Women of the
to his servant, the elder of his house, who ruled over all that he had,
«Please put your hand under my thigh. I will make you swear by HaShem,
the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you shall not take a
wife for my son of the daughters of the Kenaanim, among whom I live. But
you shall go to my country, and to my relatives, and take a wife for my
Now we are immersed in the middle of the patriarchal era. There were rules to be observed by different peoples, and these Habiri were zealous of their endogamic system. The master sends his servant to take a wife for his son – apparently, the son was not even consulted, and we should expect that the girl would not be asked at all if she wants to marry an unknown cousin or not. Yet, this patriarchal family was one that had knowledge of Elohim’s design:
said to him, «What if the woman is not willing to follow me to this
land?»; Avraham said to him, «If the woman is not willing to follow you,
then you shall be clear from this my oath».
Now, if there is
somebody who insists that the Bible is a male-centered book, that person
must ponder the behavior of this patriarch, who apparently did not have
any regard of his own son’s will, but respected that of the girl whom he
asked to be his daughter-in-law! Considering the period in which these
events took place, we may expect the servant to ask “What if the
woman’s father is not willing to give her for your son?”; but the
servant, knowing his master, asked directly for the lady’s will.
took ten camels, of his master's camels, and departed, having a variety
of good things of his master's with him… It happened, before he had
finished speaking, that behold, Rivkah came out, who was born to Betuel
the son of Milkah, the wife of Nachor, Avraham's brother, with her
pitcher on her shoulder. The young lady was very beautiful to look at, a
virgin, neither had any man known her… The man took a golden ring of
half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels
weight of gold… Rivkah had a brother, and his name was Lavan. Lavan ran
out to the man, to the spring. It happened, when he saw the ring, and
the bracelets on his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of
Rivkah his sister, saying, «This is what the man said to me», that he
came to the man and said, «Come in, you blessed of Adonay. Why do you
stand outside? For I have prepared the house, and room for the camels»…
They said, «We will call the young lady, and ask her». They called
Rivkah, and said to her, «Will you go with this man?» She said, «I will
Here I have quoted only some relevant verses, as the story is well known and is reported throughout the whole chapter 24 of Genesis. Evidently, the patriarchal society of the Bible was not so male-centered as it is often depicted, at least, not that of the ancient Hebrews like the family of Avraham. Some reviewers argue that the convincing issue was the wealth of gifts brought by Avraham’s servant, knowing the character of Rivkah’s brother. But ultimately, not only Avraham released his servant from his oath if the girl would have not accepted to come with him, but also her family consulted her if she was willing to marry the unknown cousin. They did not sell her.
brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rivkah, and she
became his wife. He loved her.
Unlike his father and his sons, Yitzhak had only one wife and no concubines, which was quite unusual for a patriarch. Rivkah had been wise in her choice.
that when Yitzchak was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not
see, he called Esav his elder son, and said to him, «My son… please take
your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and
take me venison. Make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to
me, that I may eat, and that my soul may bless you before I die». Rivkah
heard when Yitzchak spoke to Esav his son. Esav went to the field to
hunt for venison, and to bring it. Rivkah spoke to Yaakov her son,
saying, «Behold, I heard your father speak to Esav your brother… my son,
obey my voice according to that which I command you. Go now to the
flock, and get me from there two good kids of the goats. I will make
them savory food for your father, such as he loves. You shall bring it
to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his
death»… Rivkah took the good clothes of Esav, her elder son, which were
with her in the house, and put them on Yaakov, her younger son. She put
the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands, and on the smooth of
his neck. She gave the savory food and the bread, which she had
prepared, into the hand of her son Yaakov. He came to his father… He
[Yitzchak] did not recognize him… So he blessed him… «Elohim give you of
the dew of the sky, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and
new wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord
over your brothers. Let your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be
everyone who curses you. Blessed be everyone who blesses you».
appear as a deceptive woman who took advantage of her husband’s
blindness to make her favorite son to be blessed instead of the
firstborn, as it was established by the patriarchal law. However, she
knew that her husband was afflicted because of the way that Esav carried
on his life, not having respected the law of his fathers. Rivkah behaved
according to the Lord’s design, as Yitzhak would have not disregarded
the law and would have anyway blessed Esav – he would have done the
right thing according to the law. So, the Only One Who is over the law
had to act through Rivkah (again, a woman who changed the whole course
of history!), and in this way, Yitzhak was guiltless for having broken
the law involuntarily, and blessed Yakov, the forefather of Israel.
Tamar is an example of how many times women were denied their rights and had to contrive a plan in order to obtain justice, even putting at risk their own life. Tamar had to undergo disregard and humiliation in the male-ruled environment in which she lived, and is still blamed for sexual immorality and deceptive behavior by the religious establishment of present times, without taking account that the Bible instead vindicates her righteousness and wisdom.
there a daughter of a certain Kenaani whose name was Shu’a. He took her,
and went in to her.
We know that
Yakov’s family was under the requirement of brit milah
(circumcision), by which they were not allowed to marry women from
people which did not keep this observance. Except Yosef, who married
Asenat the Egyptian, and Yehudah, we are not told where did the sons of
Yakov find their wives, but we can understand from the Scriptures that
they have sought after women among the descent of Avraham, maybe
including Ishmaelites and Midianites.
a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar.
Although the Scriptures do not say anything about the origin of Tamar’s family, there is not any objection about her eligibility – otherwise, as in the case of the wife of Yehudah or those of Esav, it would have been specified that she was also Canaanite, or Hittite, or from a people with whom the Israelites were not allowed to intermarry. It is also reasonable to assume that Yehudah did not intend to go further away from his own people’s rule, and would have chosen for his own sons wives from Avrahamic descent. However, his sons, being half-Canaanite were not designed to perpetuate the name of Yehudah into the Tribes of Israel.
firstborn, was wicked in the sight of HaShem. HaShem killed him. Yehudah
said to Onan, «Go in to your brother's wife, and perform the duty of a
husband's brother to her, and raise up seed to your brother». Onan knew
that the seed would not be his; and it happened, when he went in to his
brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest he should give
seed to his brother. The thing which he did was evil in the sight of
HaShem, and He killed him also.
There was an
ancient law which established that when a man died without having left
descent, his brother must marry the widow, and she was not allowed to
marry outside the family of her died husband. Their first-born son would
belong to the dead brother, so that his name would be perpetuated. This
law implied that the son would inherit all the rights of his dead uncle,
prevailing over those of his biological father.
said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, «Remain a widow in your father's
house, until Shelach, my son, is grown up»; for he said, «Lest he also
die, like his brothers». Tamar went and lived in her father's house.
After many days, the daughter of Shu’a, the wife of Yehudah, died. It
was told Tamar, saying, «Behold, your father-in-law is going up to
Timnah to shear his sheep». She took off of her the garments of her
widowhood, and covered herself with her veil, and wrapped herself, and
sat in the gate of Enayim, which is by the way to Timnah; for she saw
that Shelach was grown up, and she was not given to him as a wife. When
Yehudah saw her, he thought that she was a harlot, for she had covered
her face. He turned to her by the way, and said, «Please come, let me
come in to you», for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law.
She said, «What will you give me, that you may come in to me?» He said,
«I will send you a kid of the goats from the flock». She said, «Will you
give me a pledge, until you send it?». He said, «What pledge will I give
you?» She said, «Your signet and your cord, and your staff that is in
your hand». He gave them to her, and came in to her, and she conceived
by him. It happened about three months later, that it was told Yehudah,
saying, «Tamar, your daughter-in-law, has played the harlot; and
moreover, behold, she is with child by harlotry». Yehudah said, «Bring
her forth, and let her be burnt». When she was brought forth, she sent
to her father-in-law, saying, «By the man, whose these are, I am with
child». She also said, «Please discern whose are these: the signet, and
the cords, and the staff». Yehudah acknowledged them, and said, «She is
more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelach, my son».
committed a mistake in marrying a Canaanite woman, and none of her sons
would have been eligible to perpetuate the name of the Tribe in Israel.
The death of Yehudah’s wife is not a marginal detail, but it paved the
way for Tamar to accomplish the purpose for which she was called: to
perpetuate Yehudah’s heritage according to an approved bloodline. This
is the main spiritual reason behind the whole event.
in the time of her travail, that behold, twins were in her womb.
From these twins descended almost the whole of the most relevant of the Tribes of Israel. Yehudah’s Canaanite wife was not the chosen one to perpetuate the Tribe’s name, but Tamar was, and God designed her to keep the bloodline of Yehudah according to the Covenant.
Zipporah is mentioned by name only three times in the Scriptures, and her importance in Mosheh’s life is often overlooked. She was likely the eldest of the seven daughters of Reuel/Yethro, since they dwelled at their father’s house when they met Mosheh at the well (Exodus 2:16), therefore, all of them should have been still unmarried.
And it came to pass on the way at the inn, that HaShem met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said: «Surely a bridegroom of blood art thou to me». So He let him alone. Then she said: ‘A bridegroom of blood’ in regard of the circumcision.
