During the time of Josephus’ priestly “oligarchy” nothing much is known about the lives of women. If wives of High Priests were treated as queens, we don’t know about it. But here is a portion of a story that shows both the evolution of angels and demons and how young virgin daughters of upper class families were treated. The story is an early fictional tale with elements, perhaps, of an Egyptian story of “Khons,” about how a demon was cast out of a princess. The tale is from the Book of Tobit and likely dated to the “beginning of the second century B.C.”
The last Davidic king’s mother is mentioned twice using the actual term gebirah[i](queen mother)…
Jehoiachin…“and his mother’s name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan.” II Kings 24:8
She rode out with her son to be taken into captivity in Babylon. She was mentioned before his “princes.”
Then when tiny Judah was defeated in their battle against Nebuchadnezzar…And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. II King 24:12
Did you know that the queen mother of every Davidic king is named in the Old Testament? It took me a while to figure that out. Bathsheba is not mentioned again after she was received in Solomon’s court as a queen mother (in the last post) and I hope she wasn’t around to see her son run amok in the queen/consort/strange women department.
But king Solomon loved many strange women… he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart…. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD… (with) all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.I Kings 11
This is the format used for naming Davidic kings with their mothers beginning with Solomon’s heir:
And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah, Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign…And his mother’s name was Naamah an Ammonitess. I Kings XIV.21, II Chronicles XII.13
Bathsheba’s story in II Samuel 11 is another beloved tale. King David from his tower in the City of David spies Bathsheba taking a bath on a rooftop and calls her to him. When she is pregnant, David sent her husband Uriah off to the front lines of the current war to be killed. But again, we have two stories. In the other version she is called “daughter of Eliam.” According to Wikipedia:
Bathsheba was a daughter of Eliam, one of David’s “thirty” (2 Sam. 23:34; cf 1 Chr. 3:5); Eliam was also the son of Ahitophel, one of David’s chief advisors…and thus Bathsheba was from David’s own tribe and the granddaughter of one of David’s closest advisors(2 Sam.15:12).
So, again, love had very little to do with it. The parties had negotiated a marriage alliance, albeit a nasty one. She would bring to the relationship the backing of her military family and David was in the middle of a war. For her part, David’s marriage to Bathsheba gave her the promise that a son of hers would inherit the kingdom.
The Role of a Wife of the King
We learn a lot from Bathsheba. She was given speaking parts like Queen Michal as she pursued her primary duty at court; fighting for the rights of her son. The author of I Kings gives this speech:
And Bathsheba went in unto the king into the chamber…and did obeisance unto the king. And the king said, What wouldest thou? And she said unto him, My lord, thou swarest by the LORD thy God unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me…And now Adonijah reigneth and…thou knowest it not…And the king sware, and said…Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me…Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the earth, and did reverence to the king, and said, Let my lord king David live forever. I Kings 1:10-31Continue reading “Bathsheba, from Consort to Queen Mother”→
Brand new King David decided to deny Michal daughter of the first king Saul her right to bear an heir to their combined kingdom. It was now his kingdom and he made lots of marriage alliances with nearby nations and had lots of heirs…the priest’s worst nightmare. And, predictably, in the way of kingdoms and harems, the court then revolved around which wife’s son would be the next king. Mothers of sons played politics both at court and in their bedroom during their designated visit from the king. When the wives of the sons of David were incorporated into the harem as “daughters of King David,” they were treated as young goddesses who probably liked to flaunt their own bloodlines and youthful beauty…but…as Michal found out…David played hardball and demanded their worship. He wrote a Psalm about them.
All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces…Kings’ daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir. Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. Psalm 45:8-11, KJV
How David got to be the second King of Israel is a complicated story with two versions side by side in the Old Testament. The Priest’s version begun in the last post has the LORD denounce his first choice Saul and next send Samuel to the home of Jesse, a man with seven or eight sons from whom the Lord chose the youngest, David to be the second king…
…for he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance and goodly to look to.” The LORD told Samuel, “Arise anoint him: for this is he. I Samuel 16-17
Fortunately, the political story is right there also, with the tale of the young warrior David who endeared himself to King Saul and his son Jonathan and became so popular with the people that Saul felt he had to offer him his eldest daughter Merab in marriage in a classic marriage alliance with your friend/enemy. But, David, knowing nothing about his own special anointing, refused:
Who am I? and what is my life, or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king? I Samuel 18:18
Since David could not afford to marry a daughter of the king, Saul sent him off to kill Philistines and gather 100 foreskins which he would accept as his daughter’s bride’s price or dowry. Much to Saul’s annoyance, David came back with the foreskins. He reneged on giving David his eldest daughter, though, and gave him his next daughter Michal:
I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him...I Samuel 18:21
We are told, though, that Michal loved David and proved herself his ally against her father who tried to kill him repeatedly. At last David fled King Saul, leaving Michal behind,* and went to Hebron to rally the troops to his side. As David’s role as military commander grew, he started marrying other wives, as was customary but also, at least in part, because of this:
But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim. (I Samuel 25:44)
Pulling back your daughter from a marriage alliance with a dangerous son-in-law is a classic kingly maneuver. Other than killing the king and all his sons in warfare, marrying the king’s daughter was the only access to the throne for someone not of the royal house and bloodline. Eventually Saul and two of his favored sons were killed in battle and the next son Prince Ishbosheth was set to inherit…guaranteeing more years of strife ahead. Finally, Saul’s general took the matter into his own hands:
And Abner sent messengers to David…saying…make thy league with me, and, behold my hand shall be with thee, to bring about all Israel unto thee. And (David) said, Well: I will make a league with thee; but one thing I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face, except thou first bring Michal Saul’s daughter, when thou comest…And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul’s son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines. And Ishbosheth sent and took her from her husband…II Samuel 3:12-16
David was reunited with the king’s daughter and Ishbosheth conveniently died. It was a lovely story, but the reunion of man and wife was soon tested. When David defeated the Philistines, he recaptured the Ark of the Covenant from the enemy and brought it into his camp–thereby getting the priests on his side–and I would guess, prompting his actual anointing by Samuel the old priest/prophet. But then…
…David danced before the LORD with all his might (as) David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting…And…as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him to her heart…Then David returned to bless his household and Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel…who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! And David said unto Michal, It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler…over Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD, And I will yet be more vile than thus…of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour. Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of death. II Samuel 6
According to Josephus’ version of this story, (Antiquities of the Jews Book VII.IV.3) Michal laughed at David for dancing naked, never a good thing to do to a new king. Yes, she angered him but it is pretty clear that David now felt he didn’t need her anymore. He had his anointing. He had the Priests on his side. He had her in a cage and so could now set about establishing his own House of David in which no son of Michal daughter of King Saul would ever inherit HIS kingdom. That is the point of the story.
*Interesting note: While Michal is the daughter of the first Hebrew king, she had idols/images herself. She was a Hebrew woman…and yet she also had idols. That is what the priests were up against. In the story, she had gotten word that her father was sending soldier to take David as he slept with her the king’s house. She warned David to flee. So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped.
And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, he is sick. I Samuel 19:10-18
First there was Sarah who was in the Book of Genesis as the wife of Abraham…who wasn’t technically a king…more the father of the nation with Sarah as its mother.
How to Choose your First King
But remember that the political nation of Israel had been run by Aaron and the priests making the laws and a military commander fighting the wars after Moses died. Eventually, though, the people demand a king to be like the other nations. The priests were immediately against it. Having an actual king meant there would be queens, foreign and domestic, and daughters of kings, sons with queen mothers, and royal arrogant women with no end of evil doings.
Even though the Priests pointed out all these problems repeatedly, the people still demand a king…perhaps hoping to get out from under the thumb of such a strong priesthood. Eventually, though, the priests agreed to do it while making sure that they could control the process. A king approved of by God, i.e., the priests, would have to be chosen and anointed by a High Priest.
But how do you choose a king without an established royal bloodline? The answer seemed to have been that you have a pure-blooded priest who was known to communicate with God choose the king. In order to have a priest pure enough, he must have a pure (blooded) mother. The priest who chose the first king was Samuel…so, reading backwards, Samuel was given a birth story with a mother who would represent the best/purest that a woman could be at the time. She would be a married Hebrew woman with a good genealogy who desperately wanted a son enough to agree to turn him over to the priests as a child. The lucky woman was named Hannah, we are told, and she has the first official special birth story. Parts of it should look familiar.
Hannah was one of Elkanah’s two wives. The gold standard for women was to have a son for her survival and her husband’s futurity. Hannah’s sister-wife already had a son and made Hannah’s life miserable because she did not. So, Hannah went to the Tabernacle in Shiloh to pray for a son…
Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord. And Hannah was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.(First Book of Samuel I:6-11)
Moses’ first marriage to Tharbis showed how a young daughter of a king was used to make a marriage alliance with the enemy. His second marriage illustrates something that might seem a bit off course but is necessary to understanding a crucial split in the budding Hebrew nation.
When Moses killed an Egyptian and fled the country, he made an alliance with a Midianite Priest. The priest gave Moses one of his daughters in a friendly pact and she had two sons before Moses went back to lead the Hebrew exodus out of Egypt because of a breakthrough spiritual encounter with YHWY. Moses became the original Law Giver with his Ten Commandments, but it wasn’t long before his brother Aaron was made the first High Priest by YHWY and the head of the Levite Priests who wrote the rest of the Laws in the five “Books of Moses” in the Old Testament/Torah.  At some point Moses brought his wife Zipporah and/or just her two grown sons into the Hebrew camp.
Unfortunately, by that time the priests had made new laws about marrying foreign woman and his sister Miriam and brother Aaron immediately called Moses on it.
And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman …. (Numbers 12)
Miriam  is named first in the challenge. She is also the first Mariamne/Mary in Josephus’ index and the namesake for all the others, but she was the loser when she confronted Moses. Moses remained as Yahweh’s only face to face spokesperson and Aaron remained the High Priest, though henceforth Yahweh would only speak to him in dreams and visions. It was Miriam the Prophetess, the woman of the triumvirate, rather typically, that was cast out, given leprosy, and died. (Exodus 2:21–22) No real pronouncement was made by Yahweh about the foreign wife of Moses, the cause of the conflict. You have to piece it together. Continue reading “Strange Women”→
Before there was an actual nation of Israel, before the Hebrew tribes even reached Canaan to create their state, even before there were actually Hebrew kings or queens in Israel, Moses, the designated spokesperson for the Hebrew’s new God, YHWH, and “commander” of the escape from Egypt, ran into trouble over his wives. I will discuss why in my next post but the story of how Moses got his first wife sets the stage for the role played by queens, princesses and the daughters of kings throughout the entire span of the nation of Israel…
It was the custom in ancient Middle Eastern nations to settle disputes between two warring factions by the commander/king of one side marrying the daughter of the king/commander of the other side. Flavius Josephus included in his histories of the Jews several examples of how the marriage alliances worked. In the Old Testament/Torah, Moses got the Hebrews released from slavery in Egypt. But according to a story Josephus’ tells, before Moses “set the people free” he was a military commander for the Egyptians. Exactly where Josephus got the story, I don’t know. He had access to documents and lore that does not appear in the Old Testament or Torah. While Josephus does sometimes name his source, he was writing many centuries before “footnotes.” In this story Moses was leading Egypt’s war against the Ethiopians and was about to lay siege to their royal city, Saba, when a lucky “accident” happened: Continue reading “Tharbis wife of Moses”→