Women of the Bible
Shalom Partner and Friend of Israel,
These are the stories of some great woman in the Bible that are still inspirational to women of today. What is amazing is that they like all of us were flawed with sin and made many mistakes …BUT, God still used them to accomplish greatness …and can use us too, if we trust Him, and if we allow Him to work through us.
Eve - the first woman on earth, Yahweh - God personally created from the rib of Adam – in Hebrew a female is called “isha” (woman) and means “life” or life-giving” or “mother of all who have life”… “And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman because she was taken out of man.’ Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife; and they were not ashamed. Genesis 2:23-25 Very little is written about Eve but she was Adam’s companion and without her he would be incomplete. She was there to share equally in his responsibility over creation. Like Adam, Eve, was created in God’s image displaying a portion of His character. With Eve, God brought human relationship, friendship and marriage into the world. She was the first woman and the first wife and first mother. In her weakness she was tempted by Satan who deceived her in the Garden of Eden and invited Adam her husband to join her and when confronted they both blamed someone else. They were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:18 – 4:26; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1Timothy 2:13
Sarai (meaning “quarrelsome”) God later changed her name to Sarah Hebrew meaning - “princess” or “noble lady” … was the wife of Abraham (“Noble father”). Abandoned by her husband in Egypt when Abraham told them she was his sister and not his wife because he was afraid he’d be killed due to her beauty (Genesis 12:10-20). In fact Abraham told a half truth, as Sarah was his half-sister and of Nahor and Haran Genesis 20:12. The laws later changed that siblings can’t marry each other in Leviticus 18:9). Impatient despite God’s promise that Abraham will have many descendants (Genesis 12:2; 15:4), she took matters in her own hands and persuaded Abraham to take his maid servant Hagar to have a baby since she was childless (Genesis 16:4). Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16) but was not God’s promise to Abraham. Brave and realistic Sarah laughed at angels about the absurdity of childbearing in her old age (Genesis 18:10-15). Jealousy set in after Isaac the son of God’s promise was born as Hagar ridiculed Sarah and then Hagar and Abraham’s son was sent into the desert to die (Genesis 21:1-9).
Rebecca from the root name Rivkah meaning “Servant of God; captivating or knotted cord – to bind, to tie; some other meanings – a young cow or heifer” She was the wife of Isaac – and mother of Esau …and Jacob who later became Israel.
She was beautiful, shrewd, brave, a doer and not a victim, resourceful and impressed all the people who met her. She was a good match for Isaac and became his much loved wife (Genesis 24). Left her family in Nahor near Haran to travel with a stranger to marry Isaac whom she had not seen (Genesis 24:50-58). Rebecca did not conceive for many years and this was considered both a personal misfortune and a sign that she was not favoured by God… but Isaac prayed for his wife (Genesis 25:21) and God opened her womb and she became pregnant with twins. Even before they were born the babies were struggling with each other, so she “went to enquire of the Lord.” Rebecca was the first woman we hear of that “sought God and asked Him to explain her condition.” God told her that; “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger!” Genesis 25:22-23. Esau, born first, and his father’s favourite, should have inherited the role of leader but Rebecca judged that Jacob would be better at this task than his older brother. Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of red soup (Genesis 25:34) and his name was changed to “Edom.” Rebecca and Jacob tricked Isaac, old and blind, into giving the leadership role to Jacob. Rebecca wanted the leader to be chosen for his intelligence not popularity (Genesis 26:34-35), so that decisions would be based upon Jacob’s wisdom and intelligence rather than Esau’s impulse, carelessness or emotion (Genesis 27). Afterwards we learn of Judith and Basemath, Esau’s Hittite wives with their foreign gods and customs that made life bitter for Rebecca and Isaac in (Genesis 26:34-35). Rebecca asked Isaac to send Jacob away to safety with Laban in Haran, away from his brother Esau, and by arranging that he marry someone within the tribe of Israel. Looking at this story was this not God’s divine plan for Jacob who would later become Israel? Esau (Edom) was the father of the Edomites and would become a constant struggle between descendants with the Israelites …even today!
Esther (Hadassah) – a woman of exceptional beauty, purity and faith: Hebrew meaning of her name “hidden” – in Persian means “star” and Hadassah means “Myrtle”… Stars play a major role in the Bible. Astrologists agree with the Bible that stars were created to serve as “signs” (Genesis 15:5; Daniel 12:3; Matthew 2:2). Most people know the story of Queen Esther but over the centuries no other book of the Tanakh (Old Testament) has received more mixed reviews than the Book of Esther.
