Extraordinary Catholics

Women During the Monarchy

July 11, 2022 Hon. Rev. Dr. Jayme Mathias Season 1 Episode 14
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In this episode, Father Jayme explores some of the lesser-known stories of important figures during the reigns of Kings Saul, David and Solomon!

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[Becky & Terry Ann] 


Welcome to “Extraordinary Catholics,” a podcast for—you guessed it—extraordinary Catholics! In a world with over a billion ordinary Catholics, the Good Samaritans of Vatican-free Catholicism are truly extraordinary, seeking to model Jesus’ inclusive spirit and his discipleship of equals. Like Roman Catholicism, Inclusive Catholicism possesses valid lines of apostolic succession and shares valid sacraments. One in every ten adult Americans self-identifies as a former Roman Catholic. If we were to band together, we would form the second-largest religion in America. In Mexico, over 1,000 Roman Catholics leave the church every single day. To learn more about Inclusive Catholicism, please visit www.ExtraordinaryCatholics.faith, and join our Extraordinary Catholics Facebook group. And now, meet the host of Extraordinary Catholics, the pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church, the only inclusive Catholic community in Austin, Texas: Father Jayme Mathias!

[Father Jayme]

   Welcome, Extraordinary Catholics! I am Fr. Jayme Mathias, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas.

   We thank the special saints who helped make this episode possible:

·  Corey Hurt Montiel of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas;

·  Heather Lucas of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas; and

·  Very Rev. Ben Janzen of the Congregation of the Servants Minor in San Diego, California, part of the Progressive Catholic Church International.

   Looking to earn your wings? Visit dwy.io/podcast to join the list of saints who are stepping up to sponsor future episodes!

   Can I ask you a favor? Will you prayerfully consider sharing a quick rating and/or review of this podcast? You are a SAINT!

   Now, let’s continue our exploration of the theological foundations of Inclusive Catholicism!

Clamoring for a Ruler

   The last of the judges, Samuel, appointed his sons, Joel and Abijah, to rule over Israel, and they continued the cycle of turning from God—this time through dishonest gains, bribes and perverted justice (1Sam. 8:1-3). According to the stories told by the scribes during the monarchy, prior to the reigns of Kings Saul, David & Solomon the people of Israel and Judah clamored for a king to rule over them, just as other nations had rulers ruling over them (1Sam. 8:5). Uh huh. Well, as the story goes, “you asked for it, you got it”!

   The tall, handsome Saul (1Sam. 9:2) went looking for his father’s lost donkeys, and God revealed to Samuel that Saul should be anointed king over the people (1Sam. 9:17). Interestingly, the earliest sources refer to Saul as a nagid, as a “prince” or “leader,” rather than a king (1Sam. 9:16 & 10:1). He wasn’t a king in the same sense that David would later be. In his work, Understanding the Old Testament, Bernhard Anderson summarizes, “Saul made no attempt to transform the tribal structure of Israel into a centralized state. He levied no taxes, made no military conscription, had no hierarchy of court officials and no harem. His only army was a band of volunteers who he recruited from his supporters (1Sam. 13:2 & 14:52)” (p. 215). 

   After a decisive break with Samuel, Saul would later be pursued by David, the ruddy, young shepherd boy who was in love with Saul’s son, Jonathan, such that the crown passed from Saul to David to David’s son, Solomon. 

   As in past episodes, let’s focus on some of the lesser-heard stories during the monarchy which might be of interest to Extraordinary Catholics.  

 

Michal: Married to Her Brother’s Lover

   Like so many ancient ancestors in our faith, King Saul was a master of bait-and-switch—which was perhaps one of the reasons that David quickly tired of him during David’s rise to power and the creation of the novel “royal theology” that highlighted David’s special covenant with God and God’s promise to establish David’s throne through all generations (2Sam. 7:13). David would later go down in history as the king who brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem amid great jubilation. 

