We are going to talk about the role of women and the building of the Mishkan. We learn that in Exo 35.22-29 that they were involved in giving materials to help build the Mishkan. In Exo 38.8 we find that bronze mirrors were used in building the laver, and these “mirrors” came from “the women who served at the doorway of the Tent of Meeting (Ohel Moed). So, women served at the entrance to the Ohel Moed, which would be the Heichal or “Holy Place” of the Mishkan, and later the Temple. We learn very quickly that women contributed greatly to the Mishkan. There are women at Shiloh right now working on the coming Temple, and for example, they are making the Parochet (veils) for that Temple. We have a reference in Judges 11.29-40 about the concept of women “serving” at the Mishkan.
There was a man named Jephthah and he had a daughter. He was a powerful warrior and the son of a harlot. That Ammonites are attacking and he makes a vow that if he returned from the battle in peace, whatever comes out of the doors of his house will be the Lord’s or (the “vav” in Hebrew can mean “also”) or will be offered to the Lord as an Olah (v 31), which is a totally burnt offering.
Jephthah won the battle, and his daughter came out to meet him, and she was his only child (v 34). He is very grieved and upset (v 35) and he cannot take back his vow after he told her. She has two months to mourn her virginity because the line ended with her (v 37-39). So, the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate her four times a year.
Now, some have taught that he offered her up as a burnt offering (an Olah) but that is not the case. Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p 568, says that you can translate the Hebrew letter “vav” in that verse as “or” not “and” which really changes the meaning of the verse. Jephthah cannot offer his daughter to the Lord as an Olah anyway because you cannot offer anything that is not permitted. Sacrificing children was not allowed (Lev 20.2-3) and besides that, there was no precedent to do so. No father by his own authority could put an offending child to death, much less an innocent one. There seems to be a class of women who devoted themselves to the Temple and the Avodah (service-1 Sam 1.22, 2.22; Exo 38.8; Luke 2.37). The word “commemorate” in v 40 is “l’tanot” in Hebrew and it means “to celebrate.” His grief is due to not having any descendants.
So, we know women contributed and worked on the priestly garments, the parochet (veils), fasted, prayed and di other things for the Mishkan and the Temple. They made medicinal oils for the priests who had stomach problems and other ailments. Remember, they ate a lot of meat, they went barefoot at all times and were subjected to all kinds of weather. Levite women assisted in the Temple music, practicing with young Levite children to have their voices trained.
Now, in Judges 21 we see a problem developing. In Judges 20, men from Benjamin mistreat and kill a woman. Her husband is so upset that he cuts up her body and sends it to the other tribes and tells the story of what these men from Benjamin did to her. The other tribes are very angry. As a result, the other tribes come against Benjamin and nearly wipe the men out of that tribe, leaving only 600 men alive. Benjamin would not give up the guilty men, so the tribes went after all of them. The men of the tribes vow not to have their daughters marry anyone from Benjamin. One town will not fight, called Jabesh-Gilead. They did not want to a tribe of Israel to be totally wiped out, and the town had 400 virgins. So, it was decided, that the tribes would declare peace, but there wasn’t enough virgins to go around for the 600 men remaining. There was a yearly feast and the men came to Shiloh because the Mishkan was there. They commanded the 200 extra men to take a wife when the women came to dance.
What yearly feast is being referred to here? The word is “Hag” in Hebrew so we know that is has to be one of the seven festivals. The lesser festivals do not have the kedusha for a “hag” designation. For example, at the seven festivals of Lev 23 you would say “Hag Sameach” which means “joyous/happy festival.” But, at Chanukah, a lesser festival with less kedusha than the seven, you would say “Chanukah Sameach” or “Happy Chanukah” and at Purim, another lesser festival, you would say “Purim Sameach.” So, we know that the yearly feast mentioned in Judges 21 19 is one of the seven festivals in Lev 23. But which one is it?
In the Mishnah, in Ta’anit 4.8 it says, “Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel (grandson of Paul’s teacher Gamaliel) said: There are no happier days for Israel than the 15th of Av (not one of the “haggin” of Lev 23) and the Day of Atonement, for on them the daughters of Jerusalem used to go forth in white raiments; and these were borrowed, that none should be abashed which had them not; hence all the raiments required immersion. And the daughters of Jerusalem went forth to dance in the vineyards. And what did they say? “Young man, lift up thine eyes and see what you choose for thyself: set not thine eyes on beauty, but set thine eyes on family; for favor is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that fears the Lord she shall be praised; more-over it saith, give her of the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates.’ Likewise it says, ‘Go forth ye daughters of Sion, and behold King Solomon with the crown where with his mother hath crowned him in the day of his espousals and in the day of the gladness of his heart.'”
What “hag” did they go out into the vineyards and dance in Judges 21.19-21? It was Yom Kippur. After the Azazel goat is dead and the white cloth was hung in the Temple, there was great rejoicing and this was when the men would go out and choose a bride who were dancing in the vinyards.
In Neh 7, there is a listing of those who returned from captivity. In v 67 it speaks of “245 male and female singers.” Based on that, we know that they did not sing in the Azarah, but they could sing in the Ezrat Nashim, the Court of the Women, during the pilgrimages to the festivals, marriages, funerals and the females also taught music of the Temple. In an Orthodox Jewish wedding, the bride is carried in on a chair, and the couple is married under a Talit that is held up by the four corners with poles. This is what is called a “zekor” or “remembrance” of something that happened in the days of the Temple. In our conclusion, we will pick up here and discuss what is called the “Aperion” or “sedan chair.”