03 May 2016

Zelophehad's Daughters: What Makes Us Stay

Numbers 27:1-11

This is what makes us girls:
always coming second
because they put boys first;
shackled to men,
our fate is bound to theirs -
we pay for what we cannot help.

This is what makes us girls:
always losing double
just because of our birth.
Now our father's gone,
our fate is bound to his -
left destitute, we'll lose everything.

Is this what makes us girls?
Must we remain victims,
and take this lying down?
No - we won't cry about it
but do something about it,
for we are bound to God
who sees everything.

This is what makes us stay:
knowing our God
created us the same;
trusting He's above
this culture we are in,
not preferring boys,
not preferring girls
but caring for our needs
and giving us our right.


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[7. June 2013 / edited 3. May 2016]

Zelophehad, an Israelite in the exodus before they reached the promised land, had five daughters. He died. Because women couldn't inherit, this would basically leave them with nothing (hence the "losing double": they lost their father and at the same time were bound to lose all they had). But they went to Moses and asked in the presence of God to be allowed to inherit. And this was granted to them.

The last part ("This is what makes us stay") was inspired by the conference on women's contribution to religions I went to recently (June 2013). One of the speakers started the conference with the question: "Why do women choose to stay in a system which oppresses them?" In many religions (we looked at Christianity, Judaism, Islam and New Religious Movements) women are, let's admit it, restricted a bit. For instance, in some of my churches I would not be allowed to preach or be ordained (though this appears to be changing).

Why do we stay? The answer I got through writing this poem was: God is not a patriarchalist; He created both men and women in His image so in His eyes, we have the same worth. In the end it doesn't matter what society / culture thinks and says, but what God says. In my opinion, if read in context, the Bible is way less oppressive of women than certain churches. The Bible is for equality, but the fallen world (culture) has created a false hierarchy.

Picture by Charles Foster.

And yes I'll admit that I was thinking of the Lana del Rey song "This Is What Makes Us Girls" while writing this. I was thinking there's more to being a woman than what the song portrays, and considering the kinds of things that "make us girls". Then I thought of Zelophehad's daughters and - voilĂ .

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