Thursday, October 11, 2007

Justice for a Whore: A Sermon (Gen 38)

The following is a creative first-person narration of Tamar's story in Genesis 38. I plan to deliver this message in a few weeks for a preaching class at Truett Seminary. I have never written or delivered a sermon in this form, so I would greatly appreciate any constructive criticism my readers have to offer.

My primary concern is whether or not the first-person perspective is effective for preaching this narrative. I chose to present Tamar's story in the first-person so as to give an oft-misunderstood woman a voice of her own.

But, as many of you know, I am far more comfortable writing than speaking. If my narration of Tamar's story is not "believable" in the first-person, or if it does not communicate the sense of the Bible effectively, I will shift to a third-person perspective throughout. Please feel free to let me know what you think.

Justice for a Whore: A Sermon from Genesis 38
Righteousness.
Vindication.
Justice.
Such clean, uncluttered words—such dignified, uncomplicated ideals. But, I was a woman, a widow—a childless widow. Dignity and simplicity did not exist for me. Justice does not dwell in a home as messy and filthy as mine. Justice wastes not her luminosity in a life of perpetual darkness. Of this I was certain.

Word of Judah’s arrival in Timnah reached me in the early morning. I was knotting my hair beneath a black scarf when the voice of a servant girl interrupted my thoughts. “Judah is coming! You’re father-in-law Judah is coming to Timnah!” My heart stung sharply with a jab of angst. “What concern is this to me? Why should I care?”

But then I remembered. It had been so long since I returned to father’s household that I had almost forgotten Judah’s promise. Month after month of compounded shame and grief had covered his words like a scab. Suddenly, the flesh was ripped open and I remembered: “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son, Shelah, grows up.” I had been obedient. I had waited for him to send for me, yet word from Judah never came.

But, what could I do? A twice-widowed woman confronting the patriarch of a powerful clan? Impossible. Such things are not done. So, I remained quietly in my father’s house, enduring their resentment and disdain for my childlessness, content to forsake all thoughts of remarriage. But, when I heard the words that Judah was on his way, something stirred within me. I finished securing my long braids, thinking to myself, “What do I have to lose?”

As the freshly exposed wound of my abandonment met the heat of the glaring morning sun, my heart was ignited with a desperate desire for justice. In that moment I resolved to meet Judah in Timnah and present him with my grievances. If necessary, I would throw myself at his feet and beg for mercy.

Removing my well-worn widows garments, I wrapped myself in the amber-hued robes of my sister. Before I left, I retrieved a sepia scarf from my palette and covered my face as well. Comforted by the privacy of anonymity, I set out for Timnah. Although the walk was arduous in the desert sun, I was happy for the delay. With every step, I summoned up long buried memories of life in Judah’s clan and I became ever more certain of what I must do.

Er and I were married when I was barely a woman. With four girls in the family, my father was relieved to be rid of me, like mule unloading a heavy burden. Judah’s clan was large and prosperous. I anticipated a demanding life, but I was na├»ve enough in my youth to hope for a measure of happiness—children, grandchildren, and maybe even the love of my husband. I discovered quickly that was not to be.

Our first night together, overcome by the melancholy and fear of a new bride, I wept in our marriage bed. Er was greatly displeased with my tear-stained, swollen face. He had one purpose for me that night and consolation did not play a part. The next morning, as the dawn peeked within the folds of our tent, Er snored steadily beside me. Dismayed at what the coming years would bring, I hugged my knees and trembled in grief, resolving never again to reveal my soul to such a wicked man.

I need not describe to you the details of the months that followed. The hours of misery blend together in my memory. When they found him dead in the fields one day, I am unashamed to say that I felt no grief for him. My tears were for the shame I bore as a young childless widow.

