Vindicating the Vixens

Compelled to pass along a good read, I’m doing a rare book review.
VINDICATING THE VIXENS: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible.

Fourteen chapters, each written by a different author, each featuring a misunderstood woman in the Bible. The general editor is Sandra Glahn, published by Kregel, 2017.

Page after page uncovers precision and excellence in the study of God’s Word. As a Bible teacher and retreat speaker, I go the extra mile to be cautious with the text, to not read in things that aren’t there, to skip clever illustrations that stretch the truth beyond the text’s intended purpose.

I respect the scholarship that went into this book.

The pinnacle example is Mary Magdalene. The Bible tells us that Jesus healed her of seven demons (Luke 8:2; Mk 16:9). We have understood that point. But nowhere in the Bible text does it mention any illicit sexual past. So where did we get the idea that she was a former prostitute? Vindicating the Vixens traces the beginning of this great distortion. It was Pope Gregory the Great, in a sermon in 591. He incorrectly linked her to the immoral woman in Luke chapter 7. A teacher of God’s Word got it wrong and smeared her reputation! Further cementing her image, popular culture has left lasting imprints with films like: The Last Temptation of Christ; The Passion of the Christ; Jesus Christ Superstar; each portraying her as the forgiven prostitute. Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code piled on.

The opportunity to right this wrong and restore her sullied image, is long overdue.

Then there’s Tamar, Judah’s Canaanite daughter-in-law from Genesis 38. When we come to her bizarre story in the Bible, we never quite know what to do with it. Why does Judah’s legacy remain untarnished while Tamar’s legacy is under suspicion? Carolyn Custis James writes this helpful chapter, educates us on the cultural backdrop of that time, and takes us deep into the moral dilemma Tamar faced after she married into this dysfunctional family. There was so much more than I had ever considered. I finished the chapter with a fresh appreciation for this misunderstood woman.

Deborah, the prophet and judge from Judges 4-5. Many discount her contribution and her role, assuming that her assignment would have been given to a man if there had been a competent one available. My Study Bible says that Deborah rose to such a position because Barak lacked the courage to lead. God then rebuked his cowardice by pledging that a woman (Jael) would kill the Canaanite general Sisera. But what does this imply about God? He couldn’t raise up a faithful man to lead? He failed to foresee the need ahead of time? Are we making excuses for God, as if his only option were Plan B? God didn’t choose Deborah and Jael as a rebuke to timid men. Barak stands on his own with a commendation of his faith in Hebrews 11. God chose a courageous, capable woman to be a prophet and judge in Israel, and a wise and discerning man recognized the hand of God on her life, and the benefit of partnering with her.

Another marginalized woman is Hagar from Genesis 16 and 21. Not wanting to denigrate Sarah, we either dismiss Hagar as a necessary-but-dispensable extra, or we denounce her as a trouble-making mistress. In doing so we dehumanize her and miss her own unexpected relationship with God. The Lord sought out this vulnerable Egyptian slave and spoke tenderly to her. Hagar names him, El Roi, the God who sees, because he saw her in her misery, and left heaven to comfort and provide for her.

And what about Bathsheba? Does she deserve her reputation as the one who lured away the man after God’s own heart? The Bible doesn’t say she was complicit in their adultery. The text says David “took her.” But what kind of woman parades naked on her rooftop? Once again, the Bible never says she was naked. We assume that because we bathe naked. But if your bathtub was on your roof, with neighboring roofs higher than yours, would you bathe naked? These are good questions. When the prophet Nathan confronted David, his parable indicted only one party. Maybe Bathsheba was a victim—not a vixen.

I resist the temptation to write more about my six favorite chapters in the book. I will give you the pleasure of reading them yourself.

Profits from this book benefit the work of the International Justice Mission.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions and comments.

12 comments to Vindicating the Vixens

  • Beverly Schlomann

    can’t wait to read this! thanks for the review,

  • MaryJane

    definitely will buy it

    • Hi Mary Jane, The book was helpful to stretch me and challenge me to be a more critical reader. Sometimes we hear someone explain a passage, and that explanation becomes our understanding of the passage. Then sometimes we pass that on to others. As a teacher of God’s Word, I want to be careful.

  • Ethan

    Interesting approach by 14 authors and editor. I love it when authors handle truth correctly and explain misconceptions or interesting insights. Makes for an easy read. Very interesting insight about Mary Magdalene. Base what you believe (and teach others) on what the Bible actually says, not what someone else said in a message that has been passed down for hundreds of years – or what someone taught or said only several days ago. A great reminder we all must stick to what the Word teaches – or does not teach. Looks like a great book.

    • Hi Ethan, The authors of each of the chapters are male and female scholars, from different nationalities and ethnicities, as well as different educational institutions and religious traditions. The attempt was to show that this was not one school pushing an agenda.

  • Chérie

    Holy Cow. I loved learning just these little bits. Thanks for this review. Love that the proceeds support one of my favorite ministries.

    • Hi Cherie, The general editor, Dr. Sandra Glahn, is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. A lot of research went into this book.

  • Ruth

    Thank you for the recommendation. I submitted a request for our library to buy the ebook version.

  • Shelly Larson

    Hi Janet, Thanks for introducing me to this book. I’m interested in reading it. Is there a chapter about Rahab? I’m working on a teaching that includes her, and I would welcome further insights.