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The Song of Mary

Many scholars have portrayed Mary as an ignorant peasant girl with little understanding of the Scriptures. But Mary’s song of praise reveals that she had studied the Scriptures. Why is this important? Because Mary would be the teacher for the little boy Jesus. It was important that her home would be one of worship to God filled with knowledge of God’s Word, love, thankfulness and praise. All of these, the mother Mary was able to do.

Proof of this is in Mary’s song, one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. It reminds us of the Psalms and many other songs in the Old Testament. Mary is the first theologian in the New Testament, blending dozens of Old Testament Scriptures into a few verses to praise, honor, and testify to God’s plan of redemption.

There are scores of Scriptures that are alluded to in Mary’s song. You will find that you have a miniature history lesson of the Old Testament as well as a picture of God’s faithfulness to His people all in Mary’s song.

Mary’s song follows the pattern of the other famous songs in the Old Testament. The songs follow a pattern of praise, adoration, ascribing magnificence to God, thankfulness for salvation, a history of how God has always saved His people, and a hope and belief in God’s promise for the future.

You can see the similarity in Mary’s song to other songs in the Old Testament. Here is a list for you to look up: Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18); Song of Miriam (Exodus 15:20, 21); Song of Deborah (Judges 5:1-31); Song of Hannah (I Samuel 2:1-10). We will refer to many of these songs in this post below.

Turn to Luke 1:46. Filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoicing in God’s goodness Mary sang:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

Hannah – “My heart exults in the Lord.” (I Samuel 2:1)

Moses – “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted” (Exodus 15:1).

Miriam – “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted” (Exodus 15:21)

Deborah – “Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers! I – to the Lord, I will sing, I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (Judges 5:3)

 

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

“My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation” (Psalm 9:14; 13:5; 35:9; 48:11; 68:3; 97:1; 149:2)

Isaiah – “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord; My soul will exult in my God” (Isaiah 61:10)

 

For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;

Hannah –

“For though the Lord is exalted, Yet He regards the Lowly” (Psalm 138:6)

“For thus says the high and exalted One… I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit.” (Isaiah 57:15)

 

 For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4)

“How blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18)

“And she (Elizabeth) cried out with a loud voice, and said, ‘Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. … And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.’” (Luke 1:42, 45)

 

(Why is Mary going to be called “Blessed”? Note the word is “blessed” not “bless-ed”. She is the one who has received the blessing. Why? Read on.)

 

 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,

“Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord, or can show forth all His praise?” (Psalm 106:2)
“The Lord has done great things for us; We are glad.” (Psalm 126:2)

“Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad, for the Lord has done great things.” (Joel 2:21)

 

 And holy is His name.

“And give thanks to His holy name.” (Psalm 97:12; 105:3)

“Holy and awesome is His name.” (Psalm 111:9)

“Our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 47:4)

 

And His mercy is on those who fear Him

“’I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 31:20)

 

 From generation to generation.

“Thou, O Lord, wilt keep them; Thou wilt preserve him from this generation forever.” (Psalm 12:7)

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever; The plans of His heart from generation to generation. …. I will cause Thy name to be remembered in all generations; Therefor the people will give Thee thanks forever and ever.” (Psalm 33:11; 45:17)

“Thou, O Lord, dost rule forever; Thy throne is from generation to generation.” (Lamentations 5:19)

 

He has shown strength with His arm;

“Splendor and majesty are before Him; Strength and joy are in His place.” (I Chronicles 16:27).

“I love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1)

“With the saving strength of His right hand” (Psalm 20:6; 21:1; 28:7; 31:4; 37:39; etc…)

“For the Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2).

“The mountains quaked at the presence of the Lord,” (Judges 5:5)

 

 He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

Hannah – “Boast no more so very proudly; Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth.” (I Samuel 2:3)

“Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him; And tread down the wicked where they stand.” (Job 40:12)

“Rise up, O Judge of the earth; Render recompense to the proud.” (Psalm 94:2)

“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)

“For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty.” (Isaiah 2:12)

 

 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,

“Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his Throne to the first born of the captive who was in the dungeon…” (Exodus 12:29)

“And I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations” (Haggai 2:22).

 

 And exalted the lowly.

“He sets on high those who are lowly” (Job 5:11)

“Yet He regards the lowly” (Psalm 138:6)

“I dwell on a high and holy place and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit” (Isaiah 57:15)

 

 He has filled the hungry with good things,

Hannah – But those who were hungry cease to hunger. … He raises the poor from the dust.” (I Samuel 2:5, 8)

“For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.” (Psalm 107:9)

“Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry.” (Psalm 146:7)

 

And the rich He has sent away empty.

Hannah – “Those who were full hire themselves out for bread” (I Samuel 2:5)

“Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, …. For when he dies he will carry nothing away” (Psalm 49:16, 17).

“… his eyes were not satisfied with riches” (Ecclesiastes 4:8)

“But he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 28:20)

 

 He has helped His servant Israel,

Moses – “The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name. … Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.” (Exodus 15; 3)

Miriam – “The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:21)

Moses – “So Israel dwells in security, …. Blessed are you, O Israel; who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?” (Deuteronomy 33:28, 29)

 

 In remembrance of His mercy,

I am the Lord your God, etc……..

“The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.” (Psalm 145:9)

Referring to Israel and God’s dealing with them:

“In His love and in His mercy, He redeemed them; and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:9)

“’Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 31:20)

“Let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.” (Judges 5:31)

 

 As He spoke to our fathers,

The Ten Commandments – “Then God spoke all these words saying” – (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5: 1-22)

“Hear now and I will speak” (Job 42:4)

“Hear, O My people, and I will speak.” (Psalm 50:7)

“God has spoken…” (Psalm 60:6; 62:11; 85:8; 99:7; 105:31; 108:7, etc…)

 

 To Abraham and to his seed forever.

“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country … to the land which I will show you; …. I will make you a great nation … I will bless you …. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’” (Genesis 12: 1-4)

Mary was not just praising God for her own part in God’s plan. The meaning of her pregnancy was that the longed-for Messiah was finally coming to Israel. This was cause for everyone to rejoice. When she visited her relative, Elizabeth, this godly cousin also rejoiced that now the things that God had promised since the beginning, were finally being fulfilled. Christ was finally coming!! Mary was humble and amazed that God would do such remarkable things through her, a lowly and undeserving handmaid. But nevertheless she was thankful and so happy that she couldn’t help bursting into song!

As we turn to the stories of women in the New Testament let us begin with:

A Note About Jesus and Women

Women were not treated with respect in Jesus’ day. The rabbis had a saying, “Talk not much with womankind.” And this statement was found in the Talmud, “It was taught: Do not speak excessively with a woman lest this ultimately lead you to adultery.” In other words, men can’t speak straight across to women as equal human beings.

