I am currently in the final few months before I publish my book, Weird, Crude, Funny, and Nude, which is about all the bits of the Bible that appeal to my juvenile sense of humour. If you don’t know about it, don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be telling you much more about it as we get closer to launch (hopefully mid-April).
One of the things I have done with the book is I’ve sent a draft to a bunch of smart friends who could give me helpful feedback. One of my readers, Andreana, mentioned that the book didn’t have many women featuring in the passages that I write about. This is mainly due to the fact that there aren’t a lot of stories in the Bible involving poop, zombies, or teleporting that also feature women. There are a few but it’s pretty sparse. Still there is one chapter in the book about inter-dimensional angel sex that has been giving me a lot of trouble, so I’ve considered trying to find a weird, crude, funny, or nude story featuring women that I could replace the difficult angel sex chapter with. Diversity is important, even in books as silly as mine.
Deborah and Jael
One story that stood out is the story in Judges 4 where Jael stabs a guy in the head with a tent peg. The great thing about that story is that it involves some bad-assery* from not one, but two women: Deborah and Jael. Deborah is the only female judge in the book of Judges and the highest-ranking woman in the whole Bible**. Jael is the non-Israelite anti-hero with an unconventional approach to camping. It’s a pretty great story.
The story goes that Israel had been oppressed by the Canaanites. They cried out to God and he raised up Deborah, a prophet, to judge Israel. Deb spent her days deciding the Israelites’ disputes and sitting under a palm tree named the Palm of Deborah because it was her freakin’ palm. She sent for a guy called Barak (like Obama, but less presidential and missing a “c”), and told him to go fight the Canaanites. He said he would, but only if Deborah went with him. Deborah promised to join him but let him know that the honour of killing Sisera, the leader of the Canaanite army, would not go to him but to a woman of all people! So Deborah and Barak set out fighting, Israel won (thanks to a divinely convenient flash flood – Judges 5:20-21) and Sisera escaped.
While escaping, Sisera decided to hide out in Jael and her husband’s tent. Lured into a false sense of security by Jael’s milk and snuggly blanket, he had a nap only to get a literal, splitting headache when she rammed a tent peg through his snoozing brain. There was peace in Israel for forty years. The end.
Is it funny?
The challenge of this story is a) is it funny? And b) what do I even make of it?
I think a) is actually pretty easy to answer. And the answer is “No”, at least not on a surface level. It is cool story. Cool in a Braveheart meets Coen Brothers kind of way. But it’s not funny, not on first reading. If you put a bit of work in you can draw out some humour, but you don’t just read it and chuckle. So there is a low chance the story will make it into the book. I’ll probably just have to stick with the angel sex. (Take that last sentence out of context why don’t you!)
Maybe I’ll write another book about Bible bad-assery, and Jael and Deborah can get a starring role.
What to make of it
So what do I make of it?
The Deborah Judges cycle is pretty early in the decent into depravity that is narrated in the book of Judges. Deborah is probably the best judge in the entire book. She doesn’t murder anyone, lie to anyone, kidnap anyone or sleep with someone she shouldn’t. Her main “problem” seems to be that she’s a woman and she seems to overcome that obstacle pretty well. But then there is Jael who seems tricky, opportunistic and bloodthirsty. One commentator mentioned that she broke 6 of the 10 Commandments. I’m not sure which six he’s talking about (probably donkey coveting) but I can at least identify the lying and the murder. Plus, while it’s not one of the commandments, her hospitality is pretty lacking. In my opinion head stabbing should get you a pretty low rating on AirBnB. It seems as if this story is holding up two very different women as heroes. Deborah the godly and wise judge and Jael the sneaky, violent, and unscrupulous host.
While I don’t think I feel confident enough to say “This is the point of the passage”, I think it does seem to be saying that God will get the job done with all sorts of people. He gets it done with godly prophets, with sneaky non-believers, and he even gets the job done with women***. Being used by God is a privilege, but it isn’t necessarily an endorsement of the actions you use. Deborah was righteous, Barak was either a coward or just a man who knew how to ask for help (depending on how you read it), and Jael was dodgy but handy with a tent peg and hammer. I guess that’s a good cross-section of the people God uses. The only person who got the job done for God entirely without fault was Jesus. The rest of us just muddle through, thankful that God uses us through both our wins and our sins. (Sorry, was the rhyming too much?) Righteousness and effectiveness don’t necessarily go together. I guess our job is to seek righteousness, trust God for the effectiveness and try not to stab anyone in the head.
Those are my thoughts, but I’m happy to hear yours. What do you think the point of the story is?
By the way, if you’re keen to know when my book will be available for pre-order, sign up for the email blog updates (on the right side bar if you’ve already clicked away that annoying pop-up). If you sign up I’ll make sure you get a special email when it’s time. You might even get early access to the book before almost anyone else (my parents will probably get a copy before you, sorry).
*Is it swearing for Christians to say bad-ass these days?
** Except perhaps the apostle Junia/Junias whose gender-fluidity seems like an ironic and unintended consequence of the debate over what sex to assign this once mentioned apostle.
*** Don’t be angry. I know he gets the job done with women, I’m just making a tongue-in-cheek reference to the patriarchal system that Deborah and Jael were operating in.