Forty women: 5. Lot’s daughters

Being rescued isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The Israelites found that, wandering round in the desert, struggling to find water to drink, being attacked by snakes and local armies, and eating the same old manna and quail day after day for forty long, long years. No wonder they thought wistfully of the good old days back in Egypt, days when they feasted on delicious, cool melons and cucumbers. Days when they were forced into backbreaking labour by their cruel taskmasters, mind. But at least you knew where you were when the Egyptians were in charge.

I don’t suppose Lot’s daughters would have wanted to still be in Sodom on the day when the city was destroyed. Perhaps they, like Abraham, saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace, and a shiver went down their spines as they realised it could have been them. They were, surely, glad to have been rescued. But still.

But still, they had to leave everything. Their home, their friends. Their fiancés. Their mother didn’t make it, and athough their father survived, he was never the same again. Too fearful to continue living near other people, he took his daughters and left the city they’d escaped to, settling in a cave up in the mountains. It’s rescue but it’s not much of a life.

And it doesn’t seem like it has much of a future. The men they were supposed to marry are long gone, in the burning fires of Sodom. And up in the hills, hidden in their cave, they aren’t meeting anyone new. What’s a girl to do when she’s desperate?

She has to go to her younger sister and explain it to her: “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” (Genesis 19:31-32)

It’s not what they’d hoped for. It’s not what they’d been expecting. It can’t have been what they wanted. But it was the only thing they could do. Not for themselves. Not for any kind of pleasure. But for their father’s sake. To give his family a future. To make the rescue count for something after all.

So they take the future into their own hands and both women fall pregnant. The older sister gives birth to Moab. The younger gives birth to Ben-Ammi. And so the Moabites and the Ammonites are born.

Centuries later, a Moabite woman will meet one of her many-times-removed cousins, a descendant of Abraham. And through a strange series of events, when he dies and she marries another Israelite, the blood of the Moabites will run down through the veins of the kings, all the way to the King of Kings.

Forty women: 6. Rebekah