Aunt Jemima – International Women’s Day Synchroblog
Mar 7th, 2009 by Sonja

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Julie Clawson of One Hand Clapping challenged us to find some unsung heroines of the Bible and celebrate their stories today in a synchroblog.  So I pulled up BibleGateway and put “daughter” into their search engine.  I think it came back with about 110 hits … or something like that.

Some daughters just got honorable mention.  That is, they were simply mentioned as so and so’s daughter and that was the end of that.  Others had an actual story attached to their name.  Sometimes the story was fairly mysterious.  As in the case with Caleb’s daughter.  She was married to her cousin, by Caleb’s younger brother because Caleb had promised his daughter to whomever won a particular battle.  His nephew won the battle, so he married off his daughter.  This is not very acceptable by today’s standards, but in that culture we can understand it.  The next couple of verses recount an event that is odd.  Caleb’s daughter went to him and asked for some additional land.  When he gave it to her, she also asked for a couple of springs.  So he gave her those.  And there the story of Caleb’s daughter ends.  With the gift of springs.  It’s mysterious, really.  In there for a reason, but why?

So I moved on and found the story of Job’s daughters:  Jemimah, Keziah and Keren-Happuch.  This story can be found in Job, chapter 42 … the very end of the book.  Job has come through his trials with some version of success:

1 Then Job replied to the LORD :

 2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.

 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’

 5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

 6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

7 After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

This is curious to me, because here we see the result of what happens to friends who might give you (however well-meaning) an incorrect perspective of God during your trials.  Those friends will have to sacrifice in your presence and have you pray over them.  This is an interesting perspective that I’ve not heard taken away from Job … but more on that another time.   I’m just thinking we need to be very careful with what we say to people about God when they are experiencing trials.

In any case, the account goes on tell us what happens to Job in the rest of his life:

 10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

 12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

 16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so he died, old and full of years.

Wait?  What?  Three short sentences.  That is all we have of Job’s daughters.  They were part of a family of 10 siblings.  We don’t know where they fell in the sibling order.  We do know who among the girls was eldest, middle and youngest.  We know they were beautiful.  Most astonishing of all, we know that “… their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.”  That’s it.

It’s a genealogist’s worst nightmare.  We have names and nothing else.  We know only the most bare facts of their existence.  But we know one more thing.  Job gave them status.  He told the world that his daughters were equal to men.  His daughters were not chattel to belong to their husbands.  They owned something of their father in their own right.  I’m not certain I can fully convey how remarkable this was for that time.

It was miraculous.  Unheard of.  Women were not considered capable of owning or managing the things that men did.   But Job did it.

These are the just sorts of passages I do love.  Open-ended, without a tidy message.  We don’t know what happened to Job’s daughters.  We do know that Job lived to see “… his children and their children to the fourth generation.”  I believe that would be his great, great grandchildren if I’ve figured correctly.  My guess is that his daughters married and children of their own.  So how did they use their inheritance?  And … did they pass it on to their daughters?  What was their inheritance?  Was it land, animals, jewels?

I wonder about those things you see.  We have things (land, jewels and the like) that have been only passed to women in my family.  Our summer lake house is among them.  When my aunt left it to our family, she left it to my mom (her relative).  Her will stipulated that if my mother had pre-deceased her, it was to go to me and my brothers.  She was emphatic that it stay in her family.  In the 100 years prior to that, the house had always passed woman to woman.

They are so intriguing to me.  Those daughters.  Jemimah, Keziah and Keren-Happuch.  They are the opposing book-end to Job’s first three daughters.  As I thought about them and let their names rattle around I came to another realization.  I’d heard two of the names before.  Jemimah and Keziah were common names given to girls who were slaves in the American South.

I started looking for confirmation of that.  Of course, I quickly ran into a brick wall … because records of what slaves were named by each other were … um … slim.  Nobody thought it was important to keep track of what they called each other.  Sometimes just the gender and the slaveholders last name is recorded.  Certainly, no inheritance was given to these men and women.  It is intriguing to me that Jemima and Keziah were used as girls names though.