Judah gave me to Onan while I was still in mourning. Even though I was his second wife, Judah thought he would do what was right and provide a son for me in Er’s stead. Our first night together, Onan made it clear that he had no intention of fathering my child. Not a word passed between us, but his actions screamed the truth. He used my body for pleasure and then refused to finish the act. The shame was almost unbearable. I should have known that the wickedness of Er would be compounded in his brother.

Still, a small part of me reserved a shred of hope that one day he would change his mind. If I submitted to his desires, if I served him with enthusiasm, perhaps eventually he would give me a child. The day never came. Even now I shudder imagining those hands touching me, taking my body in greedy lust, and yet refusing to care for me as a husband. I wonder now if I would prefer he had beaten or raped me. At least then I would not have had to endure his perverted overtures of lovemaking.

One morning Onan did not rise at the normal hour and I was sent to retrieve him. When he did not respond to my voice, I knelt near his shoulders and shook him. I could barely contain my horror when his head rolled lifelessly to the side. When splashes of water and the hysterical slaps of his first wife would not rouse him, I knew he was dead. I was widowed. Again. And still without a son to relieve my shame.

Although I knew that I had no part in their deaths, a great battle was waged in my soul. Two husbands dead in two years. Two dead husbands and no children. Widowed twice by two brothers. The family looked at me through squinted eyes, like I was a hidden pest, a secret plague. At times, my feelings matched their suspicions. Even though I was glad to be rid of these wicked men, I could not escape the questions. What did I do wrong? Am I cursed? Have I offended the God of Israel? What would become of me now?

Everyone knew that the right thing was for Judah to give me to his last son. Despite my two-fold widowhood, it was an unspoken assumption. So, I waited calmly for Judah to come and announce the arrangements. Although Shelah was younger than I, the other women held him in high esteem. They speculated with me that he would finally relieve my disgrace. Even with my doubts, I comforted myself with the thought of a new marriage. It will be all right. I will have a child. I will regain my honor.

I could barely contain my shock when Judah told me to return to my father’s house. He said it was because of Shelah’s youth. “Wait for him to grow up,” he said. Sure. Whatever you say. The old man forgot that I had bedded two of his wicked offspring. I was disgraced and humiliated, but I was not a fool. But, what could I do? To what court could I appeal? Who would execute justice for the childless widow? No man on earth would hear my case. So, I left Judah’s family and returned to father. The mule had received back his heavy burden.

So, there I was, sitting at the gate to Timnah, watching the horizon. As the dust-filled wind swept through the folds of my robes, I voiced a desperate plea to God. Righteousness. Vindication. Justice. “Please, God. Please.”

I spotted Judah’s form from many yards away. As he and his companion came near, I observed that the lines in his face were deeper and his hair had grayed considerably. Had it been so long since he promised Shelah to me? Their steps slowed as they approached the gate and even though they had yet to notice me, my heart thudded as a deafening drumbeat.

When they were within six feet, Judah stopped and studied what he could see of my face. His eyes drifted up and down my body and my stomach clenched. I was frozen on the spot. Surely he would recognize me. Surely he would remember me. What would I say to him? Oh, why did I come to Timnah?! I stared at the dirt willing them to walk on, but Judah stood firmly and finally spoke: “Come on, let me sleep with you.”

What? What did he say? My shock paralyzed me. What was he asking? Then it dawned on me: he thinks I’m a prostitute. He doesn’t recognize me at all. He thinks I’m a whore! All visions of confronting Judah with his injustice vanished from my mind. What would I answer? What could I say?

Finally, my mind summoned a fragment of rational thought: I had been little more than a whore in his home. What’s one more time? If Judah would not give me a husband, maybe in his foolishness he could give me a son. And, if not a son, perhaps a payment I could use to relieve some of my poverty. Maybe in our time together he will recognize me, and the shame will overwhelm him.

My throat convulsed with the thought of submitting to Judah’s lust, but one thought crowded out the rest in my muddled brain: Now I’m in control. Now is my chance.