Whilst Esther is a hero to the Jewish people not many Christians see this book as relevant since God is not mentioned. Yet there is so much to learn from the life and faith of Queen Esther that would bless Christians today… the "Brit Chadashah" or "New Covenant" is from the same root word and from this we can see God is not finish with the Jewish people (Jeremiah 31:31-4; 35-37). Like the New Covenant we as Christians have …so do the Jewish people have a covenantal promise.
Esther was the daughter of a man named Abihail …and as an orphan was raised by her uncle Mordecai (Esther 2:7; 2:15; 9:29). They were instrumental in preventing and avenging the planned genocide of the Jews by Haman of Persia (Iran). Esther was the only one who could save her people and risked her life in doing so and was subsequently promoted to a position that was second only to the king (Esther 10:3)! Israel is facing the same genocide threat from (Persia) Iran today. Like God’s faithfulness to Queen Esther and Israel we the church have this promise and faithfulness of God through accepting Yeshua (Jesus) our Messiah as Saviour and He is theirs too… the soon coming Messiah of Israel.
Miriam – brave, critical and worship leader (Hebrew meaning of her name is not clear and could have derived into the Hebrew from the Egyptian word “Myr” meaning “beloved or loved” and “Wise woman or Lady”… Miriam was the beloved sister of Moses and Aaron, but, was also the acknowledged leader of all the women who fled Egypt with their families. Miriam saved her brother Moses (Exodus 2:1-10). She was his older sister and watched over him when placed in a basket in the Nile River. The survival of the leader of the Exodus, Moses, depended on the courage and ingenuity of his sister Miriam. Miriam became the leader of the Hebrew women when they and their families escaped from Egypt. On one occasion she and the women sang “The Song of Miriam” (Exodus 15:20-21) and is one of the poems that survived from the ancient world. Miriam and Aaron were both popular leaders but they were bound by the law represented by Moses. Miriam questioned Moses authority and was punished by God with a disease that turned her skin white with leprosy (Numbers 12) … nevertheless, she continued searching with Moses for the Promised Land. Miriam died in a “waterless” place in the wilderness but afterwards God caused water to appear there (Numbers 20:1-2).
Other Women in Miriam’s story are true givers of life: Jochebed; Miriam, Moses and Aaron’s mother…. She wove the basket in a desperate attempt to save her baby Moses and was given blessing to nurse him until he was old enough to live with Pharaoh’s daughter. Jochebed was the mother of three outstanding leaders. Shiprah and Puah… the midwives, who were dedicated to life, rather than death, disobeyed Pharaoh’s edict to kill all male babies. Their bravery and disobedience was the first step in the Exodus! The Daughter of Pharaoh… who pitied the baby, Moses, defied her father’s edict and probably knew that the Hebrew woman Jochebed was Moses mother. All these women one way or another valued life.
Mary (Miriam) the Mother of Yeshua (Jesus) – Son of God, and wife of Joseph. Hebrew meaning “Beloved or Loved” - Wise Woman or Lady”…Mary of Nazareth is one of the few women in the ancient world whose life we know as a girl, mother and mature woman. Even so the Gospels are about Yeshua (Jesus) and not His mother. She lived in 1st Century Galilee and was a Jewish peasant girl in a small village. Mary’s genealogy is given in Luke 3:23-38 and was a direct descendant of King David which gave Yeshua the right to ascend the Jewish throne both through her and through adoption foster father Joseph in Matthew 1:1-16. Yeshua (Jesus) was conceived within her by the Holy Spirit when she was a virgin (Matthew 2:11; 1:23; Luke 1:27: Acts 1:14). The angel Gabriel announced to her that she would become the mother of the promised Messiah (Luke 1:35) and Joseph was supernaturally made aware of this too (Matthew 1:18-25) afterwards she would visit her cousin Elizabeth who was in the lineage of Aaron (Luke 1:36) who was also with child (John the Baptist) in her old age. Mary and Joseph fled from Bethlehem to Egypt (Matthew 2) after an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary and the child and to flee from Herod who sought to destroy Yeshua. They stayed there until after Herod’s death and once again the angel appeared and told them to return to Nazareth. There for thirty years Mary the wife of Joseph the carpenter resides filling her own humble sphere and during these years only one event lists of Yeshua going up to Jerusalem to the Temple when 12 years of age (Luke 2:41-52) and probably also time when Joseph died as he is no longer mentioned.
