Rewriting the Bible from a Feminist Perspective: Eight Sample Writing from KH Members
by KH members Linda Milberg, Ruth Brandwein and not yet member Sandi Fernbach, April 2021
Miriam was working... and working hard. First Miriam found a wet nurse for little Moses. And because that worked so well Bithiah kept Miriam on as the nanny. She had hours and hours each day with little Moses. Not only did she teach him the Egyptian ways but her bedtime stories included the stories of their ancestors. Beginning with Abraham, Miriam schooled him, he learned about one God, our God. You can imagine how confusing that was for little Moses. How could there be one God that was not the pharaoh, that was greater than the pharaoh, more powerful than the pharaoh? He learned about Isaac and Ishmael. He learned about Esau and Jacob, and he learned about how his people came to live in Egypt. It was difficult and dangerous work for Miriam for if she was caught she would be put to death. She persevered and as Moses grew he came to understand that all people deserved to be treated as equals...that slavery was wrong...that the pharaoh could be wrong.
One day Moses came back and told Miriam about one particular slave driver who beat the Jews without mercy. He was very upset. Miriam told him that she would handle it. Miriam had several ideas. Her first thought was to go to Bithiah knowing that she was soft hearted and would listen to her story but really what could she do. Bithiah would have to go to the pharaoh or his chief of staff to get anything done. It might take months or years to remove this man from his duties as overseer. Something had to be done now and this is when Miriam hatched her plot. She told Moses to go to the field where the Jews were being abused and that she would meet him there. She brought food for Moses and the overseer except that the overseer’s portion was laced with poison. Within minutes of his eating his treat, the overseer was dead. Miriam directed Moses and the Jews to bury the overseer where he would never be found. Miriam then went back to the palace and packed her belongings such as they were and prepared to flee... but where would she go? Moses, fearing for Miriam’s life and his own, ran as far away as he could, thus diverting suspicion onto himself and not onto Miriam. Miriam unpacked her belongings but kept her ear to the ground waiting for the first hint that the Jews would be blamed for the death of the overseer. She used her time wisely, and gathered all the Jewish women in the household, trained them in the art of survival for she knew there would be a long journey ahead. She had them gather what jewels they could find, make clothes and shelter for their years in the desert and waited for Moses to return.
Miriam, as part of her tasks, moved freely between the palace and the Israelite dwellings. She was dismayed by the physical and mental oppression of her people and decided she must help lift them up.
She encouraged the Hebrew women she worked with to collect the stories of their people, of their tribes. In Egypt, over the generations, the stories had become attenuated and fragmented. Their power had been lost.
Miriam knew that when people were asked about their history, the memories would connect them to one another. The wedge driven between the people by hard labor and the fatigue it produced would be diminished.
She took all the stories that the women brought back, about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons and wove them together.
And she was pleased for she was about to make, from the downtrodden household of Jacob, a nation ready for the challenge of freedom.
And Moses returned.
The women were ready.
by KH member Regina Rand, April 2021
God put Abraham to a test. God said to him, “Abraham,” and he answered, “Here I am.” And God said, “Take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go up to the land of Mt. Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering. Abraham did not question God as he had at Sodom, so he saddled an ass, split some wood for the burnt offering, and took his son, Isaac, with him. Abraham did not realize that his wife, Sarah, heard what God requested of him. She decided to follow him secretly on the long trek up to Mt. Moriah.
When Abraham arrived on Mt. Moriah, he built an altar there and bound his son, Isaac, on top of the altar and picked up a knife to slay his son, Isaac. Witnessing this scene, Sarah could be silent no longer. She cried out, “Do not raise your hand against our son, my only beloved son. How can you condone the sacrifice of our child or any child? Why did you passively accept God’s demand to kill your son and not challenge God as you did over the destruction of Sodom? Were we not made in God’s image, and have we not free will, given by God? Therefore, are we not able to say no to God and will not do what is abhorrent and immoral to us? Why would God want to break his covenant with us and deny a future for our descendants? See there is a ram with his horns caught in the thicket. Offer the ram as a sacrifice, and let us return home.” Abraham was persuaded by his wife’s arguments, unbound Isaac, and offered the ram as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham, Sarah and Isaac left Mt. Moriah and returned home.
