Women are most times portrayed negatively in the Old Testament. Eve, Delilah, and Jezebel; come to mind. As we celebrate women, we need to understand that some of the big challenges women are facing today stems from the Judeo Christian heritage of Europe. To this end if we are really serious about gender empowerment or equality, we will need to look beyond the Bible.
By way of background, in their bid to galvanise the people after The Exile towards nationhood, the Elders needed something special.
Their vision was encapsulated in these three crucial elements: One God, One People, One Covenant. So, they captured stories from their oral traditions (very similar to what is left in the folk and oral traditions in most African settings), updated elements of these stories, infused new scripts based on the pitfalls and some of the new ideas they were exposed to during The Exile. This was the early form of what we know today as the Torah.
The Torah became the authoritative text, especially the so called historic books (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Chronicles, Samuel, Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther). The redactors were careful to use characters known through Jewish history to convey the sort of values that will strengthen and foster unity and prosperity; and those that were detrimental to their cause.
Hence they weaved into these stories values like collectivism, selflessness, faithfulness, loyalty, sacrifice, patience, humility, vision, kindness, unity, etc. At the same, time inverses or polar opposites like individualism, selfishness, disloyalty, greed, shortsightedness, pride etc.
To this end the characters we find in these stories are not there by coincidence, they are symbols and milestones in the struggle of a people trying to carve out a future amidst the complexities of the world around them.
Consequently we find ourselves in grave difficulties when we try to read these stories through the lenses of the New Testament or Christian dogmas and doctrines. Worse still, treat them as universal principles that govern all aspects of life.
While there might be elements of universality in these texts, they are clearly Jewish stories which were written with the vision of bringing the people together towards a common goal – nationhood.
Today I will be examining the story of the Witch of Endor in 1 Sam., in relation to King Saul, a symbol of the kind of ruler the people should avoid at all cost.
What were the redactors trying to convey?
How did it serve the community in their nation building project?
In other words the sort of Operative Narratives and Scripts were the Elders envisioning in the lives of the citizens of this great nation that was emerging?
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St John the Evangelist Hall
Sidcup DA14 6BX
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