After the commencement of our Lord’s ministry she was present at the marriage in Cana and a year later in Capernaum (Matthew 12:46, 48, 49) where Christ stretched out His hand and said, “Who is my mother? And who are my brethren?” And He stretched forth His hand towards His disciples, and said, “Behold my mother and my brethren!” The next time we find Mary at the foot of the cross with her sister also called Mary, and Mary Magdalene, and Salome and other woman…“And His mother stood by the cross of Jesus, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Then when Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, Woman, behold your son! Then He said to the disciple, Behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her into his own home,” John 19:25-27. From that hour John took Mary to his own home. Mary was with the little company in the “Upper Room” after the Ascension (Acts 1:14). From this time nothing more is said about her.
Deborah: a prophetess – wife – Judge of Israel (Judges 4 & 5; Hebrews 11:32-34). Hebrew name meaning “Bee”… She was so authoritative a channel of God’s truth and instructions that Israel went to war under her leadership. When God’s chosen military leader would not go to war without Deborah, she prophesied that a woman would have the glory of killing the enemy, King Sisera! Her role violated all stereotypes about biblical roles of women. Deborah lived up to the meaning of her name… like a “bee” she had a fatal sting for her enemies as the Canaanites came to experience. Science confirms this that a bee is ranked as wisest of highest intelligence. Deborah stands out as a warrior and among the wisest women of the Old Testament! Yet as a last glimpse of her we have Deborah is as a “mother in Israel.” Judges 5:7
Yael (Jael): Hebrew meaning of her name “God’s strength” – a wise, powerful and brave woman… Not many women in Jewish history can claim that they single handily killed the general of an enemy army! BUT, Yael who we are told lived by the plains of Tza’annanim, near Kedesh, certainly can. Judges 4:17-22; tells the story of the war between Jabin (Yavin) the king of Canaan, and the Jewish people. Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, had nine hundred iron chariots, besides his foot soldiers. Sisera, fleeing for his life ran from the scene of the battle, and came across the tent of Yael. Here, Yael heroically springs into action… “Come in,” she called out. “Don’t be afraid.” Sisera entered her tent and begged her not to tell anyone that he was there. Yael gently covered him with a blanket and brought him something to drink. Though he asked for water she cleverly brought him milk which soon caused him to fall asleep. Seizing the opportunity, Yael grabbed a tent peg and hammer and quietly crept to his side and then bravely banged the tent peg through the temple of his head, killing him on the spot. Barak, the general of the Jewish army soon passed by and Yael called out to him to let him know that his arch enemy was dead… easily killed by the hands of a brave woman and this action brought victory to Israel.
“And on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the sons of Israel. And the hand of the sons of Israel went on, and pressed hard against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan. Judges 4:23-24 Yael was not only courageous to invite him into her tent but also displayed physical valour as she was determined to violently confront the mighty general of the Canaanites on behalf of her people. Yael’s (Jael’s) bravery as a female soldier of the Old Testament is today displayed in the bravery of the women soldiers of the IDF as they fight for their country, Israel.
Rahab: Hebrew meaning of her name “spacious, open wide” – a prostitute who was a heroine…. Through great bravery, by putting her own life at risk she saved the lives of Joshua’s spies in the city of Jericho (Joshua 2) by hiding them safely and marked the house with a “scarlet cord” …and in turn she and her family’s lives were saved when Jericho was destroyed (Joshua 7). In Hebrews 11:31 Paul says that Rahab’s faith kept her from perishing along with the rest of the disobedient.
Ruth: Hebrew meaning of her name “Friend” – she was a Moabite, wife of Mahlon the son of Elimelech and Naomi (meaning “pleasantness” but called herself Mara meaning “bitter”) of Bethlehem… When both men died, Ruth a Moabite, moved back to Bethlehem with her mother-in law Naomi. Looking back at Ruth’s genealogy many do not realize how great her story really is. She was the great grand daughter of Lot! In Genesis 19:1-26 we read about the two angels preparing Lot and his family to leave as God was going to destroy the two evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The angels warned them not to look back BUT Lot’s wife did look back … and was turned into a pillar of salt. God wanted them to leave the sexual sin and evil behind. Yeshua (Jesus) reminds us in Luke 17:28-32 NOT to look back! And so shall it be in the days of Lot at His Second Coming! “Remember Lot’s wife,” Luke 17:32. In Genesis 19:36-38 we read about Lot’s daughters who after the destruction of the two sinful cities thought that there would be no more lineages so they committed the most horrible sin of sexual immorality with their own father. Why do we mention this? Because, Lot’s daughters gave birth to two sons, the first named her son Moab and the other named her son Ammon. Two tribes would come from this… the Moabites and the Ammonites, as we read over and over in scripture how these tribes became the arch enemies of Israel and bitter wars were fought as they continued fighting and attacking Israel! They were the grand children of Lot… Moabites were so bad that they used to offer their children in sacrifice to false demon gods. Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke curses over the Moabites. Ezekiel and Micah also cursed the Moabites. This was the history of the Moabites a cursed tribe! Looking back… to Lot and his daughters we see drunkenness, incest, sexual immorality, and sin so bad that God had to intervene and destroy two cities!