Jesus broke the mold. By interacting with women the way He did, He was directly violating the rules of the Pharisees. In contrast to this the Gospels, especially Luke’s Gospel, show Jesus lifting women to a place of freedom and respect that they had not known before in Judaism.

Christianity is different from all of the rest of the world’s religions.

While the leaders in Israel would cater to the rich, Jesus would go to the poor. While the Pharisees would only speak with other men, Jesus would speak with women. The leaders would emphasize the externals of religion; Jesus would emphasize the heart condition.

I’ve never heard a sermon on the interaction of Jesus with women. I’ve heard only a handful of sermons on any woman period. This really concerns me. At the very least it leaves the impression that women are not important. At the worst, it gives the impression that we have not learned anything from the Lord Jesus about how to treat women.

Jesus showed that He valued women when He spoke to them. This must have been shocking to those around Him. We know from John’s Gospel, for example, that even the disciples were “surprised to find him talking with a woman,” (John 4:27).

Jesus knew His Scriptures better than anybody. Women were created in the image of God at the same time as men (Genesis 1:27). Putting aside all of the issues in today’s “gender debate”, let us focus on how Jesus treated women. What can we learn from that?

Let’s begin with the story of the first woman in Jesus’s life – His mother Mary.

Mary, the mother of Jesus

Mary was truly remarkable. Sovereignly chosen by God to bear the Christ child, from among all of the women who had ever been born, she was the one who brought our Redeemer, the Messiah into the world. Mary was an ordinary human being, but she had great faith, courage, and piety. She proved her faith with obedience, her courage with humility, and her piety with thoughtfulness, prayer, and submission.

We learn the most about Mary in Luke’s Gospel. Doctor Luke took it upon himself to interview many disciples of Jesus in order to write his story. Luke wanted everyone to know that he was giving the exact truth of the events surrounding Jesus’ life, and so he wrote the things “just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,” (Luke 1:2). The main eyewitness was of course Mary who was there from Christ’s conception until His death.

It should not surprise us then that we have Mary’s words recorded for us in Luke’s Gospel or that there are so many details about Mary’s interaction with Jesus. Mary was still alive and probably shared all of the stories with Luke personally. Even after the resurrection Mary continued to be a faithful witness. That explains how we know the very conversations that Mary had with the angel, Elizabeth, Jesus, and others.

We don’t know very much about Mary’s upbringing. We know that she had a sister, Salome, who was the mother of Jesus’ disciples, James and John. Salome was also a devoted follower of Jesus and was there at the cross with Mary when He was crucified. Of course, we also know that Mary was related to Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. Besides this, we only know that she grew up in Nazareth as the daughter of a poor but hardworking family.

From her song, the Magnificat, we can see that Mary grew up in a godly family. Perhaps listening to and reciting or singing the Scriptures was a big part of her every day life. Girls did not go to the synagogue as boys did, but that doesn’t mean that Mary, who loved God with all of her heart would not have loved to hear the stories of God’s mighty works. When the angel came to see Mary, she knew Who God was and what He had promised, and was ready to obey God.

In the Scriptures, we first meet this humble peasant girl when an angel of the Lord goes to Mary’s home and announces God’s plan for her to bear Jesus. At the time of the Annunciation, Mary was probably a teenager. Back in that day, girls were often betrothed at age thirteen. Her marriage was probably arranged by the parents of Joseph, her prospective bridegroom. Joseph was a carpenter. He was also a godly and righteous man.

In those days a betrothal was as legally binding as a marriage. In fact, if a betrothal was broken by one of the parties, through infidelity for instance, there had to be a divorce proceeding. There were two ways to get the divorce, a public trial, which would have been very humiliating for Mary, or a quiet proceeding. In the quiet proceeding, the wronged party could get two witnesses to sign a release with him and send the other party away. In Joseph’s case, he thought that he would just send Mary somewhere to have her child secretly and avoid disgrace. We know that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, and then Joseph knew that everything was all right. This was God’s plan. And so he willingly took his part as Mary’s husband and earthly father of Jesus.

Mary must have known what could happen to her when Joseph found out that she was pregnant. She knew that the horror of public scandal might await her. But she trusted God to take care of her. She surrendered herself unconditionally when she said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) Mary did not doubt or question God. She just immediately, humbly, and joyfully submitted to God’s will.

Some people think that Mary did not believe the angel when she was questioning, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Luke had already told the story of Zacharias who did not believe the angel. When the angel told Zacharias that he and his barren wife would have a child, it was just too hard for him to believe. (Luke 1:5-25)

But unbelief was not the motive behind Mary’s question. Mary was not questioning the angel because she doubted God. She merely wanted to know how a virgin could get pregnant. Though the Bible doesn’t say, I have to wonder if the humble maiden also wondered why she was the one who was chosen. After all, the Israelites had been waiting for their Savior for hundreds of years. Perhaps Mary thought that she wasn’t good enough to be the mother of the Messiah; nevertheless she believed God.

So the angel explained to her that God would be the Father of Jesus. The Holy Spirit would cause the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb. Indeed, Jesus would be the King who would sit on David’s throne. Mary’s response was of total submission to God, ” I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

And so, Mary’s faith is an example to us. She proved her faith by responding with humble obedience. She went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who confirmed this, “and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 2:45) Mary knew that the child she carried was the Savior that everyone had been waiting for. Jesus is the promised king, the promised son of David.

Mary, the first New Testament Theologian

Many scholars have portrayed Mary as an ignorant peasant girl with little understanding of the Scriptures. But Mary’s song of praise reveals that she had studied the Scriptures. Why is this important? Because Mary would be the teacher for the little boy Jesus. It was important that her home would be one of worship to God filled with knowledge of God’s Word, love, thankfulness and praise. All of these, the mother Mary was able to do.

Proof of this is in Mary’s song, one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. It reminds us of the Psalms and many other songs in the Old Testament. Mary is the first theologian in the New Testament, blending dozens of Old Testament Scriptures into a few verses to praise, honor, and testify to God’s plan of redemption.

There are scores of Scriptures that are alluded to in Mary’s song. You will find that you have a miniature history lesson of the Old Testament as well as a picture of God’s faithfulness to His people all in Mary’s song.

Mary’s song follows the pattern of the other famous songs in the Old Testament. The songs follow a pattern of praise, adoration, ascribing magnificence to God, thankfulness for salvation, a history of how God has always saved His people, and a hope and belief in God’s promise for the future.

Mary’s song fills this pattern. (Luke 1:46-55) – In the next post we will focus on Mary’s song – the Magnificat.

Mary was not just praising God for her own part in God’s plan. The meaning of her pregnancy was that the longed-for Messiah was finally coming to Israel. This was cause for everyone to rejoice. When she visited her relative, Elizabeth, this godly cousin also rejoiced that now the things that God had promised since the beginning, were finally being fulfilled. Christ was finally coming!! Mary was humble and amazed that God would do such remarkable things through her, a lowly and undeserving handmaid. But nevertheless she was thankful and so happy that she couldn’t help bursting into song!

