she is bearing twins, two nations divided, and that the older brother would serve the younger. When the time came for Isaac to give his blessing, Rebekah was reading to make sure God’s will was done. For the first time I heard that what Rebekah did was right. She knew of God’s oracle–she knew that Jacob should receive the blessing. She partnered with God to make sure what he planned would happen, and she furthered the covenant promises. In doing so she became the mother Israel. No sin–only tenacious obedience to what she knew to be the will of God. I also want to look at Rachel and Leah differently too. They are matriarchs as well. Hopefully I will have much more to say about Sarah and Rebekah and about Rachel and Leah as well. I would also like to look at Hagar as a matriarch in her own right. She too had a son of promise, and God honored his covenant and commitment to her, even if Abraham and Sarah didn’t. I have just started reading about them and seeing them with new eyes. I am hoping for new revelations and new insights in the coming days.