I wonder … could those names have been picked on purpose?  Are they names of hope?  We’ll never know for certain.  But we do know some few things.  We know that some slaves were given Christian training.  Some were even given Bible teaching.  We know that some of the stories resonated with their experience and certainly Job’s would have been among them.  It’s not a terrible stretch to imagine naming your daughter Jemima or Keziah out of hope … hope that one day you would have an inheritance to leave her, hope that she would be known as the daughter of a man who was blessed by God, hope that your trial would be ended in blessing rather than curses.

I think there might be something to that.  None of Job’s other children are named.  Not his first ten children (seven sons, three daughters) and not his second seven sons; just these three daughters.  So, it seems to me that these names spring to the top as names that are symbolic of the hope of a good outcome at the end of horrible trials … the kind of trials endured by slaves in the antebellum South.

Aunt JemimaThus I came to the Aunt Jemima pancake empire.  It was begun in the 1890’s by two men who, having created an instant pancake mix, needed an icon to name it and represent.  One of them ducked into a black-face minstrel show and there heard the following song:

The monkey dressed in soldier clothes,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
Went out in the woods for to drill some crows,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
The jay bird hung on the swinging limb,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
I up with a stone and hit him on the shin,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
Oh, Carline, oh, Carline,
Can’t you dance the bee line,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!

The bullfrog married the tadpole’s sister,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
He smacked his lips and then he kissed her,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
She says if you love me as I love you,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
No knife can cut our love in two,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!
Oh, Carline, oh, Carline,
Can’t you dance the bee line,
Old Aunt Jemima, oh! oh! oh!

Shortly after hearing the name, Nancy Green was hired to represent Aunt Jemima.  She was currently working as a servant for a judge in Chicago, but had been born and raised a slave in antebellum Kentucky.  Aunt Jemima and her pancakes were introduced at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.  It was held from May to November and Nancy smiled, sang, told slave tales, flipped and served almost a million pancakes during that six month period.  In the hundred and ten years since then she has become perhaps the most well-known African American female face in history.

Yet, there is something vaguely disturbing about that.  This name, Jemimah, started out as a name of hope, blessing, inheritance and beauty had become a term interchangeable with disparagement, slavery and bondage and now … commerce.  You never hear Jemimah as a name anymore.  There are no young women with that name … no fathers or mothers hoping to pass on that message of hope, blessing and inheritance to their daughters with that name because it’s lost all of it’s power.

We still hear Keziah.  You might not recognize it.  You’ll hear Keshia or Aisha.  Both of those names have their roots in Keziah.  A name of hope and blessing and inheritance for girls.   That’s just what we need to give our daughters today … a sense of hope and blessing and inheritance.  What sort of inheritance will you give your daughters?


This is my contribution to the International Women’s Day Synchroblog –

Here are links to some others –

Julie Clawson on the God who sees
Steve Hayes on St. Theodora the Iconodule
Sonja Andrews on Aunt Jemima
Sensuous Wife on a single mom in the Bible
Minnowspeaks on celebrating women
Michelle Van Loon on the persistant widow
Lyn Hallewell on the strength of biblical women
Shawna Atteberry on the Daughter of Mary Magdalene
Christine Sine on women who impacted her life
Susan Barnes on Tamar, Ruth, and Mary
Kathy Escobar on standing up for nameless and voiceless women
Ellen Haroutunian on out from under the veil
Liz Dyer on Mary and Martha
Bethany Stedman on Shiphrah and Puah
Dan Brennan on Mary Magdalene
Jessica Schafer on Bathsheba
Eugene Cho on Lydia
Laura sorts through what she knows about women in the Bible
Miz Melly preached on the woman at the well
AJ Schwanz on women’s workteenage girls changing the world
Teresa on the women Paul didn’t hate
Helen on Esther
Happy on Abigail
Mark Baker-Wright on telling stories
Robin M. on Eve
Patrick Oden on Rahab and the spies
Alan Knox is thankful for the women who served God
Lainie Petersen on the unnamed concubine
Mike Clawson on cultural norms in the early church
Krista on serving God
Bob Carlton on Barbie as Icon
Jan Edmiston preached on the unnamed concubine
Deb on her namesake – Deborah
Makeesha on empowering women

Are Women Human? (Celebrating International Women’s Day)
Mar 8th, 2008 by Sonja

Well … it sorta depends.

