Any mistake on his part would result in miscarriage of justice. Fortunately, his divine wisdom enabled him to avert bloodshed and more death, and he rendered what was considered a just verdict. The whole nation of Israel agreed that justice was served 1 Kgs The story in 2 Kgs also pertained to a woman and two sons. She was the widow of a man of God who died a debtor.
The creditors were ready to take her sons away as bondmen, so she cried to the prophet Elisha for intervention. Elisha commanded the woman to do something that would produce a miracle. She should borrow as many vessels as she could from all her neighbours, take the only jar of oil she had left, and pour the oil into the vessels one by one. As long as she poured, the oil would continue to flow. At the end of the day, she was able to sell the oil, pay the creditors and have leftovers.
Her two sons were saved. In 2 Kgs 6, we read the pathetic story of a woman who cried out to the king of Israel for intervention. In the middle of the biting famine that plagued Samaria, she agreed with another woman to slaughter and eat both of their sons. They had already eaten the other woman's son and it was her turn to surrender her own son for food.
She could not bear to do it and ran to the king for respite. But the nature of the help she needed is not clear.
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Did she want food from the king or did she want him to place a restraining order against the other woman to prevent her from eating this surviving son? Whatever it was, it is assumed that her son would be saved. Hens-Piazza notes sadly that the narrative does not address or resolve the two women's concern - their starvation, their desperation and the threat to the second child's life. Their story is secondary, a background story that merely serves as a literary prop for the larger story. About the woman who appealed to the king for help, the author argues that, "Her struggle for food and the child's life is dwarfed and rendered insignificant by the magnitude of the national and international struggles for power that surrounds her.
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In a related story in 2 Kgs 8, the woman of Shunem whose son was earlier restored to life by Elisha also cried out to the king-this time, not on behalf of her son but to reclaim her estate which had probably become "crown property" when she went into exile for seven years as a result of the severe famine in Israel.
In all these cases except Rizpah's, it is remarkable that the women approached the king or the prophet to state their case and to demand not only retributive but distributive justice. They could approach the king directly without any intermediary.
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In fact, Israelite women sometimes acted as intermediaries even for men as Bathsheba did for Adonijah before Solomon in 1 Kgs 2. Many commentators have noted the easy access that litigants had to the king during the era of the monarchy. However, it is regrettable that with all the modern claims to development, civil liberty, human rights and human dignity and such high sounding concepts, some African nations continue to deny women access to justice in subtle ways.
For instance, South Africa is trying to build different support systems for victims of rape many of whom continue to remain silent and refuse to seek redress in court for fear of stigma, reprisal attacks or their claims being dismissed as unfounded on the grounds that what took place was consensual interaction or that there is insufficient evidence to convict the perpetrator.
Clearly, if social justice would be a daily reality in Africa, unfettered access to justice that is not intercepted by corrupt officials or by unspoken social codes such as stigmatisation must be institutionalised. Of note on the other hand is the commendable trend that is developing in South Africa in which women and women groups rally round rape victims and victims of domestic violence and abuse in court.
They demonstrate with banners or flyers that decry abuse and violence against women and children, and they support victims during court hearings. Second, the stories all offer a glimpse into the socio-economic conditions of the women who sought justice and of the land of Israel at the time of the incidents.
As a widow, the Woman of Tekoa was concerned that the impending death of her second son implied that her welfare and security would be gone also. Rizpah's sons were hanged to appease the Gibeonites in a bid to make atonement for the land at a time of severe famine. The two harlots who came to Solomon obviously lived on the margin of society-driven to sell their bodies to make ends meet and put food on the table. The widow of the son of the prophet who died a debtor was about to lose her two sons to the creditors.
Her condition of abject poverty was glaring. The horrendous story of the women who ate the little boy was situated in a period of untold famine and desperate hardship. The woman of Shunem had gone into exile for seven years due to severe famine in the land. In the midst of gripping adversity that consumed not only the women as individuals but also the nation, the aforementioned women cried out for justice and for intervention.
The unbearable daily sufferings fuelled by the socio-economic conditions around them forced the women to cry out until they got the attention of the authorities. There appears to be striking parallels between the situations of these women and the conditions of millions of women across Africa today who struggle to keep their children alive because of dire poverty and deprivation. Would the women of Africa dare cry out like these ancient mothers to save their children from hunger, starvation, diseases and impending death? Another issue that comes to the fore in these stories is the notion of power.
Houston argues that the fundamental locus of justice and injustice in the Hebrew Bible is the patron-client relationship that is rooted in a state structure embodied by the king. The client seeks the patron, in this case the state, for justice. According to Grana, because people control justice, it means that justice could be gendered. In essence, unequal social structures would imply that some people will be treated unjustly somehow.
Her two sons were hanged for committing no crime but because they were offspring of an offender. Traces of totalitarianism, patriarchalism, nepotism, corruption and power imbalance often result in injustice and miscarriage of justice in different parts of Africa today. Again, in two of the stories namely of the two harlots and of the two cannibals, women are said to be "at odds with one another over the matter of life.
It is lamentable that in such instances, it is men who sometimes mediate and reconcile the women. Feminist criticism may need to probe this dynamics more closely and the Circle of Concerned African Women theologians in particular could consider addressing such undercurrents which seem to be part of women's realities even today in the effort to move women forward and create a safe space for our daughters in the future.
Lastly, the women in the stories sought justice for their sons. Even the Shunemite woman could have asked for the restoration of her estate partly to enable her leave an inheritance for her only son.
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As Lyke has already noted, women would go to great lengths to save their children. No one cried out for Tamar who was raped by her own brother. As in ancient Israel, the obsession with male offspring is a common trend in many African societies which remain largely patriarchal.
Although decreasing, the tendency to undermine the girl-child is still visible among us. Without a male child, some women have no locus standi in their matrimonial homes. For this reason, they may continue to try for a male child even after having several daughters.
The lack of male offspring is sometimes responsible for breakdown in marriages or in the man having multiple partners in the search for male progeny. Such situations need to be redressed in the interest of fair play and justice. In several of the cases examined above, there is no mention of the boys' fathers.
The reason in some instances is because the women were widows, for example, the Woman of Tekoa, Rizpah, or the widow of the son of the prophet. The woman of Shunem's husband was perhaps already dead because when she had her son more than seven years earlier, he was described as old. One does not need an interpreter to conclude that the harlots were single parents. The cannibal women were probably in a similar space. There is not a single instance in which the fathers came into the picture except as dead men. But the women rose up to the challenge of obtaining justice for their children.
Clearly, the number of female-headed households is on the increase in Africa and in fact across the globe. Yet, these facts are not clearly reflected in policy formulations or revenue allocation. In the absence of fathers and male role models, nothing stops the African woman from solely taking up the cause of her children.
source Most importantly, in some of the cases, a child or more is already dead and the mother seeks life for the living child. Some are killed on the battlefront as child soldiers while others are victims of domestic violence and abuse.