Men and Women of the Bible

Fiber art hangings by Edgar G. Boevé, artist and professor of art history emeritus, Calvin College

As we enter the Calvin Theological Seminary Chapel we are reminded of and blessed by the lives of all those who have come before us and tell of God’s wondrous works. The intent of the art works is to interpret the essential character of each person by texture, color, and design through diverse fabrics gathered from around the world.

The art pieces may be viewed weekdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m. During the academic school year please join the Seminary community in worship on Wednesdays & Fridays at 10 a.m.


The Scarlet Thread, The Golden Cord

6″x20″ inches, thirteen fiber art hangings
The scarlet thread continues through the generations of mothers in the royal line of David. The golden cord connects the women essential to saving the nation of Israel. The artist’s statement and the scripture references for the individual pieces:


Eve
Mother of all living

After eating of the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees” (Gen 3:8). The green background of growth in the paradise of plants and animals form the context of the great womb bursting from pain in childbirth. The entrance of sin in the world is depicted by the serpent of temptation and the bite taken in the apple. The leaves transformed from green to yellow convey death that changed Adam and Eve’s relationship with God and that of their descendants.

Both the scarlet thread and the golden cord proceed from the womb as the story of humankind unfolds.


Sarai (Sarah)
Princess

God came to Abram instructing him to leave Ur (Mesopotamia). This is the beginning of monotheism and the creation of a Jewish people.

Sarai and Abram were nomads living in tents. This is a symbol of a spiritual abode- the tent or shelter made for us by God. Sarai and Abram traveled from distant Ur of the Chaldeans in the East, en route to Haran and finally to the land of Canaan. Accompanying them is their vast retinue and flocks. In search of food during a famine they seek refuge in Egypt where Abram surrenders Sarai to the Pharaoh. Here her beauty is depicted as a papyrus blossom. However, Sarai and Abram are freed from the bondage (prefiguring Israel’s later Exodus) and they return to the Promised Land to fulfill God’s promise and original plan that now Abraham and Sarah would become a great nation and Sarah “shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (Genesis 17:16) The “cosmic” burst of beads is meant to convey the nations that proceed from these central figures. The murex purple background is the true royal color for the mother of a new nation. The Scarlet Thread continues to the next generation.


Rebekah

Abraham sent his servant to Mesopotamia to seek a wife for his forty-year-old son, Isaac. An angel appears twice in this search. The servant met Rebekah who came to water her flocks and he knew she was the chosen one when she gave him a drink as well as drawing water for his camels. The servant gave Rebekah a nose ring and two bracelets whereupon he learned that she was the daughter of Abraham’s nephew and therefore God’s chosen wife for Isaac.

After twenty years of marriage Rebekah bore twins. Esau, the firstborn, was born “red and hairy.” Jacob was the quiet son who by deception gained the birthright (Genesis 27:6-29). Rebekah during her pregnancy had been told by God, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger!” Two great bursts of energy erupt as these two forces continue to be in conflict even to our time. The Scarlet Thread proceeds from Rebekah and Isaac to Jacob and Leah.


Leah

Although Jacob was deceived into marrying Leah, she nevertheless bears him six sons who become not only six of the twelve tribes, but her son Judah becomes a link in the royal line leading to King David. It’s Jacob who is named “Israel” by God (Genesis 35:10) and from this union that a great nation is established. Six roots, and a family tree is established with Leah. She, as a mother, is the jeweled flower bearing Reuben, Simeon, Levi (priests), Judah (jewel at the top), Issachar, and Zebulun. (They also had a daughter, Dinah.)

Leah and Rachel are praised as the women “who together built up the house of Israel.” (Ruth 4:11) The Scarlet Thread continues.


Rachel

Jacob went to Paddan-aram in a search for a wife. Near Haran he had a dream in which God promised him and his descendants this land, the place he called Bethel. He proceeded to the east and came upon a well covered with a large stone. When Rachel arrived at the well at “high day” it was not a time to water her sheep. Jacob, nevertheless, rolled the stone away and watered her sheep. Jacob was so consumed by love for Rachel that he “kissed [her], and wept.” This is the only time the Bible records a kiss between a man in love and the woman he loves. Rachel, he discovers, is his uncle Laban’s daughter. Jacob agrees to work seven years for Laban to be able to marry Rachel. However, Laban deceives Jacob and secretly marries his older daughter Leah to Jacob. Then Jacob agrees to labor another seven years for Rachel.

The older son of Rachel and Jacob is Joseph. He was greatly envied by his stepbrothers when given a coat of many colors. The brothers sold him to a passing group of Egyptians and they carried him to Egypt where he becomes second only to the great Pharaoh. When a famine strikes Canaan his father and brothers find a refuge in Egypt where they prosper and continue to increase.

It is through the intervention of Rachel’s son Joseph that Israel is saved and the Golden Cord continues.


Tamar

Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah. She was married to the two oldest sons of Judah, both of whom were destroyed by God for sinfulness. According to Jewish law she should be married to the next brother but he was still a child. When the child, Shelah, grew up, Judah neglected and did not fulfill his duty.

When Tamar heard that Judah, now a widower, had gone to sheer his sheep, she removed her widow’s robes and put on a harlot’s veil concealing her identity as was the harlot’s custom when seeking sexual intercourse. Tamar sat at the city gate and when Judah saw her he propositioned her. She demanded his signet and staff as security for his promised payment.

Three months later Tamar was discovered pregnant; Judah demanded that she be burned. However, Tamar produced his signet and staff proving that he was the father. Then Judah acknowledged, “.she is more righteous that I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” (Genesis 38:26) Tamar bore twins, one of whom, Perez, became an ancestor of King David. The Scarlet Thread continues.


Miriam

Miriam is the sister of Moses and the one who protected him when his mother placed him in a basket in the Nile (the Nile curves at the top). She ultimately saves him when he was discovered and claimed by the Pharaoh’s daughter by offering to take him to a wet nurse. When given permission to do so she takes him to his mother.

Later, when the Israelites were leaving Egypt, she becomes a leader as the first woman with the title of Prophet. With Moses and Aaron (their brother), Miriam is given equal status leading the Israelites through the Red Sea to freedom from bondage in Egypt.

As the Israelites arrive in safety she leads them in a great seven-day celebration of song and dance. This is the first Psalm recorded in scripture (Exodus 15:19-21). The Golden Cord swirls in dance and song as Israel celebrates its salvation.


Rahab

Rahab lived in Jericho, a city seventeen miles northeast of Jerusalem. She was a Canaanite who lived as a prostitute in a house on the city wall.

When the Israelites arrived at the Promised Land, Moses’ assistant Joshua was in charge. He sent two spies to “view the land, especially Jericho.” (Joshua 2:1) When the king of Jericho came searching for them, Rahab hid them in her house. As a reward Rahab insisted that she and her household be saved when Israel conquered the land. The spies escaped down a rope through the window of her house. The scarlet cord became the secret sign to save Rahab and her family.

When the walls of Jericho fell after the Israelites had marched around the city seven days according to God’s command, Rahab and her family were spared. Rahab married Salmon and their son was Boaz, the great-grandfather of King David. The Scarlet Thread continues.


Deborah

Deborah was Israel’s only woman Judge and she became a war leader in the battle against Jabin, king of the Canaanites. Her story is told twice in the Book of Judges, both in prose and in the Song of Deborah.

Deborah sat under a palm tree, the symbol of victory, where she resolved disputes and adjudicated law cases. When she saw how Jabin oppressed the people she summoned Barak, a general in the army. She instructed him to gather an army of 10,000 men to defeat Jabin. The enemy was led by Sisera with a force of 900 iron chariots.

When Barak became fearful at meeting this enemy, Deborah took over. She knew that God was with them, and using military astuteness she lured Sisera with his chariots into the Kishon Wadi, a dry river bed. Torrential rains came, causing the enemy to wallow in the mud and making their chariots ineffectual. The Israelis with only their swords defeated the forces of Sisera. He escaped the river’s torrent and found rest in the tent of Jael, another woman. While he was sleeping Jael drove a tent peg through his temple, killing him. Judges 5 records the Song of Deborah as she receives credit for the victory, and peace reigned for forty years. The Golden Cord continues.


Ruth

Ruth was a Moabitess married to Mahlon, son of Elimelech and Naomi. When ten years after their father’s death both Mahlon and his brother died, Naomi decided to return to her homeland, Judah. Ruth insisted on going with her mother-in-law and speaks the memorable lines, “For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die.” (Ruth 1:16,17)

Upon arrival in the land of Judah, to the city of Bethlehem, Naomi sent Ruth to glean in the fields of her wealthy relative, Boaz. Immediately Boaz was smitten by her beauty when he saw her as he was inspecting his fields during the harvest. He gave Ruth every courtesy and respect for her faithfulness to his relative, Naomi.

Boaz negotiated to buy land belonging to Elimelech, whereupon he would also marry its heir Ruth. Upon their marriage Ruth bore a son, Obed, who was the father of Jesse, the father of King David. The Scarlet Thread continues.


Hannah

To Hannah childbearing was absolutely essential. She was the first of two wives to Elkanah. His other wife, Peninnah, bore many children and never ceased to taunt Hannah for being childless. Even though her husband loved her best, Hannah wept and would not eat. She went to the temple and in her prayer to the “Lord of hosts” said that if she were to bear a son she would dedicate him to the Lord “all the days of his life.” (I Samuel 1:11) Hannah prayed so fervently that Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk. Eli scolded her for her passionate behavior. However, when Hannah shared with Eli her distress, he blessed her and asked the “God of Israel” to grant her petition.

The hands in prayer are in the position of an orant, the posture of prayers lifted up by ancient people. As these “prayers” vibrate upward the golden cord and jeweled pendant descend, the sign of God’s granting Hannah’s wish for a son.

Hannah’s son was Samuel and in response to this gift she sings a glorious song (I Samuel 2:1-10). Samuel is called by God to be a prophet and he leads Israel throughout his life. In his old age, he is asked by the leaders of the Israelites to appoint a king to govern them. It is Samuel who anoints Israel’s first king. The Golden Cord continues.


Bathsheba

Biblical cleansing is ceremonial. The bath of Bathsheba would occur as ritual bathing after her menstruation and as a sponge bath before her next fertile period. When King David spies on her from the palace a potent message is sent and received. King David’s summons comes and she acquiesces as one could only do to royalty. Bathsheba, however, is married to Uriah, a soldier under the command of the king. The infidelity of King David and Bathsheba is caught by her pregnancy. The king sends Uriah to the front of the battle where he is killed. Upon the marriage of King David and widow Bathsheba, the child of this illicit union dies; however, their second child is Solomon, the legendary king of Israel. The Scarlet Thread continues.


Esther
Hadassah and Persian for “Star”

Esther was born in Susa, the royal city of the vast empire of Persia. When her parents died, she was a small child and her cousin Mordecai became her guardian. Esther and Mordecai were members of a Jewish community that had been deported from Canaan and held captive from about 600 B.C.

When King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) banished his queen, Vashti, he ordered his servants to gather the most beautiful young virgins of the land to his harem. The beautiful Esther was among those prepared over a period of time to be ready to be received by the king. Mordecai warned her not to reveal her Jewish identity. Esther not only found favor with the king, he made her his queen.

Meanwhile, Mordecai was instrumental in saving the king from assassination.

Haman, the king’s minister, was advanced to such a high rank in the court that by royal decree all people were commanded to bow down to him. However, Mordecai, the Jew, refused to do so, based on the premise that one bows to God alone. In revenge Haman sought to destroy all the Jews throughout the whole kingdom. When Mordecai informed Esther of this edict, she realized this as a threat against her as well. She then defied the law which forbade her to approach the king without his bidding. The king was so pleased to see her that he offered to fulfill her requests “even to the half of my kingdom.” Esther invited the king and Haman to dinner. The first dinner was prelude to a second one held the next night at which time she responded to the king’s offer with the request that she and her people be saved from annihilation. When the king was informed of this horrible plan he demanded to know the perpetrator. Esther identified the culprit, “this wicked Haman,” the other guest at this royal dinner, whereupon the king ordered Haman to the gallows Haman had prepared for Mordecai. The Jews were not only saved but were allowed to destroy all who opposed them throughout the kingdom. Haman and also his sons were hanged on the gallows and their estates were awarded to Esther. Mordecai was elevated to the position next to the king and the days of Purim were established to celebrate the Jews’ deliverance. Mordecai’s directive to Esther, “Who can say but that God has brought you into the palace for just such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) was accomplished. The Golden Cord remained intact.


A Great Cloud of Witnesses

17″x24″ inches, fifteen fiber art hangings

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1) The artist’s statement and the scripture references for the individual pieces:


Adam
Of the ground

Genesis 1:26-3:19

Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan, the serpent, to eat of the fruit of that tree and God condemned them to be banished from Paradise: “by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19)


Noah
To rest

Genesis 6-9

Genesis 6:5-8 The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created – people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.