It depends on who you ask. It depends on the period of history into which you were born.

Then there are a whole category of men who think that women are definitely human, they are just not quite as good as men. Or they are as good as men, but not quite as advanced … sort of overgrown children. Why is this? Oh, because the men are afraid of the women. Now, the men have lots of very elegant reasoning … but the bottom line is … they are afraid. Men frequently establish second class status to things they are frightened of.

Lemme ‘splain that a little bit. I’m no Biblical scholar. However, I play one on television.

Hah … as if. I wonder what a Biblical scholar would look like on television! All sarcasm aside, I’m no Biblical scholar, television or not. However, I’ve studied the question about women’s standing before God from a Biblical standpoint fairly extensively. I’ve read many pertinent books and studies. I’ve read all the pertinent scriptures in the original languages and with all the different interpretations you can imagine. In short, I’ve been there done that. Do I definitively know God’s heart on the issue? No. I do not. But I have what I think is a pretty good idea. Alot of people disagree with me. That’s fine. They’re allowed. I think they will be called to judgement for the damage that their misguided opinions are doing (otherwise known as sin). But that’s between them and God. It’s not my call.

Here’s my theory … if you go all the way back to Genesis 1 you find this:

26Then God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Here we see the very first indication of people … created together. At the same time. Both given dominion over the earth and everything in it. Both given equal stake in creation. Both as equal beings. Two peas in a pod as it were. Yin and yang, male and female. Equal in being, status, everything … all the way down the line.

Things are clarified for us in Genesis 2:

18Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper* fit for him. Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper* fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

*Briefly, the “helper” debate revolves around the idea that a helper must be in a subordinate position. I’m not going to get into a lengthy treatise here except to say that the Hebrew word (ezer – the root from which we get ebenezer, Israel and many other words, btw) which is used has many meanings which do not adequately translate into English. We have used a word which has very limited meaning to us … it might be asked why the translators chose that particular word and not another less loaded word? What cultural/societal needs were met by using this translation rather than another?

As you may or may not remember from Genesis 3 the male tendency would be towards domination. He must work to subdue the earth now … when we chose to be independent of our relationship with God, that was the evil that the male of the species would bring to the earth; dominance.

Here is the definition of dominance from

1. rule; control; authority; ascendancy.
2. the condition of being dominant.
3. the disposition of an individual to assert control in dealing with others.
4. high status in a social group, usually acquired as the result of aggression, that involves the tendency to take priority in access to limited resources, as food, mates, or space.
5. the normal tendency for one side of the brain to be more important than the other in controlling certain functions, as speech and language.

However, if we read the first couple of lines of the “curse” on Adam we find something curiously interesting: “”Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ …” Recall for a moment, Adam’s response to God when questioned about how he knew of his own nakedness: The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Ahhhhh … ha. Adam (and his descendants) have never quite gotten past the idea that it was all Eve’s fault. God is allowing him/them to live in that. “Because you have listened to voice of your wife …”

Now. What is the rest of that sentence? It’s not that she doesn’t have anything good to contribute the relationship. The rest of the sentence is “…. and disobeyed Me.” That’s fairly key to the whole operation. It’s not that Eve is really the terrible person here. Or that all advice from Eve is to be ignored. Or that Eve was less advanced and did not know what she was doing (after all she was also punished), but that Adam willfully and with eyes wide open, upon listening to his wife, chose to disobey His Creator. Listening to his wife wasn’t the bad horrible thing that he was being punished for. He was being punished for disobedience. Ultimately, he, and Eve, were being punished for the same thing that got Lucifer thrown out … pride. Hubris. Not unusual, since Lucifer (Satan, the serpent) was doing the tempting.

