Women's Waysabout these words?

Do you think I liked
driving a tent peg
through the man's head?

I did as I had to
to save our kinsmen:
defied my husband Heber,
dared his revenge.

But Sisera's mother I have met in dreams,
staring through her strange lattice
afraid, aware.

I did as I had to,
for Yahweh's people
had deserted Him,
but I could not.

Zipporah was right:
he was a bridegroom of blood,
that Moses.

Heber is a friend to everyone:
Canaanite or Jew.
He doesn't remember
how our people came here.

We are companions to Israel,
eyes in the wilderness,
promised a share
in Yahweh's goodness.

They boldly sing
as if I'm a heroine.

The mountain goat is nimble, quick,
dainty on her feet
but strong...

I still get nightmares,
smell the blood and brains on mats,
and I hate
the tap, tap of mallets
as the men set up camp.

A soft guile
of milk and coverlets,
a harsh death
and blood on the sheepskin
first laid for our wedding night.

I never want to camp
by the Kedesh again.

And yet how could I live
apart from the sacred place,
the land of Yahweh?

Deborah the bee
can be angry buzzing
or bring sweet life,
Deborah the prophetess.
She blessed me
above my peers.

We both have known
the hand of God in ours,
a mighty hand that led
where no woman goes.

My husband was afraid
of the swords of Canaan
when first he heard
what I had done.
Now he fears me!

But that is not my desire.
I am no pagan goddess-wife,
only Jael,
the mountain goat,
the traveller,
who belongs on the high places
with her Lord.

****

Judge this stiffnecked people?
Memories like Shimon, all of them:
Shimon who was struck by the falling tree
and asks his children's names
whenever he sees them.

Moses wrote the Law, didn't he,
in words of stone
for stone hearts.
Remember, remember.

Yet still God's people forget Him,
go their way,
do as they please.

I'm not scared of them:
I'm not scared of man or beast,
priest or Philistine.

The Spirit of God's alive in me.

The men all reckoned
any of them could judge Israel.
But Yahweh chose a woman,
this woman.

I'd hand it all over tomorrow,
but oh I'd miss His Spirit.

They don't understand
that we're His dear children,
and I daren't lose one
and grieve His fatherheart.

Between Ramah and the house of God,
I sit and pray.

----

The men
aren't so keen to lead now.

Our roads aren't safe,
we fear the shadow of Canaan.

Any day, the promised curse
will fall in full,
the curse we called upon us.

I summoned Barak
(he didn't like that),
and I told him:
'God's heard our cry,
and here's the battle plan.
Yahweh will deliver
the commander of their horde
into your hand,
Man of Lightning.'

They say lightning
never strikes twice in the one place.
This Barak
didn't even want to strike once.
'I won't go
unless you go too,
Busy Bee.'

Faithless sulker.
Does he think that Yahweh's Spirit
resides only in one poor prophetess,
does not roam the face of this His land
to help and heal,
to strengthen and save?

'So the glory goes to a woman,' I said.
He thought I meant me!

But Yahweh's ways
are higher than revenge.

I don't know why He chose her,
the tentdweller of Ken.
I see,
but I don't see clearly
His kingdom to come.

This I know, His word is true:
his word through Moses
drawn out from the deep waters.
Her people, the companions of Israel,
will be blessed.
God's people will love
the faithful foreigners in their land,
as Yahweh loves His children.

Barak sang with me
the day of victory.

I could have sung the same
on the day of prophecy!
But he
is a man of flesh.

Anyway, it's better to believe
when you see
than not at all.

****

Wherever you go
I'll be with you,
friend to you.
Otherwise you'll be
an old woman alone.

Your God is my God now,
your kin, my kin too.

Yahweh and Israel,
the widow's portion.

The widow's portion
is to glean
from the rich reaping
in golden sun,
in parched days.
Glean enough,
leave enough
for other poor scavengers.

A right rule, this:
it wouldn't happen
in Moab.

