Today is International Women’s Day. In honor of that celebration, I invite you to consider these women from the Bible. I’ll name twenty, but believe you me, there are plenty more I have to leave out so as not to bore you to death.
- Eve, who has been blamed often for the original sin, as if that fathead Adam weren’t standing right there next to her when it happened. But she was a co-worker in the Garden, and a symbol of the primal wholeness between the sexes.
- Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who delighted to think she would “know pleasure” again in old age, and who laughed at God and got away with it.(Can you imagine somebody telling God straight up, “Uh, no, I didn’t laugh at you?”)
- Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden (i.e., slave), used by Abraham to produce an heir and then sent away into the desert by Sarah’s jealousy.
- Tamar the widow, whose brother-in-law Onan spilled his seed rather give her an heir to support her in old age. Tamar took matters into her own hands, slept with her father-in-law, narrowly escaped execution for her “harlotry…“…and became a named ancestor of Jesus.
- The midwives of Egypt who defy Pharaoh’s genocidal order to kill male Hebrew infants.
- Moses’ mother, who in hope refused to kill him outright and instead sent him floating down the Nile.
- Pharaoh’s daughter, who subverted her old man and raised Moses as her own, only to have him reject the palace as an adult.
- Miriam, Moses’ sister, a prophet in her own right, and a political operator not afraid to challenge Moses’ power among the Israelites.
- Deborah the fair judge, who overcame tribal rivalry and led the Israelites to military victory.
- Ruth, who stayed with her mother-in-law Naomi through famine, rejecting the safety of going home to her own people to provide for her family.
- Esther saved the Jews of Persia from slaughter and got the rat bastard Haman hanged on his own gallows. (Esther is the only book in the Bible not to mention God, by the way.)
- Now, moving to the New Testament, Mary, the very-young woman who was unafraid to accept a risky mission from God, who didn’t bother to consult with a male relative before she said Yes, who didn’t mind challenging her son, but who stayed with him when his friends deserted him for fear of their own lives and watched him die a violent and disgraceful death, who was a prophet, received the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and whose memory was treasured by the early church.
- The unnamed woman with the hemorrhage (i.e., an uncontrolled menstrual bleed) who didn’t hesitate to touch Jesus and be healed by him.
- The Syro-Phoenician woman, desperate to have her child healed, who gives a smart answer to Jesus’ smart remark. (“It is not right to take the children’s bread and feed it to the dogs,” he says, meaning to help someone who is not Jewish. “Yes,” she says, “but even the puppies can eat the crumbs from the table.”)
- The Samaritan woman, ostracized in her community, who listens to Jesus’ teaching, and boldly spreads the word about him.
- The Forgiven Woman, saved from execution by Jesus, offered God’s forgiveness and Jesus’ compassion.
- Mary Magdalene, often slandered as a prostitute, one of Jesus’ first and most loyal disciples, who preaches the first Christian sermon. (“The Lord is risen,” she tells the disciples on Easter morning. Pfft, they say. Typical men.)
- Martha and Mary, one who serves and one who listens, who may represent the stable communities of the early church (Martha) who provided hospitality to itinerant, mendicant preachers and apostles (Mary).
- Lydia, the “dealer in purple cloth,” who Paul calls a co-worker, who helped found the church in Philippi.
- And last but not least, Phoebe, called a “deacon” by Paul, who brings his letter to the Roman community to another town, showing that women were early, active, and equal leaders in the church.
I can’t do these women justice here. Some of them have had entire books written on them. In fact, we can’t do justice at all by the women of the Bible. They were hurt, raped, killed, oppressed in too many ways to mention.
But we see throughout scripture women unafraid to defy the norms of their day, to work for their communities and on their own behalf. We see women who set the pattern for and far exceed the faithfulness of the men and who change the course of salvation history itself. No women? No Moses. No Mary? No Jesus.
Whatever you think of the treatment of women in scripture or the church, I invite you to consider how different each would be without them. God is unequivocal even when the people aren’t: women are beloved, deserving, and equal children of God. The end. Whatever you think of the treatment of women in scripture or the church, I invite you to consider how different each would be without them. God is unequivocal even when the people aren’t: women are beloved, deserving, and equal children of God. The end.+ + +