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months then returned home. When it was very nearly the time for Jesus to be born, Mary went with Joseph to Bethlehem. Women did not usually travel during the advanced stages of their pregnancies. Was she aware of the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem? We don’t know. We do know that angels spoke to Joseph as well. Perhaps the angel directed Joseph to take Mary with him even though her presence was probably not needed at the registration. We know that whatever came her way, Mary responded in obedience and with great courage.

In our next post we will continue with Mary on her life’s journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In our first post about Bathsheba, we saw that God has great compassion for His children. Bathsheba is one of many women in the Scriptures that have been misunderstood or portrayed badly by scholars. We have already seen how the Jewish leaders have portrayed Tamar as a prostitute even though she was not one. Later we will see the same slur against Mary of Magdala’s reputation. That is why it is so important to read the Bible and see what it really says about these women.

Hollywood likes to portray Bathsheba as a temptress. It sells more movies, but their version is not the same as the Bible’s. I believe that Bathsheba had no choice when King David had his men bring her to the palace. As a vassal and a woman she was not allowed to refuse the king. Some commentators want to cast Bathsheba as a seductress and blame her for David’s sin. But the Bible does not describe Bathsheba that way.

In our story in Part 1 (Posted April 3, 2018) – Bathsheba experienced a forced relationship with a man who was not her husband, widowhood, and bereavement of a child. But God blessed her marriage to King David and they had some happy years. David was much older than Bathsheba and so not surprisingly he preceded her in death.

This week in Part 2 – Bathsheba as Queen Mother – we see more evidence of God’s sovereignty and compassion. Bathsheba mourned the loss of a child and then the loss of her husband. But God was not done with this faithful daughter yet.

Let’s turn to the continuation of this story of a very blessed woman – Bathsheba.

The years rolled by and when David was really old and close to death, one of his sons decided not to wait for him to die but to have himself declared king. Nathan’s prophecy was coming true. There was a lot of trouble in David’s family.

Turn to I Kings 1:25:

Adonijah, the son of Haggith, one of David’s other wives, called together all of his other brothers except Solomon and threw a party. Those who attended celebrated with eating and drinking and exclaiming, “Long live King Adonijah!”

 Nathan the prophet, who was not invited to the party either, went to Bathsheba and told her to hurry to the king before it was too late. Nathan honored Bathsheba by going to her as the one who would be able to talk to the king and inform him about what was happening and ask the king for help.

Turn to I Kings 1:15-18:

So Bathsheba sent to see the aged king in his room, where Abishag the 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.

While Bathsheba was speaking, Nathan the prophet came into the room and confirmed her words. King David called for Bathsheba and promised to make Solomon king that very day.

David assured Bathsheba that Solomon was his choice (and God’s!) to inherit the throne. David gave orders for Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet to anoint Solomon as king and have him sit on David’s throne immediately. The people watched as Solomon was anointed. Trumpets blew and the people proclaimed, “Long live King Solomon!” (I Kings 1:39)

Adonijah and his followers fled. Solomon showed Adonijah mercy and let him return home. Solomon was safely on the throne now. Adonijah unfortunately would not learn his lesson. More about that in a moment.

Bathsheba had acted wisely and courageously when her son Solomon was threatened. It seemed that all of Israel was going after Adonijah. She and Nathan were alone in approaching David. Yet Bathsheba relied on God’s promise and David’s faithfulness that her son would be the next king. David respected his intelligent, resourceful wife and acted upon her request immediately. Bathsheba’s son was promptly made king.

Bathsheba was a wise woman. But in the last story we read of her in the Bible we see her acting in a rather puzzling way. It has to do with her stepson Adonijah.

Turn to I Kings 2:13-14:

Now Adonijah, the son of Haggith, went to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother. Bathsheba asked him, “Do you come peacefully?” He answered, “Yes, peacefully.” Then he added, “I have something to say to you.” “You may say it,” she replied.

Adonijah went on to ask Bathsheba to speak to King Solomon for him and get Abishag the Shunammite as his wife.

Though Adonijah tried to make his request seem like a small thing to Bathsheba, he really wanted to be king. He believed that it was his right as the older brother and he thought of a way to usurp Solomon’s rule. In those days, a new ruler would often take the wives of the previous king to prove that he was now the reigning king. Though David had not cohabited with Abishag, she was still considered a concubine. (Another of David’s sons, Absalom had already tried this. See 2 Samuel 16:21-23.)

Either Bathsheba was fooled by Adonijah or perhaps she just had a very tender heart. It is difficult to see why she would even think that Solomon would grant Adonijah’s wicked request. Perhaps she really hoped that Adonijah meant the best. After all, when he greeted her he assured her that he had come “peacefully”.

A more probable explanation is that Bathsheba was wise enough to know that Adonijah had not repented and would always be a threat to her son Solomon. Perhaps Bathsheba took Adonijah’s request to Solomon so that Solomon would have an excuse to remove this rival and consolidate his throne. I guess we’ll have to wait until we get to Heaven to know for sure. I believe that Bathsheba was a kind and forgiving woman, but she had already shown much courage in getting her son on the throne. Whether or not Bathsheba knew what Adonijah was really asking, Solomon did. The king sent one of his men to execute Adonijah immediately.

Again, Bathsheba was exonerated before all of Israel as Solomon set a throne for his mother on his right side. Bathsheba was ruling as the Queen Mother.

Turn to I Kings 2:19, Solomon, “had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at this right hand.”

Solomon loved and respected his mother Bathsheba. Some commentators believe that the “Excellent Woman” of Proverbs 31, written by Solomon, was modeled on Bathsheba. The worthy woman in Proverbs 31 is a trusted companion and a devoted mother. Bathsheba fits the description of the honored and noble woman whose “children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” (Proverbs 31:28-29)

We find Bathsheba one more place in the Bible that is often overlooked. In the Song of Solomon, the bride praises her husband as they prepare for their wedding day.

Turn to Song of Solomon 3:11 where the speaker says:

Come out, and look, you daughters of Zion. Look on King Solomon wearing a crown, the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, the day his heart rejoiced.

Who else can this mother be but Bathsheba? And here we see her as the Queen mother crowning her son on his wedding day. God had compassion on Bathsheba and raised her from the depths of loneliness and sorrow to the heights of comfort and joy!

A Note on God’s Compassion

In this story we will see that God has great compassion for His children. Bathsheba is one of many women in the Scriptures that have been misunderstood or portrayed badly by scholars. We have already seen how the Jewish leaders have portrayed Tamar as a prostitute even though she was not one. Later we will see the same slur against Mary of Magdala’s reputation. That is why it is so important to read the Bible and see what God really says about these women.