Because of the long, arduous journey from Mt. Moriah and the stress of almost losing her son, Sarah died. She was 127 years old. Abraham mourned and cried for her.
by Carol Poll and Ellen Frankel
18) Then God said, “It is not good for human beings to be alone; I will make for each a fitting partner. 19) And God formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky and brought them to the human being to see what the human would call them; and whatever the human called each living being, that would be its name. 20) And the human being gave names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to all the wild beasts; but for the human being no fitting partner was found. 21) So God cast a deep sleep upon the human; and while the human slept, God took one of the human’s flanks and closed up the flesh there. 22) And God fashioned out of the flank taken from the human being a person; and brought this person to the human being. 23) Then the human being said, “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called Person. And I shall be called Person. For from the original human being we both were taken.” 24) Therefore people leave their fathers and mothers and cling to their chosen partners, so that they become one flesh. 25) The two of them, the two people, were naked, yet they felt no shame. Together they completed the circle of life; if separated, they will forever look for each other or another fitting partner to complete the circle.
by KH member Toby Deutsch, April 2021
And there was a famine in the land, and Sarai went down to Egypt to reside there because the famine was heavy in the land. And it was when she was close to coming to Egypt and she said to Abram, her husband, “Here, I know that you are a strong and handsome man. And it will be when the Egyptians see you that they will say “He will make a strong soldier” and they will take you away and send you into battle and you will be killed. Let me then address the Egyptians and offer to go with them and they will leave you to live.”
And as Sarai came to Egypt, and the Egyptians saw the man, that he was very strong and handsome. And Pharaoh’s officers praised him to Pharaoh. When they came to take him to Pharaoh’s house, Sarai persuaded them to take her instead, saying she would be a good companion to Pharaoh. And they left Abram in peace.
When Sarai was brought before Pharaoh he saw that she was beautiful. He ordered that she be taken to his harem, and she asked leave to speak to him first. Pharaoh assented and she said, “Egypt is a fertile and abundant land, and all the kingdoms around you are suffering from famine. Therefore, let Pharaoh take for himself one fifth of all the crops from all of Egypt, and when foreigners come to Egypt let them come to you to buy grain. And you will sell to them and enrich yourself and your descendants.”
And Pharaoh did as Sarai told him, and he became richer than before. And he and all Egypt valued her for her wisdom more than for her beauty.
And he was good to Abram and Sarai on her account, and they had a flock and oxen and he-asses and servants and maids and she-asses and camels.
And Sarai went up from Egypt, she and her husband and all she had and Lot with them to the Negeb.
by KH member Harriet Power
Lot and his wife sit at the gate of their house contemplating the multiple changes that have occurred, the loss of a partnership with his uncle Abraham and the land which provided a livelihood for he and his wife and two unmarried daughters. He has been feeling betrayed and thinks of himself as a failure.
He could not verbalize this to anyone for fear of showing his vulnerability and weakness. Now, sitting with his wife, he is met with her desire to hear him and her willingness to empathize with him. She listens and hears his pain of abandonment and stress of being the sole provider responsible for the family. He hears her concern for the well-being of the family and her trust in him as a capable husband, father and provider for all these years.
She suggests they speak with Abraham and Sarah about the impact this has had on the family.
Perhaps their support can be enlisted. With their families growing, Lot’s wife and Sarah had already been aware of alternative farming methods being employed to preserve water for irrigation and vertical growing methods to improve productivity. Both households may be able to profit from modernizing. Two sons and daughter in laws and two unmarried daughters can contribute to the work force and develop their individual skills. Additional land can be purchased in a timely and knowledgeable way for specific uses. Strengthened by validation, mutual respect, trust and support, Lot, his wife and Sarah stood together as three pillars of positive thinking.
