Reclaiming OUR Time – The story of Achsah

“Every woman has a story AND every woman’s story matters to God!”
INTRODUCTION
  • A feisty, pushy woman once observed: “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.”

In this most peculiar time of history, where we as women, are positioned to seize the opportunity to finally get what belongs to us,  we must ask ourselves: “What matters most?” Is it power, privilege, position, peace, or prosperity? Is it wealth, justice, or equality? Is it all of the above or none of the above? What do we want and how do we get it?

These are powerful questions because the answers will determine our personal and collective destinies, as women.  Ultimately, these questions lead to answers and actions which will affect our lives, the lives of our progeny, and the fate of our planet.

BECAUSE:

The concentration of carbon dioxide (displaces oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere), as of 2016, is the highest in 3 million years. THE PLANET NEEDS OUR INTERVENTION

Recent studies show that 1 of 5 women are sexually abuse before the age of 15. – OUR CHILDREN NEED OUR SUPPORT

70% of those killed in current global conflicts are civilians and are disproportionately women and their children. – PEACE DEPENDS ON OUR INVOLVEMENT

Though women comprise more than 50% of the world’s population, they still only hold 1/3 of the world’s wealth.  – WORKING FOR JUSTICE MUST BE OUR FOCUS

For every $1.00 a white man makes in the U.S. (white women make .79/black women make .60/Latina women make .55) – THINGS WON’T CHANGE WITHOUT OUR INTERVENTION

The world is waiting for us to ACT………………………………………

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:7:  “Ask and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  So here is the pertinent question:  Is this the moment in time to ask God for OUR TIME, as women (and stewards) of the planet.

The answer must be:  “Yes!” Yes, sisters, it is OUR TIME!

And now, THE WORD from Our Sponsor……………………………………………………………………

Joshua 15: 16-19 (NRSV)“And Caleb said, “Whoever attacks Kiriath-sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife.  Othniel, son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it; and he gave him his daughter Acsah, as wife.  When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field.  As she dismounted from her donkey, Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?”  She said to him,  “Give me a present; since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me springs of water as well.”  So Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.”

The word “present, favor, gift” (in English) translates to blessing (berek/berakah) in Hebrew. Blessing has a much richer meaning than present or gift. When Achsah asks her father for a blessing she is asking him for: vitality, health, longevity, fertility, etc., through the passing of fertile lands from father to daughter.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Achsah’s story is housed within the larger Israelite saga of possessing the Promised Land in the book of Joshua.  This sweeping narrative involves the leadership of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb – appointed by God to move the Hebrews from a nomadic people who left Egypt, to desert wanderers, to the Promised Land of Canaan, which ultimately becomes the nation of Israel.  As Caleb continues the quest first undertaken by Moses to displace the indigenous people of the land, or “occupy the land,” as their story suggests, the Israelites soon discover they must fight nation after nation, including the Anakites, the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Amalekites, the Hittites, and many others to occupy the land which God promised them.

In chapter 15 of the book of Joshua, we find that Caleb receives the territory of Hebron from Joshua for his inheritance; but, the fight continues, as Caleb informs his clan that he will give Debir (formerly known as Kiriath-sepher) to the man who defeats the people living in this territory.  Othniel, nephew of Caleb, accepts the war challenge; successfully defeats the inhabitants of Debir; and returns home a victor, winning Achsah as his bride.

A DIFFERENT READ (A Feminist View)

Acshah – name means “ornament” or “bangle.”  Othniel – name means “lion” or “powerful one.”  –

Once again, we encounter a narrative whereby a woman becomes a means of monetary exchange.  Property, especially in the Old Testament, was the most important symbol of wealth.  Abraham was wealthy because of his land holdings and so was his nephew, Lot.  Jacob grew wealthy because of his land holdings and animals.  The tribes, clans, and families of Israel were blessed by their land holdings.  Caleb is given valuable land by Joshua because “he wholeheartedly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.”

When Caleb offers his daughter, as a wife, it is directly tied to land holdings because he desired the territory of Debir for his own.  Caleb,  in the traditional reading of the narrative, uses his daughter Acshah, as a pawn in the spoils of war.  Needing a victory in Debir, he leverages her as a “trophy” to the one who will take the bait and sign up for battle.  Othniel, Caleb’s nephew (and the 1st judge of Israel) takes on the challenge.  When Caleb announces, “whoever attacks,” as if winning the battle of Debir is more important than the daughter he offers as the “reward,” we again acknowledge what we have already learned from other women’s narratives in scripture:  Acshah is “collateral for a piece of Canaanite real estate.” (Danna Fewell – Deconstructive Criticism: Acshah and the Razed City of Writing.”)

