When the men would not listen to the women.
Can we see God fighting for women’s rights in the Bible? Is God’s attitude towards women sometimes different from that of the patriarchs and many Christians today?
If a message is spoken by a man it’s must be important, if it’s a woman, not so much. We don’t have to receive the message if it comes from a woman but if it comes from a man we are obligated to receive it. The male speaker was firm and the message was spoken with authority, the female speaker was being hysterical. The male speaker was moved to tears, the female speaker was emotionally unstable. These are all stereotypes many Christians have unconsciously. There are plenty of stereotypes among Christians but also in the world. The subject of this article may not be something all women can relate to as not all have tried to do the work that subjects them to gender criticism. I’m aware that a lot of the women don’t see the problem before they themselves have become “the problem”.
When asked to do a sermon for an online group I asked what subject they would like to hear the most. Several suggestions came, all related to important end-time issues. But then one suggested “women in the Bible”. I had never spoken about how women were treated or about women’s rights. But the moment the topic came scriptures after scriptures came into my head in perfect order, showing a different side to many of the Biblical stories. This had happened once before when I was wondering if I should quit the work I was doing. And now it happened again. As the sermon falls into place right then and there I decided that God must want me to speak on what I had learned.
For I have experienced a lot of female discrimination as a ministry worker yet I always thought perhaps it was how it should be. So my reaction when I suffered female discrimination while working for God was that perhaps it was even God’s will.
When the debate on female pastors reached its boiling point the strangest things were said about women in the debate. The words were downgrading and inhibitory and many women in ministry lost their courage and considered giving up their work for God. For this was no longer about ordination but a “women’s place” in a Christian society. And so the things said in the debate did not just affect female pastors but also lay-workers and female evangelists. And I was one of them. Especially messianic communities have been preaching women’s rightful position and several conservative Adventist groups have joined them in the ‘shout’. I had comments directed at me saying “don’t listen to her, being a woman she is not permitted to teach the Bible”. Or I was called adolescent. Being 41 it would perhaps be flattering to be called adolescent but when it’s said to reflect me as inexperienced it’s not. Women in ministry are more likely to receive personal criticism based on gender and appearance rather than having the doctrines we present debated. Most likely women speaking on theological topics are ignored.
One large advent ministry went so far as to claim that a woman, in order to receive a blessing from God, had to go to her husband and ask Him for a blessing, and then the man would bring the topic before the Lord. Women, they explained, had to have a male mediator in order to address God. This is not one individual, many have gone into this thought process that is by many considered a reformation. When a great speaker with a large following felt it was his calling to speak out against female preachers I counted as many as over 30 mistakes in his sermon yet he kept banging his Bible and his prophets books saying “evidence is here”. Yet when I looked up the scripture in their context it was really more a matter of interpretation. And some of the statements just weren’t there.
It was when my courage was about to fall to pieces that God flashed before me stories after stories in the Bible, details about known stories I’ve never noticed before. It’s my hope that this Bible study will be an encouragement to women working for God but also can make men rethink before ignoring a female gospel worker.
I have known some great female gospel workers who gave up. Some had higher education and massive theological knowledge compared to some of their praised male counterparts. They worked and reached many, yet they were constantly ignored until they left their post exhausted and unappreciated.
The fact of the matter about women’s ministry (not health ministries) is this:
* Very few support female lay-workers. That female lay-workers don’t receive much economic support. This has been a problem for many, many years and is the main reason women’s ministry rarely gets a chance to grow.
* Fewer listen to and receive something that comes from a woman, everything that has a man in front is more likely to be considered important.
* The female lay workers are facing difficulties on the outside as well as among their brethren.
Men that didn’t listen to the women.
As we go into this study to take a look at men that didn’t listen to the women I want to remind you that sometimes men in the Bible did listen to the women and the result was bad. But that normally has a lot of focus as most preachers are men. The focus of this study is when they should have listened to the women. This study will also reflect how God sees women.
We will also look into the extreme view some ministries present that women need to go to their husbands and pray for a blessing rather than going straight to God. I am hoping this study will inspire those women who have not followed their calling because they have been taught not to, to boldly go out and serve the Lord. And I’m hoping that those of you who are reading this and are men, to not underestimate or ignore women God have given a calling.
Some ministries claim that in order for a woman to get to heaven or to prepare for heaven she must let the man rule over her here on earth.
Remember that it was after sin this started happening and part of her curse:
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Gen 3:16:) So God clearly called it a curse, a consequence of sin, and not a divine institution.
So the question arises if gender power positions are even going to be a thing in heaven. Although Paul did not want Christians to offend the custom of their times he still claimed:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye is all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:28-29)
Neither bond nor free. Although there will be no such thing in heaven Paul still advised a slave to go back and subordinate to his master for the sake of what was the rule of the land back then. Being a slave was also the result of sin and not a divine institution. In the same way, Paul spoke to the women and told them to subordinate. But in heaven the curse on the woman will be lifted: “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.” (Mar 12:25)
And so for the woman to use her time learning to «know her place» will be irrelevant to her experience in heaven. The curse will be no more.
A woman at this point in time needs to learn to be obedient to God before any other. No woman must lean on her husband for either salvation or to destruction.
An example is found in the story of Abigail. It says: “Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings” (1Sa 25:3 )
Now this woman went against her husband’s decision and behind his back, she interfered with his wishes and she was greatly blessed for what she did. We can say with almost certainty that she was not living under her husband’s rule when she acted as she did.
The same goes today, women themselves are responsible and will be judged by their own actions.
Is it our work today to teach women to be obedient to their curse or to tell them they are free in Christ?
The curse in Eden is important when we look into the next stories in the Bible. For what if we have given the «curse» in Eden a false interpretation as to a woman’s place? Could we have given it a meaning it has not? Could it even have been understood wrongly by several of the patriarchs? The only way to find that answer is to see how God Himself approaches women and especially what God does when women have been treated wrongly because of the misconception. And this will reveal how God views a women’s place. For although men did receive a leading role in the marriage we might have put things into the role that weren’t meant to be there.
Nowhere in the law does it say that women are prohibited to be a leader, prophet, teacher, or any such things. This is very important. For if God has not given a law against women holding these positions it means that women holding these positions cannot be committing a sin. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1Jn_3:4 )
We don’t become sinners by breaking human traditions and laws but by breaking God’s laws.
We as humans, even Paul himself, cannot determine what sin is and what it isn’t. Only the law determines sin. For anyone who thinks a woman sins when preaching the word cannot prove it from the law. If a lay preacher or pastor is shouting that a woman in ministry is sinning the Bible clearly exposes them: «To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa.8:20 ) There is no light in what they are saying.
We don’t decide what sin is, the law does. And the law does not speak against women for being women.
We are now going to look at several Biblical characters and God’s response to them. And yes some of the ‘heroes’ might not look so heroic in this study. But remember, the male side of the story is the one most told and so this once, shows the female side of some of these stories.
Abraham was chosen and walked with the Lord. But his view on his wife had its faults. For God had also chosen Sarah to be the mother of the chosen seed. She was also chosen. But Abraham failed to see this completely. When they came to Egypt and Abraham feared for his life he was willing to sacrifice Sarah to protect himself.
“And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:
Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.” (Gen 12:11-13)
What Abraham feared happened. They see Sarah and find her beautiful spite her age and they bring her to the palace. Abraham is given a gift in return: “And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.”
It could actually be that one of these women was Hagar. Was God’s chosen man in a good position where he was sitting with all his gifts? Absolutely. His wealth had exceeded greatly. He undoubtedly loved Sarah but he chose his own life over hers in this situation. Notice who God is most concerned for when he sends plagues over pharaoh: “And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.” (Gen 12:16 -17)
Because of Sarah. She was in the most difficult situation facing abuse and being dishonored. In God’s eyes, Sarah could not be sacrificed for Abraham’s sake. This was not God’s will. Where was the man ready to sacrifice himself for his woman? That man was not Abraham at this point, but God was Sarah’s hero and rescuer. God protected her against abuse and made sure Pharaoh was forced to send her home. As we are to see later in the story is that Sarah could not be replaced for she was chosen too. “Because of Sarah”. And please bear in mind when you read this story that Abraham was not a weak man. Not long after he went after the four kings of Mesopotamia to deliver his nephew Lot from their hands and with him the inhabitants of Sodom. Abraham could fight. But in this case and later, he did not fight for his wife.
Even Sarah loses faith that she is important to God and in this disbelief that it’s only her husband that is chosen she tells Abraham to conceive a child by her Egyptian handmaid Hagar. Sarah had lost faith that God regarded her as highly as He did and thought sincerely that perhaps it made no difference who gave birth to Abraham’s chosen child. Abraham listened to her, but he doesn’t really listen. He too thinks that the most important is him. Rather than fighting and being strong for his woman telling her of her importance, or consulting God in the matter, he agrees to go into Hagar and sleep with another woman in order to ‘fulfill God’s promise’ to him. This was a betrayal towards his wife even though she suggested it. And Sarah shows later how bitter she is over how easy it was for Abraham to go to her and go along with this plan:
“And Sarah said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.” (Gen 16:5 )
She is saying Abraham is at fault. Many who might think this is just another case of women’s hysteria and it’s her own fault alone, should think again when God has a say in it later.
