Figuratively speaking, it sometimes seems like the women in Judges live on one of two planets. The first, Planet Amazon, is where you live if you have any sort of power—physical, sexual, social, spiritual, etc. The second, Planet Ingenue, is where you live if you're a victim of violence or marginalization—arranged marriage, murder, ritual sacrifice, rape, kidnapping, etc. One of the interesting things about Judges is how separate these planets appear. In one chapter, women are damsels married off to the winner of a contest; in the next, they're prophetic leaders endowed with God's power. Later, they're the only ones strong enough to defeat some of the biggest bullies in the Bible; but in the next chapter, they're objectified sex objects. It's enough to give a Shmooper whiplash!
Of course, on closer inspection there's a good bit of overlap between these two spheres. Take Jephthah's daughter, for instance. She's the victim of a tragic religious mix-up, it's true, but she's also a model of devout courage. And don't even get us started on Delilah: Sure, she's the only person who could overpower Samson, but was she also a victim of sexual exploitation by the Philistines? Even Jael, the undisputed man-eater of Judges, might not be a perfect model of girl power. One of the things that makes Judges so great is that it gives us the chance to examine femininity across the whole spectrum, from women's historical subjugation to a depiction that mirrors the modern "rise of women" and everything in between.
Questions About Women and Femininity
- What pop culture heroine is most similar to Deborah? To Jael? What about other women in Judges?
- What words are used to describe women in Judges?
- Who's a better model of womanhood: Jael, or Jephthah's daughter?
- Is there anything about Delilah that could be called exemplary of womanhood?