Original Research - Special Collection: Yolanda Dreyer Festschrift

The riverbank, the seashore and the wilderness: Miriam, liberation and prophetic witness against empire

Allan A. Boesak
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 4 | a4547 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i4.4547 | © 2017 Allan A. Boesak | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 March 2017 | Published: 25 July 2017

About the author(s)

Allan A. Boesak, Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


This article examines the manner and method of resistance against patriarchal power and privilege. Two types of power are contrasted. One is the violent, war-like and hierarchical power of an empire, and the other is the faithful resistance of Israel’s prophets. A further distinction is made between violent male power and non-violent female power. It is argued that Miriam was a prophet of the people and her prophetic witness is an example of the power and outcome of non-violent resistance. Her theology explicitly and specifically praises God not as a warrior. Hers is not a muscular, masculine God whose power seeks to match the power of empire. Her God has a power that through radical love for a slave people and taking sides with the enslaved overcomes the power of the slaveholder. In her theology, Miriam recalls the God of the exodus, who begins the acts of liberation with the women, to whose faithfulness, courage and defiant obedience, the freedom of the people is entrusted. From a feminist perspective it is argued that this style of non-violent, faithful prophetic witness has a greater impact than violent resistance associated with an empire-like power. It is suggested that black liberation theology should adopt this paradigm in its witness of and resistance against oppression.


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