Wise Woman of Tekoa: Midrash and Aggadah
The midrash includes the wise woman from Tekoa among the twenty-three truly upright and righteous women who came out of Israel (Midrash Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [Eisenstein], 474).
Joab asked the woman to appear before King David like a woman mourning the death of her husband for a long time (II Sam. 14:2). From this passage the Rabbis derived the ban on a mourner’s washing his clothes, bathing and anointing himself with oil (BT Mo’ed Katan 15a).
The verse depicts the woman as living in Tekoa, a fact which the Rabbis find highly significant. They note that Tekoa was blessed with olive trees and olive oil; because of the residents’ frequent use of the latter, wisdom was to be found among them. The Rabbis cite the blessing of the tribe of Asher in Deut. 33:24 as a proof text of the area’s copious supply of oil: “may he dip his foot in oil.” They learn from this verse that the oil in the portion of Asher was so plentiful that it would issue forth as from a spring, and one could bathe in it, as in water. The woman’s wisdom was therefore linked to the blessing of olive oil and, in the opinion of the Rabbis, reflected the wisdom of all the area’s inhabitants (BT Menahot 85b).
The Biblical Tekoa was situated to the south of Jerusalem, on the border of the Judean Desert close to Bethlehem, and apparently did not exist in the Rabbinic period. In this teaching the Rabbis depict another city by the same name that existed during their time, in the portion of Asher in Galilee. For this reason they relate to the Biblical city as if it were located in the portion of the Asherites. That said, olive trees were also to be found in the Biblical Tekoa.