Hollywood likes to portray Bathsheba as a temptress. It sells more movies, but their version is not the same as the Bible’s. I believe that Bathsheba had no choice when King David had his men bring her to the palace. As a vassal and a woman she was not allowed to refuse the king. Some commentators want to cast Bathsheba as a seductress and blame her for David’s sin. But the Bible does not describe Bathsheba that way.

Historians and Hollywood have often tried to say that the adultery was all Bathsheba’s fault. But Bathsheba was violated physically, then widowed, and bereaved of a child.

God is compassionate. Bathsheba was comforted in her mourning. And then, miraculously God raised Bathsheba from the depths of sorrow to the heights of joy as He gave her another son. Her son would be the next king of Israel.

Let’s turn to the story of this very blessed woman – Bathsheba.

 Turn to 2 Samuel 11:1:

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.

Normally, King David would have been with his troops. We are not told why he remained in Jerusalem. Perhaps his generals were doing an adequate job. The Israelite army was successful in destroying their enemies. Perhaps there was no need for David to endanger his life any more by leading the battles.

Continuing at verse 2-5:

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.”

Those who blame Bathsheba for David’s sin often try to say that she was bathing on her roof on purpose where the king could see her. That is not very likely.

In the first place the Bible doesn’t say Bathsheba was on her roof; we are told that it was King David who was on the roof. That is the point to the story. He was standing where he could look down into the courtyard of Uriah and Bathsheba’s home. He should have wandered off and looked at something else and not violated Bathsheba’s privacy. It got him in trouble.

Secondly, when David got up from bed it was night. How late was it? How dark was it? Bathsheba had every right to expect that she was bathing in the privacy of her own home at a time of the evening when she could expect to be alone.

It was very unlikely that she was on her roof. Who would haul heavy water jars up there? Actually Bible historians tell us that bathing went on in people’s courtyards. Her maids would bring her water and attend to her behind a screen. She had every reason to believe she was having a private bath. The reason David could see her even behind a privacy screen was that he was on his rooftop looking down at her.

David stood there and watched as this beautiful woman bathed. David could have looked away and respected Bathsheba’s privacy. Even if David had not looked away but indulged his lust by watching Bathsheba, he still could have turned and gone back to bed and forgotten about the whole thing. Instead he took steps to satisfy his lust. David sent a messenger to find out who she was.

Who was Bathsheba? Let’s pause here and talk about Bathsheba. We know very little about her early life. Bathsheba’s father was Eliam, also known as Ammiel.

Ammiel was ranked as one of David’s thirty-seven “mighty men” (2 Samuel 23:4). As such, Eliam or Ammiel would have been a frequent guest at David’s palace.

Originally her father named her Bath-shua, which means “daughter of my prosperity”. Her later name, Bathsheba means “daughter of an oath” signifying the oath-bound covenant made with Abraham.

Bathsheba was married to Uriah as a young woman. Uriah, a Hittite, was an officer in David’s army; in fact, he is listed with the 37 top-ranking heroes – one of David’s mighty men – (in 2 Samuel 23:39). Perhaps as one of the mighty men, Uriah met Eliam’s daughter Bathsheba in a gathering and asked for her hand in marriage. In any event, he was an important man.

The fact that Uriah had a house in Jerusalem very near King David’s palace suggests that when the Israelites were not at war, Uriah’s peace time job may have been as one of the palace guards or even one of David’s personal body guards. It was the proximity of Uriah’s house that unfortunately made it possible for David to be tempted when he looked down into their courtyard while Bathsheba was bathing.

David sent messengers to get Bathsheba. When David’s men told him that Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, he would have known that Uriah (one of his chief men, remember) was away at the battle. He knew that Bathsheba was alone and helpless. Bathsheba could not refuse the king and David knew it. At this point David could still have let the matter drop, but he didn’t.

When Bathsheba came, David lay with her. The Bible is clear – David lay with Bathsheba. He is the one who controlled the situation from first to last. Frankly, David sinned against Bathsheba. The Bible makes it clear that she was a victim.

Bathsheba soon found that she was pregnant. This was a terrible situation for her. She told King David about her predicament. David knew he had to do something.

Let’s return to our story picking up at 2 Samuel 11: 6-9:

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 decided to deal with the problem of Bathsheba’s pregnancy by getting Uriah home as quickly as possible. David thought that Uriah would naturally sleep with his wife upon returning home. Then the child would be presumed to be Uriah’s.

But Uriah was a dedicated, disciplined soldier and refused the comforts of home while the other soldiers were staying in temporary shelters. Even Joab was camping in the open field. Uriah asked, “Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.” (2 Samuel 11:11)

David tried several times to get Uriah to go home, but Uriah would not think of his own comforts ahead of his duty.

David then tried desperately to cover his sin. He sent a letter to his general Joab, in the hands of Uriah himself, to put Uriah in the fiercest place of a battle knowing Uriah would be killed. David added murder to adultery.

Think for a minute of how far David went to cover up his sin. He had one of his best men killed. He involved his general, Joab, in participating with him in an unjust murder.

Continuing with verse 26, 27:

When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of the 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.

Bathsheba mourned for her husband Uriah when she learned of his death. David had not only violated her physically, but now he also caused her to be a widow.

Not only that but the laws in Israel were plain – a woman found pregnant out of wedlock was to be put to death. David raped her, made her a widow, and then put her in danger of her life. How lonely and helpless Bathsheba must have felt.

God was displeased with David and sent Nathan the prophet to speak to him. Nathan’s words are significant.

Turn to chapter 12:1-3:

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

Nathan told David a story about a rich man with many flocks of sheep and a poor man with only one ewe lamb. The rich man needed to prepare a meal for a visitor and instead of using one of his own many sheep he took the poor man’s ewe lamb.

David grew angry and said that the rich man deserved to die for his evil deed and should make restitution.

Turn to 2 Samuel 12:7-10:

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”

Let’s look carefully at Nathan’s story. The metaphor he used is not an accident. The sheep in the story are adult animals. The ewe lamb is a baby. The lamb is vulnerable and depends on its owner for protection.

Bathsheba was depending on her husband for protection, but he was away at war. Normally Bathsheba could rely on her strong husband, one of David’s mighty men, to defend her. Uriah would never have let anyone through the door to harm his wife.

David knew Uriah was away and he took advantage of the situation to take Uriah’s one ewe lamb. If David needed to have some physical comforting, he had plenty of wives for that. At this time in his life, we know that there were eight named wives for David and many concubines. He did not need to find another woman.

David understood what Nathan was telling him. He responded, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan told him that God had forgiven him since he repented.

 But sins have consequences even if God has forgiven them. The child that was conceived by this unlawful union died. Bathsheba must have mourned greatly over the death of her first child.