Now Lot’s wife was ready to take some action of her own. She made a point to make an afternoon tea and invite the women of the family, including her aunt Sarah. Her intention was to generate a conversation about the challenge of change which was upon the family. With this she informed them of the risk that the family faced and asked for their cooperation and participation. She reminded them of their strengths and about all the resources this family had among its members. She spoke of the need to practice patience, stand together, practice honest communication, maintain an intention, awareness be informed in order to keep themselves safe, while contributing to the work at hand and the problem solving as new challenges present themselves.
The first thing the women saw was a change in Lot’s wife. They saw her as an initiator, for organizing, informing and involving them in the challenge. It was a strength they had not recognized before. They found it very attractive and encouraging that may model themselves by their mother’s actions. They asked for the first time what her name is and she answered “mother”. They wondered why they did not know their mother’s name, “Mother is your role”, your name is what distinguishes you and identifies you in your life in this world.” “Adira”, she said. She continued, “Once when I was a child a kind woman took my hands in hers, looked into my eyes, smiled with enjoyment and whispered the name Adira in my ear, I will take this name as mine. So it will be for you, my daughters, that each of you will have a name with a meaning that reflects your SELF, the one you have known and will always carry inside you. And you will learn to recognize, know and be true to this SELF. If you are true to this SELF, you will always be true to others, and you will have a good life.
By KH Member Ellen Honig, April 2021
The Story of God and Sarah - Genesis 18:11-15
The Story of Sarah and Hagar - Genesis 21:9-15
The Story of Isabelle - Genesis 22:1-5
by KH member Susan Salzman, April 2021
Among the sons of Manassah was a man who was blessed by the birth of five daughters and no sons. The man, Zelophehad by name, had died in the wilderness, leaving no heirs to share in the riches of his tribe. His daughters, being clever and outspoken young women, sought justice for their father through Moses. Our father's name should not be forgotten in the histories of the tribes when they are counted, they claimed. Moses took the case to the Eternal and ruled that the name of Zelophehad did indeed merit a place among the heirs of the land of milk and honey, thus retaining the property for his heirs and allowing each of them a share of the bequest.
After a time, Mahlah, Tirza, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah came of an age to wed. This was a source of concern to their kinsmen. Each time a daughter came to be married, the tribe of Manassah would be diminished by the value her share of her father's portion. So the Israelites went again to speak with Moses. Hmmm, said Moses, who wanted to be fair to all. During the Jubilee year, portions that had been given as part of a marriage transaction would have to be returned to The tribe of Manassah. Would this be fair to its current holder? If each of Zelophehad's daughters had two sons, the portion would be shared among 10 heirs, then 20, then 40, and so on through the generations. Soon they would be of little value. It was clear to Moses that the portions needed to be bound to the tribes, not the Israelites. To protect the inheritance and keep the property in the hands of Zelophehad's heirs, the daughters would be required to marry within their tribe.
That night the sisters were talking about the outcome of Moses's judgment. They were feeling bitter. Nothing's changed complained Noah. We almost got the right to own property in our own names, said Hoglah. And we can only marry our cousins mourned Tirza. In the end, nothing was done to enhance the situation of the daughters and the men retained control of the property of the tribe.
Numbers 13:1-33; Deuteronomy 1:22-40
by KH Members Paige Jacobson and Joan Paru, April 2021
When God told Moses to send spies into Canaan to scout the land, Moses confided in his sister, Miriam. For in spite of the incident when she and Aaron spoke against Moses’ Cushite wife and Miriam was punished by God, Moses loved his sister and trusted her judgment. Even when she was a young girl and Moses a baby, she showed courage and intelligence, and was instrumental in keeping his connection to his own family, although he was being raised by Pharoah’s daughter. From this story, we learn that Miriam was wise, trustworthy, compassionate, brave, resourceful, and sensitive to the ways of women. These are the attributes of a leader. When the Israelites were eventually brought out of Egypt and crossed the Sea of Reeds, it was Miriam who led the women in song and dance. She inspired them to celebrate and express gratitude to God and was then deemed a prophetess.
