Sunday, February 22, 2009

Biblical Head Crushing


No, it is not the name of the latest Christian heavy-metal band, but it is a concept that I did a little study on this past week with some fascinating results.

We are all familiar with the Protoevangelion of Genesis 3:15:

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he (she) will crush your head, while you strike at his heel."

First of all, it is common knowledge that the pronoun "he" in this verse is something called an epicene personal pronoun, which in Hebrew can refer to either the masculine or the feminine gender. I think that in this particular case it is of not too great import whether we refer this to Christ or to Mary, as it is true of either one that they "crush" the head of the devil, our Lord directly and by His power, our Lady indirectly through her bearing the Son of God to the world and her mediation before Him. But, for the sake of this post, I am going to stick with the traditional rendering of this pronoun ( הוא ) as 'she.'

A fascinating thing about the Old Testament is that almost every time a heroine is raised up for Israel, she triumphs over her enemy by in some way destroying his head, beautifully and morbidly fulfilling the prophecy that the Woman would triumph over the devil by destroying his head.

First, let's look at the little-known episode of Jael in the Book of Judges:

Then Deborah said to Barak, "Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?" So Barak went down Mount Tabor, followed by ten thousand men. At Barak's advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled on foot. But Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim. All the troops of Sisera fell by the sword; not a man was left. Sisera, however, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there were friendly relations between Jabin king of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, "Come, my Lord , come right in. Don't be afraid." So he entered her tent, and she put a covering over him. "I'm thirsty," he said. "Please give me some water." She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. "Stand in the doorway of the tent," he told her. "If someone comes by and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say 'No.' " But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. "Come," she said, "I will show you the man you're looking for." So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple-dead (Judges 4:14-22).

Please, no smart-alecky comments about the irony of this great hero of Israel being named Barak! In the following chapter, the Song of Deborah, Jael is praised in verse in language that is quite Marian:

Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of tent-dwelling women. He asked for water, and she gave him milk; in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk. Her hand reached for the tent peg, her right hand for the workman's hammer. She struck Sisera, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple (Judges 5:24-26).

Later in Judges, we come to another episode of head crushing (depicted at the top of this post), this time by an anoynmous woman of Thebaz destroying the tyrant Abimelech, who had murdered the seventy-sons of Gideon:

Next Abimelech went to Thebez and besieged it and captured it. Inside the city, however, was a strong tower, to which all the men and women—all the people of the city—fled. They locked themselves in and climbed up on the tower roof. Abimelech went to the tower and stormed it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull (Judges 9:50-53).

Of course, we cannot forget Judith who defeated Holofernes, who "smote twice upon his neck with all her might, and she took away his head from him" (Judith 13:8). Also Esther, who through her intercession exposed the wickedness of Haman and caused him to be hung from the neck until dead - another death involving the head.

Also, in 2 Samuel 20, a traitor Sheba is hiding in the city of Abel Beth Maakah. When David's general Joab goes to find him, a woman of the city orchestrates his beheading:

"Joab said, "A man named Sheba son of Bikri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.” The woman said to Joab, “His head will be thrown to you from the wall.” Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bikri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home. And Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem." (2 Sam. 20:20-22)

These verses provide a beautiful typological reason to see our Lady in the Protoevangelion, and are excellent biblical references to explain to Protestants how our Lady has a role in the salvific plan of God. Let these examples serve to show that God really does fulfill His prophecies, sometimes right down to the minutest and most morose details!

3 comments:

Ben said...

YES! Very nice! I don't believe I've ever seen these connections before, but I like it.

Maggie said...

This is beautifully done! Thanks!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I've also never seen this before. Thanks for this post! =)