Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Three Women, by Moses Soyer, Color Lithograph c1930

And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children.
Exodus 2:5-6

The child is three months old. His mother lays him in an ark of bullrushes to escape the Pharaoh's death sentence. Her older daughter watches from the bank. Pharaoh's daughter walking with her maids finds the child. In compassion she decides to keep him and raise him as her own. The child's sister observing all this offers to find a nursemaid. She brings forth her mother, no doubt brimming with milk. A confederacy of women, a perfect subterfuge.

Once again women play a starring role in a story of defiance. The future of this child—and as it turns out, the whole Hebrew nation—is silently negotiated by a group of women, the two main protagonists strangers to one another, their common bond only motherhood. But what a bond that is, with its qualities of love, compassion and fearlessness!

Women may only make up 8% of the characters in the Biblical narrative, but studying the text for the purpose of this writing project it becomes clear that the unofficial female influence is the framework on which this story is built, the bones to the patriarchal flesh. Without such heroic, anarchic, counter-patriarchal incidents as these there would be no story.

It was Eve who took mankind out of Eden, giving the species free will; it was Sarah and Rebecca, each using her own form of subterfuge, who determined the future patriarchs and the lineage we know today; it was two midwifes who stood up to the genocide of the Hebrew people; and it was three unnamed1 women determining here the survival of all future generations of Israel. The rest is embellishment.

1 Moses' mother and sister are subsequently named in later chapters of Exodus, but Pharaoh's daughter remains one of the unnamed heroines of the Bible.
music Estela, composed and performed by Angélica Negró, 17/12/2020