Women have held a very important part of Biblical history. It is unfortunate that, since the translators have been influenced by their society, many of the original stories, as well as the words used toward women have been altered and even sometimes deleted. This has had the unfortunate result in diminishing the real influence women have had throughout, scripture as well as today. Earlier this week, I was challenged by a sister who firmly believes women are all called to the exact same thing. She holds that Biblical womanhood only includes staying home, raising children and supporting her husband. She further believes that women are to be silent, are not to teach men, and are under the final authority of their husband and men in her church, rather than the final authority of God.
I responded to her in a very simple but Biblical way. I simply mentioned some of the strong women figures of the Bible who did NOT stay home and raise a family but who stepped outside of the societal box they were born into. These women were revered for fulfilled their calling to the kingdom. This is by no means, an exhaustive list of important women, but just the few I could think of at the drop of a hat, as they say. I received a ton of feedback about this and was encouraged to make it into a meme, so I did. I was then asked to write about what I was thinking when I included each of these women in my response. I wanted her, and others, to think about the many women who have done something totally outside of the home, unexpected and ‘unladylike’ who were all part of the Biblical narrative. I wanted her to think about whether her church upheld these real women as much as they upheld the handful of mistranslated and misunderstood verses that have influenced today’s church expectations of womanhood.
Sheerah, the Builder of Cities! 1 Cor 7:24
Sheerah was the daughter of Ephraim. She, alone, is named as a daughter in the long and exhaustive list of names in 1 Chronicles. These names are the blessed lineage. She is mentioned by name and by trade. This is significant. Not only is she named, when so many women were completely left out, but also her trade, building cities, is named. This gives her importance. This signifies that she had influence and respect. She had to have vision, fortitude, and skill. She had to have been strong physically, emotionally and in her calling from God. She was a woman who stepped outside of her house, who planned and implemented the building of cities. She had to have been the boss of men, telling men what to do and how to go about doing it, while she managed the building sites. She could not have been silent, demure, or submissive in her role but she had to be strong, smart, outspoken and skilled to get 3 cities built in her lifetime.
Two of these cities, Upper and Lower Beth-Horon were located on a pivotal trade and travel route. These cities are mentioned in Joshua, I Samuel, I Kings, I and II Chronicles. Upper Beth Horon and Lower Beth Horon were miraculously delivered by God during the time of Joshua. These cities were so important that when King Solomon lived, he repaired and fortified them. She built a third city called Uzzen-sherah. YUP! She did such a great job that she actually had a city named after her! We don’t know very much about the personal life of Sheerah. We know she was a woman and a daughter. We know she was an accomplished builder and we know that she did not remove herself from the dirty work of building. She did not call it man’s work” or allow intimidation to stop her. She followed God in a creative, non traditional female role and was honored for it. Sheerah, the builder of cities. A woman honored in the Bible for her skill, her strength and influence on the Kingdom.
- Sheerah had no husband
- No children
- Ruled, bossed, taught men (she had to speak, outloud and take authority over men)
- Worked outside of home
- Under authority of God, not father or husband
- Called and chosen by God
Deborah the Judge! Judges 4-5
Deborah was also from the land of Ephraim. I think the Ephraimites respected the strength of women since they had a rich heritage of strong women in the family line! Deborah was given the gift of prophecy. She was the only judge to become a prophet other then Samuel. We don’t know very much about the personal life of Deborah. Only that she was married, and she was a prophet and judge to Israel. We know that she sat under a palm tree while delivering sermons, teachings and judgements to Israel. We know that she was chosen by God for this position and that her husband did not take part in your spiritual authority. As a spiritual and civil leader, she would have had authority over her husband and over all the men. We see this, not only in her daily job, outside the home, under a palm, not doing dishes….but also, when she tells Barak, the military leader, how to prepare and what to do in battle against their oppressors. He refuses to carry out her orders unless she is with him and we see her authority over the nation as she leads them to war and victory. She tells him clearly that the victory will be attributed to a woman and not to him, but he doesn’t seem to care. He realized her connection to God, her spiritual gifts and her anointed calling. Her gender doesn’t stop him from acknowledging his need of her during that pivotal time. Little did he know that not only Deborah, but also the brave Jael would receive the accolades for the victory in this story. Deborah’s spiritual and civil leadership brought peace to the land for 40 years. Both Deborah and Jael were women, both brave, both answering God’s calling on their life. She is called as one of the 6 honored women as prophets in the Bible.
