22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. (1Sa 2:22 KJV)
Eli’s failings are well-known, but perhaps little understood. If we grasp the significance of what is written in this passage, perhaps we would not be so foolish when it comes to sexual abuse in our churches.
Eli is the high priest of Israel. He is old now, and the leadership is about to pass to his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. But they are excessively wicked. In fact, they are so wicked that the Bible says that the Lord would delight in their destruction (2:25).
The heart of their wickedness is given in the verse I printed above. They “lay with the women that assembled at the door.”
That translation, unfortunately, doesn’t quite capture the horror of what took place. First of all, the tabernacle of meeting was the tabernacle that Moses and Bezalel built in the wilderness, where God met with his people, and the Ark of the Covenant resided. It was the place of sacrifice and blessing, a house of prayer, where God met with is people, his flock, his children.
The “women that assembled” is an interesting phrase. The word used is the feminine plural participle of “tsava’” , which means to wage war. If we would translate that word literally, it would be “women warriors”. The word also indicates organization or structure, which is why the KJV translated it “assembled”; but it misses the idea of warring which is inherent in the verb.
At any rate, this practice, whatever it was, is lost to history. But what we do know from scripture is that there were a group of women who were serving in an orderly and organized fashion in the worship of the tabernacle, and that they were called the “women warriors”. They were the “warrior women” of Shiloh, gathered like an army to serve the Lord in the tabernacle.
The same phrase is used in the law to describe a group of ministering women who donated the materials to make the laver of the tabernacle:
He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting. (Exo 38:8 ESV)
This was an official ministry of the women of the congregation of Israel. Perhaps they were descendants of Levi, since only Levites could serve the tabernacle.
Whoever they were, they were part of the important ministry of the service of God in the tabernacle of the Most High.
And Hophni and Phineas were molesting them.
The problem with Eli was not that he failed to rebuke them. He rebuked them strong enough. The problem was that he didn’t remove them from office and turn them over to be executed by the state.
Perhaps they were “sorry”. Abusers know all the right words to say. Perhaps it would have “damaged Eli’s reputation and ministry”. The Bible doesn’t give any excuses or reasons. It simply says that Eli didn’t stop them, because he honored his sons more than he honored God (2:30).
Eventually God hardened the hearts of the sons because he “would kill them”. This word “would” doesn’t have the same punch as it does in the Hebrew. What the text says is that God would take pleasure in killing them!
Oh that we would have the same hatred of sin that God has! These women warriors of Shiloh were betrayed by everyone that were supposed to be honoring them. Instead of honor, they were being abused at the door of the tabernacle of God! The tabernacle was supposed to be a place of safety, where God promised rest. And instead of safety and rest, the ministry was used as a vehicle to satisfy the lusts of the powerful and influential priests. The priests were given authority in order to protect and shepherd the weak. Instead, they preyed upon the weak, viewing the sheep of God as a meal to satisfy their own lusts! How dreadful it would be to be among those whom God would “delight to kill”!
My prayer for the church is that we would learn the fear of the Lord before it is too late.
4 responses to “The Warrior Women of Shiloh”
Insightful exposition. I have read the Scriptures referenced in this article so many times and of course understood the ‘sin’ but to have the clarification of just who the women were brings even more clarity to the dynamics of the sinful heart.
Thank you, Rev Powell for your prayer. Several years ago during a very grievous time I began to realize that ‘we’ who profess Christ as Savior and Lord have not confessed that we have become complacent and lost sight of His awesomeness and holiness.
Great article Pastor Powell! I recently read this from Katherine Bushell, who wrote early in the 20th century about verses mistranslated regarding women. You may find it helpful.
“151. As we have said, It is rabbinism—Judaism commingled with paganism, born in the “days of mingling” (par. 86),—which placed the badge of inferiority and servility upon woman. Let us give an illustration:
Originally woman had her place in the regular Tabernacle services, either as priestess or Levite. This is now conceded by Bible scholars, as proved by the technical term used in Exodus 38:8 and 1 Samuel 2:22, translated “serving women.” Now this term was altered to “fasting women” by the translators of the Septuagint Greek, and the phrase in 1 Samuel containing the words entirely dropped. To use the words of Prof. Margoliouth of Oxford, “The idea of women in attendance at the Tabernacle is so odious that it has to be got rid of.” The other ancient versions followed suit in purposely mistranslating the word as “prayed,” “thronged,” “assembled” there. Our A. V. renders “assembled,” but the R.V.rightly renders it “served.”
152. After a close line of reasoning, unsuitable for this place, but which we produce in later lessons, Prof. Margoliouth proves this charge which he makes. He concludes, “It is evident that by the time when the Septuagint translation was made, the idea of women ministering at the door of the Tabernacle had become so odious that it was willfully mistranslated. “Wilfully mistranslated” is very strong language to use, since that mistranslation has remained in the versions of the Bible until our Revisers corrected it. We prefer that such a statement should stand in the language of an eminent male scholar, rather than in our own words; therefore we quote him.”
The quote is from “God’s Word to Women 100 Bible Studies On Woman’s Place in The Divine Economy”, at the bottom of page 66 and the top of page 67.
Click to access gods_word_to_women1.pdf
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