Nonetheless, we as female students of Scripture, have a choice in how we “read” her story.  While the traditional presentation supports an androcentric view, (conventional gendered reading), we can choose to shift our lens to the “hermeneutic of suspicion.”  A feminist read, rejects the cultural framework of patriarchy, to support the story from Acshah’s viewpoint.  The feminist lens does not see Acshah as a piece of property to be exchanged at the whim of her father, Caleb.

WHAT ACSHAH TEACHES HER CONTEMPORARY SISTERS

 Acshah knows her value and advocates for herself:  In verse 18 of the text, it is Aschah who “urges” Othniel to ask for land.  Rabbinic scholars suggest (in the Talmud) Othniel cares only for the academic wealth of Kiriath-sepher.  Its name meant: “city of books.”  It was surmised (by rabbis) that great teachings and academic wealth were among the city’s assets.  Othniel may have been so impressed with this find, he failed to realize the need for property/wealth to support his own family.    It is Acshah who advocates not just for herself; but for her household, realizing she has the right and the boldness to petition her father for what she desires/deserves.  Acshah understands the value of land and she goes after it.  She also knows property translates to wealth – wealth translates to prosperity – and prosperity is the means by which her household is secured and safe, and her legacy is sealed.

WHAT SHE TEACHES USThe value of wealth is not in things.  Meaningful wealth is passed from generation to generation.  Possessions (shoes, purses, clothes) are not wealth – they are just possessions.  Wealth translates to prosperity and security for others, besides ourselves.  The possessions that Othniel finds in Debir could not support his family.  Acshah’s actions demonstrate to us what is truly of value.

Acshah envisions herself as successful –  Acshah understands the culture to which she was born; but, this does NOT stop her from achieving success.  Caleb has 15 male heirs in front of his daughter; however, Acshah does not let her inner voice (fear) set her up for failure.  Instead of looking at the prospect of procuring the land she desired as an improbability; her audacity and foresight allowed her to see herself as the owner of a fertile parcel of property, even before she obtains it.

WHAT SHE TEACHES US:  Empowerment starts with vision.  We must see ourselves as powerful, even before we act in our power.  Power is cultivated from knowing who you are and whose you are.  Acshah operated from her own self-worth.  Even though the society attempted to inform her she was of little value, Acshah rejected this identity and replaced it with a true understanding of self affirmation and self-empowerment.

Acshah waits for the proper time – We can imagine Acshah knew what she wanted all along; but, in a strategic move, she waits for her spot.  She doesn’t jump ahead and ruin her chances for acquiring the land, by requesting it prematurely.  Instead, she takes advantage of her husband’s “win” and urges him to strike while the iron is hot.

WHAT SHE TEACHES US:  Timing is everything!  Many times we lose opportunities because we either act too soon or we act too late. Acshah understood time management.  She waited until the time was right and then she acted.

Acshah empowers herself – Interestingly, Othniel stays in the background, when she goes to her father. It is Acshah, not Othniel, who asks for the land.  This seems to be another strategic move on Acshah’s part.  Acshah understood negotiation was a delicate dance, and she used her strength and intelligence to leverage her father.  While she certainly is a wife, and she involves her husband in this important decision, Acshah acts in sovereignty and self-assurance.  She understands who her father is and she knows how to get from him what she needs.  The text indicates:  Acshah asks for the land and the springs!

WHAT SHE TEACHES US:  Some opportunities involve work with others.  Some opportunities are ones in which we must act alone.  God’s discernment helps us to decide which path we must choose.  While Acshah informs her husband of the circumstance, a spirit of discernment is operative in her decision take charge and ASK.  In other words, “everything ain’t for everybody.”

Acshah does the research, then she asks for the best – There is simply no hesitation when her father asks her “what do you wish?”  In Hebrew, Acshah says:  “Give me a blessing.” (berakah).