The flood is seen from God’s heavenly view with his eye on the ark in the vortex. The five moons, 150 days, denote the five months before the “water had gone down.” (Genesis 8:3)


Abraham
Father of a multitude

Genesis 12-23

Genesis 12:2,3“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 14:22 I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High.

Genesis 17:3-8 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”

After the birth of Isaac, Abraham showed his unquestioning obedience to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, on an altar of fire. The angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and commanded him to stop, as a ram had been provided to be sacrificed in his son’s place.

Genesis 22:16-19 The angel of the Lord . said, “I swear by myself,” declares the Lord, “that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sands on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”


Joseph
May He (the Lord) add

Genesis 37-50

Genesis 37:3-8 Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Jacob sent Joseph to observe his other sons who were tending their flocks far off in Dothan. Joseph’s brothers saw him coming and plotted to kill him but Reuben interceded. However, Joseph was sold by his other brothers into slavery where he was finally sold to one of Pharaoh’s officials. Eventually, Joseph, through his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams which predicted a famine, was given charge of Pharaoh’s place and all the people were to submit to his orders (Genesis 41:40). “God made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household.” (Genesis 45:8)

During the famine when he heard there was grain available in Egypt, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain. None of them knew that Joseph, as Pharaoh’s viceroy, was the one responsible for storing grain from previous years of record harvests. When his brothers arrived Joseph recognized them and supplied them with grain but through several intrigues he compelled them to bring his younger brother Benjamin, their father Jacob, and all their households to live in Goshen, the richest area of Egypt. So Joseph saved his own family because God had made him “lord of all Egypt.” (Genesis 45:9)


Moses
Child or son

Exodus 1-2, Numbers 13-14

Pharaoh, threatened by the expansion of the Israelites, and fearing that they would outnumber and overpower his own people, ordered that all male children born to the Hebrews be drowned in the Nile. Moses was placed in a woven basket and hidden in the reeds of the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter discovered him and raised him as her son, naming him Moses: “I drew him out of the water.” (Exodus 2:10)

Moses was raised in the most educated, lavish court of the age until he was a grown man. Upon seeing an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian and fled Egypt to live in Midian where he spent forty years tending the flocks of his father-in-law, a priest of Midian. God appeared to him in a burning bush that was not consumed. After a long conversation, God said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘the Lord, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” (Exodus 3:15)

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Exodus 3:14) Thus Moses, although fearful, fulfilled God’s command to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land, Canaan.

The second significant time God appeared to Moses was on Mt. Sinai as a great voice from heaven in thunder and lightning, and gave to him the Ten Commandments. God gave Moses this message to convey to people: “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” (Exodus 19:5) God promised to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land.


Samuel
The name of God

I Samuel 1-25

Samuel, from his earliest years, was singled out by God. His mother, Hannah, promised God that if he gave her a son she would dedicate him to God as soon as he could leave her. Samuel was sent as a child to live in the temple with Eli, the priest. Daily he became part of the religious ritual of the temple and of the life of Israel as a nation. God called him one night at three different times. Each time Samuel answered “Here I am; you called me.” Each time he went to Eli, the priest. After the third time Eli told Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” This encounter with God established Samuel as the spokesperson to Israel.

Samuel’s task was to make the transition from the time in which Israel was led by a spiritual authority to that of a monarchy. When the Israelites demanded a king, God sent Samuel as his Prophet to anoint Saul as the first ruler. Later he was sent to anoint David as king. As Prophet he brought God’s revelations to his people. As Judge of Israel he adjudicated the laws, and as Priest he led the nation in repentance and intercession that restored their relationship with God.


David
Beloved

I Samuel 16-24; 1 Kings 1&2

Samuel singled out David from his seven brothers as God’s choice to succeed King Saul. Even though David was still a shepherd boy, the Lord commanded Samuel to anoint David as the future king. David would be anointed two more times: first as king of Judah and again as king of all Israel.

David’s bravery was shown early in his life when he killed the monster, Goliath, a threat to all Israel, with his sling and a smooth river stone. Before and after his ascendancy to the throne of Israel he was a successful warrior. Because he had shed so much blood, God would not allow him to build the temple.

However, for all his physical prowess and bravery, David was also a musician (he calmed moody King Saul by playing his harp) and a great poet. Many of the psalms in the Book of Psalms are credited to David. They eloquently express praise and glory to God as well as contrition for his sins. Scripture refers to David as “a man after [God's] own heart.”


