The Day of Midian
The First Reading says that when the light shines in the darkness, it will be as in the day of Midian.
But what is the day of Midian? Who are the Midianites?
Well, their progenitor, Midian, was an outcast. After Abraham’s his wife Sarah died, he took a concubine, Keturah, and had six sons with her. Midian was one of them. But God’s chosen people were meant to descend from Abraham through Sarah’s son Isaac. For Abraham, then, Midian and the other sons of the concubine didn’t matter. So Abraham cast out Midian and his five brothers when they were grown.
By the time the Israelites, the descendants of Isaac, came out of Egypt in the Exodus, the Midianites were an idolatrous tribe, powerful enough to make real trouble for the Israelites. God told the Israelites to go to war with them.
But by the time of the Judges, years later, the Midianites were again strong enough to oppress the Israelites. When the Israelite champion Gideon finally defeated them, the victorious Israelites rejoiced.
It could be that this victory over the tribe of Midian is what the First Reading means by “the day of Midian.”
But there is another side to the story of the descendants of Abraham’s son Midian.
In the Exodus, the leader of the Israelites, Moses, was married to a woman who actually was one of the Midianites. (By then, they were also called “the Kenites”). All the children of Moses were therefore half-Midianite. And so, in the children of Moses, the descendants of the concubine’s son Midian, whom Abraham had cast out, were woven back into the chosen people who were descended from Abraham’s son Isaac.
And when the Canaanite army, led by its great general Sisera, came to attack the Israelites, in the time of the Judges, Sisera was defeated, and the power of the Canaanite military was broken for a time, by a courageous and great-hearted Kenite woman Jael. Sisera thought she was just an outcast Midianite. But she killed that wicked man, for love of God and God’s people, while he was sleeping in her tent.
This victory, when those that were cast out become joyful, victorious, chosen people of God, is part of the story of the day of Midian too. When the light shines in our darkness, it will be for us as in the day of Midian.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University