One of my favorite country songs of all time–and admittedly there are many that I enjoy, especially from the late 1980s and early 1990s and even beyond–is the Diamond Rio song “Meet In The Middle.” For those of us who have struggled as much as I have with coming to terms with other people , the song’s promise of mutual concern and desire for strong communication and the gains that result from being able to get along with others and not be so intransigent that we destroy our own happiness by making it impossible for others to want to be around us is a promise we want in our own lives. While obtaining that particular boon in our lives is something that is far beyond the scope of all but the most ambitious of writings, it is worth keeping in mind that when we deal with other people and their lives that other people simply see things differently than we do. Often, we can gain a great deal from listening and paying heed to what others have to say, and we can all gain a lot by valuing other people for who they are, even if–especially if–they happen to be different from us.
As someone who has read far more than my fair share of books written by women, for women, and about women, I have seen quite a few patterns when it comes to such works. Now, in this particular investigation I am writing for women (and men) and about women, although I obviously do so from the perspective of a sympathetic man. As a man I have a bit of an advantage when it comes to mansplaining the importance of women in the Bible, and that is that I am used to having women as an audience, and that many women are quite happy to read about or hear about what a man thinks about women or has read or researched about women. The reverse is generally not true–when women write about their own experiences and their own lives, they tend to assume that they are writing mainly if not only for other women, and this tends to make their writing alien and often more than a little bit hostile to those men who happen to read it and bristle at the assumption that no man would be interested in reading what a woman has to say.
By and large, I think this investigation will be mostly of interest to women themselves. Yet this does not necessarily have to be the case. If we look at questions of the importance of maternal lines in history, we will see that there have been places and times where men took a great deal of interest in the purity of the maternal line, and not only in ancient Israel. I grew up in the rural South, and at least one of my friends would joke about the background of his wife, saying that there had been some sort of “tar baby” incident in that family. I am not sure his wife was as amused at the joking at her own expense or at her family’s expense, as this is a part of the country where there is a great deal of hostility to certain kinds of jokes. It is all too well known that the South was full of families where plantation owners (including Thomas Jefferson) had mulatto children who became slaves like their mothers while also bearing children with white women who became their heirs, with but few exceptions. When we look at the differential treatment of the children of famous men in patriarchal societies, it is the status of their mothers that makes the difference. Even in those bastions of male privilege, women are of great value in ensuring the well-being of a family line, for where women are not well regarded, the children will not be well-regarded either.
This might seem like an unusual conclusion to draw. It is fairly common for people to fall into one of either two ditches when it comes to dealing with the history of women, whether biblical history or otherwise. Either such history is to be ignored because it is not particularly interesting to those who are writing accounts, or such history is to be explored for selfish gain or to club men (or God) over the head with accusations of unfairness and injustice. I happen to find such history very interesting, but neither do I find in it any reason to club God. God created men and women as complementary, but as peers. There is a great deal of tension in the gap between the way things are and the way things ought to be, and women as well as men show themselves in life as well as in scripture as falling short of the divine standard. Yet just as men are created in the image and likeness of God, so are women, and just as men were placed in dominion over the earth, so are women. Men and women stand and fall together–either we can all help each other and encourage each other towards God’s kingdom, or we can be stumbling blocks along the way. The choice is ours. May we choose wisely.
 See, for example: