Tag Archives: women warriors

Deborah and Her Tree

Deborah 3

“You must destroy all the sites at which the nations you are to dispossess worshiped their gods, whether on lofty mountains and on hills or under any luxuriant tree” Deut. 12:2

Sacred Trees

What is the importance of these trees? After some research I learned that the

“phenomenon of a sacred tree, particularly one associated with a sacred site, is well known in a variety of cultures. A distinguished tree, especially one of great antiquity, might be looked upon as the ‘tree of life’ or as being ‘cosmic,’ its stump symbolizing the ‘navel of the earth’ and its top representing heaven. In this sense, it is a bridge between the human and the divine spheres, and it becomes an arena of divine-human encounter, an ideal medium of oracles and revelation. Trees may have also symbolized the protection or fertility the worshiper hoped to receive from a deity. Fertility cults flourished in connection with such trees, and this form of paganism proved attractive to many Israelites” (Sarna, p.91).

The Canaanite goddess Asherah is closely related to the sacred terebinth trees. Even etymologically the Hebrew words for “goddess” (elat), “terebinth tree” (ela or alla) and the two words for oak (elon and allon) are closely related (Ackerman, Asherah). It has been well known for some time that the Israelites embraced monotheism quite late in their history as evidenced by archaeological finds. Despite the fact that Israelites were forbidden to worship Asherah under the sacred Canaanite trees, “there are multiple indications in biblical tradition that many in ancient Israel did regard Asherah’s cult icon as an appropriate sacred symbol within the religion of YHWH,” (Ackerman, Asherah).

Deborah and the Sacred Tree

It is against this backdrop that I read about Deborah who sat under a “luxuriant tree” called “the Palm of Deborah.” From this location Deborah summoned the general Barak to march against Sisera, the general of Israelite’s oppressors. Then she acted as military mastermind for the ensuing battle. Continue reading

Women at the Entrance to the Tent of Meeting

Women at door of tent1

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“He made the laver of copper and its stand of copper, from the mirrors of women who performed tasks at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.” Exodus 38:8 (JPS translation)

Ah yes, the “women who performed tasks.” Who might they be and what tasks might they have performed? Many commentators have argued that the women performed menial tasks at the Tent of Meeting, that they were merely cleaning servants. However, the technical Hebrew word used for “tasks” has a military connotation in contrast to more general terms for “work” and “service.” The same word is used when discussing the tasks the Levite priests perform. Continue reading