Looking forward… we see how God’s plan for Ruth’s life… so important was she that the entire book of Ruth was written about her. In Matthew 1 we read the genealogy of Yeshua (Jesus)…“….And Salmon fathered Boaz of Rahab, and Boaz fathered Obed of Ruth, and Obed fathered Jesse…” Matthew 1:5. Ruth became the mother of Obed, the grand-mother of Jesse, and the great grand-mother of David, the great King of Israel and a man after God’s own heart. Though a descendent of an evil tribe of Moabite God used Ruth to be a part of the most wonderful lineage of our Lord and Saviour, Yeshua! Why? “And Ruth said; “Do not beg me to leave you, to return from following after you. For where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May Jehovah do so to me and more also, if anything but death parts you and me,” Ruth 1:16-17. In Ruth we see that if God is our God and we choose to be with His people …it doesn’t matter where or whom we have come from. She was a faithful woman even though she was a foreigner, a Moabite, God changed her destiny. Isn’t it amazing that when Ruth returned with Naomi it would also be to Bethlehem the same place where Naomi came from …and where in God’s timing, Yeshua (Jesus) would later be born?
The Shunammite Woman - No Name given! Hebrew meaning of the root word; “perfect one, peaceable one, or pacified” – she was married, wealthy, generous, hospital and respected 2 Kings 4:8-38: The story takes place in the territory of Issachar in Northern Israel. Shunem overlooks the fertile plains of Esdraelon (Valley of Jezreel) towards Mount Carmel and on the south En-Dor and on the west lays Megiddo. The prophet Elisha was God’s servant, Elijah’s successor upon whom God’s spirit rested and by whom God did great miracles. The Shunammite woman’s heartfelt hospitality to the prophet Elisha and simple, sincere faith led to an amazing series of events. Elisha was certainly blessed and God abundantly blessed the Shunammite woman’s life in a difficult period in Israel. Although she was aware that her child was dead she refused to accept this and does something strange… rather than weeping or grieving in any way quietly takes the boy’s body to the room and lays him on the bed where Elisha had slept, shuts the door behind her and calls out to her husband to send a servant and a donkey (2 Kings 4:22-23) and replies very curiously “shalom” Peace!
She remembers Elisha the servant of God who had made her son possible and now believed that as a man of God would be instrumental in giving the boy back to her! Upon her arrival at Mount Carmel, Elisha saw her approaching and sent his servant Gehazi to meet her. The woman brushed him aside with the same evasive “shalom” that she had answered her husband’s questions with earlier (2 Kings 4:26). Her persistence and determination saved her boy! Still today, God often uses His people’s humble acts of service to bless both the giver and the receiver.
Abishag: the young beautiful, virgin Shunammite girl – chosen to minister and take care of King David in his old age (1 Kings 1:1-4; 15). Hebrew meaning of her name “given to”… She became the king’s attendant but was not intimate with him. After David’s death, Adonijah asks Bathsheba to request King Solomon to give him Abishag to him as a wife (1 Kings 2:13-18). King Solomon responded “…Why request Abishag, the Shunammite for Adonijah? Request the kingship for him! For he is my older brother, and the priest Abiathar and Joab son of Zeruiah are on his side.” 1 Kings 2:19-22 Abishag’s close relationship with King David would link her to the throne and Adonijah wanted to use her influence. But, had King Solomon saw the threat to his kingship and if he had allowed this marriage it would have been acknowledgement of Adonijah’s claim to the throne as older brother! King David had chosen his son Solomon as his successor. Some see Abishag, who is described as “very fair” in Song of Songs as the Shulammite same as Shunammite.
“Have thine own way Lord …for you are the POTTER and we are the CLAY.”
We hope that you enjoy and become more informed by our work. We serve an awesome God and we are humbled by this opportunity to bring you this information.
Alf & Julie Saunders
01st July, 2015
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