David comforted Bathsheba after the death of this child. Bathsheba conceived again and bore a son and they named him Solomon.

David loved Bathsheba until the end of his life. God gave Bathsheba four sons, one of which was the future king, Solomon. (I Chronicles 3:5)

Bathsheba must have forgiven David. It must have meant a lot to Bathsheba when David repented publicly. This exonerated her. As a child of God she would have known that repentance and forgiveness are important. And as a godly wife it was important to her that her husband be right with God. Bathsheba could love, honor, and obey a man who turned from his sin and did what was right.

In the next post we will see how Bathsheba reigned with her son Solomon to the end of her life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Note About Obeying God Rather Than Men:

It may seem obvious that we should obey God rather than men when there is a conflict between those two authorities. But it is not always so easy when worldly authorities have the power to command our obedience and to punish us if we disobey them.

A familiar New Testament story involves the apostles Peter and John. The Jewish priests and Sadducees were angry when the apostles were preaching about Jesus and threw the disciples into prison. The next day when the rulers met they questioned Peter and John. It was apparent that the rulers could not keep them in prison so they let them go but admonished them to stop preaching in Jesus’s name. Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you or to him? You be the judges!” (Acts 4:19).

The Jewish leaders saw themselves as the authorities in Israel. But the apostles said that God is a higher authority.

Peter and John were not the first to disregard earthly authority. When the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt, Pharaoh instructed the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill all of the male babies. “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do: they let the boys live.” God blessed the midwives with families of their own for obeying Him.

There is another in the Old Testament of someone who believed that it is better to obey God rather than men. This was a woman named Abigail.

Her husband Nabal was her authority. Nabal acted foolishly and his faithful wife tried to rescue the situation and save his life. The way that Abigail took things into her own hands would have made her husband angry. If Nabal would have known what Abigail was going to do he would have forbidden it. Abigail risked severe punishment, but she feared God more than her husband.

Let’s turn to I Samuel 25 and read this story of a wise woman – Abigail.

 

Abigail – Wise Counselor

 Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.

A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. 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.

While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours! Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. Ask you own servants and they will tell you. Therefore, be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’

When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited. (I Samuel 25:1-9)

At the time our story takes place, Saul is the king of Israel. You may remember that the Israelites were at war with the Philistines during these times. When David was a lad, he fought the champion of the Philistines, the giant Goliath. After that he went to work at the palace for Saul. As Saul grew older, he became jealous of David. He even threatened to kill him, so David had to go away and hide from Saul. He was on the run.

He had a large following of men who stayed with him, living in the wilderness of Paran. There he was not only safe from Saul, but he was able to be of real service to his countrymen by protecting the large flocks which pastured far and wide from the predatory raids of the wild tribes of the desert.

One of the people that David protected was Nabal, a wealthy land owner. Nabal had many flocks of sheep. A special time for sheep farmers was when they did the shearing. It was a time of rejoicing, for when the fleeces were sold, there would be much money and a big celebration. Nabal had sold his wool and was throwing a huge party. Because David and his men had protected Nabal’s sheep, they felt that they should be invited to the celebration. David sent a delegation of ten men to greet Nabal and ask for something in return for his service.

Nabal answered David’s men roughly and sent them away empty handed. He had insulted them by acting as if he didn’t even know who they were. They went back to tell David about Nabal’s rejection, and when David heard this, he was very angry. He had four hundred men put on their swords and follow him back to Nabal’s place. Two hundred men stayed behind with the supplies.

Continue with I Samuel 25:14-17:

One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

In the meantime, one of Nabal’s servants had heard how Nabal mistreated David’s emissaries. This servant knew that it would be no good to try and reason with his master who was “such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.” He ran and told Abigail, Nabal’s wife. Abigail was a wise woman and could be trusted to know what to do. The servant told her all about how David and his men had protected them all those months that they tended the sheep. Abigail immediately resolved to take action.

Abigail was not only beautiful, but intelligent. She knew what needed to be done, and that it had to be done quickly. She had the servants load up some food and beverages and put them on donkeys. She told them to go on ahead of her to meet David. She herself followed on her donkey as soon as she could. “But she did not tell her husband Nabal” (I Samuel 25:19).

Imagine what courage Abigail must have had. She had heard that David and four hundred armed soldiers were coming after her husband. She had no way of knowing what the outcome would be. She did not know if David was so angry that he would punish everyone before she had a chance to talk to him. She knew that she had to hurry and meet David before he reached her house.

Continuing at verse 20:

As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. David had just said, “It’s been useless – all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

Abigail may have been trembling when she saw David, but she met him bravely. She got down off of her donkey and bowed to the ground and begged him to listen to her.

Continuing at Verse 24:

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 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.

This is a pretty amazing speech. Abigail is speaking disrespectfully of her husband. But there is a good reason for this; Abigail wants David to know that Nabal’s reputation is terrible with everyone. He’s just a fool, and not worth David’s time. In contrast to Nabal’s wickedness, Abigail praises David, calling him “lord”. She appeals to his honor as a man who wants justice. She reminds him that God has stopped him from avenging himself with his own hands. Abigail is the one who prevented David from committing bloodshed, but she tactfully gives him the credit for not continuing to pursue revenge.

Instead, Abigail asked him to put all of the blame on her. She told him to treat her as his maidservant. She apologized for not knowing sooner about the young men that David had sent to see Nabal.  She begged him to accept the gift of food that she had brought.

Abigail continues with a prophecy for David. Turn to verse 28:

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.”

Abigail shows foresight and wisdom in this speech. She continues to build David up as a man of God who would not really want to do something that would stay on his conscience forever. She gave David a chance to save his face. By then David had cooled off. Abigail appealed to his character as a man of God. David repented and admitted to Abigail that she was right.

Continuing with verse 32:

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.”

David accepted Abigail’s gift with thanks. He then told her to go home in peace.

When Abigail went to Nabal he was holding a great banquet. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she decided not to speak to him until the next morning.

In the morning Abigail told Nabal all that had happened the day before. Nabal’s 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 knew for certain that God had upheld his cause against Nabal for treating him with contempt. God had also kept him from doing wrong by avenging himself on Nabal.

God rewarded the faithfulness and courage of Abigail. Turn to verse 39:

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.

Abigail was now under David’s protection as one of his wives. David was getting a wife that would be his spiritual equal as a good companion and counselor.

We don’t know any more about Abigail than what we read in I Samuel 25. We can be encouraged from what we do know that God cares for His children. How exciting it will be to hear about the rest of her life when we get to Heaven!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Note About Courage:

When we think of brave heroes in the Bible we usually think of the stories of men. As a young boy, David was certainly courageous to go up against the giant Goliath. Though Gideon needed a lot of encouragement from God, he eventually went up against the whole Midianite army with only three hundred men.