God spoke to Moses, saying, “Send twelve spies, a leader from each of the ancestral tribes, into the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelite People.”
Miriam implored Moses to send twelve WOMEN representing the tribes to be the spies. She would help him recruit the most outstanding women from each tribe. She was a Levite and would lead the group of twelve women. This would be the very first women’s mission.
Moses saw wisdom in Miriam’s suggestion. He spoke to God, saying: “Men will look at the land, thinking mainly of how to win it from the inhabitants, but women will look at the land with the understanding of how to make a home there for our people. Since women help with the flocks and farming, they will also be able to assess the value of the land for grazing and raising crops and will not be distracted by how to win the land by military means.”
God also saw the wisdom in this and said: “In any case, I will be with you as you enter the land and grant you victory, since I am giving the land to you. Send one representative from each of the tribes, WOMEN who are respected for their good judgment and wisdom.”
So Moses and his sister Miriam, who knew all the women of wisdom in the tribes, together chose the women, one from each of the twelve tribes, who were respected and trusted and who had the good judgment to know what was needed to make a good home for the people. These women would be able to make a sensible report that the people could trust. And these were their names:
And Moses chose Hosea, son of Nun and Caleb, son of Jephunneh, to go with them to help with carrying back examples of fruits of the land and to protect them in case of need, but Moses changed the name of Hosea to Joshua.
Before leaving for Canaan, the women met together to get to know one another and plan for their forty days of information-gathering. They would dress modestly and, as a mixed group, be less conspicuous and less threatening than a group of men.
When Moses sent them to scout the land of Canaan, he said to them, “Go up there to the Negeb and on to the hill country and see what kind of country it is. Is it a land that has what we need to make a home for the People of Israel? Is the land good or bad? Is the soil rich or poor? Is it wooded or not? Are the people who dwell there strong or weak? Are their towns open or fortified? And take pains to bring back some of the fruit of the land.”
They planned for who would explore the various physical aspects of Canaan, as Moses asked, and also who would evaluate the existing communities (including the health services, the education initiatives, the well-being of the children, the care of the elderly, the provisions for the poor, as well as the shopping at the bazaars and markets, the cultural arts and the work delegated to women).
At the end of forty days they returned from scouting the land. They agreed among themselves that in order to make a full report to Moses and the people, they had to be certain that they gave a message that represented how each of them felt, and yet was a unified message so that there would be no confusion on the part of the people. They understood that a mixed message could cause dissention, and they wanted to maintain harmony among the people regarding any decision that would be made. They understood that this was God’s plan: to resettle the Israelites in Canaan. They were confident that their faith in God would protect them and make everything possible. They went to Moses and Aaron and to the whole community at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran, and they made their report to them and the whole community, as they showed them the fruit of the land. Their report was optimistic and encouraging.
This is what they said: “We came to the land you sent us to; it does indeed flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. It is clearly a good land for God to give us, since we will be able to make a home there and be prosperous, as He wishes us to be. The people who inhabit the country are large and powerful, but not more powerful than we can be with God’s help, and although their cities are fortified, strong, and very large, God will be with us and will help us succeed, since He is giving us this land to be our home. We have traveled this far with His help, and we can go forward knowing that He will be with us. Remember how it was that we crossed the Sea of Reeds on dry land and escaped Pharaoh’s chariots, and once we had crossed, we women danced with joy and praise of God. Our God is powerful and will lead us into our new home in the land of Canaan, as He has led us thus far.”
Now the choice was up to the people. If they chose to follow the advice of the women, they could, with God’s help, go into the land and make their homes there. If they decided that the task was too great and the inhabitants too strong for them to deal with, they could risk angering God and have many more years of wandering in the wilderness.
*Names of the spies: