Lifeblood: A Uniquely Woman’s Perspective


For your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.
“Whoever sheds human blood,
    by humans shall their
blood be shed;
for in the image of God
   has God made mankind.”

-Genesis 9:5-6

I think one of the most misunderstood aspects of the Old Testament is the Sacrificial System that Jewish Law demands. Did you commit a sin against God or against your fellow man? That’s okay! If you kill a goat on the altar and you can walk away clean! (This is a gross oversimplification, but the core idea is correct.

The Sacrifical System didn’t just come straight out of the heavens on a written scroll. It was perfected and carefully modified over generations. Before the days of buying unblemished goats and doves in the temple courts (the days of Jesus), you would have to procure your own goat or dove (Temple of Solomon).

But in the days of the tabernacle – a time where the temple of the Lord was mobile, and traveled with the people – the goat or dove was your own. You helped birth it, you helped feed it. You were there when it broke it’s leg and you fixed it up. You fed it grain or seed everyday. And it would be you – not the priest, who would hold down the animals head as a blade was struck across it’s neck for actions you did against God. And there would surely be tears in your eyes as restitution was made.

But how did we get there? Why would we ever think that a goat’s blood could stand in for our own? My answer will be a different one – a uniquely female take. This culture of “blood for blood” doesn’t start with theology, or even the patriarchy. Instead, it starts in a very relatable way. Becasue for 50% of the population, it starts in a unique way – during puberty, when a girl sheds her first blood.

Imagine a world without molecules; a world without atoms and neutrons. Imagine a world where microbiology does not exist. There are no cells in this world; instead, the smallest unit of life is a gnat. There’s no viral or bacterial infection. There is simply life or death.

There’s no ovary or sperm in this world. There is no zygote in the womb, nor is there a fetus. There is no such thing as endometrium lining. Things in this world aren’t contained in the sterile environment of scientific progress and dictionary definitions. There is simply life or death.

And there one thing that separates life from death. Lifeblood.

Everyone month, much like the waxing and waning moon, a woman waxes and wanes blood. This blood, the blood that could become life leaves her body. And this is not an ordinary blood that spills out of a wound. Instead, it’s a blood that cramps your abdomen as it sheds. It’s a blood that makes the woman tired, and emotional. It’s a blood that makes her breasts hurt, her appetite change. This type of blood leaves in a painful and emotional process that takes a few days to complete. There is no scientific terms to explain away this monthly phenomena. There is only blood. It’s messy. It’s uncomfortable. And for 50% of the population, it’s uniquely human.

The goats and sheep in the fields did not shed blood every month. The birds of the air and fish of the sea do not shed blood. Blood is not needed for your herds to grow, your seed to sprout, your chickens to flock. Wild dogs and cats do not need to bleed to create a life. But a human? A woman needs to bleed to harbor a life. Is it any wonder that a period marked the final transition from girl to woman? From single to married? Form child, to life-bearer? Becasue there is something uniquely human about blood. A human, who is made in the image and likeness of God, requires blood for life to come forth.

And suddenly, that red sticky liquid flowing in your body becomes lifeblood.

So yes, the women were sequestered off when they were on their period. No, they aren’t pariahs! No they aren’t dirty, fowl, second-class, or less-than-human! They are women who are letting this blood-that-could-have-been-life leave their body. It’s not endometrium lining, not to the ancient world. It’s a potential for the image and likeness of God that is leaving.

Why would you dishonor that lifeblood by mingling it in your tent, by sleeping with your husband as you shed? Instead the women would meet together in their sequestered space. They would share remedies, tell stories and pass on knowledge about all things related to lifeblood. A lifeblood that is given to humanity -made in the image and likeness of God.

And in this world where water is precious and scarce (only 4 inches a year in some places!) you wouldn’t wash off the lifeblood every day. No. You would wait until all the bleeding was complete, and then you would wash away the lifeblood and go back to the tent of your husband. The same applies to the sequestering of a woman after birth. Birth is messy and bloody and it will continue to be messy and bloody for quite some time. Lifeblood continues to bleed, fluids leak. This isn’t something to be mixed in with the comings and goings and every day. It’s a part of this life-blood process.

This is the understanding of lifeblood that allowed the our ancestors to sacrifice animals. For my sin, wrought in blood, can only be rectified by blood. But human blood is too precious, it’s in the image and likeness of God! But the blood of a goat, a sheep, or a ox – that could work. It’s a law that ultimately, requires God to become lifeblood in order to unify the broken world to himself.

Blood is human. Blood is messy. Yet it is human blood that harbors life, as long as God breathes his breath unto it. And men who have seen battle would know this. Its not the sword the kills you, but the amount the blood that sword causes you to loose. Guts bleed out on open fields, while lips turn blue. A wound sours and becomes putrid as veins change color until death – lifeblood corrupted.

So many cultures around the world drink the blood of the dead in order to commune with them because they understand a fundamental truth that we have seemed to forgotten so quickly.

That life is found in blood. From conception. To death.

A Little White Lie: A Defense of Rebekah’s Deception

Why did Rebekah Deceive Her Husband? (Gen 27)

This week we are going to switch gears and focus on Rebekah. Of all the stories about the “horrible women of Genesis” this one is on the top of the cake in bright red frosting. Rebekah does a horrible sin – she orchestrates the ultimate lie between father and son – and gets away with it! It is this story that leaves a horrible taste in everyone’s mouth. Jacob stole his brother’s blessing from his sickly father. What underhanded horribleness!

Or is it?

The story goes as follows: Esau and Jacob are twins, children of Isaac and Rebekah, although Esau is the first-born of the two. So when Isaac is old and near death he tells Esau to go out into the wilderness to hunt game and prepare a feast for him. At this feast, Isaac will bless Esau. (Blessing are a big deal in the ancient world – they have the power to make or break a people).

Rebekah hears Isaac making this plan with Esau (it wouldn’t be a secret to overhear – everyone would have heard), so while Esau is gone hunting for the feast, Rebekah tells Jacob to kill two goats from their flock as she is prepares them for the meal while Jacob disguises himself as his brother Esau and goes in Esau’s place. Since Isaac is blind, Isaac will give the blessing to the wrong son. All this comes to pass. Lo and behold! after the blessing is given, Esau shows up but it’s too late. Jacob has been blessed instead.

This is normally where people talk about how horrible Rebekah was – how she was a horrible wife who lied to her husband. But this is highly unfair to both the culture of the time, and to the biblical text itself. So let’s jump in! Before we even get to the text, let’s look at the culture of the ancient world.

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Restoration: A Poem from the Land, Aaron, David, & God the Father

In the beginning there was God and there was me

Cyclones of chaos were my entire entity

Ever swirling, ever turbulent were my seas

But then I submitted to his divine authority

Who am I, you may wonder, what creature am I?

I am your voiceless sister, the land on which you live and die.

Gysers exploded, mud dried, stars filled the sky.

The world became His tabernacle – my lowest low – my highest high.

*

In the beginning there was God and there was me.

Then we were joined by an Adam, and an Eve.

Together we existed in complete harmony.

With you walking in my garden, eating all I could provide

Nothing was found lacking, and my waters never dried

But oh, how could you do it? Why did you want to live that lie?

Do not ask me to forgive you – you have forced my very rocks to cry.

*

In the beginning there was God and there was me.

But then God had to eradicate this Adam and this Eve

And I felt the fracture

These once-close traitors left me brown, let me bare

I am no longer lush, I am no longer fair.

They had two children, two clashing sons.

I never met them, but I tasted one.

I was powerless to reject the blood’s bitter tang,

I could not fight back, I don’t have fangs.

Why did you humans scar me? How could you abandon me so.

It was foreign, invasive – completely unknown

I had no defense mechanism against it.

I could not vomit it out

nor swallow it whole.

Instead it stewed into my inward parts.

My chaos, it seemed, has become reclaimed.

For chaos is now a human game.

Do you feel the shifting sands?

Can I no longer harbor you like the sister that I am?

Do you lament that God and I not longer walk hand-in-hand

. . . because of you
Continue reading “Restoration: A Poem from the Land, Aaron, David, & God the Father”

De-Bunking the Biblical Patriarchy & The Hidden Matriarchy

The following post is something I have held to my heart for a couple years now. It’s compromised of archaeology classes, Akkadian classes,  ANE classes, ancient warfare research, scribalism research, and women’s issues in the ancient world. I wish I could tell you that you could read this in a textbook. I wish I could tell you that someone has written a book on this topic. I hope that one day, I could be that person who shatters some of the lies we’ve been told in our Old Testament classes.

Everything I will *briefly* touch in this post is there in the biblical text. And once you see it, you see it everywhere. I see it in the opening of the bible when a man “leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife”. I see it when David passes his reign to Solomon. And I see when Mary tells Jesus to turn the water into wine. As I write this, I want to tell Christian girls, those who have struggled just like me, that you don’t have to question the faith just becasue you only see man, after man, after man, serving the Lord in the Bible.

The biblical patriarchy is obvious – you can’t miss it, it’s littered all over the pages of the Bible.  But it might surprise you to know that it was the women: the matriarchs, who put it there. They didn’t put a pen to paper- they did something much more influential: they created a culture that relied on remembrance to define them.  And the product of that remembrance is the Bible that sits on our shelves.

This week in Genesis we are going to cover a topic that has been touched in the last three weeks: the matriarchy. And we are going to do it by really stepping into culture in a whole new way. And when we do, we will be able to answer this question:

Why did Lot’s daughters sleep with their own father?    (GEn. 19:30-38)

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Sarai Punishes Hagar: Where History and Bible Collide

I’ve been doing a weekly series on the Matriarchs of Genesis, and breaking down history in order to defend the choices that these women make. This blog is building off the previous blog post, so if your wondering what a “shifhah” is, read the previous post: http://whollyofholies.com/2018/06/why-hagar-slept-with-abram-a-perfectly-normal-act/

Why did Sarai “deal harshly” with Hagar?    (GEN. 16:4-6)

Before we jump in this week, I want would like to say that this passage is not straight forward. There are 4,000 years (if not more) separating this story from our present day.

If you were to read these three verses in the original Hebrew, you would find that there are words being used that have never been used before and there are weird grammar slips that don’t quite make sense. So I’m not going to sit here and try to chase down some scholars’ belief about the vocabulary and the grammar (you would be bored to tears).

Instead, I want to take a step back and simply look at what is taking place on a larger scale – as if this this scene were in front of us on a stage. Instead of looking at the little details, I will look at the major movements in these three verses.

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Why Hagar Slept with Abram: A Perfectly Normal Act

I’ve been giving voice to the women of Genesis by looking at the choices they make and bring those choices to life. So what is this week’s question?

Why did Sarai send Hagar to sleep with her husband? (Gensis 16:1-3).

Please note this is my personal opinion of what is going on in the text. Therefore, there is room for disagreement. That being said, I have heavily researched this topic and find that the following interpretation covers all the questions posed in the text. So if you have questions, feel free to ask them.

So what’s going on the first three verses of chapter 16?

Well, in the previous chapter (15), Abram tells God that he has no child (AKA: no inheritor). He then asks God if Eleizer, a member of his household should inherit. God answers not only saying no, but God informs Abram he his own son will inherit. It is then that God makes a covenant with Abram and his offspring.

And this is where chapter 16 opens. Sarai essentially tells Abram that if he is indeed to have a child to inherit – it can’t come through her because she has been childless for 10 years. So Sarai tells Abram to produce a child through her servant Hagar – and it is through Hagar that she, Sarai, will build up her own household.

Sarai’s own household? Catch your attention at all? I thought the focus was on Abram’s household.

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The Women of Genesis: Sarai in Egypt

In the past two years I have become passionate about the women of the Bible – and uncovering a part of the culture that isn’t documented in the scriptures. This passion has grown even more in the last few months due to extensive research into the lives of the matriarchs. So I think I’m going to speak out – or write out – for the matriarchs of our faith: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel.

For too long people looked at the decisions these women made in the book of Genesis with contempt. These women – these mothers of our faith – have been put under the harshest scrutiny. We look at them as women who made horrible choices against the “perfect” model of their patriarchal husbands. But if we do that, we are completely missing out on half of their culture.

So in the coming weeks I want to unravel some of the decisions they make – one story at a time. Why did Sarah send Hagar to sleep with Abraham only to kick her out of camp later? Why did Rebecca deceive her husband? Why is Rachel holding unto idols in secret? These are some of the questions I will dive into.

