Feminist Psalmist

Excerpt from Psalm 144:9-15

“May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars, cut for the building of a palace.”

Reflection by Quinn G. Caldwell

The modern reader with modern views about gender and gender roles has much to put up with in the Bible.  Women are either docile or stoned to death.  Men must be manly: warriors or fishermen, masters of their domains and wise in the management of their property – which includes the wives, who better be able to produce a passel of heirs.

Every once in a while, though, the astute reader catches a glimpse, through the patriarchal haze, of a different vision.  Mighty Deborah leads the armies of Israel to victory with Barak by her side.  Tender Zechariah sings to baby John the Baptist.  Joseph lets himself be led by his tender heart instead of the rules of honor.

And this: the Psalmist says that the way we will know God has blessed us is that our sons will be like plants, supple and green and flowering, powerful in their beauty and fecundity.  And our daughters?  No pliant milquetoast girls here.  They will be like the pillars in the corners of a palace: sturdy and trusty, caryatids of grace holding the future on their strong backs, beautiful in their very power.

Of course, there have been men and women like that around for a long time.  They just haven’t been noticed for it; or at least not in a good way.

The blessing was always there; it’s our job to learn to see it.


Oh lord, grant us a gender-bent world where men aspire to be flexible as young plants and women to being strong as stones.  Then make us see it and praise your name.  Amen.

About the Author
Quinn G. Caldwell, a United Church of Christ minister, is the co-author, with Curtis J. Preston, of the Unofficial Handbook of the United Church of Christ, published by The Pilgrim Press.