I couldn’t have chosen a better book to begin 2018. Truth be told I waited anxiously for Vindicating the Vixens to come out in December because a dear friend, a woman I highly admire and respect, wrote the chapter on Vashti. I waited for it to arrive and promised myself I would carve out a full day, drop everything else, and read from front to back.
Vindicating the Vixens was not meant to be read in such a fashion but rather each of the “vixens” needed their own day (some two or three) to percolate in my mind.
What I found in the pages of this book was freedom and hope. I found strength in my own calling and redemption for these women of the Bible I have come to admire over a lifetime of study. Halfway through the book, I ordered more for Christmas presents. To make the purchase even better profits from this book benefit the International Justice Mission (IJM), which seeks to empower the sexualized, marginalized, and vulnerable women of our own day.
Vindicating the Vixens: A Quick Summary
14 women who often find their stories labeled as “bad girls of the bible” found their way into this work. 16 male and female theologians took these over-sexualized, vilified, and marginalized women of the Bible and gave them a voice.
Tamar’s deceit of prostituting herself to her father-in-law is seen through new eyes. Eyes that tell of a woman who is brave in the face of injustice. A woman who risks it all to redeem her family.
Bathsheba who for centuries has been reinvented through the lens of patriarchy of a woman sleeping her way to the top, when in reality she was raped by power and lust and forced to play out a role she did not seek, is given context and a voice.
There is Hagar who named God, Deborah the Prophet, or Vashti who defied a king to protect her honor. Vindicated.
But the name that stood out above all the others to me was a name I have read countless times but never noticed, Huldah. Huldah, a contemporary of Jeremiah, was called upon by King Josiah to verify the book of the law. The most righteous king in all of Judah went directly to HER to ask for a word of the Lord. I’ll let the chapter speak for itself but this quote, for me, was powerful,
Although Josiah recognized this as the words of God, Huldah authenticated it for the first time (as far as we know from the written record). Therefore, some have credited her with initiating the Old Testament canon as we know it today. In the same way that women were the first to testif to the resurrection of Christ, the living Word, how poetic might it be that the first person to authetnticate the written Word might also have been a woman?
I underlined and snapped a picture and sent it to my closest friend. I then ordered books for Christmas presents.
Why did this chapter mean so much to me?
As a woman in ministry, particularly having grown up in a conservative evangelical faith, I have always struggled with my calling. I have had a hard time understanding why I feel such an urgency to teach Scripture and yet the majority of my time is spent finding justification for my gender. I’ve struggled with finding my voice in a room of men, of not finding offense at phone calls asking if I was the woman playing pastor, or being told by churches I’d be contacted if a secretarial or children’s leader position becomes available.
This woman Huldah was a moment of clarity for me. It was a moment when any doubt I still had about balancing my faith as a female minister fell away. It is both terrifying and freeing to know that even with a contemporary like Jeremiah, Huldah was called. It is not the lack of qualified men that give women voice, it is God. Not everyone will agree with the calling I feel, probably not my family, but they aren’t the ones I’m called to be faithful to. God is. And like Huldah, I want to be ready when I’m called on.
Vindicating the Vixens: Conclusion
Books like this one, filled with the voices of many authors, have a way of speaking to each of us differently. I found freedom in Huldah, justification for Bathsheba, and the opportunity to view these old stories through new eyes. What will you find? You’ll have to pick up a copy of the book to find out.