   Long before David was king, though, King Saul had promised David his oldest daughter, Merab, if David promised to faithfully serve the king—but David, who loved Merab’s brother (1Sam. 1-4), hesitated, and King Saul gave Merah in marriage to Adriel of Meholah (1Sam. 18:17-19). King Saul then promised David his younger daughter, Michal, on the condition that David slay 100 Philistines and bring him their foreskins—the sign of the conquered in an era before scalps. An overachiever, David slew 200 Philistines and married Jonathan’s sister, Michal (1Sam. 18:27). In her book, All of the Women of the Bible, Edith Deen likes to imagine that Michal met David when Jonathan used to bring David home. Interestingly, due to his love for his eight wives and also for Jonathan, David is a patron saint of the bisexual community today.

   David enjoyed a rather dysfunctional relationship with his father-in-law, who twice tried to kill David by throwing his spear at him (1Sam. 18:10-11). Fortunately, David’s bride was on his side (1Sam. 18:20 & 18:28), helping him to escape her father’s antics (1Sam. 19:12). Apparently a believer in idols, she even defied her father by covering up a rather large idol in David’s bed, making it appear to be him, with goat hair hanging out from under the blanket, to look like David’s hair (1Sam. 19:13). Saul responded by taking Michal from David and marrying her to Paltiel (1Sam. 25:44), though David, as king, would later demand that she return to him, as one of his eight wives.

   As things would turn out, Michal later came to despise David (2Sam. 6:16) for the shame that he caused her when he led the ark of the covenant & 30,000 soldiers to Jerusalem, dressed only in his ephod (2Sam. 6:16). She lamented: “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (2Sam. 6:20). I’m personally fond of the view of Michal in Sue & Larry Richards’ work, Every Woman in the Bible. They write: “How terrible for Michal and how betrayed she must have felt, to be treated as an object by both her father and her first love. How helpless she must have felt. She had no control over her own life and no trust in the men who had showed themselves so willing to misuse her. We can understand the bitterness so clearly expressed when Michal confronted David after the ark of the covenant had been brought to Jerusalem. David might make a show of worshiping God, but Michal must have thought him the world's greatest hypocrite. How could a person who treated her as David had love God? Michal must have felt that everything David did was calculated, and that he treated others as he had treated her.” (p. 121).

   The scriptures are conflicted: 2Samuel 6:23 says that Michal died childless, while 2Samuel 21:8 says she bore five sons. Noting this contradiction, some translations have substituted out Michal’s name for her older sister, Merab, in the latter instance. Edith Deen concludes: “Summing up the Bible portrait of Michal, first we see a young, beautiful, loving, courageous girl. But at the end we see a disillusioned, bickering woman with an inner poverty of spirit, one oppressed with many tragedies. Not only had she been torn from two husbands, but if she lived long enough she had seen the five sons or nephews she had reared hanged in revenge for her father’s wickedness. Also she had seen her father rejected by God, troubled by an evil spirit, and then killed by falling on his own sword. And his head was sent among many villages of the Philistines. How could there be any happiness for his daughter, Michal, who, like her father, had rejected God in her life?” (p. 100).

 

The Peacemaker Abigail

   The next story that we come to was of an early pacifist. Her name was Abigail, and she was the wife of the wealthy drunkard, Nabal, a man who owned 3,000 sheep & 1,000 goats (1Sam. 25:2). The scriptures describe Abigail as “intelligent and beautiful” and her husband as “surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite” (1Sam. 25:3).

   Abigail met David when he was a fugitive, an outlaw shepherd, and she recognized that he was destined to be the king of Judah and Israel. The mean, drunken Nabal did David  wrong: David protected Nabal’s sheep and goats, but during the sheep-shearing festival, Nabal refused to provide food to David and ten of his soldiers (1Sam. 25:4-11). David vowed revenge (1Sam. 25:13), but Abigail swept in and told her servants to prepare food for David’s 600 men.

