During biblical times, men viewed women as insignificant. Because of this, women's roles were limited. It was a man's world, and men were the focus. Yet despite this cultural view of women, the Bible has a lot to say about them. They often transcended their cultural limitations and stepped into the limelight. Some women were commendable and others were not; nevertheless, readers can learn a lot from the way the types of women in the Bible are portrayed.
According to "Easton's Bible Dictionary," the term "patriarch" means head of the family. The Bible uses the term in a special way to refer to the fathers of the faith: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The patriarchal women are the wives of the patriarchs. None of them was perfect. Abraham's wife, Sarah, laughed when God promised she would have a son in her old age. Isaac's wife, Rebekah, plotted with her son Jacob to steal his brother Esau's blessing. Jacob's wives, Rachel and Leah, fought over his affections. Despite their flaws, the Bible considers them women of God who played a crucial role in biblical history.
Faithful women in the Bible played many roles. They were prophets, queens, church leaders or simply faithful servants. In the time of the judges, the prophetess Deborah led Israel to victory against the Canaanite army. Queen Esther risked her life to save her people. Priscilla was a teacher and a close associate of Paul. Other noteworthy faithful women include Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist; Ruth, wife of Boaz and David's great-grandmother; Hannah, mother of Samuel; Mary, mother of Jesus; Mary and Martha, sisters who opened their home to Jesus; and Mary Magdalene, the first to see Jesus after his resurrection.
Some women did not follow or acknowledge God. They tried to thwart God's plan for God's people, and the Bible considers these women evil. Delilah was a prostitute who delivered Samson to the Philistines. Job's wife advised him to curse God and die when he suffered various calamity and diseases. Potiphar's wife accused Joseph of attacking her when he would not give in to her amorous demands. Queen Jezebel, King Ahab's wife, introduced him and Israel to Baal worship and killed God's prophets in the process. Athaliah, Jezebel's daughter, killed her grandsons and made herself queen. Herodias, Herod's wife, plotted to have her husband kill John the Baptist.
Genesis describes the creation of woman after God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden. When Adam named the animals, he found that none were comparable to him, and he felt alone. God decided to make Adam a "suitable helper." Genesis 2:21 records how God put Adam to sleep and created Eve from his rib. Eve has the unfortunate reputation of being the first to eat the forbidden fruit. However, Adam ate some, too, and both shared the blame. Eve went on to become the mother of all people. She serves as an example of women who are flawed, yet still loved and valued by God.
- "Every Woman in the Bible"; Sue P. Richards, et al.; 1999
- "Easton's Bible Dictionary"; Matthew G. Easton; 1897
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