- Directed the military leader
- Husband listened to and respected her
- Worked outside the home daily as a Judge under the palm tree
- Taught men and women the Torah
- Judged the nation; including men
- Led battle
- No children or record of keeping house
- Called by God; not by her husband or father
- Chosen and anointed by God
Esther the Brave Queen! Book of Esther
Most of us are aware of the young, beautiful and brave Queen Esther. We have all heard the story of how she came to live in the palace, and was chosen by the King as his next Queen. We remember how she kept her nationality a secret until a time came when God called her expose her truth and bravely challenge all the men in authority. Wait! What? She challenged the men in authority. YES! Esther is a story of challenge. She was called to save her nation. What did she do? She spoke up!
Please remember, her predecessor, Queen Vashti, also spoke up and was banished as a result. Esther knew Vashti’s story. She knew she would probably be banished and die. She was fully aware of her lack of power, but she was equally aware of the amount of power she did have and she used it to the Glory of God.
First, when she was made aware of the danger to her people, she commanded her Jewish people to go on a three day fast. She wanted them to pray and to fast on her behalf and on behalf of the entire Jewish people. This, of course, included men and they did it.
It amazes me when I think about the position she was in. Esther was a queen, as such she was at the mercy of her King. She was loyal to her Uncle at the gate. She was scared of the man, Haman and his evil plots. She was in an impossible situation.
When it was suggested to her that she use her power to convince her husband that he was WRONG and had been duped, she was terrified! This man is the leader of their country! A man with total power. A man who, we can only imagine, had an ego that never ended. A man who could kill her and all her people at a moment’s notice. A man whose sidekick had it out for Mordecai because of the honor that was shown to him and who hated the Jews as much as Hitler did. She stood up and she exclaimed that if she had to die to save her people, then so be it she would die. That’s pretty powerful. A submissive, quiet, unimportant woman’s death would not have any effect on the lives of a nation. Obviously she was more then all of that, in the sight of God and in the esteem of her people.
Nevertheless, Queen Esther, after the prescribed fast, went into the King’s chamber. She knew, that by going without permission, she could easily be killed. She did it anyway. She was extremely smart and appealed to the ego of the king and Haman. She invited them to her special banquet, twice. After a bit of palace intrigue in which Mordecai is honored and Haman is mad, Esther has successfully beguiled the king and makes her nationality and Haman’s plot known!
THWARTED!! Haman is hung, and Mordecai gets all his property and is promoted to Haman’s old position. Esther remains queen and alive and the nation of Israel is spared. Every year, Jews celebrate Esther’s bravery and cunning by honoring the festival of Purim. She is called as one of the 6 honored women as prophets in the Bible.
- Has a husband who she stands up to
- Instructs the nation to fast on her behalf
- Doesn’t wait for a man to save her or her people
- Has a religious festival in honor of her anointed actions
- She was chosen and anointed by God
Ruth the One who Proposed. The book of Ruth
Like Esther, most of us know the story of Ruth. She was a pagan girl who married into the lineage of Jesus. She lost her husband but chose to stay with her mother-in-law. She found the God of her husband and accepted Him as her own. In turn, He accepted her. When she followed Naomi, her mother-in-law, back to Bethlehem, her faith was strengthened. She and Naomi were left very poor. Naomi knew the traditions of her people, she knew that there were men in her family who were supposed to take care of her and Ruth. She also knew that they seemed to be reluctant to follow through with their responsibilities. Naomi told Ruth to go glean for food. By God’s hand, Ruth started gleaning in Boaz’s fields and when he found her, I think his conscience was a little pricked. You see, he knew that he was in line as one of her kinsman redeemers and that he should be looking after her. Instead, he offered her protection in his field and an extra gleaning. Later, Naomi, probably a little perturbed at this point because the men aren’t doing what they are supposed to do, instructs Ruth in a way to force the man to step up and do his duty.