The Midianites, being children of Avraham, practised circumcision, although they seemingly did not perform this action on the eight day after the birth –as Israelites did–, but rather right before puberty, as it was done by Ishmaelites. When Mosheh was sent by Adonay to deliver his people from Egypt, he and Zipporah had already two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, but one of them was still not circumcised at that time. Mosheh could not be Elohim’s representative if he was still not in full observance of the Covenant, therefore, Adonay “sought to kill him” through a sudden illness. Zipporah understood which was the reason for such an apparently contradictory behaviour of Elohim, Who sent Mosheh for such a crucial mission and when Mosheh was on the way to accomplish the command, HaShem struck him critically, and she took the timely action needed to save her husband’s life.
And Miryam and Aharon spoke against Mosheh because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman.
The “Cushite woman” is Zipporah, Mosheh’s only wife. Why is she called “Cushite” in this verse? Presumably to enhance a particular aspect of hers: either her ethnic background or her appearance. She was a Midianite, therefore, she had Hebrew origin through Avraham and in general Midianites were physically not different from Israelites; however, she may also have had a slightly darker complexion –we are not given information about her mother’s ethnicity–, and if this was the case, the term “Cushite” conveys the meaning of “dark skinned” without reference to nationality. The same adjective may also imply that she was a beautiful woman. Notwithstanding, this was also a rather contemptuous way to call Midianites, and in some ancient texts Midian is also referred to as Kush, as in Havakkuk 3:7.
The story of Rahav is another example of a woman who was blessed by the Almighty for having contributed to the accomplishment of His design, and no judgment on her is pronounced in the Scriptures.
son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men as spies secretly, saying, «Go,
view the land, and Yericho». They went and came into the house of a
prostitute whose name was Rachav, and lay there. It was told the king of
Yericho, saying, «Behold, there came men in here tonight of the children
of Israel to search out the land». The king of Yericho sent to Rachav,
saying, «Bring forth the men who are come to you, who have entered into
your house; for they have come to search out all the land». The woman
took the two men, and hid them; and she said, «Yes, the men came to me,
but I did not know whence they were: and it happened about the time of
the shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out; where
the men went I do not know: pursue after them quickly; for you will
overtake them». But she had brought them up to the roof, and hid them
with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.
passage, according to the patterns of the religious establishment, Rahav
would be qualified not only as a prostitute, but also as a liar and a
betrayer, disloyal to her own people, and a collaborationist with the
enemy – and it is also evident that the Israelite spies were not good
examples for the Mossad, as they were discovered soon! We do not even
know why did they go to the house of a prostitute…
to the two men who had spied out the land, «Go into the harlot's house,
and bring out there the woman, and all that she has, as you swore to
her». The young men the spies went in, and brought out Rachav, and her
father, and her mother, and her brothers, and all that she had; all her
relatives also they brought out; and they set them outside of the camp
of Israel. They burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein; only
the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put
into the treasury of the house of Adonay. But Rachav the harlot, and her
father's household, and all that she had, did Yehoshua save alive; and
she lived in the midst of Israel to this day, because she hid the
messengers, whom Yehoshua sent to spy out Yericho.
allowed her to overcome the banishment which God had determined for her
people, not to be admitted to intermarry with Israel (Exodus 34:15-16),
and she was accepted to live among Israel all the days of her life. What
a contrast with the wife of Yehudah, whose offspring was not approved
and it was Tamar who perpetuated the lineage of the whole Tribe! The
Hebrew Scriptures do not say anything else about her life, only that she
and her family joined Israel, and we must assume that also her brothers
and sisters married within their new nation. It is also obvious that she
was no longer a sacred prostitute, but a woman devoted to the God of
Avraham, Yitzhak and Yakov, and that she built a family according to the
Mosaic Law. Her old life was burnt with the city where she lived, and
was called to a new life serving the God Who does not require to defile
one’s body to worship Him.
Akhsah is a girl who is usually not noticed, even though she is mentioned in two parallel passages of two books of the Bible:
«He who strikes Kiryat-Sepher, and takes it, to him will I give Akhsah
my daughter as wife». Otniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Kalev,
took it: and he gave him Akhsah his daughter as wife. It happened, when
she came [to him], that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and
she alighted from off her donkey; and Kalev said, «What would you?» She
said, «Give me a blessing; for that you have set me in the land of
Negev, give me also springs of water». He gave her the upper springs and
the lower springs.
patriarchal society it was not unusual that a daughter was offered as
war trophy to the most valorous warrior, and this is what happened with