SURVIVORS — Enterprising Women Hidden in the Book of Joshua

I received a lovely Bible Study resource from Rosalie Sugrue. It is a three study series and I am beginning by sharing the third of the three studies. I published the first last month — “Fearless Five.” Today I publish a story that very few people will know and next month I will publish the last of the three. To have them more quickly contact Rosalie directly  at sugrue.rm@clear.net.nz 

SURVIVORS
Enterprising Women Hidden in the Book of Joshua
Three Bible Studies on Justice Issues
By Rosalie Sugrue

These Bible Women, along with many others, are further explored by
Rosalie Sugrue in her devotional work ‘Sophia & Daughters’ and the novel ‘The League of Lilith’ available on-line at Amazon Books and other outlets.

Introduction to the three studies:  The book of Joshua is pretty much ignored apart from the famous Battle of Jericho when the walls came tumbling down. Joshua was Moses successor. Though Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. Joshua is a very male book concerning battles, slaughterings and land distribution. Women barely reach person status in this book. A clear distinction is made between warriors and all the people and it is equally clear all the people does not include women. But tucked away within the pages of this violent Old Testament book are three surprising stories about enterprising women. Each woman is a survivor who helped change the course of Hebrew history.

Achsah – A Peace Maker
Joshua 15:13-19 (also, Judges 1:11-15)

The second woman mentioned in the book of Joshua is more like a princess than a prostitute. To feel into the story of Achsah (Ak-sa) we need to begin with her father, Caleb. He was, in the eyes of Moses, a noble man. Caleb was one of twelve chosen by Moses to spy out the Promised Land. Ten of the spies brought back unfavourable reports, saying that although the land was flowing with milk and honey it was occupied by giants too strong to overcome. Caleb was forty years of age at the time, strong in body and persuasive in speech. He ‘calmed’ the debrief gathering and gained the support of Joshua. Because of their lack of trust the Israelites were condemned to forty years wandering in the wilderness. Of the twelve first spies only Caleb and Joshua were allowed to finally enter the Promised Land.

Aged eighty-five Caleb claimed to be as fit as he was at forty because God was with him and he wholeheartedly followed the Lord. Caleb occupied his allocated portion of land. After driving out the leading family and inhabitants of one city he invited assistance. In true kingly fashion he promised his daughter’s hand in marriage to whoever conquered the next city. A parcel of land went with the daughter.

It so happened Caleb’s nephew, Othniel, did the deed and claimed the prize. Now it turns out that Negeb, the piece of land that went with his bride, lacked water. With Othniel being a fighting man in his prime, it wasn’t very smart of Uncle Caleb to award him useless desert land. Cousin Achsah, however, was a prize of worth. She immediately urged her husband to ask for a better field. He paid no heed. Knowing the ways of warring men Achsah took matters into her own hands. She mounted a donkey and went to her father.

Her father, in the manner of fairy-stories greeted Achsah with, “What do you wish?”

Achsah replied, “Give me a present.”

Note, she did not suggest further rewards for her husband, she asked for herself. Caleb being a loving father granted her request. Her wish was for land containing a spring, but loving (guilty?) Dad gave land with two springs.

This story is of sufficient significance to be repeated almost word for word in chapter one of the book of Judges. In chapter two of Judges we learn that the Israelites slipped into evil ways, suffered oppression, and cried out for a deliverer. (This pattern is the cyclic theme of the book of Judges.) God raised up Othniel as the deliverer and thus it was that Othniel became the First Judge of Israel. ‘The spirit of the Lord was with Othniel’ (and unlike the later Judges, the spirit remained with him). The land enjoyed peace for forty years. Othniel is regarded as the model judge – and you know what they say about great men!

Achsah was a pawn in the politics of men. She had no say in whom she would marry or where she would live. She accepted there are things which cannot be changed, but knew she had influence. She took the initiative and used her influence. She prevented further blood-shed and gained a better deal for her entire household.

Compare similarities between Achsah and Abigail 1 Sam 25:2-42

Brainstorm: women who used their influence to lessen conflict
(a) in the Bible; (b) in history

Discuss incidents you know of
(a) where words have escalated tensions
(b) where words have lessened tensions

Reflect on: useful ways and words for solving conflict in everyday life

Role play some typical situations: e.g. small children fighting over a toy;
Your partner ignoring the speed limit; a non communicative teenager.

After this is exercise is finished, ask the actors how they felt about their “role.” What did the group learn?

*Achsah Published by Guillaume Rouille (1518?-1589) – “Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum”

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2 Responses to SURVIVORS — Enterprising Women Hidden in the Book of Joshua

  1. Jnana Hodson says:

    Wonderful take. Too easily we slide right past these gems when we follow the bigger story.

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