Ruth went to the threshing floor and lay with Boaz. There is some discussion and disagreement about whether she actually laid down at his feet or if that is a euphemism for uncovered his ‘nether regions’. Either way, it was a very brave and forward thing for her to do. She called him out. She confronted him with his duty toward her and Naomi. She was neither submissive nor coy. She was brave. She was honest. She was fed up with being looked over. So, she proposed to Boaz and by doing so, saved her family name and became a grandmother to David and an ancestor to Jesus.
- Ruth was a widow who showed great courage when facing adversity
- Ruth was called to continue the lineage for the Savior
- She worked all day outside of the home to provide for her family
- She did the hardest things in faith
- She proposed to a man
- She confronted men with their duty and lack of fullfilling it
- She was chosen and anointed by God
Wife of Noble Character Prov. 31
The Proverbs 31 wife is probably the most hated of all women in Christiandom because she is constantly held up as the perfect, to strive for model of Biblical womanhood. She is a wife and a mother. This tells us that being a wife and a mother is noble and good. It’s a wonderful calling but it isn’t the only thing she did! This noble wife did not sit at home and cook supper, mop floors or wipe dirty butts. NO! She was beyond busy, like all mothers are. She’s a combination of what all, and any, women can be and do. She’s honest and lives in an equal relationship. We know this, because her husband has full confidence in her. He’s not threatened by her success or intelligence at all. He knows that she has their family’s best interest at heart. He supports her and lets her go about doing what she does best to help support their family.
She is diligent in running her household well. She has to be because she isn’t there a whole lot, it seems! First, we see her getting up early, providing nourishment from afar. I guess she probably went to the market and purchased a wide variety of foods. The text doesn’t say she prepares the food herself, but she gets the food for her family.
She didn’t wait for her husband to provide for her. She must make money herself, because she goes and checks out a field that is for sale. She chooses to purchase it. She doesn’t ask her husband first. She doesn’t wait for him to find the field and purchase it, she goes ahead and purchases it. Then, she hires people to work the fields. She must have had to plan what she wanted planted and how she wanted it done because then it says that she works the field herself too. Again, hard to work a field when you are sitting at home cleaning toilets.
She didn’t wait for her husband to provide for her. She ran a business. The text tells us that she not only makes good quality clothes for her household but she also sells those clothes for a profit. From the text, it also seems that she, herself, goes and makes deals with the other merchants regarding her wares. She also knows that her stuff is valuable. She doesn’t moan or complain or put herself down. She recognises her strengths and demands that others pay her what she is worth. I wonder if the profit she makes from her clothing line is what she used to buy the land or purchase the seed needed to plant the land?
She is a busy woman, doing what she is called to do. She is working equally with her husband, whose job, it seems, is to sit at the gates of the city. She doesn’t run to him at every turn asking permission or meekly sitting at home waiting for him to decide what to do next. She is proactive, smart, cunning, honest, talented and not afraid of hard work. Because of all of this her children learn to be kind, thoughtful, caring and upright. Staying at home hasn’t taught them these lessons. Being active in her community and being successful in her endeavors is what teaches her family best. Because of this they are blessed by her love and her care for them. They don’t seem to think that she neglects them in any way. She doesn’t seem to care what others think, she just does what the Lord has called her to do.
- Purchases land without her husbands permission
- Plants and hires for the land (means she’s a boss)
- Doesn’t wait for her husband
- Makes her own decisions
- Owns a thriving business
- Sells to the merchants herself
- Her husband trusts her even though she isn’t at the house all the time
- Her husband trusts that she will make good choices and is a capable adult
- The community recognises and respects her
- Her children love her and learn from her as she goes about her businesses
- She was called and anointed by God
Hulda the Prophet 2 Kings 22 / 2 Cor 34
Okay, this lady was someone to reckon with! She even has gates in the Southern wall of the Temple mound that are named for her. This woman lived during the time the boy Josiah reigned as king. She was also a prophet at the same time in history that Jeremiah and Zephaniah were prophets.
Hulda was the first person to pronounce scripture as Holy Writings. When a part of The Book of the Law was found, hidden in the temple, King Josiah sent it to Hulda. She read it and proclaimed it to be authentic scripture, the first person to ever do so (William E. Phipps). She had the authority to determine what was or wasn’t original Hebrew scripture.
When the 5 leaders came to her from King Josiah, she wasn’t fazed. The scripture indicates to us that she saw the king as she would any other man and wasn’t intimidated by title or stature. She spoke the words of God with authority and honesty. She didn’t try to. She was called. She was anointed. She was a prophet recognized by women and by men as a voice of God.
Hulda was known not only as a prophet but as a teacher. She ran a school and taught the Torah from it. She spoke with authority to men, kings, rulers and scribes. She heard God’s voice directly and spoke His prophetic word to the people.
- She was married
- She was a prophet
- She wasn’t intimidated by men and titles
- She heard from God
- Important enough to have a gate named after her
- She directed nations and prophecied over Isreal
- She had the authority to pronounce scripture
- She was chosen and annointed by God
Junia the Apostle Romans 16:7
In the earliest part of the new Christian church, there lived a woman named Junia. She was an apostle of Jesus Christ who was revered by Paul. She was said to have been an apostle before Paul himself was converted. Paul called her “distinguished among the apostles” Romans 16:7
Junia was one of the first believers in Christ and we are told through Paul’s greeting that she was also imprisoned because of her belief in Jesus. Being an apostle means that she held the highest order of leadership in the new Christian church. Apostle means ‘those sent forth with a mission’ (Merriam Webster Dictionary), and the original 12 disciples were called apostles. Being a named apostle means that Junia was ‘called forth with a mission’. She, therefore, was called to share the gospel, plant churches, teach and convert believers and establish the faith. She worked with Paul and Andronicus as an equal in their labors for the kingdom.
We know from the book of Romans that Junia served alongside Paul in his ministry, and was effective enough to be considered a threat to the local authorities, who imprisoned her along with Paul. Paul thought highly enough of Junia and her co-laborer Andronicus that he commended them both in Romans 16:7 as “noted among the apostles”. While most scholars believe that Andronicus was her husband, there is no mention of that in the text – he could possibly have been a brother or other relative. ~Juniaproject.com
- An apostle who labored with Paul and Andronicus
- Highly regarded as a fellow apostle by Paul
- Went to prison because of her beliefs and actions
- No mention of being married
- As an apostle she would have taught, instructed, preached and helped build the early church
- Called and anointed by God
Phoebe the Deacon Romans 16:1
Phoebe is a deacon of the church and Paul sends her, to Rome, to deliver a letter from him. She is an abasador to Rome on behalf of the church. We see in Pauls writings about her that she is highly esteemed and regarded as an apostle. She would have been among many woman leaders in the church at that time who may have hosted churches in her own home. Many more accurate translations call her a ‘presiding officer’ and ‘a minister of the assembly’. (Nyland, A. The Source New Testament With Extensive Notes On Greek Word Meaning)
Being a deacon in the church means that Phoebe ministered in the same manner that Paul, Apollos, Tychicus, Epaphras, Archippus, and Onesimus ministered. (Fortin, Denis. “Was Phoebe A Deacon, A Servant, Or A Minister?”) When Paul entretes the church in Rome to welcome Phoebe into their fellowship and to help her in anyway she needs, he is implying that isnt there just to visit. She’s there with a mission, a purpose and she will need help in carrying it out. To carry out a mission usually intales being the boss. She would have needed leadership skills inorder to instruct the church to help her in whatever her mission was. This, obviously, included men.
There is some disagreement about a woman being called to be a deacon in 1 Tim 3. However, when a thourough examination of the origional text you read that in 1 Tim 3:11, there is mention of ‘and also the women.’ If the list of qualifications included were for men, then how about ‘also the women?’ Along with that it strikes me that in 1 Tim 3, the charge;
They should manage their own household well—they should see that their children are obedient with complete respect, 5 because if they don’t know how to manage their own household, how can they take care of God’s church?
Arent the women called to take care of house, home and children? So, then why would Paul include this list of qualifications, if it is just for men? In 1 Tim 3:11, women who are servents have the same qualification as the men who are mentioned above.
