Some news stories don’t get nearly the coverage they deserve. That happens especially when we are obsessed with Trump tweets, Hillary’s emails, and media pundits pontificating endlessly about both.
The video below contains one of those forgotten stories.
Reports of the extraordinary Kurdish and Yazidi women fighters were published by some of the media, but were quickly eclipsed by other stories. They soon dropped out of sight.
Let me remind us all. These women have witnessed firsthand the evils of ISIS. Many have lost family members to ISIS brutality. Some of their sisters were carted off and forced to become sex-slaves. Their communities have been slaughtered. Some of the fighters themselves are survivors of ISIS atrocities.
But now, these women are serving courageously alongside Kurdish and Yazidi male fighters to defeat ISIS. These female warriors pose an interesting threat to ISIS. They have stepped out of traditional female roles to engage a battle that has taken an unspeakable toll on their lives and they are doing so by choice. And, it appears, the men they soldier with are grateful to have them in the battle with them.
“For ISIS, women should be imprisoned in their homes and used for men’s own interests. They are afraid of independent, confident women. The regional military are only fighting ISIS because they are being paid to. We are all volunteers. A volunteer force thinks about the future and is willing to make sacrifices to improve it.” —Narin Jamished, PKK Commander
“These women are the fighters ISIS fears the most. . . . ISIS is pretty scared of us girls. because they believe if they are killed by a woman, they will not go to heaven.” —Cup of Jane
Their story is reminiscent of Deborah and Jael, two ezer-warriors who courageously did what was needed in the terrible battle General Barak fought against the oppressive regime of King Jabin (Judges 4-5).
When Deborah summoned Barak to do battle against Jabin’s brutal and seemingly invincible commander Sisera, the odds were hopelessly stacked against Israel. Barak was called to lead a poorly armed (Judges 5:8) ragtag band of peasants against Sisera and his army of six hundred iron chariots—the latest in military hardware.
This powerful Old Testament David and Goliath story is another “media” casualty. The rich theological message of God’s power on behalf of the oppressed against enormous odds also gives us a glorious example of a male/female Blessed Alliance of men and women working together for God’s purposes.
That message has been subsumed by the current gender debate.
In the opinions of both complementarians and egalitarians, Barak has become the “red-faced poster child of cowardice.” Both Deborah (Israel’s prophet, judge, and commander-in-chief) and the hammer wielding Jael are criticized too.
Deborah is viewed as a “punishment” for men who fail in their responsibility as leaders. So she is summarily disqualified as a role model for women and girls today. Believe it or not, she is even criticized for singing too much about herself. I am flummoxed why these same critics don’t critique King David for the same behavior.
Jael, the tent-peg terminator who finishes off Sisera, comes under fire for being treacherous, violating ancient customs of hospitality, and being unsubmissive to her husband, a man who turned traitor against Israel.
Ironically (and this surely must be factored into how we interpret this ancient story), there is not a whisper of criticism anywhere in the Bible for Barak, Deborah, or Jael. To the contrary, Barak is named and Deborah (God’s prophet) alluded to as individuals of extraordinary faith in Hebrews 11:32-34. Jael is joyously celebrated for her bold actions as “most blessed of women” (Judges 5:24), which sounds a lot like Mary, the mother of Jesus
All of this surely means we need to take another look at their story. In which case, you might want to read Malestrom where I unpack this in greater detail.
Like the Kurdish and Yazidi women who are willing to battle ISIS, Deborah and Jael didn’t hesitate to do whatever was needed to accomplish the purposes of God. The two of them began and finished the fierce battle Barak fought in the middle. Together, they cover the entire spectrum of women and girls—from a woman who reached the pinnacle of power as Israel’s leader to a woman no one would ever dream could emerge as a leader.
Both did, and women and also men have much to learn from their examples.
We need these important biblical female role models today. Their leadership leaves us all without excuse. Their story raises important questions we dare not ignore.
- How would embracing their story change how we tackle the challenges in our own stories?
- How would it move us to action as light bearers in a darkened world and bringers of the good news of Jesus where there is so much bad news?
- How would their story inform and change how we live as God’s image bearers?
- How would we relentlessly follow Jesus into a new way of being human in the world he loves—a Kingdom people who hear the cries of the suffering and oppressed and do what they can to help?
- How would we raise our voices against abuse and violence both inside and outside the church and become advocates for the weak and vulnerable?
- Would we even contemplate discharging anyone from Kingdom service if we truly understood the mission Jesus entrusted to us as God’s image bearers?
These are the questions that trouble me.
Anyone—in Barak’s time or today—who grasps the scope and seriousness of the battle that was joined in Eden would never imagine telling any willing soldier—male or female—“We don’t need you.” That never seems to cross Barak’s mind, and in fact both women in his story go beyond and above anything expected of a woman. All three of them give their all to this battle. Together they exemplify the Blessed Alliance where God brought victory over Israel’s enemy through their mutually dependent efforts. —Malestrom
When the ferocity of the battle and the ruthless brutality of the enemy are grasped, no one hangs back. No soldier can be spared.
That was true in Deborah’s day and it remains true today.
Originally published at www.MissioAlliance.org/author/carolyncustisjames