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1/17/2009

Serving At The Meeting Place of God


Ex. 38:8 " He made basin and stand of bronze from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting". In reading this I was struck by how odd that "servants" (as many commentaries labeled them) would be camped out in front of this most holy area. It would be like the kitchen staff parked by the front doors to the White House...it made so little sense. Surely they were not cooking, washing, sewing, or nursing children in such a location?


Then reading Wilda C. Gafney's book 'Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel' it became much more clear. She indicates that the Hebrew in use there infers more the image of a guild of Prophet-Warriors. The Hebrew used - to reflect how God is termed a "Sovereign of Warriors" - infers a martial connotation: an honor guard or 'sanctuary guadians" (Gafney, 153) comprised of prophetic-warrior women. The mirrors, rather than being stereotypical icons of their womanly vanity (as some commentators have offered) become than possible warrior tools of signal or prophetic tools or icons of their roles as "seers" of a vision. (Gafney, pg.153-157). It then causes one to question if this was not a role that was in place in Ancient Israel right up through the time of Christ - in one form or another?


1 Sam. 2:22 " Now Samuel was very old and he heard how his sons were abusing the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting." Commentators have often labeled these women as serving girls, or even temple prostitutes allowed to infliltrate the temple life, but more likely is that they were women continuing the tradition of serving as prophets attached to the religious house as guardians, gatekeepers, prophets, and spiritual guides.


2 Chron. 34: 22 "...went to the prophet Huldah...who lived in Jerusalem in the 2nd Quarter, or the place of instruction." Authors have attempted to demote this prophet for centuries for various reasons and using various rationales. Recent attempts have been to demote her to a "librarian" (as a professional librarian I find this attempt to demean the prophet as particularly insulting - it infers that to be a librarian would have been a lesser, menial, or non important role. I think they mean to imply ( revealing their lack of research - I think they mean that she may have been a scribe or copyist). The truth is simple - she was a prophet attached to the temple, in a place known as a center of religious instruction and knowledge, her prophecies were respected, and she was honored for centuries after by having the nearby gates named for her.


Luke 2: 36-38 "There was also a prophet, Anna....she never left the temple but worshiped therewith fasting and prayer night and day...." The tendency has been to protray this woman as a shuffling old frail lady with nothing else to do but go live at the Temple - images of the widow and her mite are evoked. Simeon, the other prophet in the story, has to go to the temple but the woman is there already. I believe she was in the place of the women in Exodus, Huldah and in Samuel. A member of the prophet-warriors, prophet-teachers, prophet-prayers in which women had served the Lord for centuries....
Perhaps....the reason Jesus dealt with women was to restore them to their place in the worship of God as well? Those overlooked and nameless women who followed, as well as the named followers, were also "serving" at the place of meeting God and in a similar fashion. Not merely women who were "camp followers" but women who were disciples, prophets, guild members serving as "warriors", "guardians", and "disciples". If they saw themselves as a new phase of the old system of guardians - that would explain their presence at the cross in a most meaningful way...truly serving at the meeting place of God.

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