There is not indication that Phoebe was married or had children. Her role, simply, was to be a deacon, deliver a letter and complete the work in Rome that she was sent to do. According to Paul she was kind, helpful and a benefactor to Paul and others in her home.
- Not married or a mother
- Church commanded to welcome and respect her just as they would any church deacon
- Sent on a mission by Paul who recognised her as a church deacon
- Expected to complete a mission as the leader
- Did not lose her kindness, servants heart or ministry to the poor just because she was a leader
- Was called and annointed by God
Priscilla the Pastor Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19
Priscilla was a fellow pastor and minister with her husband Aquilla and Paul. She is mentioned numerous times in the bible and always with her husband. This leads me to believe that they labored together, equal in their commitment to Christ and His church.
Priscilla is mentioned first in Acts 18:26 story where she and her husband pull a well known evangalist aside and give him instruciton in the ‘way of God more accurately’ (ibid). Priscilla worked with her husband as a missionary and church planter. We do not see her as a diminutive housewife or a silent partner. No, we see her mentioned first as many times as her husband. He is never mentioned without her which gives us proof that they were an equal partnership, neither one being above the other.
They lived quite a life in that they moved many times. They opened their home to house churches and Paul himself lived with them for many years. They sailed to Syria with Paul, making them world travelers and missionaries. There is also some evidence that ‘author unknown’ book, Hebrews may very well have been authored by her and sensored later because of her womanhood.
In verses 3-5 of the same chapter, Paul refers to Priscilla and Aquila and the church that is in their house. Priscilla and Aquila are always mentioned together in Scripture which indicates that they worked and ministered together as a husband and wife team. This is confirmed by Acts 18:26 where both Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside and both explained to him the way of God more accurately. In the Greek, Priscilla is always mentioned first. Since Paul reversed the culturally accepted manner of mentioning the husband first, he obviously wanted to make a point about her leadership role. Many commentators conclude that Priscilla is mentioned first because she was the spiritually gifted one and the leader of the church that met in their home. Again, the evidence is overwhelming. Priscilla functioned as a pastor. ~Eddie Hyatt
- Taught a prominent pastor and helped him understand the gospel better
- Hosted a church in her home
- Was a missionary with Paul
- Was mentioned first in the Bible, indicating a more important role
- Called and anointed by God
I hope that this short list of women, who God clearly called and anointed for His work, will help you to understand that God does not discriminate upon gender. His call is to all His people. His call can and does include any of the Spiritual gifts that he gives to his children, not just men. He gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to men and women and calls both to go into all nations!
I believe God has included women in His direct line of communication. That we, as his daughters, are called to answer to Him as our authority. He sees fit to call and equip His women according to His will, and for any man to say that His will is that women only become mothers and housekeepers, flies directly in the face of Biblical evidence.
Since each of these women were called by God, none of them were called out as being sinful, out of their prescribed place or doing something prohibited His word. No, they were blessed, honored and revered among the lineage of Christ and among the apostles and early church. I believe that, as married men and women, we are to work together, equally in our individual spiritual strengths and callings to support, love and respect each other.
In closing, by studying and reflecting on the women whose names and roles are honored in the Bible, we can clearly see that we are made for so much more then what many churches teach today. Women who were not willing to stay in ther predetermined box, but who followed their Lord and the call He had on their lives. They were the world changers. So many women were not mentioned here, who could have and should have been. So many who went nameless but whose stories were important in the Kingdom. They may have been written out, dumbed down or looked past, through the centuries but they are women who lived for God.
May we, women of God, also be His world changers. May we, women of God, refuse to allow society to dictate God’s calling on our lives.
The fact is that women did indeed teach men, that women served as leaders, and that in doing so they enjoyed God’s blessing and won the praise of other believers. Priscilla instructed the learned Apollos, Lois and Eunice taught Timothy, and Phoebe is named as an overseer and a deacon in the church at Cenchrea. Furthermore, believers are enjoined to teach and to learn from one another, without reference to gender. Bruce, F. F. (1983). The Epistle of Paul to the Romans: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.
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