When I was a child, my dad would tuck my brother and I up and read us a bed-time story. We often begged him to make up his own. They invariably involved a little girl called Emily and a little boy called Luke. I don’t remember the details of our fictional adventures, but I do remember the excitement of finding out where we’d go next after “Once upon a time, because all my stories start with once upon a time…”
I loved being part of a story, fictional or not. To be involved in a narrative is important. So how do we represent girls in the narrative of the Bible? Do we tell our young people about the female pillars of our faith? Here’s a few to get started.
Looking for an example of bravery? Look no further than 2Kings 11. Jehosheba was a princess and wife of the high priest Jehoiada. She stole her nephew Joash from the corpses of the king’s sons and hid him for six years from the murderous Athaliah, ultimately saving the line of Judah.
Hardly an ideal role model but the story of her marriage to Moses in Exodus 2 raises questions about how we cope in a relationship when we don’t agree. If you want an honest portrayal of the sacrifice involved in marriage and the struggle of being obedient to God then you’ll find it here.
She was Sarah and Abraham’s Egyptian slave, and implicit in the affair and betrayal of trust in God. Sarah’s jealousy over her pregnancy led Hagar to run away into the wilderness. But God never left Hagar, he comforted her as provided water. What a wonderful (if harrowing) tale of God caring for the outsider.
Hannah was mother to the prophet Samuel. The story of his birth shows a character of incredible faith (1 Samuel 1). Hannah was barren and constantly taunted about it by her husband’s other wife. She cried out to God for a son, promising that she would give him back to God if she became pregnant. Sure enough, Samuel was born and she gave him to the temple in thanks to God’s gift. Her song of thanksgiving is often paralleled to Mary’s (Jesus’ mum) Magnificat.
Deborah and Jael
Deborah was the judge who practically held Barak’s hand during the defeat of his enemies in Judges 4. He was too chicken to go without her, so Deborah prophetically warned him that God would punish him by being sorely beaten by a girl (which in a patriarchal society would have been a real blow). Sure enough Jael (Heber’s wife) led Barak’s enemy Sisera into her tent where Jael drove a tent peg through Sisera’s skull. Deborah then burst into Beyonce-style worship of God and his victory over the Israelite enemies. Brutal proof that girls can run the world – or at least an ancient battlefield.