There are also other questions from the women of Genesis such as: why did Eve eat the forbidden fruit? Why did Lot’s daughters have sex with their own father? If you want to understand the women of Genesis in a new way, follow my blog in the coming weeks as we go through the book of Genesis. Every time a woman makes a decision, we will stop and digest what we are reading and what hidden things are in the text that we don’t notice at first glance.

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That Old Testament “God of Wrath”: Goats and Barley

I recently overheard  someone mention their personal struggle with the Old Testament’s image of the “Wrath-of-God” against the New Testament’s open armed Jesus. And my heart broke hearing this because our 21st century, western-world minds just don’t understand the ancient world. I have been convicted to defend this God of Wrath that we see. Here, in this post I am going to do something I was expressly told not to do in Seminary: defend Psalm 137. What Psalm is this? The Psalm that ends with these heart-wrenching words: “O daughter of Babylon . . .Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!”

If there is ever a passage of scripture that keeps people struggling with the wrath of God, it’s this one. Why would a follower of the Judeo-Christian God speak to actively killing babies! What type of God would support these words! Surely, this is the epitome of the Wrath-God we sometimes see in the Old Testament.

But I am going to defend the Psalmist – this broken-hearted Psalmist. And I’ll do it by inserting you into the Ancient world: somewhere around 3,000 BCE.

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30 Silver Coins: Judas’ Last Supper

On this resurrection day I am going to re-tell a familiar story that is found in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 13. To do this, I’m going to do something that every Seminary student is told NOT to do: combine the 4 gospels together into one story.  I’m doing this because the character in question is painted differently in each gospel account – but I want to represent him as best as I can.

And so, without further ado, I would like to tell you the story of the first communion.

A young man entered into the upper room with his brothers; maybe he was laughing or maybe he was stoic, maybe he was looking for an opportunity to serve his own agenda. To be honest, I am not sure; I have heard it told different ways- four to be exact. What I do know is that he reclined on the floor with 12 other people – 11 teenagers, learning from one peculiar teacher. They gathered for the yearly feast in Jerusalem, not realizing that this particular Passover meal would be the unique – it would be the first of a new tradition – a new way of life. And so, these 13 people reclined on the floor, eating, celebrating their history, their friendship, and their God.

But at one point during the supper, the teacher, a man named Jesus, spoke odd words and the mood changed. He looked around the room, at the upturned faces of the twelve followers and said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” And then he continued to pass the bread. Immediately the young disciples turned to one another asking, “Is it me? Surely I wouldn’t do that!” There was terror in their voices for they loved their teacher. And according to the gospel of Mark, Jesus answered, “It is one of the twelve – one who is dipping bread into the dish with me”.

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Babel Towers: A 3am Interpretation of Genesis 11

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and felt restless – spiritually restless? It’s not insomnia. It’s not anxiety or worry. It’s when you wake up at 3am and you don’t feel right – you don’t feel at peace. So you get up and go your special spot in the house in order to pray – and I mean really pray – Garden of Gethsemane style. It’s in those quiet (or not so quiet) 3am moments that we recognize the spiritual weight that has become heavy upon us. It’s in these moments that we see the towers of Babel pressing in on us.

Genesis 11 tells a story of how all the peoples of the earth were congregated in one city. The people came together in order to  build a tower that reaches into the heavens. They do this so that they won’t find themselves scattered across the world in dissension.

This is how the people of Genesis 11 had a right idea for the wrong reasons. They thought, “Let’s make a tower and a city so big and so grand, that we will reach into the heavens. Let’s not only claim this land as ours so there is no one left to fight us, but let’s build a tower that reaches Babel itself. And once we build it high enough – there we will rule both the heavens and the earth – and there will be no dissension.”

There is this word in Akkadian (the langua franca of the ancient world) called Babilim which means “gate of the gods”. And when you loose the plural “im” at the end, we are left with Babel: “Gate of God”. Yes – it’s an Akkadian translation – not a Hebrew one. But given the era in history this story comes out of, I am inclined to think it’s the best we got.

So the people of earth people built a tower to the very “gate of God”. And do you know what happens next in the story? God has to “come down” from heaven to even see this puny tower that the people have built. They haven’t even come near the “gate of God” – but they were so sure that they had. The people had settled into a large city only to became united in a false idea – a lie: that they could settle and become gods – as long as they built high enough.

This is the world of Abraham’s family: a world of Babel towers.

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