Thursday, August 19, 2021

Anomalous Women

Several years back I was studying Greek. One day as I was memorizing the declension of a particularly pesky verb, I consulted my Greek textbook. This book took academic language to excessive limits, but if I managed to wade through the lingo, it was usually helpful. Concerning this verb, I would have said simply that it was irregular. But my text informed me that the verb was “an anomalous transcender of grammatical regularities.”

That made me laugh. But then I realized that it also described me!

Yesterday I discovered another anomaly, this time in the Bible. I was beginning the book of 1 Chronicles, part of the history of Israel. I was skimming the first nine chapters, which contain pure genealogy, not the most interesting reading. As is typical of a patriarchal society, the lists are primarily of men and their sons. Occasionally a woman is mentioned, usually identifying her as some man’s wife, concubine, sister, or daughter. Sometimes the listing notes her contribution, usually as bearing some man’s sons, all of whom are named. (I assume these women occasionally gave birth to baby girls, for the propagation of the race.)

1 Chronicles 7 includes the male descendants of one Ephraim. The section mentions that he “made love to his wife,” an unusual statement about an unnamed woman. But then, tucked in the middle of these paragraphs, comes this verse: “His [Ephraim’s] daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah” (vs. 24).

A builder of three towns. Clearly an anomaly. Apparently Sheerah was nobody’s wife and nobody’s mother. So she went out and built towns, and named one after herself! Nothing else is said about her. The list of male descendants continues unabated.

When I was a child I knew someone else like Sheerah. I collected comic books and had the largest collection on the block. Every time I got my allowance, I would go to the used book store and buy more at two for a nickel. I loved the action hero comics—Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Tarzan, and even Mighty Mouse. I did notice that they were all male.

Until a new series came out, featuring Sheena Queen‘a the Jungle! Just like Tarzan, Sheena could swing through the trees on vines, befriend ferocious beasts, defeat injustice, and fight for animal rights. She was a wonder and a marvel. And a woman!

The name Sheena even sounds like Sheerah. Sheena, of course, wasn’t in the Bible. If she had been, I suppose her name would be Sheena Queen‘a the Wadies.

The discovery of Sheerah made my day. She was clearly an anomalous transcender of cultural regularities.

I hope I am too.

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