There is a Bible story you won’t be learning about this year as part of Come Follow Me and Sunday School. It’s the story of the Woman of Thebez found in the ninth chapter of Judges. I see this oversight as a tragedy. This single chapter of the Old Testament contains incredible imagery relating to prophecies in the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, Isaiah, and the New Testament. And, in my estimation, it is a profound commentary on the power of priesthood women have and will have particularly in the future. So let’s dig in!

First off we have Abimelech, a man who would claim authority to rule Israel through his mother. Although the great judge and military leader, Gideon, was Abimilech’s father, what ultimately matters when it comes to priesthood descent in Israel is the mother. For instance, Ishmael may have been Abraham’s son, but he was not Sarah’s son, and so did not have the authority to claim the promises of the Abrahamic covenant[1]. Likewise, Abimelech was the son of Gideon’s concubine, and so had no claim to any authority. Yet somehow he convinced a people with a system of judges, similar to that in the Book of Mormon, to make him their king.

The usurper Abimilech killed all seventy of his brothers except one, Jotham. This last survivor delivers a prophecy to his people in the form of a parable about trees. Sound familiar? (see Jacob 5). In this parable all the trees ask an olive tree to be their ruler, but the olive tree has a greater work to do, blessing the people with its oil. Likewise the fig tree and the grapevine refuse the honors of men offered them because their purpose is to nourish the people with food and wine. Are you listening with your spiritual ears? Food, wine, and olive oil? Finally the people turn to a thorn bush and ask him to be their king. This bramble ironically offers to provide shade for the trees, along with a threat to light himself on fire and burn all the cedars of Lebanon if they do not accept him.

Let’s pause for a minute here and recap. A usurper king takes over what is essentially a democracy, by claiming authority through his heritage. Someone else we know did something similar. In Moses 1:19, “Satan cried with a loud voice and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.” Begotten of whom? Born of whom? Also, in Isaiah 10 we are told that in the last days, Antichrist, code named “Assyria, rod of my anger”, will destroy the forests and cedars of Lebanon, as he conquers the world. In case you weren’t aware, throughout the scriptures trees are symbols used to represent people. One prime example that relates to our story in Judges is that of Nephi’s vision of the tree of life. Nephi is shown a vision of a tree bearing fruit. Next he is shown a vision of a mother bearing fruit. The tree of life in this vision represents Mary! (see Daniel C. Peterson’s “Nephi and his Asherah”[2])

Why is this important? Because the trees in Jotham’s parable are also all bearing fruit. They are female. And who is it in Judges 9 that destroys this Antichrist type? A woman! And not just any woman, a woman on a watch tower. Just to quickly sum up the rest of the story, King Abimilech is putting down rebellions in his region by, you guessed it, rounding up the trees…uh I mean people, and setting them on fire. Some of the people even flee to a temple and are burned alive. But the people of Thebez gather in a strong tower. From its height a woman sees the plot of Abimelech to destroy her people and, from her great height, she drops an “upper millstone” on his head.

Spiritual ears listening time again! A woman, from a higher place, crushes the head of the usurper. What was Eve, (who by the way was created in a higher, more heavenly place, i.e. the Garden of Eden), promised after she partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge? She was told she and her posterity would have the power to crush Satan’s head! Am I using too many exclamation points? Are you as excited about this as I am?! And who is it that is the stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to the wicked, but a stone of help to the righteous? Jesus Christ. He who is the first fruits of the tree of life, the tree that is the Mother. Want to know something else cool? The stone of help mentioned in 1 Samuel 7:12 is called an Eben-Ezer. Do you know what Eve is called in the garden of Eden? Adam’s Ezer– an help to meet his needs. So essentially, just as Christ is our stone of help, so too women represent Christ as an Ezer, the help that is sent to this world to meet its needs with Jesus Christ.

What does this mean for you and me as women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Well, first of all it’s important to understand that the image of a watch person on a tower is used in the Church to denote prophets[3]. And a watchman in our day, President Russel M. Nelson, has said, “the women of this dispensation are distinct from the women of any other because this dispensation is distinct from any other. This distinction brings both privileges and responsibilities.” Then he has a footnote in which he comments that our time will “merge with the Second Coming of the Lord”. He goes on to say that the kingdom of God cannot be complete without “women who can speak with the power and authority of God!”[4] (his exclamation point, not mine!). But, in 2018 President Nelson also said “I fear that too many of our brothers and sisters do not grasp the privileges that could be theirs. He was speaking of priesthood privileges[5].

What are these priesthood privileges the prophet desires the women of the church to claim? They are the “spiritual treasures” he spoke to us about in his talk of the same title in 2019. And while I don’t think you’ll stick with me through an entire commentary here on that talk, I would encourage you to take the time after you’ve finished this essay to read, not just President Nelson’s October 2019 General Conference address[6], but to delve into the footnotes and scriptures he links to his comments to better understand the incredible priesthood power and privileges he is referring to when he invites us to “draw the Savior’s power into (our lives)”. Spoiler alert: He references people like Enoch and Melchizedek who walked and talked with God and had incredible spiritual gifts.

Is it any wonder President Nelson went on to make the bold claim in 2020 that women in our day have “the spiritual power to change the world”[7]? If we have women who personally know the Savior, the way other prophets like Alma, Nephi, and Enoch personally knew him, if we had women who could draw on the power of their covenants and manifest the kind of godly power on this earth that in the past was used to prophesy, move mountains, defeat armies and most importantly, help to bring others back into the presence of God, could this crush Satan’s head and change the world? Oh yes, it could.

Can you see now why I lament our Come Follow Me manual skipping from Judges eight directly over to chapter thirteen? What a travesty to miss this incredible type and shadow of our day! But this does not mean you cannot open your mouths as President Nelson encouraged us to and share these things with others. I would recommend you gain an understanding and testimony of them first though, if you haven’t already. Perhaps start with Isaiah and the Isaiah explained website. There is so much feminine imagery in relation to end time prophecy in Isaiah! Zion is a woman. We are the daughter of Zion. Zion herself is a land flowing with milk and honey, milk that can only come from females, honey that is only produced by female bees under the authority and lineage of a queen. I mean, can it be any more clear that women play an astoundingly important part in the establishment of Zion in these latter days? And now that you know about the whole tree symbolism thing, maybe you’ll be better equipped to pursue the exciting journey of exploring all the other hidden treasures the Old Testament has to offer you this year.

One final thought, if you are concerned I might be encouraging the women of this church to get a little too big for their britches, remember what Moses, another watchman on the tower said: “would God that all Jehovah’s people were prophets, and that Jehovah would put his spirit upon them! (King James’s exclamation point, not mine!) (Numbers 11:29) Here is an example of a watchman on a tower, wishing there could be others up there with him, standing beside him.

Will they be women? Will it be you?

[1] Judges 8:31
[2] Peterson, Dan. “Nephi and Asherah.” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. Vol. 9, No. 2, Article 4.
[3] “Watchmen on the Tower.” Ensign. April 2016.
[4] Russell M. Nelson, “A Plea to My Sisters.” General Conference, October 2015.
[5] Russell M. Nelson, “Ministering with the power and authority of God.” General Conference, April 2018.
[6] Russell M. Nelson, “Spiritual Treasures.” General Conference, October 2019.
[7] Russell M. Nelson, “Embrace the Future with Faith.” General Conference, October 2020