But there were many courageous women in the Bible, too. Most often we think of how brave they were as wives such as Sarah and Rebekah who left their homes to share life with their husbands in strange lands. But God sometimes asked more of His daughters.

It takes two chapters in the Bible to tell the story about two women who served in uncommonly courageous ways – Judges, chapters 4 & 5.

As a judge in Israel, Deborah was called on to lead the people in time of war. She relied on Barak as the military commander. Though not a coward, Barak was not trusting of God enough to go to battle without Deborah by his side. Because of Barak’s weak decision, God gave the honor of the battle to an incredibly courageous woman – Jael.

These two women had extreme courage because they had strong faith in God. They knew that whatever God had said would come to pass. They could follow their calling courageously while trusting in Him.

These are two of the more colorful and exciting stories in the Bible. Let’s turn now to Judges 4:4.

Deborah – Judge and Mother in Israel and Jael, Most Blessed of Women

 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’” Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

 

When the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land after the Exodus, they were supposed to rid the land of the Canaanites. They succeeded to a large extent. However, many pagan nations did not get driven out and these became a snare to the children of Israel.

Over the next few centuries the Israelites would fall to the temptation to serve the false gods of the Canaanites. God would send persecution at the hands of one of these nations and the Israelites would have to serve these pagans. Eventually the people would repent and ask God to forgive them and save them from their oppressors. This “cycle” in the book of Judges would be repeated over and over again. The people would sin with idolatry, God would send oppressors against them, the Israelites would cry out to God, God would forgive them and send a judge to lead them out of their bondage, the people would have rest for a few years, while at ease they would fall back into idolatry, and the whole cycle would start over.

Deborah was the fourth judge in Israel. The oppressor that God sent against the Israelites this time was a king of Hazor – Jabin. Jabin had a very strong army that included 900 chariots of iron. The commander of his army was the formidable Sisera. The Israelites did not master the craft of ironworking until much later during David’s time. So these Canaanite oppressors were able to take over the Israelites and dominate them completely with their superior advantage of iron weaponry and chariots.

Deborah sat under a special palm tree where anyone who wanted to come to her for advice or for adjudication could find her. Though she was a married woman, this was the job God called her to do. We know that her husband’s name was Lappidoth but the Bible says nothing more about him. In those days the husband’s family name identified the household. It is important to see that though Deborah was the one called to be a judge, and not her husband, she in no way was going against the traditional roles for women as wives. Because of her godly example, both she and her husband were honored. This amazing woman found time to be a wife, a judge, and a prophet.

There were two ways in which Deborah was different from the other judges in Israel. First, she was a prophet. Other than Samuel who was a judge, priest, and a prophet, none of the other judges were prophets. If you look at the lives of some of the other judges, there is a clear difference in the godly way Deborah lived. Just look at Samson’s behavior with Delilah for example. Gideon showed less than stellar trust as well. Deborah’s life showed her complete trust in God, and the Israelites recognized her as a spiritual leader. They honored her recognizing that Deborah’s other special calling besides judge was as prophet.

Secondly, Deborah was not a military leader. Some writers assume that she was because all of the other judges were. Yes, she went with Barak to war, but notice that Barak was the military commander, not Deborah. Her place in God’s plan was as the spiritual leader to appointed Barak at the command of God. When Barak showed less than perfect faith in God, Deborah the prophet foretold that the victory over the leader of the Canaanites, Sisera, would go to another woman – Jael.

In Deborah’s song, which we will read in chapter 5, she gives us a picture of just how dire things were under the cruel oppression of King Jabin. Deborah said that the “highways were deserted, and travelers went by in roundabout ways” (Judges 5:6). The Israelites had no matching weapons with which to fight Sisera’s army. The people were hiding out in fear avoiding the main roads that were full of soldiers.

The Lord heard their cry and was merciful again. Judge Deborah selected an Israelite commander, Barak, and went with him to battle against Sisera and his 900 iron chariots. Deborah told Barak to place himself on the high ground of Mount Tabor and wait for Sisera’s army to come to him. Barak chose 10,000 men to go with him. Then Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go” (Judges 4:8).

Many people think that Barak said this because he was a coward. But note that 10,000 men from only two tribes, Zebulun and Naphtali were willing to go with him. Barak would not have gotten this following if he had the reputation of a coward. A mere 10,000 men against the formidable army of Sisera would never have followed a weakling. They had faith in the Lord and in Barak. Barak was willing to go and fight as long as he had some assurance.

Barak was merely seeking to have Deborah, God’s spokesperson with him in the battle. Deborah was not only the judge, but also recognized as a prophetess. All Israelites honored Deborah as the one who spoke for God. Barak’s faith in his own strength was weaker than Deborah’s, but he was no coward. Nevertheless, for his weak faith in God, Deborah told him that he would not get the glory of killing the leader, Sisera. That honor would go to a woman.

The Israelites went to battle and they were successful with a lot of help from God. The battle took place near the Kishon River. God sent heavy rains that made the ground soft and muddy, causing the heavy iron chariots to sink. The frustrated Canaanite soldiers lost their advantage.

Deborah told Barak, “Arise! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hands; behold, the Lord has gone out before you” (Judges 4:14). Barak realized that the Canaanites were struggling in the mud and took advantage of that to go down with his 10,000 men and fight with them. All of the Canaanites were killed except for their commander, Sisera.

Sisera fled on foot to the tent of Heber the Kenite. Heber was away but his wife Jael was there. Jael bravely killed Sisera. Indeed, as predicted by Deborah the victory of the conquest over the leader of the enemy would go to a woman – Jael.

Jael showed incredible courage when her time came to do her part in the war between the Israelites and King Jabin. If you have never heard the story before, hold onto your seat. It’s gruesome but was part of God’s plan to save His people. Deborah will sing the praises of Jael in her song after the defeat of Sisera.

Turn to Judges 4:17:

Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. “I’m thirsty” he said. “Please give me some water.” She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’” But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet hm. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple – dead.

God had defeated Israel’s enemies by delivering their leader into the hand of a woman as Deborah the prophetess had foretold.

God used a courageous woman to help to defeat Israel’s enemy. Why did He choose this particular woman? What was so special about her and her act of bravery?

Some say that what she did was not courageous. They say that she heard from someone passing by that King Jabin’s army had been defeated and that Sisera was on the run. they assert that She just wanted to join the winning side and thought she could be the heroine if she betrayed Sisera. They say that she used a cowardly trick to dispatch him from this life. The Scriptures tell us otherwise.

In reality, Jael knew she would face approbation from her husband and her husband’s family for her treatment of Sisera. She knew that she had violated the very strict laws of hospitality that were followed in those days. She also knew that she could face the possibility of being put to death for assassination. The Kenites were supposed to be neutral in this war. Her act would have been seen as betrayal by her people. And, she took a very real risk of having to defend herself against a mighty warrior if he should awaken before she was able to complete his execution.

