Being raised without much of a paternal presence, I frequently wondered at how church services were always presided over by men but populated by women. When I grew up (well, part-way at least) I became interested in feminist interpretations of the patriarchal Bible. The idea that just half of the human population seemed to have all the interpretive privileges simply struck me as unfair. Being a man myself, however, I wasn’t sure where to go with feminist interpretation, or even if I was qualified! This penchant no doubt vexed many an official in my Nashotah House days, but the conviction only grew stronger there.
While preparing class materials on the prophet Amos, I recalled how fond the prophet was of leonine imagery for Yahweh. Amos characterizes Yahweh as roaring, hunting for prey. Curious about lions in Israel, my research revealed that the great felines are extinct in that part of the world. The Barbary lion, extinct in the wild, was the biblical lion. As usual, we kill off what we don’t comprehend.
Further research revealed that lions like to sleep even more than most teenagers. It is not unusual for a lion to sleep 20 hours a day! When they have to wake up, however, they are hungry. And here was the interesting tidbit — when lions hunt it is usually the females that do the work! Once a kill is made, the male struts in and takes the proverbial lion’s share, but the lionesses are the hunters. In the ancient world, before television, ipods, or even mindless Ann Coulter drivel, people were keenly aware of their environment. Ancient writers often made astute observations of nature. Would Amos, the shepherd, have known that it is the lioness who makes the kill? Was Amos the first feminist in the Judeo-Christian tradition?