“What will you give me as payment for time in my bed?” My stomach shuddered with the sound of my own brazenness. “How about a young goat from my flocks?” he answered. “How do I know you’ll pay me? You’ll have to give me a guarantee until you send it.” “I can do that. What do you want?”

In the seconds that passed, I regretted my audacity. How can I play the whore with my father-in-law? I was panicked to reverse my course, so I requested the one thing I knew he would refuse: “I want your signet, your cord, and your staff.” These items, the emblems of his authority, were prized possessions. He would sooner lose a hand than give over these things to a prostitute. But, would you believe it? The fool agreed. He hurriedly gathered the items and held them out to me. My eyes wide with shock, I reached out and took them, watching Judah’s companion walk away with a smirk. We were alone. The decision was made.

I’ll spare you the details, but mercifully, our time together was brief. My heart was pricked when he spoke of the death of his wife. But, I never summoned the courage to reveal myself to him. And he never realized who I was. When he left my side to retrieve a young goat, as he had promised, I was overcome by what I had done. I scrambled to my feet and hurriedly left the city.

I ran almost the entire way back to my tent, still clutching Judah’s signet, cord, and staff. My sister nosily inquired about my appearance—“Why are you dressed like that? Where did you get those things?” I brushed her off and changed back into the coal colored clothes of my widowhood. Not knowing what else to do, I covered Judah’s possessions with the blankets of my palette. When my heart slowed its pounding in my chest, I permitted myself a slight smile. What would Judah think when he returned with his goat and found nothing but an empty room? Poor fool.

I knew soon after our encounter that something had happened. I was becoming ill in the mornings and I was eating more than usual. When the time for my uncleanness passed without blood, I knew. Of course, my secret did not remain my secret for long. As my belly began to protrude in my robes, the rumors surfaced.

Finally, my aged mother confronted me with flashing eyes, spitting insults and accusing me of prostitution. How could I shame them? What was I thinking? I know that I should have feared for myself, for my child, for my family’s reputation. I might be thrown out of our home. But, I didn’t care. I was carrying a child. God had heard my whispered pleas.

News of my state finally reached my father-in-law. The day his servants came to retrieve me, they dragged me from my tent like an animal. How strange. The one who sentenced me to a life of childless disgrace wanted to avenge his humiliation upon me! They spit at my feet and cursed me for whoring. They warned of the fiery punishment that awaited me for prostitution.

But, as their jeering faces and violent hands threatened to bruise my soul, a small voice inside me whispered that I had nothing to be ashamed of. Defiant pride stirred within me. Call me a whore. Spit on the adulterer. Burn me alive, if you want. In my womb grows the proof of God’s vindication. If mother and child die today, God has justified me. I am in the right.

Despite their fury, one of the servants agreed to carry a message to Judah. Perhaps the strangeness of my words and the intensity of my gaze convinced him. “Tell Judah that the father of my child is the owner of these.”

By the time I arrived in Judah’s presence, it was clear that he had gotten the message. I was forced to my knees before him and he looked upon me as if in a daze. I was covered in gritty sand, my brown hair loose and wild, my dark face reddened by the glaring sun, my eyes narrow and accusing. He didn’t recognize me before, but he knew me now. No words passed his lips, but I watched the memory flash in his brain like lightening. Holding out the signet, cord, and staff to me with trembling hands, the once powerful patriarch struggled for words. The servants stared. I stared. We all stared at him waiting for a command.

“I did not give you my son, Shelah. You are more righteous than I.” With these words, he extended his arm and helped me from the ground.

I was not punished. I was not sent back to my father’s house. I was not shamed or harassed or scorned any longer. From that day forward I began a new life as an honored widow in Judah’s household. What a different kind of life. What a relief for a scarred and pained young woman.

When the time for birth arrived, I had twins: Perez and Zerah. Judah was their father, but he never shared my bed again.

So, no matter what they say about me, let me assure you that Tamar is not a whore. Yes, I used sex to get what I wanted, but I was not alone in my endeavor.

Justice does dwell in a home as messy and filthy as mine. Justice does bring her luminosity into a life of perpetual darkness. It is God who used my desperation and foolishness to extract justice. It is God who worked in my bitterness and pain to give me sons. It is God who brought forth honor and vindication from the depths of widowhood. And, incredibly, maybe even scandalously, it is God who chose me, and my embarrassing, dirty story, to bring forth the Messiah.

Yes, the God of Israel dispenses justice. Even for a widow. Even for a whore.

29 comments:

UnderMidnight said...

And I will say it again...you are a force of nature.

Todd Pylant said...

Wow. A powerful presentation of a little known story. O, we know the story, but we don't really "hear" the story. You have cast it in a riviting presentation. The issue of justice, and God bringing justice through a messy situation, with messy people, and messy motives, and messy strategies is thought provocing. God is a God of justice, and God "sees" the least of these. As you tell the story, it leaves the hearer with a host of questions bouncing around their minds and souls.

traveller said...

This is really very good. You capture the story in a very personal way. Far more powerful than if it was in the third person.

Also, it is provocative. I like provocative and raising questions without all the answers.

One substantive question: As I read these words, "Even now I shudder imagining those hands touching me, taking my body in greedy lust, and yet refusing to care for me as a husband. I wonder now if I would prefer he had beaten or raped me.", I could not help but ask, "Isn't this rape?" I am not sure I quite understand your thought on this. Would you mind to explain further?

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Traveller,

Your question is good. Perhaps I'm being too vague. Its hard to deal with sexual matters without making people squemish. I'll try to be blunt without being obscene.

The way I see it, Tamar would have cooperated with Onan's sexual advances. Socially, she was in a catch-22. She needed him to relieve her shame--use his seed to produce a son. But, when they came together, he was refusing to finish the sex-act that would produce a son. I imagine that every time he took her to bed, she wondered if maybe, just maybe, this time he would do what was right.

One of the major issues that abused women face is a mindset of constant anxiety. Their abusers keep them off-balance by never revealing when a beating will occur. The disorientation and constant anxiety work against the woman, leaving her constantly hoping, wishing that this next time, he won't beat her. I see a similar sort of thing at work in Tamar's story.

So, was she being raped? Not technically, no. She was not saying "No." He did not force himself upon her. The biblical narrator(s) know how to describe rape (see the other Tamar's story), but he does not do so here.

But, was she being raped emotionally, mentally, spiritually? Yes, I think so. And, in many ways, what Onan was doing was worse than rape. He was taking advantage of a socially vulnerable woman, using her for sex, but refusing her the honor of bearing children--the one thing that would have removed her social vulnerability. That's why I say that outright rape or beatings might have been easier. At least then there is no hope.

I think you are right to raise that issue, though. I will edit the sermon to reflect those concerns. Perhaps I should leave out the "rape" part and address that she might have preferred he cast her out and abandoned her.

Thanks for your thoughts, Traveller,

Emily

Carn-Dog said...

I'm so confused. i thought you moved to Ohio, how are you going to give this at Truett?

traveller said...

Emily,
I understand your point and agree with it. Instead of removing the idea about the rape I wonder whether there is a way to express what you more fully expressed in your explanation in response to my question.

Quite frankly, I believe these are issues that followers of Jesus need to deal with more directly. Subtlety and nuance can be a very powerful way to express ideas, often better than bluntness. However, I wonder if in this case a little more directness on this specific point would be good.

Please know that however you choose to address this it will be a wonderful story. It would be marvelous to hear you tell it.

My prayer is that Father will provide you with the energizing force of His Spirit as you speak these words.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Josh,

Ronnie is in Ohio already. We've even bought a house. But, I'm not moving until December, after I graduate. I'm still living in Fairfield, commuting to Truett for my last 15 hours. Sorry for the confusion! I'm not gone yet!

BTW: Were you at Truett last week for the Witherington lectures? I thought I saw the back of your head one day. :)

Grace and peace,

Emily

Joseph said...

I love doing first-person acted-out sermons! I hope you will adopt a costume of sorts in order to lend authenticity and atmosphere. Over the years I have done Paul, David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, et al, and also Martin Luther.

Of course, any such sermon has to be rendered in the same gender as the Biblical character! More of a problem for you than for me! But how fascinating it is to select a character whose story is filled with moral ambiguities and to lead the listener to hear grace even in the midst of ambiguity.

I trust you are going to be able to do this without notes, and not behind a pulpit. The effectiveness of this sort of message is enhanced when the speaker roams free and "emotes" appropriately and sometimes up-close.

There were a couple of phrases that seemed a little too 21st Century and therefore anachronistic. You may want to re-read your material and screen for that.

Steve said...

This is serious, well-considered writing. Good job!

UnderMidnight said...

Hey that Judah guy still owes her a goat.

traveller said...

As I reflected on your explanation I wanted to express this further idea.

The reason I asked the question is that when I read the portion on rape my thinking was that rape is more than the issue of the pure, legal, technical consent, or non-consent, to the physical act of sexual intercourse.

Your further thoughts that it involves emotional, mental, and spiritual rape is in line with my thinking as well.

However, I would like to add these two thoughts for your consideration. This morning I went to my Oxford English Dictionary and was surprised by the number of different definitions of rape. One caught my imagination: "The taking of anything by force".

It does occur to me that coercion played a crucial role in this situation in two ways. First, the entire social/cultural structure coerced Tamar into this situation by the very way marriages occurred and the rules surrounding widows. So, by definition there was a social/cultural coercion for the physical act as well as the mental, emotional, and spiritual. In other words, did Tamar truly have a choice?

Secondly, since Tamar had no other alternative to avoid the shame of not having a child, particularly a son who would take care of her in old age, what choice did she have in this situation when faced with a specific individual wishing to take advantage of the social/cultural context and satisfy the individual demands of all three of these men who wished to satisfy their lust?

So, the entire situation was a rape in the sense of taking away Tamar's life by force. Not force in the sense of violence but the force of the cultural traditions and individual human's lack of mercy and grace to others.

This has lead me down a multitude of paths of thought. However, I will spare everyone those.

Thank you for setting me on a journey of thinking about what all this means in my own life.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Traveller,

You have some great insights.

This interchange has helped clarify some things in my mind, especially related to Tamar's desperation and Onan's coercion. I will modify the sermon accordingly because I think that's important for how we understand what she did (and what she chose to do with Judah).

Normally, we say she "seduced" Judah. But, that's ridiculous. She took advantage of the only chance she had to relieve her shame (and God rewarded her!).

Thanks again, Traveller.

Blessings,

Emily

Anonymous said...

Emily,

This is very well done. I had the opportunity to live in Kenya for 7 years and during that time my husband produced a film Sabina's Encounter, which can be seen at: http://sabinasencounter.wordpress.com/
Forty church leaders across Africa felt that the most important issue facing the church was the issue of barrenness.Since women get their name from their children, Mama Caren or Mama Andrew, in my case.Sabina's Encounter is an attempt to address these issues. Your story is very culturally relevant in Africa.
Thanks for the good work.
Christine

a56piano said...

Very well done. Maybe a little graphic or detailed for some audiences, but you will have to be the judge of that!
Laura

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Laura,

Thanks for stopping by.

am aware of the potentially shocking nature of this story. But, I am convinced that the details I've included are necessary in order to do justice to Tamar's experience. I've heard several preachers gloss over this story, without any consideration for Tamar's humiliation and desperation. I feel strongly these things need to be said.

And, just so you know, I will be delivering this message to seminary students. Of all the groups I could preach to, I think they are less inclined to be shocked by my frankness.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts,

Emily

Mel said...