The scriptures share the extended story in great detail: “Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she told her servants, ‘Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.’ But she did not tell her husband Nabal. As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. David had just said, ‘It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!’ When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. She fell at his feet and said: ‘Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.’” (1Sam. 25:18-28)

   After that tiring day of peacemaking, Abigail returned home, found her husband drunk, and waited until the next day to tell him of her deeds. When she did so, he fell violently ill, and he died ten days later, leaving David to marry Abigail. The story doesn’t end there: Abigail was later captured by the Amalekites (1Sam. 30:5); and David defeated them and rescued his bride (1Sam. 30:18).

   Sue & Larry Richards conclude: “David's brief encounter with Abigail so impressed him that when Nabal died a few days later, David was eager to take Abigail as his wife. David  clearly saw Abigail as a person who could complement his own strengths and balance his weaknesses. Like other men who are secure in themselves, David found himself attracted by Abigail's obvious strengths. Only weak and insecure men are frightened of strong women. Women who have some of Abigail's qualities do themselves a disservice if they try to hide their strengths out of fear of frightening away men” (p. 124).

 

The Witch of Endor

   We now come to a woman referred to as a medium, a spiritist, or as the Witch of Endor. She is portrayed as a fortuneteller with at least a few accurate predictions. As a bit of context, Leviticus 19:31 & 20:6 forbade communication with mediums, and Leviticus 20:27 demanded the death of spiritists, so hers was not an enviable occupation in Saul’s kingdom.

   With a desire to consult the deceased prophet Samuel, King Saul visited the nameless medium at her cave six miles outside of Nazareth (1Sam. 28). Edith Deen notes: “Earlier in his career, as he valiantly fought down all his enemies, including the Philistines, Ammonites, Moabites, and Amalekites, Saul would have scoffed at magic. Then he was afraid of no [person], but now he was a fear-ridden, weary old man, who longed to bring back the dead Samuel, upon whom he had once leaned so heavily in moments of depression” (p. 107). Ashamed that his consultation of a medium might be made public, Saul disguised himself, and the woman called forth Samuel, who—yikes!—predicted Saul’s downfall and death! The woman then provided King Saul hospitality—one of his last meals before his death the following day. I encourage you to read her story in 1Samuel 28.

 

Rizpah: The Greatest Tribulation in the Hebrew Scriptures

   Ready for the story of a truly tragic figure? People died as part of the conflict between King Saul and his son-in-law, David. Among the dead were the two hanged sons that Saul bore to Rizpah and five of Saul’s grandsons. For five months, Rizpah drove away the dogs and vultures that tried to get at the unburied bodies of her two sons and five grandsons. Edith Deen writes: “[Rizpah] suffered greater tribulation than any woman in the Old Testament. For five months, from the barley harvest until the early rains, Rizpah watched over the dead, unburied bodies of her two sons resting beside the bodies of Saul’s five grandsons. Rizpah’s name has come to mean intense suffering, such as only a devoted mother can endure” (p. 109). Ay, Rizpah is a tragic example of a mother’s love & endurance.

 

Jesus’ Ancestress, Bathsheba

   Ready for another woman in Jesus’ genealogy? Bathsheba was the wife of King David’s general, Uriah. The story goes that David saw her bathing, sent for her, and impregnated her (2Sam. 11:2-5). Psalm 51 is often labeled as a psalm of repentance by King David for this act, and Sue and Larry Richards like to imagine how freeing the singing of this public song of repentance must have been for the raped Bathsheba. When Bathsheba sent word that she was pregnant (2Sam. 11:5), David twice tried to get Uriah to lie with her, so that David could pass off the child as belonging to Uriah. No luck (2Sam. 11:6-13). In the end, David sent his general to the frontlines of battle, where he was killed, and David took Bathsheba as his wife; their first child died, but they bore another son, Solomon “the Peaceful,” and three others: Shimea, Shobab and Nathan. As a result, Bathsheba is now one of the irregular women in Jesus’ genealogy (Mt. 1:6), preparing us for the very irregular situation of the pregnancy of Jesus’ mother (Mt. 1:18).

   When David was old & dying, and his son, Adonijah, was making a move for his father’s throne, Bathsheba pleaded that her son, Solomon, might succeed David (1Kgs. 1:17-21), and so, as it turned out, Bathsheba lost a child born of adultery, but educated another child to be king!

