Moses and Women

Book Extracts

Extract from ‘The Strange Woman: Power and Sex in the Bible, Gail Corrington Streete, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville Kentucky, 1997. Page 33.

“Women have significant roles in the exodus story largely as adjuncts to men, as preservers or threateners of male well-being. The Hebrew mid-wives Shiphrah and Puah rescue the valuable male babies of their tribe through typical underdog trickery (Exodus 1:15-21). The life of the most important male of the exodus, Moses, is protected by four women: his mother Jochebed, his sister Miriam, who later challenges Moses’ authority and is severely punished by YHWH for it (Numbers 12:10-15), the pharaoh’s daughter who becomes his adoptive mother (Exodus 2:1-10), and later his wife Zipporah, who saves his life even from YHWH (Exodus 4:24-26). Once again, the continuity and identity of the group, when threatened from the outside, are protected by women. When these women take authority away from men, as in Miriam’s case, they are expelled until order — the appropriate male leadership – is restored. Miriam is stricken with leprosy and therefore put “outside of the camp” until she repents and is forgiven. As Setel notes, “The lineage, actions and title (‘prophet’) attributed to Miriam, as well as Zipporah’s connections to a priestly household (2:16) and an apparently sacrificial act (4:25), point to a cultic status (for women) that was forgotten or repressed in the compilation of the text as it was handed down.”