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Gideon's Wives and Concubine

Judges 8:30-31:
Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. His concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech.

Obviously, Gideon tried to fill the earth all on his own. Unfortunately, this approach may have caused more problems than it solved. As with David's varied and quarrelsome family, dissent breaks in Gideon's (Jerubbaal's) heirs. Abimelech, "son of a slave woman" kills all seventy of his brothers (though Jotham does escape).

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Gilead's Wives

Judges 11:2:
Gilead's wife also bore him sons; and when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah away, saying to him, 'You shall not inherit anything in our father's house; for you are the son of another woman.'

Again, this is a situation in which we know little about the women involved, but can gain a sense of their lives by what others do. That the sons of these women grow up to drive away their half brother, indicates friction within the family. The wording "you are the son of another woman" seems to indicate the wives formed a faction against Gilead's less formal relationships. Why would this happen? For the same reason the sons send their half brother away--the more these women had to share their husband, the less they would have. We think in terms of material possessions, but imagine this would also involve time, affection and, while we may not like to talk about it, sexual intimacy. The jealousies that fermented in this home, boiled over with the children.

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1 Samuel 9:11-13:
As they went up to the hill to the town, they met some girls coming out to draw water, and said to them, 'Is the seer here?' They answered, 'Yes, there he is just ahead of you. Hurry; he has come just now to the town, because the people have a sacrifice today at the shrine. As soon as you enter the town, you will find him, before he goes up to the shrine to east. For the people will not eat until he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those eat who are invited. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.

Saul and a boy try to find Samuel, so that Samuel can tell them where Saul's father's donkey have gone. They stop and ask a few girls for directions, to find out where Samuel is.

In the past few years, it has been suggested that women must always respond to men in a "submissive" manner, in order not to offend the masculinity of men. One popular illustration of this "principle" has been that even if a man asks a woman for directions, the woman must respond in this "submissive" manner. The girls in 1 Samuel 9 do not respond in a way that could be called "submissive". Saul asked a question, and they responded directly and more than completely. Nothing in their tone hints at a need for a "submissive" tone. Indeed, if the point of this encounter were some form of submissive behavior, the narrator does not provide any form of criticism against the girls.

Finally, in recent scholarship a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the public and private spheres of ancient life. One example draws on the rape the levite's concubine. It has been suggested that society frowned up women outside the home, thus the concubine was raped outside. However, chance encounters with girls and adult women by men in the Bible would suggest this "rule" had a great deal more flexibility in Palestine than in Greece.

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"The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A, and are used by permission. All rights reserved."
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