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I do a lot of freelance writing, and lately I have been writing lessons on women in the Bible for a curriculum directed toward children in India. Many of these kids come from very difficult situations — they are orphans and have experienced abuse and suffering. These children have also grown up in a culture that is very male-centric and does not honor women in any way. So, we wanted to focus a few lessons on how God has honored women and used them for His purposes in His story.
So far I've written about Rahab (Joshua 2), Deborah and Jael (Judges 4-5), and right now I'm working on a lesson about Abigail (1 Samuel 25). The Ancient Near Eastern culture was also very male-centric, so it is really cool to see how God used these women for His purposes in a way that was quite unexpected. These are stories I've read for years, but now that I'm studying them in depth, they're standing out to me in a new way.
Rahab was a prostitute, yet she feared God. She chose to help the Israelite spies, and because of this, she saved her entire family — men and women. She ended up being the great-great grandmother of King David, and is honored in the lineage of Jesus.
Deborah is the most clear example of a woman leader; she was a judge and prophetess in Israel, which means that people came to her for advice and help in making decisions. God spoke through her. When Barak refused to lead Israel into battle, she went with him, and just as she had warned, God gave the victory over the Canaanite general to a woman named Jael.
Abigail was married to a cruel man, but the Bible says that she was intelligent and beautiful. Although her husband refused to help David, she basically took it upon herself to diffuse a situation in which David planned to commit murder. She spoke to David with extreme wisdom, and because of her good judgment, David was kept from bloodshed.
It has been encouraging to read these stories and see how God used women in a time and a place when it was difficult for women to be noticed or honored. God's law provided protection and rights for women in a way that was not common in the Ancient Near East. And while today no one in our society would argue that women are not created in God's image or equally valuable to Him, during the time in which the Bible was written, this was not necessarily a common belief. That is why it it is powerful that God includes these strong women in the great story of His redemption.
These lessons have reminded me that God uses all of us — men and women — wherever He has placed us. He calls us to great and sometimes frightening things. He can use anyone — prostitutes (Rahab), hot-tempered men (David), prophets (Deborah, Isaiah, Jeremiah), fearful people (Moses), etc.
Who are some women in the Bible who stand out to you?
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Comment by Catherine:
Huldah! And Rizpah. And, while it might not be canon, the Book of Judith is pretty sweet.
And don't forget Wisdom herself, who is always represented as a woman.
Comment by Anonymous:
Esther. Her bravery in the face of dangerous circumstances has always inspired me.
Comment by Tia:
Mary of Bethany, Lydia. :]
Comment by BE:
Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Ruth, Rahab, Abigail, Esther, Jael and Deborah--Old Testament.
Elizabeth, Mary (mother of Jesus), Lydia, and Priscilla--New Testament.
Comment by SY:
Mary, who knew how to rest and be with Jesus. She was also a woman of deep devotion and passion, and loved Jesus very much.
Comment by Faith:
I have always admired Ruth. She was kind and sacrificed her life to be with Naomi.
Comment by Joy:
My favorite Biblical woman is the wise woman at Abel. Joab was preparing siege against the city, because a man who had rebelled against King David was hiding there. This woman calls over a random soldier and orders him to bring his commander to her. Joab leaves his siege preparations to go talk to this random woman sticking her head out of a window in the wall. She upbraids him for planning the siege, negotiates a treaty, and convinces the rest of her city to honor it.
That was a beautiful example, not only of a strong, intelligent woman, but of the regard for women in the society created by God Himself.
Comment by Laura:
Shiphrah and Puah in Exodus--feisty and smart! Two lowly Hebrew midwives who resisted Pharaoh to his face.
Comment by Ria:
Esther and Ruth and inspiring...they are the only women who get a whole book of the Bible named for them^^
In the New Testament, Mary the mother of Jesus. Maybe sometimes Protestants shy away from saying too much about her, but she did have a beautiful faith in God's plan when she said, "Let it be to me as you have said" and called herself the Lord's handmaiden.
Comment by Nancy:
Denise, I will be praying for you as you prepare these lessons. May your words breathe life into women on the other side of the world, and help them see their dignity and worth in God's eyes. Both of our daughters are adopted from India, and I'm thrilled to see you serving their countrywomen!
Comment by Heidi:
The two women in the Bible that I feel the most drawn to are Sarah (Abraham's wife) and Hannah. Both women were asked by God to wait a long time to receive the blessings they most desired from Him. The faith that they needed to have in order to continue to trust God and praise Him despite their barrenness really encourages me. Also, they were both women who deeply lamented over what they thought they lacked (and I assume that they wrestled with feeling like they deserved to have sons because they were women, just like I sometimes wrestle with being a single person who feels like she deserves a husband just because she loves God - for shame!)
I am encouraged by these women because they both demonstrated a weakness which God used to grow an incredible faith in Him within them. I think that faith is what makes them beautiful in my eyes :)
Comment by AmirLarijani:
Jael is my all-time favorite. I mean, driving a tent peg through the head of the military leader...that's impressive.
A close second would go to the unnamed woman who dropped a millstone on Abimilech's head.
Katniss Everdeen, eat your heart out.
Comment by Deborah:
Loved what Heidi above said about Sarah and Hannah, so true. Also love Mary (Jesus's mother) she was young but she wanted Gods will and being in a cultural where her pregnancy was a huge deal she was courageous and I am sure persecuted too in many ways.
Comment by Kelly1:
This post made me realise that I don't have any female Biblical heroes. :(
Obviously I need to meditate on their stories and find them.
Comment by Stephanie:
Many of the women mentioned already have so much in their stories which have blessed me. But lately I like Naomi. Sure she was bitter (call me Mara) but she still ended up getting a blessing, which in a weird way makes me hopeful that even if I don't have the 'perfect Christian pious spirit' with the right feeling all the time, God is patient. It's better not to be bitter but it speaks to the mercy of God that He didn't punish her for her bitterness and I can relate to that. So maybe it's more about Him than her now that I think about it, which it should be anyway.
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