Sheerah by Sarah Beth Baca

Watercolour and ink portrait of Sheerah by Sarah Beth Baca.
Used with permission of the artist. All rights reserved.
Prints of this portrait can be purchased here.

This article is available in Spanish and Urdu.

Ever heard of Serah, Aksah or Sheerah? I hadn’t . . . not until I decided to read through the Old Testament slowly, keeping an eye out for every woman mentioned. Here’s a little something about these three influential women.

SERAH—Genesis 46:17; Numbers 26:46; 1 Chronicles 7:30

Serah–שָׂ֫רַח (or, more accurately, Serach) was the daughter of Asher, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Serah is mentioned by name in three Old Testament genealogies but not much information is given about her. It is thought she lived an extraordinarily long time. Due to her longevity, she lived to know her grandfather Jacob (born around 2000 BC) and, five hundred years later, Moses (born around 1500 BC). Serah’s personal connection with Jacob and the Twelve Patriarchs gave her importance in later generations.

According to Midrashic interpretations (ancient commentaries on Hebrew Scripture), Serah was very beautiful and very wise. It is believed she was asked to break the news to Jacob that his son Joseph was still alive and living in Egypt. She did this through a song while accompanying herself on a harp. Another Midrashic commentary states that Serah made sure that Joseph’s bones were brought from Egypt to Canaan, the Promised Land.

AKSAH—Joshua 15:16-19; Judges 1:12-15; 1 Chronicles 2:49

Aksah–עַכְסָה (or, less accurately, Achsah, as the name appears in some English Bible) was Caleb’s daughter. Caleb was highly respected in the Israelite community. He and Joshua were the two “good spies,” and the only people who survived the entire 40-year trek in the wilderness before entering the Promised land. (All the other Israelites who eventually entered the Promised Land had been born in the wilderness and not in Egypt.)

In Joshua 15:16-19 (NLT) we read that Caleb offered his unmarried daughter Aksah as a prize. In Old Testament times, marriages were seen as much more than an alliance between husband and wife. They were an alliance between two families and often made for political and financial reasons rather than for reasons of affection. Parents, especially fathers, played a major role in organising a match.

Othniel was the man who won Aksah’s hand. He later became the first judge of Israel.

At some point, Aksah asked her husband Othniel to ask Caleb for a field. She was given a field from her father, but the land was dry and difficult to work. She was not satisfied, so she got on her donkey and went to her father herself and asked him for land with springs of water. Caleb agreed. She got her own piece of workable land and became involved in agriculture (as did the woman in Proverbs 31:16). Aksah’s story is repeated in Judges 1:12-15 NLT.

SHEERAH—1 Chronicles 7:24

Tucked away in a genealogy in 1 Chronicles chapter 7 is a woman named Sheerah–שֶׁאֱרָה. It is not clear if this woman was the daughter of a man called Beriah (the son of Ephraim, one of the sons of Joseph) or whether she was the daughter of Ephraim himself.

Very few women are named in genealogies because, at that time, the family line was traced through the men. So it is significant when a woman is mentioned and even named in one.

Sheerah was an influential and wealthy woman. She built and established the towns of Upper Horon and Lower Horon. These towns were built in a strategic location and went on to have a long history. Sheerah even built a town that bears her name: Uzzen Sheerah. She must have been some kind of leading figure in the towns she established.

Sheerah is just one example of an Old Testament woman who had a prominent position of authority and influence, and, as with other Bible women with authority, there is no hint that this was inappropriate or improper, or that anyone had a problem with it.

There are many women in the Bible who showed resourcefulness, initiative, and influence. Some of these women are obscure to us, but they well-known to the people of their time. These Bible women, which include Serah, Aksah and Sheerah, were prominent women with clout.

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