Traveller already mentioned my one concern about the rape issue. I can personally say, regardless of whether Tamar said the words "no" ot her "husband" it would feel exactly like rape to her. Not sure this matters to your story as a whole, though. You decide.

Rex Ray said...

Emily,
Enjoyed you story very much, and it gave me a new perception of Tamar.

I believe your words could flow more smoothly in a couple of places. You wrote, “I spotted Judah’s form many yards away.” “When they were within six feet…”

This sounds like a policeman’s report instead of Bible language such as “His father saw him when he was far away…”

What do you think about: ‘I spotted Judah’s form far away’, and ‘When they were close…’, or some other words?

Your ending seems a little contradicting when you say, “…Tamar is not a whore.” “Even for a whore.”

I think the ending would be better if it was ‘Even for a woman thought of being a whore’ or words to that effect.

I believe rape as: “The taking of anything by force”; brought out by Traveller, is an excellent description of her husband taking away her motherhood by his actions.

Thanks for the great story.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Mel and Rex,

Thank you both for your comments and constructive help. I will take your words to heart.

Grace and peace,

Emily

Rex Ray said...

Emily,
I believe the title, “Justice for a Whore”, is eye catching with the reader thinking the story will be ‘spicy or dirty’.

But the story is about the ancestors of Christ not being what man would have chosen, but who God chose.

All the feelings you bring out in Tamar are wonderful that show how she was mistreated by her husbands.
David was mistreated by his father-in-law, but both David and Tamar were triumphant in the end.

David’s story could be “Hunted to Conquer”, and Tamar’s could be “Disgrace to Admiration”.

Kevin said...

Emily,

Being in the preaching class, I can't wait to hear this in person! I think it will be very powerful!

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Rex,

I understand your point, but I am not sold on the idea that that Tamar's story is one of character transformation, from "disgrace to admiration." I think it would make us far more comfortable with her story if it were, but I just don't think the text allows for it.

Hers is a gritty, morally ambiguous tale. She is never given overt approval by God (which the biblical narrators are quite capable of doing), nor is she ever held up by later writers as an example to be emulated. She was used and abused, and then she used sex to extract justice from an awful situation. We are never "let in" on any other aspects of her character or later life. If she became a source of admiration, we are not told.

In my mind, when the choice for the "righteousness award" is between a male chauvinist patriarch, who callously discards his daughter-in-law, and a twice widowed woman who allows herself to be prostituted by her father-in-law, you know you're in biblical "gray area." I don't think this story is about Tamar's progression and elevation as a saint. I think its about messy, dirty, real-world justice. She was justified by God despite herself and despite the disgraces thrust upon her.

For whatever its worth,

Emily

Rex Ray said...

Emily,
You are right in what you said in your reply to me. I see now that I should have said that Tamar was admired by God only.

This is brought out by:
1. What was the chance of Tamar getting pregnant?
2. Of having a boy?
3. Of having twin boys?
4. Of being an ancestor of Jesus?

Once a Muslim in admiration told my then missionary son, “If I knew God would give me 5 sons, I’d be a Christian.”

Emily, I like the way you explain the truth, but in your proving correctly that Tamar was NOT a whore, how can your title say she was?

Rex Ray said...

Emily,
In light of the four questions above which is close to if not a miracle, and though her generation did not see it, history sees her as being blessed by God.

Maybe the title should be: “Disgraced to God-blessed.”

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Rex,

I keep the label "whore" in the title and the conclusion because the fact remains that Tamar "played the whore." Yes, in God's eyes, she was justified and blessed. But, in the world's black-and-white reading, she prostituted herself. I use the term "whore" even though I don't think she is one, in order to call attention to the tension in the biblical narrative. She is a scandalous woman, but one justified by God.