Solomon
Peaceable

I Kings 2-11

Solomon was the third king of Israel and son of David and Bathsheba. He is still known throughout the world for his great wisdom and for his vast wealth.

God offered Solomon “whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon chose wisdom and was known for this in the then known world. However, the only example scripture gives us is the event in which two prostitutes come to him with a dispute over a baby they both claim as theirs (I Kings 3:16-28). This memorable case is solved when Solomon proposes that he cut the living child in half. The true mother offered the other woman the child rather than let him be killed. Solomon then awarded the child to the true mother. “When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.” (I Kings 3:28)

Because of the wars waged by David he was not allowed to build the temple, but the Lord gave Solomon a time of peace and the temple was built. Chapters 5 and 6 of I Kings describe the construction of this magnificent, lavishly appointed structure. The ark of the covenant was brought from Zion, the city of David, in a great ceremonial procession. It was placed in the inner sanctuary, the Most High Place. It took seven years to build this spectacular structure.

However, Solomon spent eleven years building his grand palace with its lavish adornments. Further accounts record his spectacular reign over Israel for a period of forty years.


Job

Job 1-42

Job 1:1-3 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters… He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

The blameless and upright paragon of virtue was severely tried when Satan tested his faithfulness to God and destroyed all his children, possessions and afflicted him with painful sores from head to feet. His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job reprimanded his wife and did not sin against God.

The first comforters to arrive were three friends who found Job in despair on an ash heap. They spent one week in silence. Then Job broke the silence with his anguished “Why?” A dialogue over many days brought no comfort or help from these friends. Then a fourth comforter arrived, young and full of the “spirit of God” speaking wisdom in the face of Job’s despair. He points out God’s great majesty in the most eloquent words. Then the Lord answers Job “out of the storm.” A cosmic discourse ensues from God as he points to all his work in the universe.

Job’s final response is “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5) “…the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10) “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” (Job 42:12) In addition to the restoration of his flocks, Job had seven sons and three daughters who were more beautiful than any in the lands.


Elijah
Yahweh is my God

I Kings 17-19

God chose his prophet Elijah to be his unique witness against King Ahab and Queen Jezebel with their four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. Elijah challenged Ahab and his prophets of Baal to sacrifice a bull offering on their altar to his sacrifice on the altar of God. Endless shouting, dancing and self-immolation produced no response from Baal on his altar. However, after Elijah prayed to God, God sent a consuming fire to the sacrifice on his altar. Then the prophets of Baal were destroyed.

Elijah also sought God to bring rain after a long drought. And rain came, flooding the dry land.

Elijah’s life on earth ended…when “suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them [Elisha], and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” (II Kings 2:11)


Gideon
Hewer

Judges 6-8

As a punishment to the Israelites for their sins, the Lord allowed the Midianites to oppress them. Their crops and livestock were destroyed as the enemy ravaged the land. In response the Lord sent a prophet to remind them of his faithfulness from generations ago, and Israel was released from Egyptian oppression.

Then the angel of the Lord came to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” With many assurances from the Lord, Gideon led a force of thirty-two thousand men to defeat the Midianites. However, the Lord instructed him to reduce the force to three hundred men who would defeat the enemy. During the night those men were divided into three companies. They were “armed” with trumpets, empty jars, and torches. The Lord commanded them to surround the camp of the Midianites and upon a signal to blow their trumpets, break their jars and lift their torches as they shouted “For the Lord and for Gideon.” With that shock the Midianites, in total chaos, began to stab each other and flee the camp, thus giving victory to Gideon and his small group of unarmed men. In pursuit of the enemy, the army of Israel under Gideon’s orders succeeded in annihilating the vast army of the Midianites.


Samson
Little son

Judges 13-16

An angel of the Lord appeared to the barren wife of Manoah to announce to her that she would bear a son. She was instructed not to drink any fermented beverage, not to eat anything unclean and never to cut the child’s hair because he was to be a Nazirite (one consecrated to God). That child, Samson, God would use to defeat the Philistines who had oppressed Israel for forty years.

