Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who is a defender of widows?

When we hear that God is the defender, or judge, of widows we may think of a human judge - a man, who defends or advocates for the single woman. But, in 1 Tim. 5:16, it is the woman who cares for the widows in her family,

"If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need."

In Psalm 68:5, God is,

"A father of the fatherless,
and a judge of the widows"

This sounds like the image of a male authority, a protector and defender. But before we assume that the reference is male, it is worth remembering that in this psalm there are several allusions to the song of Deborah, who was a judge and a mother of Israel.

There are, in fact, many women in scripture who fit the role of protector and defender. Rahab was the one who rescued all the members of her family who assembled in her house. Michal helped David to escape from her father, Saul. and Naomi and Ruth stood by each other. Other women who filled the role of protector are Miriam, Pharoah's daughter, Esther, Joanna, Phoebe, and Lydia.

In our tradition, Elizabeth Cady-Stanton, Catherine Booth, Catherine Kroeger-Clark and Susan Hunt are women who are known for being defenders of women. But I think that Miriam, Pharoah's daughter, Esther, Michal, Rahab, Lydia and Phoebe are more accurately defenders of men. Either way, in response to Damien's post, the image of judge and defender in the scripture is not a purely masculine image.

1 comment:

gengwall said...

In another blog, I had just recently commented regarding "roles" and the bible, pointing out that the unilateral male "provider/protector" role is a man made one not supported by scripture. I also noted how there are many female providers and protectors in scripture (I would add the Proverbs 31 woman to your list).

I do believe that males have a natural yerning to provide and are physically suited to protect, but that by no means gives them a monopoly on those tasks or "roles". God asks us all, male and female, to work as a team to fulfill the variety of activities of daily living necessary to support and nurture the "family", which includes the extended family of widows which 1 Tim 5 speaks of.

I do find it sadly ironic that many men, engaging in extreem context ignorance and grammer generalization I might add, try to turn 1 Timothy 5:8 into a command for male provision and yet they completely pass over the direct reference to female provision just 8 verses later.