WHAT SHE TEACHES US: Blessings from God  are the interruption of divine favor in our lives. The idea of blessing in Scripture is reciprocal which is why a blessing is much more than possessions. A blessing is an expression of reciprocity between God and God’s chosen. God blesses us as a mark of favor and grace, so that we may share in God’s purpose and God’s energy.  Acshah realizes the land means more than a possession. When she asks her father, the conduit for the blessing; Caleb is moved by God to give her a double portion. We are witnessing the divine favor of God in Acshah’s life.

Then Acshah presents her rationale:  “You have placed me in the Negeb (the sparse lands) – now give me the water (springs) as well.”  Acshah refuses to accept the crumbs from beneath her father’s table.  She asks for the best because she knows she has the right to her inheritance.  Acshah asks for a double portion of blessing and she receives it:  “the upper and lower springs.” Water in the Negeb represents life – the life of the land and the ability to water and grow crops and herds.  Acshah knows the Negeb is not workable without the wells and springs her father now owns.  She is not intimidated by negotiation.  Acshah comes prepare to ask AND RECEIVE.

WHAT ACSHAH TEACHES US:  Preparation is the key for success.  Acshah prepared herself for her blessing.  She knew what to ask for and she knew how to ask for it.  Many times, we lose our blessing because we are not prepared for what God wants to do in our lives.  We believe just because we want it, we should have it; but we are unwilling to do the work of PREPARATION & PARTICIPATION!

Acshah understands her power and she uses it – Acshah understands she is a woman in a man’s world; but she knows she has power.  Acshah uses what she is given:  HER VOICE.  This is the gift from God. Acshah asks no one else to articulate for her.  She uses her voice and tells her father:  “Give me a blessing.”  She is no different than her sisters in the book of Numbers – the daughters of Zelophehad.  She may even have been influenced by this women’s movement.  Acshah is only one generation removed from their event.   We can assume Acshah knew their story and could have been inspired by their courage to use her own voice to demand her inheritance.  Empowerment is viral and contagious.  When we see a powerful woman walking in her strength, it often inspires us to use our own.

WHAT ACSHAH TEACHES US:  Our voice is one of the most powerful tools we possess.  The bible tells us:  The power of the tongue is life and death – those who love talk will eat what it produces.” (Proverbs 18:21).  Acshah had a choice – to speak out or remain silent.  Both of these choices had consequences.  Acshah used her voice to speak words of power and life:  “Give me a blessing!”

Our sister, Acshah, in a bold and courageous move, asks her father, Caleb, for what she knows she deserves. By example, she  teaches us to do the same.  Shackled by a cultural ethos which informed her, she was nothing but property; Acshah rejected this notion and waited for the proper timing to get what she desired.  She shows us that the timing of God is EVERYTHING.  When God gives us the opportunity, it is our time to seize our blessing.  When we do, we lift up ourselves and take others with us.  We all win, when we know who we are and  walk in our own strength and power.  We cannot help but to be blessed and be a blessing to others, when we realize the power we have as women – the daughters of the most High God.

FINAL CONSIDERATIONS

The month of March is Women’s History Month.  It is the perfect time to learn more about and from women who have decided to walk in their own power.  From women in our own families ,who have overcome challenges to do the impossible; to women in Scripture who show us nothing is too impossible for God; to women in world history who  lifted their voices and used their lives to empower and assist their communities to impact change for the betterment of others; we are blessed to have strong female role models to emulate.  Like Ascah, and those after her,  we can become the examples of empowerment, sovereignty, and courage for a new generation of women, who are watching and waiting for us to act.

“I’m a strong black woman, and I cannot be intimidated.  I cannot be undermined.” – Maxine Waters

“The one way to get me to work my hardest is to doubt me.” – Michelle Obama

“Give to us  a possession among our father’s brothers!”The Daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27:4)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” (Marianne Williamson)

OUR SENDING PRAYER

Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God, as I go down into the deeps of my being.  Show me the hidden things, the creatures of my dreams, the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts.  Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name.  Give me freedom to grow, so that I may become that self, the seed of which you planted in me at my making.  Lord, assist me to walk in strength and power, as Your daughter in Your kingdom.  Amen!

(Excerpted from a prayer by George Appleton)

 

“The enclosed materials are the property of Maxine E. Garrett and Tabitha’s Daughters Bible Empowerment Series. They may be used by you with our permission, which may be revoked at any time. Al copies of the materials must include the following notice: “This material is Copyright [2015] Maxine E. Garrett and Tabitha’s Daughters and is distributed with our permission.”
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