And so I believe that she was courageous and she feared God rather than men. There was a line that she would not cross. Her life was in danger, but she chose to do what was right. The Scriptures tell us that she was blessed for what she did. Deborah made a song of that great victory over God’s enemies and proclaimed, “Most blessed of women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite.’ (Judges 5:24).

Jael had faith in God, and this is why she chose to follow Him no matter what. It is my prayer that this story of strength and courage from God displayed in Jael will enable you to follow Him when you have hard choices to make.

After God had given the victory to the Israelites, Deborah and Barak sand a song of praise to God. In this song Barak is praised for his part in leading only 10,000 men against the mighty Sisera. Barak was the military leader that led Israel to victory with God’s help. This is further proof that God did not choose Deborah because Barak was a coward. He chose a woman because He wanted to. Deborah and Barak get equal praise for their parts in following God.

After this victory Israel had peace for forty years. We do not know how much longer Deborah lived but eventually she died. And, unfortunately the Israelites would do evil in the sight of the Lord again. The next judge would be the famous Gideon.

Deborah was with Barak to witness the victory over their enemies. She could not help but burst into song to praise God as the One Who really brought the victory.

Even today Deborah’s song is considered second only to the song of Moses. In the first part of the song, Deborah tells of God’s might from the time of the Exodus and Israel’s wanderings in the desert. God gave them the law at Mount Sinai and brought them to the Promised Land. Deborah recounts how much the Israelites have suffered since being in the land. Of course we know that their suffering was due to their disobedience to God, especially when they turned to the idols of the surrounding pagan people.

Deborah tells how beginning with the days after Shamgar, the judge who immediately preceded her, the Israelites were under such oppression that they could not even walk on public roads safely. “Travelers went by roundabout ways” (Judges 5:6). The people had no weapons with which to defend themselves. The people seemed to be helpless.

Then God chose Deborah, a mother to her people in Israel. Deborah appointed Barak to lead the Israelites in battle against the Canaanites. Men from the tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun, and Issachar came to fight in the war (Judges 5:14,15).

In poetic fashion, Deborah then describes the battle and gives the victory to the Lord.
“The stars fought from heaven, from their courses they fought against Sisera” (Judges 5:20). This is obviously a metaphor for the Lord. She goes on to describe the miraculous way in which the Lord defeated Jabin’s mighty army. “The torrent of Kishon swept them away” (verse 21). Once again God delivered His people in a miraculous way by sending the flood that bogged down their chariots.

Her song goes on to praise Jael, the woman to whom God chose to give the honor of the defeat of Sisera. The story is gruesome but true.
Most blessed of women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite;
Most blessed is she of women in the tent.
He asked for water and she gave him milk;
In a magnificent bowl she brought him curds.
She reached out her hand for the tent peg,
And her right hand for the workmen’s hammer.
Then she struck Sisera, she smashed his head;
And she shattered and pierced his temple.
Between her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay;
Between her feet he bowed, he fell; where he bowed, there he fell dead. (Judges 5:24-27)

Truly these two women showed unusual strength as they followed God.

 

 

 

 

A Note About God’s Sovereignty:

Our story this week demonstrates God’s great sovereignty over history. The writers of the Old Testament, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit were giving us not only the details of the history of Israel but also of God’s larger plan of redemption.

God sovereignly chose the women who would be the ancestresses of His Son, including– Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba.

Several of these women would seem to be most unlikely for God to choose to bless in such a tremendous way. Rahab was a harlot. Bathsheba has been called a temptress. Ruth was a Gentile. Rachel was Jacob’s favored wife, not Leah. But God is the One in charge and He chose the women He wanted for His plan of redemption.

Tamar has been accused by historians of being a prostitute because of the means that she used to get Judah to obey the Levirate law. But we will see in our story that Tamar was not a practicing harlot. She was just a human sinner like all of us. Tamar simply trusted and obeyed God. Truly if God is going to work through people to accomplish His purposes, He only has sinful people to use. We should be encouraged that our sovereign God is merciful and wise as He works in the lives of His children.

Tamar –Ancestress of the Lord Jesus Christ

Tamar could not possibly have known that she would become an important part of history as ancestress of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This current series began with an introduction to women in the Bible (January 9, 2018). Since then we have talked about Eve, the first woman in creation (January 23, 2018), and Sarah, the mother of all of the descendants of Abraham. We saw that God promised a Savior after Adam and Eve sinned. Later, we learned that God promised Abraham that “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). This meant, among other things, that the Lord Jesus would come through the line of Abraham.

Abraham’s son, Isaac was the next patriarch and Rebekah his wife was the next mother in the line of patriarchs. Their son Jacob and his wife Leah would be the parents of Judah who was chosen by God to carry on the ancestry of Christ. Of course, none of these people knew that they were ancestors of Christ. They just lived their lives in the land of Canaan as ordinary people.

Now let’s take a quick tour through the rest of the book of Genesis. It is very important to get the context for the story of Tamar.

We begin the story at Genesis 37:1,2 – “Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan. This is the account of Jacob’s family line.”

Most Christians are very familiar with Joseph’s story and he is regarded as a great man of God. Joseph’s story is one of courage and faith even under trying circumstances. The rest of the book of Genesis, from chapters 37 through 50 take up Joseph’s story.

Jacob, now called Israel, loved his son Joseph more than the other sons. He showed Joseph many favors. The other brothers were jealous and thought they would kill him but instead they sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelites from Gilead. Eventually the traders took Joseph to Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard. Meanwhile the brothers took Joseph’s tunic and smeared goat’s blood on it. They had decided to tell their father Israel that a wild animal had killed Joseph.

So, at the end of Genesis 37, we have Israel at home, grieving because he thinks that Joseph is dead. The brothers are just living out their lives, happy that the hated Joseph is no longer there to annoy them with his dreams.

Meanwhile in Egypt, Joseph is working in Potiphar’s household. We know from reading ahead in chapter 39 and following that he would get falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of trying to assault her and be thrown into prison. God helped Joseph get out of prison when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph was given leadership in Egypt, wisely guiding that country through seven years of tremendous harvests and then seven years of famine.

The famine was in Canaan too. When Jacob heard that there was food in Egypt he sent his sons there to purchase some grain. The brothers visit several times. Joseph invited the whole family to come and live in Egypt so they can have food to eat. And eventually all of the Israelites would end up in Egypt.

At the end of the book of Genesis we have the account of Joseph’s death and his extraction of a promise from his family to take his bones back to Canaan when they return. Of course they don’t get to the Promised Land for four hundred years, but we will save that part of the story for when we get to Rahab.

Genesis 38 is a “time out” in the story of Joseph and Egypt and how the Israelites eventually went there during the time of the famine.

