May I have your jewelry, please? God’s commission to the women in Exodus 3:21-22
When was the last time you asked your neighbor to give you her jewelry so you could go on a trip? Probably never! But that is exactly what the Israelite women did just before leaving on their trip to the land God promised to them. So often when we think about the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, we look at how God commissioned Moses and Aaron to go talk to Pharaoh. But God also commissioned women to do something to support their fellow Israelites after the nation left Egypt. In this post, we’ll look at the end of Exodus chapter 3 and see that God indeed planned for the obedience of the women to provide for the whole nation.
What God commissioned the women to do
The Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt was a big deal. You are likely familiar with Moses and Aaron. Maybe you know about Miriam and her mother Jochebed. But you have probably never heard about what God commissioned all the women to do as part of the Exodus.
In God’s instructions to Moses at the burning bush, He included several things necessary to provide the deliverance He was planning for the Israelites as well as supplies for a future building project only He knew about. The women were an essential part of His plan.
“I will grant this people favor with the Egyptians, so that when you depart you will not leave empty-handed. Every woman will ask her neighbor and the one who happens to be staying in her house for items of silver and gold and for clothing. You will put these articles on your sons and daughters – thus you will plunder Egypt!”
God said first that He would stimulate the Egyptians to look upon His people with favor and then be generous toward them. Every woman would ask her neighbor and houseguests for silver, gold, and clothing. God didn’t instruct Moses to have the men demand it of the Egyptians. No, the women would “ask” it of their neighbors and houseguests (both feminine in the Hebrew). Every woman was commissioned to do this.
Obviously, all the Israelites weren’t living in Goshen any longer, segregated from Egyptians. Because of the slavery and work projects demanded of them, the people of God were spread out so that they had Egyptian neighbors and house guests. God’s commission meant that they had to step of their comfort zone of talking only with their own people and intentionally approach the Egyptian women with this bold request.
I considered how that might have sounded to the neighbors.
“May I have your jewelry, please? And could you toss any other silver and gold into my basket? Oh, I want that dress, too.”
A friend and I had an interesting discussion about this. She laughingly suggested that God used the women as extortionists. “Give up your goods or more bad things will happen to your family.” My friend’s idea suggested the Egyptian women would give because they were scared.
Looking at the context of God’s instructions to the women,
But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. (Exodus 3:19-20)
The women were to ask for their neighbors’ jewelry and clothing after the ten plagues ravaged the Egyptian countryside. Maybe there was some fear that prompted the Egyptian women to be generous. But that’s not what God promised. He said He would “grant this people favor with the Egyptians.” The Egyptian women must have wanted to help the Israelites get on their way. The result was they would “plunder the Egyptians” and have the supplies needed for the journey ahead.
How the women’s obedience provided for God’s dwelling place
The women, with the men helping them (Exodus 11:2), gathered the silver, gold, jewelry, and clothing and carried it with them on the journey out of Egypt. A few months later, they were invited to share that plunder with the community for a special purpose.
Moses said to the whole Israelite community, “This is what the Lord has commanded: From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering of gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen. (Exodus 11:4-6)
It was time to build God’s tabernacle—their new center of worship in which God would actually dwell among them.
Everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments. All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments. They all presented their gold as a wave offering to the Lord. Everyone who had blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen, or goat hair, ram skins dyed red or the other durable leather brought them. (Exodus 35:21-23)
When silver, gold, yarn, and fabric were needed to construct the tabernacle and all its furnishings, the Israelites brought forth the plunder the women had gathered. They brought these items as gifts to God, “a wave offering to the Lord.” He is the one who had delivered them from bondage. The women had been obedient to God’s commission to them. Because of their obedience, there were enough supplies to create the beautiful worship center in the wilderness where God came to dwell with His people.
How God used the social skills He gave to women
God used the social skills of women to accomplish His purposes in supplying what the Israelites would need in resources and clothing for their journey. Israelite women would ask non-Israelite women to give them these items of value. As I thought about it, I began to smile. God created women to be social. God chose to use this gift of social skills He gave to women as an avenue to provide for His people, all of them—men, women, boys and girls. Whether the woman and her neighbor or houseguest liked each other or not, obviously there was a relationship built that became useful to God’s purposes. Women are pretty good at building relationships with other women. After all, we have to share those 20,000 words per day with someone!
What the Israelite women did reminds me of the group of women who took care of Jesus’ needs, such as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna (Luke 8:1-3). Those women socialized together, traveling with Jesus, pooling their resources to meet Jesus’ needs and those of His disciples as well.
Today, whenever a woman is seriously ill, has a newborn, or is shocked by the death of a loved one, other women quickly gather around her taking care of whatever the needs of the moment are. Meals. Childcare. Lodging. Loving on them with God’s love. Once again, God uses our social skills to accomplish His purposes for His people.
I love the fact that God made me a woman. I am grateful for all the wonderful women whom God has chosen to place around me. I love that God considered His creation of women with social skills to be a valuable part of His purposes for His people.
You can learn more about God’s interactions with women in the Old Testament through the Everyday Women, Ever-Faithful God Bible Study.
Melanie’s other posts about specific Bible passages
Old Testament Women Bible Study (read online)
Old Testament Women Bible Study (download pdf)
New Testament Women Bible Study (read online)
New Testament Women Bible Study (download pdf)
Satisfied by His Love Bible Study (read online)
Satisfied by His Love Bible Study (download pdf)
I love your insight on this, Melanie!
Thank you, Frances.