Interesting and Fearless Women of the Bible
WOMEN OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT With the many views running rampant these days about women, sexuality and gender roles, we are going to take a look at some of the women in the Bible.
WOMEN OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT
With the many views running rampant these days about women, sexuality and gender roles, we are going to take a look at some of the women in the Bible. While it’s true that times have surely changed since these ancient times, it is still worth considering the attitudes of these women, how they related to their families and how they served God in their roles.
Sarah, originally called Sarai in the Old Testament, was both half sister and wife of Abraham and Isaac’s mother. God Himself changed her name (Genesis 17:15) as a part of the covenant He made with Abraham after Ishmael was born to Hagar. The name “Sarah” is translates “princess” and signifies a woman of a particularly high rank.
Sarah was barren for many years of her marriage to Abraham. Fearing he would have no heir, she gave him her servant, Hagar, so that he might produce an heir. Hagar did have a son, after which Sarah became so angry, she sent both mother and child away, with Abraham’s blessing. An angel was sent to save them, however, and Ismael grew under the care of his mother.
Sarah became pregnant in her old age and gave birth to Isaac, the promised seed that God had spoken to Abraham of, years before. At one point, to test Abraham’s faith, God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, which Abraham was more than willing to do. At the last moment, an angel stopped him, signifying that it was never God’s intent to harm the boy.
Sarah was so beautiful that Abraham often feared for his life in the presence of powerful rulers. Because of this, he often identified her only as his sister, without mentioning that she was also his wife. She died when she was 127 years old, and is the only woman in the Old Testament to have her age given. Abraham had her buried in the Cave of Machpelah, located near the city of Hebron.
Ruth (wife of Boaz)
Elimelech and Naomi took their two sons and lived during a time of famine in the land of Moab. When Elimelech died, the sons then married, with Mahlon marrying Ruth, and Chilion marrying Orpah. Both of these women were Moabites, and their husbands died there, like their father.
Some time after this, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem and although she tried to persuade her not to, Ruth decided to go with her instead of staying on in Moab. Their arrival in Bethlehem happened to coincide with the start of the harvesting of barley. Naomi sent Ruth to glean in the fields of Boaz, a prosperous relative of Elimelech, in hopes that he would redeem the land that had belonged to Elimelech and marry Ruth.
Boaz told Ruth that there was another relative who had more right to redeem the land than Boaz himself had. However, after the other relative said that he did not want to, Boaz then, in the witness of the elders of the city, agreed to guy the land and marry Ruth. These two became the parents of Obed, who was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of King David.
Priscilla (wife of Aquila)
Priscilla and her husband Aquila were two of the first Christian missionaries as described in the New Testament. Additionally, they are considered to be a part of the original seventy sent out by Jesus. They worked and traveled with Paul on his journeys and in Romans 16:3, he described them as “my helpers in Christ Jesus”.
Together, Priscilla and Aquila were a constant presence in the early Christian churches and helped to strengthen them. They also helped to instruct and team Apollos, who was played a key evangelical role in the first century (Acts 18:26). Together, they are mentioned six times throughout four different books of the Bible, Acts 18, Romans 16, 1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Timothy 4.
Mary Magdalene, which is literally interpreted, “Mary of Magdalene” was a Jewish woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons (Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9). She was a witness, along with others, to Jesus’ crucifixion, His burial and His resurrection.
After His burial, Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of Jesus and Salome, took spices to anoint the body. John 20:16 and Mark 16:9 both state that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first, after His resurrection.
Some believe that Mary Magdalene was a former prostitute; however, there are no clear evidences of such. The first claim of her being a loose woman or a prostitute comes from a claim made by Pope Gregory 1, also known as Gregory the Great, around the year 591. He claimed the Mary Magdalene, the anonymous sinner who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil, and Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, were all the same person. Again, though, there is no clear proof of this in the Bible or historical writings.
Here is Pope Gregory’s entire statement:
She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. What did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? It is clear, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts. What she therefore displayed more scandalously, she was now offering to God in a more praiseworthy manner. She had coveted with earthly eyes, but now through penitence these are consumed with tears. She displayed her hair to set off her face, but now her hair dries her tears. She had spoken proud things with her mouth, but in kissing the Lord’s feet, she now planted her mouth on the Redeemer’s feet. For every delight, therefore, she had had in herself, she now immolated herself. She turned the mass of her crimes to virtues, in order to serve God entirely in penance. (Homily XXXIII)
Hannah (mother of Samuel)
Hannah was married to Elkanah and the mother of Samuel, according to the Bible (1 Samuel 1 & 2). She was one of two wives and had been barren their entire marriage. Every year that Elkanah offered sacrifices at Shiloh sanctuary, he gave a double portion to Hannah, because he loved her so and because her womb had remained closed (1 Samuel 1:5).
Hannah visited the temple one particular day praying and weeping greatly as the High Priest, Eli, sat by the door. She prayed and told God that if He would give her a son, she would promise to dedicate him to right back to God. She was so distraught that Eli thought that she was drunk and instructed her to put away her wine.
After Hannah explained her situation and assured Eli that she was not drunk, he blessed her and sent her on her way home. It was after this that she became pregnant, had a son and named him Samuel, which literally means, “Heard by God”.
After she weaned Samuel, she brought him to the temple, along with a sacrifice, and gave him over into the service of God. After this, Eli again blessed her and she had three more male children and two daughters.
Esther (Queen of Persia, wife of King Xerxes)
During a seven-day feast in Susa, King Xerxes had become “in high spirits” from drinking wine and ordered that his queen, Vashti, some out and display her beauty to all his guests. However, she refused to do so, leaving the King completely furious. When he asked his wise men how to respond, they said it would be best to be rid of her, otherwise women in the kingdom would hear of it and begin to treat their husbands in the same manner.
He took their advice and ordered many beautiful maidens to be brought from which he could choose a successor to replace Queen Vashti. He saw and chose Esther, an orphan who had been cared for and protected by her cousin Mordecai, as she had been orphaned early.
Haman, who was very close to the King, had commanded Mordecai to bow to him. However, when Mordecai refused to do so, Haman became so angry he convinced King Xerxes to exterminate the entire Jewish race. The King had no problem issuing the proclamation, along with the order to seize all Jewish property.
Esther, after learning of this, asked Mordecai to arrange a three day fast at Susa and decided to approach the King, even though it could mean that she would be killed. The King was happy to see her though, and asked her what request she had brought. She told him that she wanted him and Haman to attend a banquet that she had prepared.
She invited them to yet another banquet the following night at which she revealed to the King that she was indeed a Jew, and that Haman had desired to have her and all her people killed. King Xerxes was so angry that he ordered Haman be hanged immediately, and then replaced him with Mordecai. Furthermore, he issued a decree stating that the Jews had the right to defend themselves in such matters.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name be the glory
Because of Your love and your faithfulness!