So I glean
for my mother-in-law and myself,
bread of life
from the fields
of our kinsman,
the son of Judah.

Naomi asks me to do
some strange things.
Go to a man at night!
It's a weird country.

----

God made all things work for good,
and I am content.

Kind hands and kind words
are worth more than youth,
that drew me once
but ailed and fell.

Boaz the strong
and I, by Yahweh's mercy
gave Naomi delight at last.
Our son Obed
has warmed her days
and sweetened the waters
of her remembering.

The people blessed me,
Me, a Moabitess.
'May she be like the two women
who built the house of Israel.'
To think
that women built the house of Israel!
A strange country, this,
my homeland.

He is a pillar, my Boaz,
blessed by the elders of Ephrathah.

And Obed - o the words
of honour spoken of him
by wise women:
Restorer of Life, Illustrious One.

My cup overflows,
praise Yahweh.

And I have bread to knead,
and wine to draw, before the sunset....

****
The menservants are in the courtyard
piling skins of our best aged wine,
prattling about my counter-order.

'Oh, the wisdom,
the wisdom of it!'

Commonsense, I call it.

Saddle up those donkeys,
Ehud, quick:
I need supplies
for six hundred men.

Your master's on the bottle again,
leave him be.
What he doesn't know
would overturn nations,
but won't hurt him.

Raisins, figs, do you have
the mutton loaded, Ehud?
Quick! Another ass,
fill the panniers
as full as you dare.

More barley loaves:
Hannah has cooled the last batch.
Run for your life, Ehud.
You heard
the master's sneer.
You saw
the messengers' dark faces.

This David, he's no hill brigand:
I know his name.
He slew the giant of Philistia,
he'll slay us all.

What! Called him a runaway slave,
a nobody? This David
is the next king of Israel,
everyone knows!

Nabal never listens,
woollypated fool.

Now Ehud, I will ride ahead -
yes, ahead. Trust me.

Now David, let all the blame
fall on me:
on me,
surrendered at your feet,
do you hear?

David, do not do
this thing
and grieve your heart
in days to come:
when Yahweh has done
all that He will do
for you,
when you are King of Israel.

Accept my gift.
Remember me
when you come into your kingdom.

----

Well, that was that.
A woman's way,
a few soft words
and the way to a man's heart -

I never meant that,
but Nabal fell before me
like a stone, like Goliath,
and scarce lived ten days more.
The offer came.
Do you think I could live alone?

I am a queen -
of sorts.
His proposal didn't mention
the others.

Abigail, source of joy.
Ahinoam, the pleasant one.
He never speaks of Michal:
only that she is gone.

****

He comforted me
with his strong body, shared
by many wives.

This man, who sent my husband
to his death.

I never knew that,
until the prophet spoke.

This man, who drew me
from my house to his bed:
adulterer, rapist, luster
after my flesh.

This father to my son
who died.
You'd think
I'd have much to say to him.

But when I saw
his spirit torn,
heard his weeping
for the One he loves....

I tell you,
words dissolved
as if it was I
before the Holy One of Israel.

I beheld His grief,
the pain of El Shaddai
in David's face,
and I trembled.

I saw my husband
bathed in the mercy
of the eternal I Am,
and I longed.

He's as sorry as a man can be.
He wouldn't look at a naked woman
if she lounged on his throne:
regrets it all
as much as I.

And I
can't rake hatred
from grief on grief,
can't add to the agony
of Yahweh's tears.

****

The other women
are softer with me
since our boy died.

I wonder if they know
what else God said,
of a prince of peace,
beloved of Yahweh:
Solomon Jedidiah
in my arms.

A king from my used body,
to comfort the world.

About these words

If you know your Old Testament and hunt up meanings of the Biblical names referred to, you'll understand this poem.

Jael and Deborah are in the book of Judges. Ruth ("Wherever you go....") of course is in the book of Ruth. Abigail and Bathsheba were in the time of King David.

Names are important in the Bible. They can indicate a person's character or something of God's purposes.

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