Large groups of men (entire civilizations that occupy large portions of our globe) have been operating under the fear that women will lead them astray ever since. Now whether or not this is a story/myth that is descriptive or prescriptive is of little importance to this post.

Now there have been whole civilizations that rose up and were quite successful where the men were not afraid of women. Native American cultures, ancient celtic cultures, African cultures to name a few. But the predominant culture that has consumed the globe is one in which the dominant men were afraid of women. I realize I’m speaking in generalizations and broad brushes. I realize that not *all* men are afraid of *all* women. But, generally speaking this is the case. In terms of our general rules and trends in Western culture which has spread throughout the globe at this point, men are afraid of, and feel the need to dominate women. They must demean them. They must overpower them and keep them in a position of powerlessness.

Here is some history for you. Jesus was the first feminist. Jesus was the first masculinist too, for that matter. Jesus taught that all human beings had worth and value. This was an earth shattering principle at the time. At the time only men had worth and value. Women and children were chattel. Do you know what that word – chattel – means? No, I mean do you *know* in your bones, what it means? I didn’t think so. It means that you have the approximate value of a sick mule. Children even less. Women were worth the labor and potential of the sons they could provide. Children were worth-less until they were of an age to provide labor. I want you to take a moment and imagine the life you might lead if your value were tied to how much work you could do and how many sons you could push out of your belly (especially since you have no control over that … and we now know this is a result of the sperm anyway). What happened to infertile women? Do you begin to understand why adultery was such a big deal? It was important to know who’s son your wife was carrying …

So, unless a woman could work and provide children, she was a liability to her husband. This process began at about age 14 or 15. LightGirl is 14. I shudder when I consider this possibility. Men did not speak to women in public settings. Men carried on their commerce separate from women. There were separate spaces for men and women in the Temple and synagogues. Men and women were separate and unequal. Jesus ignored all of that. I could say he changed it, but he really didn’t. He set a new example by ignoring it. He went about his business and talked to people. Now the people who most commonly listened to him were women … because they had the least to lose. But go into any church today and take a head count … you’ll still see more women than men. Women still understand that Jesus has come to redeem them. Women are far more open to hearing His message of self-sacrifice. Women can speak that message too. Who better than a woman to talk about how lay down your life for someone else? I’m sorry to say, but there are not many men who can speak to that with the same personal experience that the vast majority of women have.

In any case, Jesus ignored the cultural mores of the time and spoke to women. He healed women. He discipled women. He accepted support from women. Women were amongst his band of followers. This was unheard of. There were no other rabbis in the land who had done these things. No other rabbis who spoke to women. Or healed women. Or taught women. Or accepted support from women. Or had women in their band of followers. It’s not that Jesus elevated women above men. It’s that he accepted them as equal to men.

So to answer my own question. Yes, women are human. Yes, we are equal in all ways to men. Men have nothing to fear from us, IF they will choose to follow God’s voice when it’s important rather than ours. But then we also have to be discerning about their voices as well. All of us are responsible to discern the call of God on us from the cacophony of other humans in our lives. Ultimately, that is what we are each called to … a loving dance with the Creator Herself. And anyone who attempts to interfere in that is just asking for trouble.


Read these other outstanding posts by women bloggers on women’s issues:

igniting the ember: emerging women finding their voice by Kathy Escobar
the world handicapped by half by Makeesha Fisher
The Voice by Makeesha Fisher
International Women’s Day by Julie Clawson
I Don’t Have the Balls to Be a Leader by Kingdom Grace
Complementarianism Sucks: Telling Women to be Quiet in the name of Jesus by Pam Hogeweide
International Womens Day by Minnowspeaks

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