   Sue and Larry Richards conclude of Bathsheba: “Whatever else we can say about Bathsheba, we have to admire her strength and the grace she showed in building a lasting relationship with David. In essence, David was a godly man whose sin with Bathsheba reminds us that we are all vulnerable to temptation. Bathsheba was able not only to forgive David, but also to discern his positive qualities. Unlike Michal, who became bitter and was unable to sense God's grace because of the mistreatment she had suffered at the hands of her father and David, Bathsheba did sense God's grace despite her violation. She went on to win David's love and her son's gratitude” (p. 131).

 

The Queen of Sheba

   The final figure from this period comes to us from the reign of King Solomon. Bernhard Anderson notes how we often tend to view wise, old Solomon through rose-colored glasses. He writes, “As a matter of fact, the portraits of David and Solomon –father and son—present a study in contrasts. David came to the throne the hard way—up from the shepherd’s field and the warrior’s rough life. His greatness was that he never rose so high as to be cut off from the common soil and from the traditions of the Tribal Confederation that had nourished him in his youth. Solomon, on the other hand, was ‘born to the purple,’ and never knew anything but the sheltered, extravagant life of a king’s palace. From first to last he ruled with absolute power, caring little about the sanctities and social institutions of the former Confederacy. The legendary story in I Kings 3:3-15 describes him at the outset of his career as choosing God's gift of an understanding heart to judge (that is, to rule) his people, rather than riches and honor. But the actual facts of his administration show that he lacked the common touch that would have turned this pious dream into reality. Ambitious and selfish by nature, his lavish court in Jerusalem was a hall of mirrors that reflected the glory and reputation of the great king of Israel. The law in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, which specifies that an Israelite king shall not rule autonomously but shall be guided by the Torah of Yahweh, must have been composed with Solomon in mind” (p. 236).

   According to the story of this last figure, she traveled 1,200 miles by camel, from Arabia to Jerusalem, to see King Solomon. Sheba was famous for its wealth (Ps. 72:10; Is. 60:6; Jer. 6:20), and the scriptures tells us that this unnamed Queen of Sheba arrived with a “very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold and precious stones” (1Kgs. 10:2). She sought out Solomon’s wisdom, and she gave him 120 talents of gold—some 4.5 tons of gold, or some $234 million in today’s money (1Kgs 10:10), and the two entered into an alliance and a trade agreement. Edith Deen writes: “She had only three things in mind: trade, culture and worldly wisdom” (p. 123).

   According to one legend rooted in 1Kings 10:13, that “King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired, whatever she asked,” Solomon and the Queen of Sheba had an affair, and they bore the descendants of the royal house of Abyssinia (in present-day Ethiopia). In fact, ask any Ethiopian today, and they will tell you with great pride of their ancestry, which traces itself back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba!

 

Conclusion

   And so, as we continue our journey through the scriptures, we find great models and mirrors of faith, reflecting to us the great gifts of the women at that time, some 3,000 years ago, and posing the very real question: What keeps our world and various churches from recognizing the gifts of our sisters today? As a result of what we continue to learn here, let’s not be ordinary Catholics, excluding and marginalizing half (or more) of all good, faithful Catholics. No, let’s be extraordinary Catholics!

Extraordinary Catholics Magazine

Before we go, check out & share the July/August issue of Extraordinary Catholics magazine available at extraordinarycatholics.faith/magazine! This issue contains extraordinary works by:

Enjoy the July/August issue of Extraordinary Catholics magazine, which is available at extraordinarycatholics.faith/magazine.

Introduction
Sponsors
Clamoring for a Ruler
Michal: Married to Her Brother’s Lover
The Peacemaker Abigail
The Witch of Endor
Rizpah: The Greatest Tribulation in the Hebrew Scriptures
Jesus’ Ancestress, Bathsheba
The Queen of Sheba: The Mother of All Ethiopians
Extraordinary Catholic Magazine