Why do we have a whole chapter, chapter 38, in the middle of the story of the Israelites in Canaan and Egypt? What is the Bible doing suddenly taking time out for the story of just two people, Judah and Tamar? Judah is not the first born, so why aren’t we talking about the person we would expect to carry on the line of the patriarchs from Abraham forward?

It is because the writers of the Old Testament, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit were giving us not only the details of the history of Israel but also of God’s larger plan of redemption. For we find out that Tamar is an ancestress of King David and then of Jesus.

So, the story in Genesis 38 gives us the background to how Judah and Tamar came to be the great, great, ever-so-great grandparents of Jesus. It is important for us to see how God was faithful to His covenant promises.

Let’s look at this amazing story. Turn to Genesis 38:1-11:

At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she conceived again and became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.

Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.

Tamar was married into Judah’s family. Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. Isaac was his grandfather and Abraham was his great-grandfather, so she married into the family of the Patriarchs.

First, Tamar had married Judah’s eldest son, Er. Er had displeased God in some way, so God took his life. Then Judah asked Onan to do the duty of a brother-in-law and raise up a child for his older brother. Later this practice will be codified in the Levirate Law which is found in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. A brother could try and give a child to the widowed sister-in law so that his dead brother would have an heir. In the book of Ruth, we will see that it can extend to a near kinsman.

Onan, Er’s brother, married Tamar but “wasted his seed” instead of giving Tamar a child. He was disobeying God’s law by doing this and so God took his life too. Why did he do this? Because his inheritance would be substantially less if he had to share it with Tamar’s son. In fact, since Er was the firstborn the birthright inheritance, which was usually double, would go to Tamar’s son.

Apparently Shelah was not quite old enough to marry, so Judah sent Tamar home to her father. Judah was afraid to give Tamar to his third son, Shelah, after watching the first two sons die. We’re not sure if Judah understood at this time that God took their lives or if they died of natural causes. Perhaps he even thought Tamar was some kind of a curse for them. He sent Tamar away. Tamar remained with her family wearing her widow’s garments until she had an opportune moment to talk to Judah again.

Time went by and Judah’s wife died, after which he observed a period of mourning. Then he went back to work caring for his sheep. Someone told Tamar that Judah was going to be nearby soon for the shearing of his sheep. Tamar decided on a plan. She would deceive Judah into thinking she was a prostitute and thereby get the child by him that she had been promised.

Let’s see what she did. Turn to Genesis 38:14:

She took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

It is hard to put ourselves into Tamar’s shoes and think about why she would take such a drastic measure to get what she saw was justice for herself. Wasn’t she taking things into her own hands? Why didn’t she just trust God? What did she think would come of this? This story reminds us of Sarah, who gave her maid to Abraham, and Rebekah, who tricked Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing.

Let’s discuss the meaning of sex in the Old Testament compared to now. We have the examples of Abraham and Jacob to show that love or lust need not have been the only motive for sex. We have seen how important it is for men to get an heir. Abraham listened to Sarah and went into her maid in order to get an heir. It apparently seemed ok for Jacob to have 4 wives to get heirs. No one suggests that there was any sin involved.

So what shall we say about Tamar? Tamar chose this method to get an heir for her first husband as promised in the Levirate Law. Tamar did not think of it as incest with her father-in-law. A father-in-law may not sleep with his daughter-in-law (Lev 18:15), just as a brother-in-law may not sleep with his sister-in-law (Lev 18:16), but in-law incest rules are suspended for the purpose of the levirate law. The levir is, after all, only a surrogate for the dead husband. So here we have a surrogate husband instead of a surrogate wife like Hagar.

Back to the story. So Judah came along and saw a women that he mistook for a shrine prostitute sitting in a place on the road that signals that she is available and decided to take advantage of the situation.

Apparently Judah did not have the money to pay for her services. He offered instead to send Tamar a goat from his flock. In the meantime, he left his tribal leader’s staff and his personal seal and cord as a pledge. The seal, cord and staff had a person’s emblem carved on them, and were items of great personal worth.  Judah said he would send a payment later. Tamar was wise enough to get his seal and cord and staff as a pledge for payment. She also surmised that she would need proofs later when and if she got pregnant. She was so right.

So Judah took Tamar and slept with her. He sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back. The Adullamite could not find her. In fact, we see now further proof that Tamar was not a harlot.

Turn to Genesis 38:21,22:

The Adullamite “asked the men who live there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the rad at Enaim?” “There hasn’t’ been any shrine prostitute here,” they said. So he went back to Judah and said, I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’”

Note that the men who lived there said that there were no prostitutes in their area. If Tamar had been going out and sitting in a prominent place by the side of the road, everyone would have noticed. Tamar only made this desperate move once and she managed to keep it a secret from everyone until she couldn’t any longer.

Sure enough it was discovered that Tamar was pregnant a few months later. Since Tamar was a widow and unmarried, everyone assumed she had acted immorally. When Judah heard about her his judgment was severe and to the point: “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” (38:24).

Judah was told that Tamar was pregnant by harlotry and he believed their story. After all, Tamar was an unmarried widow. But, Tamar was also his daughter-in- law and he needed to uphold the family honor, so Judah demanded that she be brought out and punished according to the law at that time – she was to be burned.

While they were bringing Tamar out, Tamar sent word to her father-in-law that she was pregnant by the man who owned the seal and cord and staff that she possessed. Judah recognized them and was humbled. He said, “She is more righteous than I since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” (Genesis 38:26)

Judah had no more relations with Tamar. He had unwittingly fulfilled the levirate law himself and there was no need. Judah himself had produced the heir that would continue his line.

God blessed Tamar with not one but two sons. She had twins, Perez and Zerah. In fact, the name of Perez became great in Israel and was later used as an example of blessing in the book of Ruth: “And all the people who were in the gate, and the elders, said, … ‘let thy house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore unto Judah’” (Ruth 4:11-12). It was through the line of Perez that Jesus would come.

What can we learn from Tamar’s life? A woman in her place and time had very few options. We cannot just dismiss her as a terrible sinner. Judah did not. He said that she was more righteous than he was. He knew that his sin in not giving her to Shelah as he had promised led her into desperate means. If not for Tamar, Judah’s line would not continue. It was his responsibility and he neglected it.

Tamar, like Ruth was deeply loyal to the family she married into. Both women would preserve the line of ancestry for Christ by firmly obeying God’s calling on their lives.

Another lesson for us is the incredible love and mercy of God. God did not reject Tamar either. He made her an ancestress of the Savior, His Son. God works out good even from our mistakes (Romans 8:28).

But this does not mean that we can presume on God.  We must always strive to obey Him without sinning. While the method that Tamar used seems wrong, we live in a sinful world and we should not judge her too harshly. Tamar was truly one of the exceptional women in Patriarchal times. God blessed her even as He does all of us sinners!!