Samson was noted for his phenomenal feats of strength. However, in the end he was captured by the Philistines who cut his hair and cut out his eyes. This reduced Samson’s strength and made him a prisoner. During his imprisonment his hair grew back and his strength was renewed. To taunt their prisoner, the Philistines brought him to their temple where they were celebrating his capture and making sacrifices to their god, Dagon. Three thousand celebrants were on the roof watching Samson perform. He asked to be placed between the two supporting pillars. Then Samson prayed to God for strength and revenge. With that prayer he pushed with all his might and the temple came crashing down, killing Samson and thousands of the Philistines. Samson had led Israel twenty years as judge.


Jonah
A dove

Jonah 1-4

The story of Jonah is one of the most incredulous in Biblical history. To be ingested by a great fish for three days and nights and then regurgitated onto dry land is a story of astounding faith but also of great significance.

Jonah’s task was to preach to Ninevah, a city of great wickedness. However, Jonah fled the Lord and boarded a ship for distant Tarshish. During a violent storm the sailors threw the cargo overboard, cried to their gods and asked who was responsible for this calamity. It was decided it was Jonah’s fault. He instructed them to throw him into the sea and his God would calm the waters. Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and while lodged inside, prayed to God and vowed to “make good”; then he was regurgitated on “dry land.”

This time Jonah obeys the Lord’s command to preach repentance from their wicked ways to Ninevah. The citizens of the city heard Jonah and became believers. Even the king and his nobles gave up their “evil ways.”


Isaiah
The Lord has saved

Isaiah 1-66

Isaiah’s defining moment occurred during a vision in which the Lord appeared in all his glory, seated on a throne, high and exalted in the temple. Several seraphs surrounded him. One of the seraphs took a live coal, placed it on Isaiah’s lips and said “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:7) When the Lord asked for someone to witness for him, Isaiah said, “Here am I. Send me!”

In Isaiah’s sixty years as the Lord’s prophet to Israel he preached forcefully of God’s judgment of the nations surrounding Israel but especially to Judah and Jerusalem. Certain themes were especially significant. Light ‘shines’ throughout the sixty-six chapters. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2) “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them….” (Isaiah 42:16) I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6) “Arise, shine, for your light has come, . the glory of the Lord rises upon you . and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3) “Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light…” (Isaiah 60:20).

Water for growth and nourishment ‘flows’ through the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 12:3, 30:23, 32:2, 33:21, 35:6, 41:18, 43:2, 44:3, 48:21). Of the many references, Isaiah 55 is an invitation to the thirsty, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!”

Central to the design and throughout the fabric hanging is Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah: “a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1) “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria … and from the islands of the sea.” (Isaiah 11:10,11) “In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit.” (Isaiah 27:6) One of the most beautiful references is Chapter 53: “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.”

The Song of the Vineyard in Chapter 5 carries throughout Isaiah’s discourse. “The vineyard of the Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight.” (vs. 7) “Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually, I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it.” (Isaiah 27:2,3)

The reference to the light, water, branches and the fruit of the vineyard become the very symbols of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament.


Daniel
God is my Judge

Daniel 1-12

Daniel was a Jew who became a governor in Babylon during Israel’s long exile. His experience in the den of lions, where the Lord saved him from perishing, is his most famous story. However, Daniel as a visionary and interpreter of dreams is his defining character. It is this ability that gave Daniel a place of honor in the kingdom.

No magicians, enchanters, sorcerers or astrologers could interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great statue made of gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay that was destroyed by a great stone. God revealed its meaning to Daniel in a dream. Daniel was elevated to a high position in the court.

Another dream of the king concerned an enormous tree subsequently destroyed. Again Daniel interpreted the dream of the king. The tree was the king himself who would be destroyed.

Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar became king. During a great banquet a hand was seen writing on the wall, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin.” Again Daniel interpreted the words which meant the end of the king’s reign and the destruction of the kingdom.

Daniel had a series of dreams concerning a lion with eagle’s wings and four heads, a monster with a mouth that spoke. Then appeared “one like the son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Daniel 7:13) These visions had to do with the kingdoms that would rule but each would be destroyed until the coming of Christ.

Daniel had a vision of a ram and a goat with abnormal horns. Again these figures represented the nations of Media, Persia and Greece and predicted their rule and demise. The mystery of Daniel’s vision concerning seventy “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens” was revealed to him by God to be about the restoration of Jerusalem.

Daniel’s vision by the River Tigris concerned a man dressed in linen, with a gold belt and radiant face. In a great voice, the man proclaimed the turmoils to come between the kings of the “North and the South.”

As the party to great revelations from God, Daniel was blessed to the end of his days.