In my mind, using the term is not about being controversial. I hope that it can cause someone to reconsider the way society uses such categories for women. Who else do we consider "whores," who are not? Who else is "justified" in God's eyes, more righteous than I, even though they appear to be "whores"? As you know, terms like "b*tch" and "whore" are thrown around in popular culture and they are used to denigrate and stereotype women. Tamar is a stereotypical "whore." She uses sex to get her way. But, then again, she's not stereotypical at all. Its a tension that I don't want to ease.

You should know that because of this interaction, I'm going to modify the part about, "I am not a whore" in the conclusion. The way it stands now, I think it confuses things, as you have pointed out.

Thanks for your good thoughts, Rex,

Emily

Rex Ray said...

Emily,
Good point.

Would you agree the degrading of women started with Adam? (“…But it was the woman you gave me…”) Paul followed up with, “It was the woman, not Adam, who was deceived by Satan, and sin was the result.” (1 Timothy 2:14)

Two years before my son lived in a village 15 miles from Beersheba, a Muslim father was told that after school his daughter was seen talking to a Muslim boy on the street that was NOT of their tribe. When she got off the school bus, he locked her in a tool shed, and burned it with gasoline. In court he only got his hands slapped since he was restoring honor to his family.

One woman left home because she married outside her tribe. After 20 years she came back to see her mother, and her brother killed her with a knife.

Who will mourn for them? How will they find justice in hell?

It upsets me here in the USA, women are told they can’t be pastors or teach men Hebrew.
Makes me want to tell these legalists to go sit on a tack.

Not only are they telling women, they’re telling God.

Sorry, I got carried away but I feel better.

Stushie said...

Beautifully and prophetically written, Emily. If you are going to present it with a sermon, how are you going to enable the people to follow up on the issues of injustice that you raise? It's one thing to stir up emotions and make people see what's wrong - it's harder to keep them focused and have them truly wrestle with the issue. Perhaps a Bible study series on weak men and strong women in the Bible? Maybe a series on sexuality? Or have some follow up material/ readings on gender injustice?

God has also given you a special gift of words. Use them to empower your own generation - faith has to earn credibility in every generation. Your words can do that.

God bless you.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Rex,

Your indignation and rage at injustice is not unfamiliar to me. I have spent time in the past year working with some ladies who are marginalized by church folk. I have not seen the kind of atrocities against women that you describe, but I think the mindset may be similar.

I'm not sure what I think about where in Scripture the denigration of women began. But, I do believe that gender inequality (not to mention gender-based violence), is a result of sin's influence. For me, gender inequality was not God's intention.

Stushie,

Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.

If I were preaching this sermon in a local church context, I would certainly give some thought to the things you suggest. In fact, one day I hope to be able to present a series of messages in a local church setting with the goal of motivating believers to "do justice."

For now, I preach in seminary classrooms. That's the consequence of ministering in a more conservative context. It is still controversial for a woman to speak from the platform in our church. Yet, God is moving us to a church in Ohio that does not have the same hang-ups. I am eager to see what God has in store for us there.

Grace and peace,

Emily

Linda said...

Emily, well done! Right to the heart of the issue and beautifully written! Please do more of these! God is doing great things through you and there are many more to come!

jaqueline said...

I am just home form a bible study on this story. I was really interested in your interpretation. I was intrigued that you payed Tamar as if she unintentionally was mistaken as a prostitute. In our reading ( all of us women ) we interpreted this as her resourcefulness in addressing a terrible injustice. I notice you do not mention that the law of Israel is that the dead husband's brothers were obligated to provide a son for him but taking his widowed bride, and this they did not do.And Judah further violated the law by withholding his last son.

It was also an interesting realisation for us that God's anger towards Obed has often been interpreted as being about the spilling of the seed and hence all our Christian angst about masturbation and contraception. It was amazing to us that the obvious was overlooked...that the wickedness was not the spilling of the see but that the brothers did not want to fulfil the law and provide an heir!
Anyway I mentioned your blog to the group and also put a link to it here in a comment I made: http://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/submitting-to-abuse/ in another blog that is exploring the Hagar story. Thanks for your refreshing writing :-)