Many of us remember the 1989 movie Field of Dreams. Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella is inspired by a voice he can’t ignore to turn his ordinary cornfield into a place where dreams come true. One line from the movie has become a common phrase among people pursuing their dreams:
“If you build it, they will come.”
Building something in order to pursue and fulfill a dream takes faith. It’s risky to step out in faith to follow the path God has called us to. But that is exactly what one woman in the Bible did, a woman whose story most of us do not know. Mentioned only once in the Old Testament, her actions point to a woman who dared to dream in a way that blessed her future generations. Her name is Sheerah – a name that means to remain, be a remnant, to be a small but perpetually surviving portion of a family.
Who was Sheerah?
Sheerah was a descendant of Ephraim, the son of Joseph. Tragedy struck Ephraim’s family when a whole generation of the family, maybe more, were murdered by the men of Gath because of choices they made: “The men of Gath who were born in that land killed them because they came down to take away their cattle” (1 Chronicles 7:21). Children, grandchildren, and perhaps great-grandchildren were wiped out.
The death of his descendants devastated Ephraim, and his remaining family came to comfort him. Eventually, he and his wife began to have more children and build a family once again. His wife bore a son, Beriah, and his daughter was named Sheerah.
What did Sheerah do?
“Now his daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon and Uzzen Sheerah…” (1 Chronicles 7:24)
What a mention for a woman in the Bible: a woman who built three cities! How could this be possible when Sheerah was part of a nomadic, tent dwelling family in a patriarchal culture?
Perhaps we imagine that Sheerah and this new generation of Ephraim’s family heard countless stories about lost relatives and about that dreadful day of slaughter as they sat around the family campfire. What response did that evoke in them? What did that inspire in Sheerah? Could a tent people be at risk of an attack like that in her generation? And if so, what could she do about it?
We’re not sure what motivated her, but we do know that she became an instrument of God to build three fortified cities in a strategic location. These cities would prove key for her people then and for future generations. She dared to dream and then she dared to do.
The towns that Sheerah built
Sheerah built the twins towns of Upper and Lower Beth Horon, roughly two miles apart from each other. They were strategically located near the border of Judah and the northern tribal districts along a major mountain pass. Whoever controlled these routes controlled Canaan. To build a city required a vision, a plan, teamwork, and leadership. Somehow, Sheerah is noted to be part of that. She gave for the sake of her progeny.
Joshua later used the road to chase and attack his enemies, a coalition of southern kings (Joshua 10:10). God ultimately intervened, casting down large hailstones to kill the enemy armies. Much later, King Solomon would fortify both cities with walls, gates, and bars, as they were on vital caravan routes (2 Chronicles 8:5).
So Sheerah didn’t just build any cities, she built important cities. And the third city, Uzzen-Sheerah, was named after herself, a name which means portion of Sheerah.
Following Sheerah’s example
One woman, born into a story of tragedy, blessed future generations in ways she would never live to see. Her generosity helped set the stage for military and economic successes. Sheerah: to remain, be a remnant, to be a small but perpetually surviving portion of a family. Is that you? What foundation are you building on? Are you choosing to build for generations to come? If not, it’s time to get started, no matter how your story began. Build for the Kingdom. Build in such a way that when you or your family come under siege, God will be your place of refuge.
More from the Generous Women of the Bible series: