Happenings

We can only come to peace if we had met God: Servant Bilhah

Sep 2006    

In this series we shall focus on a category of (generally) nameless and overlooked characters in the Old Testament – the servants. In the social and economic structures of the day, households were large establishments, comprising the family, together with the extended family of siblings, relatives, concubines, children and a host of servants. Throughout the narrative of the Old Testament, we read of servants doing their master’s (or mistress’) bidding and were thus as much instruments of God’s divine plan, though in less obvious ways. What were their perceptions of Yahweh and His human agents? How does God’s Story look like from their eyes? We shall imagine these things in this work of fiction.

I SHOULD be glad that I’ve got sons rather than daughters. Two of them in fact, Dan and Naphtali. Though I think I would like to have had daughters, they’re sweeter and gentler, even if they will soon leave you for their husband’s households. But then, if I didn’t have boys, the mistress would hear no end of it from Madam Leah, and then I would hear no end of it from her.

This competition between the mistress and Madam Leah … how long will it go on? There are enough boys for a tribe by now, how many … 11 of them. Surely they should be satisfied?

It was my duty to lie with the master, even though it was not what I had thought I would ever have to do. Not in this household, since they worship a different God. Well, he’s my God now, but he is different from the gods of my family. So because of this difference my mother had always told me that this was a good household to work for, since she became a servant for the mistress.

Now it’s my turn. Yes, it has been a good household to work in. No beatings, adequate food, and now, with two sons … status.

Yes, this is what I have which my mother didn’t have; I have a status now as mother of my master’s sons. Not the same status as my mistress, but frankly, I wouldn’t want to be her; she is one jealous woman.

I’ve tried to tell her several times, that she should be kinder to her sister, and not take things so personally with Madam Leah. But it’s too deep, I think, probably goes back to a deprived childhood. So, yes, I’m quite happy with where I am, mother of two of my master’s sons.

Status is a good thing, though for a moment out there I almost thought that we were going to be sold again. That loud bearded man, obviously a man of the earth. The mistress said that he was our Master’s brother … but why was the Master afraid of him? Why go through all that charade of breaking up into our families and bowing to him, like we were his servants … I think what really gets to me is how the master has changed since that night. Let me tell you what happened, it was only a couple of nights ago.

A CHANGED PERSON

‘The next morning, the Master … was a changed person. He looked like one who had come to peace with himself, and accepted himself for who he was. I believe we can only reach that stage if we have met God, personally and profoundly.’

We have been on this journey to our Master’s land for some weeks now, going at the pace of a camp with young children. The Master led the way, deciding where and when to stop. We must have been near our destination, because the Master sent messengers on ahead, and they returned with a message from his brother. But that seemed to have deeply unsettled the Master; even the mistress could not seem to touch him. We went through the day, and prepared the meals and cared for the children; but the Master, he was withdrawn, restless.

Then the next night, night mind you, as if he were afraid and had to move under cover of darkness; he woke us up and wanted us to take the children across the river. Maybe no one could see us, but I’m sure they could hear us clearly! The older children were excited, the younger ones fretful, we were trying to pacify them.

We found a sheltering place across the river, and the Master built a fire.

I tried to settle the little ones, took a while since that Asher was wide awake and wanted to play. Anyway, I finally helped Zilpah settle him; and then, as I was so tired, I tried to sleep myself. But I heard them, my Master and someone else. It was strange; because they weren’t talking, but they were like, grunting. There was movement. I don’t really know what was going on, it sounded like fighting. I fell asleep.

The next morning, the Master was changed. Physically, he had a limp. So, I think I was right and there must have been fighting. But more than that, he was a changed person. He looked like one who had come to peace with himself, and accepted himself for who he was.

I believe we can only reach that stage if we have met God, personally and profoundly.

Now where did I pack Dan’s ochre tunic … I thought I put it here … ah there it is. He would get upset if he can’t wear it for the feast tonight. – Genesis 30 – 35.

Kwa Kiem Kiok, a member of Trinity Methodist Church, is on sabbatical at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, the United States.

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