Sheerah: A Woman of Distinction

This quarter I am teaching a course titled “Women in the Old Testament.” The purpose of this course is to study the role women played in the social, political, and religious life of ancient Israel. When people talk about the women who appear in the Old Testament, many people think of them as women ruled by their husbands whose main responsibility was to have children and take care of the home.

One thing my students are discovering is that there were many women who exercised political and religious power in Israelite society. These women are unknown to many readers of the Bible because they are mentioned only in passing by the writers of the Old Testament and when they are mentioned, most readers of the Bible do not notice their accomplishments.

One example of a woman of distinction in the Old Testament is Sheerah. Most people have never heard of Sheerah and probably have never read about her. However, she was an important woman in Israel.

This is what the Old Testament has to say about Sheerah: “Their father Ephraim mourned for them many days, and his relatives came to comfort him. Then he lay with his wife again, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. He named him Beriah, because there had been misfortune in his family. His daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah” (1 Chronicles 7:22-24).

According to this text, Sheerah was a successful builder of cities. She built three cities: Lower and Upper Beth Horon, two cities located in the hill country of Ephraim (Joshua 18:13-14), as well as Uzzen Sheerah, a city whose location is unknown. This is the only reference in the Old Testament to a woman building cities. Sheerah even had a city named after her and yet very few people have ever heard of this amazing woman. Only a powerful and influential woman would have the means to build, not one city, but three cities.

It is difficult for some people believe that an Old Testament woman could be a builder of cities. This sentiment is expressed by the anonymous writer who wrote the article on “Sheerah” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. This is what this anonymous writer wrote about Sheerah building the three cities: “The verse has been suspected because elsewhere in the Old Testament the founders of cities are men.”

He was wrong (and biased). Women can build cities too.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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16 Responses to Sheerah: A Woman of Distinction

  1. Evan Hertzsprung says:

    What textbooks are you using for the course you’re teaching?

    Like

  2. hertzsprung2012 says:

    I’m leading a small group study through Derek and Dianne Tidball’s book “The Message of Women” (IVP). What textbooks do you use for your course?

    Like

    • Dear Evan,

      I am using Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy and Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Reading the Women of the Bible: A New Interpretation of Their Stories. In addition, my students are reading several articles dealing with different aspects of the social and religious role of women in Israelite society. They are also reading the many posts I have written on women on my blog.

      Thank you for vising my blog.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  3. Andrew says:

    Can sheerah live another life on earth in this time . Can she be here again

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  4. Nelson A Chaves says:

    Is Sheerah the some woaman in Gn 46:17 and Nm 26:46 ? Who was you father ? Ehrain, Aser or Beriah ?

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    • Nelson,

      Sheerah is Beriah’s daughter (1 Chronicles 7:23). Beriah was a son of Ephraim.The woman mentioned in Genesis 46:17 and Numbers 26:46 is Serah who is the daughter of Asher. The Beriah mentioned in these two verses is the brother of Serah. The woman who built cities is Sheerah and not Serah.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  5. vasosdealabastro says:

    Is Sheerah the some woman in Gn 46:17 and Nm 26:46 ? Who was your father ? Efrain, Beriah or Aser ?

    Like

    • Dear Friend,

      Sheerah is Beriah’s daughter (1 Chronicles 7:23). Beriah was a son of Ephraim.The woman mentioned in Genesis 46:17 and Numbers 26:46 is Serah who is the daughter of Asher. The Beriah mentioned in these two verses is the brother of Serah. The woman who built cities is Sheerah and not Serah.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  6. Jebamala David says:

    Excellent

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  7. Stephanie Campbell says:

    Professor Claude, thank you for this blog. I attend Dallas Theological Seminary and I am concentrating my studies on Christian Women in Leadership and I have been studying Women in the OT & NT and in particular, the lesser known women. I have been a director of facilities (architecture & urban planning background) for several years and I can certainly relate to Sheerah’s background and experience. Currently, Herbert Lockyer’s Book All the Women of the Bible has been extremely helpful although as you are a professor, can you recommend some additional books resources etc. that I should add to my library on this subject?

    Thank you in advance for your response.
    S.R. Campbell

    Like

    • Stephanie,

      Thank you for your nice comment. I try to write on the women of the Old Testament because their stories needed to be told. If you go to the Archive section of my blog, look at items # 35 and # 36. All this are studies on women in the Old Testament. Look also at items 5, 17, 21, 26, 29, 31. These posts also deal with women in the OT.

      Here are good books:
      Reading Women of the Bible, by Tikva Frymer-Kensky
      Women of the Old Testament, by Irene Nowel
      Reclaiming Her Story, by Jon Berquist
      The Israelite Women, by Athalya Brenner
      Text of Terror, by Phyllis Trible.

      Enjoy your reading.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

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