Like too many of the awesome women in the scriptures, the name of this Old Testament force of nature was never recorded. But that doesn’t make her any less of a role model. Let’s call her Sophia because she is wise. Her story takes place in Second Samuel when David is in the midst of a bloody civil war, trying to regain his throne and reunite the kingdom, by any means necessary. We meet her in the story that I call “Heads Will Roll” (20:15-22).
One of the King’s generals, named Joab, is tasked with chasing down a Benjaminite rebel named Sheba who has turned most of the tribes against David. Sheba hides within a walled city and Joab and his men plan to destroy the city to get their guy. This is where Sophia comes in, who lives in said city and does NOT want to die, does not want her people to die, and frankly not does want her city destroyed. Instead of rolling in the dust moaning “Wo is me!” listen to how she boldly yet diplomatically handles the situation where she is ostensibly doomed:
16 ¶Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you, unto Joab, Come near hither, that I may speak with thee.
17 And when he was come near unto her, the woman said, Art thou Joab? And he answered, I am he. Then she said unto him, Hear the words of thine handmaid. And he answered, I do hear.
At this point you can practically hear her guilt inducing reproach of this man that holds her city’s destiny in his hands:
19 I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel: thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the Lord?
Clearly Joab is caught off guard by her spiritual indictment and starts to back peddle: Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy. Because of her assertive plea, Joab tells Sophia that if Sheba is delivered to the army, they will retreat and leave the city in peace. What does she say in return? Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee over the wall. Then the woman went unto all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it out to Joab. And he blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city, every man to his tent. And Joab returned to Jerusalem unto the king.
I love how Sophia was convinced that she had power to stop her city from becoming another casualty of Israelite war. Her willingness to attempt to negotiate on behalf of her city was a risky move; easily Joab could have beheaded her and her people for her boldness. I find her combination of faith and diplomacy and bravery inspiring. Chances are I will never have to keep the citizens of Boston safe from vengeance seeking generals, but there are many times in my life where the outcome of situations seems foregone and I can either roll over or I can try to change things for the better.
What stops us from being as brave as Sophia? My greatest stumbling block is fear: writer Kate Bartolotta talks about what keeps women from being happy: “We are all insecure 14 year olds at heart. We’re all scared. We all have dreams inside of us that we’ve tucked away because somewhere along the line we tacked on those ideas about who we are that buried that essential brilliant, childlike sense of wonder. The more we stick to these scripts about who we are, the longer we live a fraction of the life we could be living.” Her final advice on fear is echoed by a certain frozen princess: “Let it go!” she writes. Let it go. I dare you. So does Sophia.