Abraham receives a son that is named Ishmael. When God tells Abraham once again that the chosen son will be given through Sarah, Abraham refers God to Ishmael instead. In a way, he tells God that Sarah is not important and that it’s not necessary to give a child by her as he already has a son now. Again we see Abraham rejecting the value of Sarah in fulfilling God’s promise. As if he was the only one that really mattered.
“And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.“And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” (Gen 17:15 -19)
«SHE SHALL BE A MOTHER OF NATIONS». She is chosen.
And we will see in these Bible stories over and over again how God ignores the little value the patriarchs and men in the Bible have for women and elevates them instead.
God says over and over again that it is Sarah that is his wife and that she cannot be replaced. She is unique. Later in the New Testament Sarah and Hagar become the symbol of flesh and spirit. A symbol of our own works and God’s works. A symbol of freedom and slavery. Sarah and her child became the symbol of freedom. Up until this day and throughout Bible history Sarah’s descendants have been at war and troubled by Ishmael and the other of Abraham’s descendants by other wives. They became a plague to God’s chosen people.
To this very day, in the conflicts in the Middle East, we can see the result of Sarah’s importance being undermined. And the result that Sarah had been lead to believe that only her husband was important in the fulfillment of the promise.
Hagar and Sarah.
But the story of Hagar also has something to tell us. Abraham had said that «O that Ishmael might live before thee!» But God had said that the fulfillment of His promise had to be given through Sarah’s son. When a conflict arose between Ishmael and Isaac, Hagar and Sarah, God sides with Sarah.
“And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Gen 21:9-12)
Notice that when God spoke to Abraham before he said «Sarah THY WIFE» yet now God is not acknowledging Hagar as Abraham’s wife but He calls her «thy bondwoman». In God’s eyes, Hagar was not elevated just because Abraham had slept with her and born him a son. In God’s eyes, she was a bondwoman he had a child with. Then He says «in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice». God says to the man to do what his wife tells him. He did not side with Abraham and told him to tell Sarah to subordinate herself and know her place. No, God fights for Sarah’s rights. She is in the right, she has been mistreated and humiliated by the whole arrangement and he needs to listen to her. God sides with Sarah. It says «the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight» yet God agreed with Sarah. Abraham’s judgment was not right. The one who would be a symbol of God’s freedom was not to be asked to suffer in silence unable to do anything about her situation. For many in those days, the firstborn would be even more important than the wife that hadn’t born him a son. The firstborn had a high status. But this tradition had to be broken in this situation, for it was the will of God. God rarely comes and speaks to the patriarchs. But in this case God Himself interfered and had to tell Abraham that his wife and son by her, the second-born, was the firstborn in God’s eyes. And Abraham had to send away his firstborn for the sake of his wife Sarah.
Later God says to Abraham about Isaac: “And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” (Gen 21:9)
Thy ONLY son. God did not highly esteem Abraham’s infidelity to his wife and showed it in this way.
Let’s go back to Hagar. Even though she had been used at a time when Abraham and Sarah lost sight of Sarah’s value in the eyes of God, Hagar also had God’s sympathy. God loves all women, also the slaves and the bondwomen, the rejected and mistreated. Now that God had done justice for Sarah and restored her in her right place He decides to take care of the rejected woman.
“And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
“And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.
And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.” (Gen 21:14-19)
God, Himself comes to speak to Hagar. The first time the Lord showed Himself to Hagar He told her to call her son Ishmael. This time He speaks directly to her. What a great honor for a bondwoman! Even though God cared about this woman’s rights it was not her right to be Abraham’s wife. Hagar had tried to take a position that wasn’t hers. She had wanted to take someone else’s place and had elevated herself in her own mind in a way that made that seem right.
But God would not help Hagar to a right that wasn’t hers. His compassion for her was to help her in her position. No mediator was needed when The Lord came to speak to Hagar. The first time He showed Himself to her He gave her a prophetic message. And we will see more of this as we continue, how God gives women prophetic messages. This was a great honor to Hagar. Even though God could not give her Sarah’s place He had other blessings to give her. The Lord shows and speaks to her twice! What did God say about the great King Solomon? He said he had shown Himself to him twice in a dream. Still, Hagar, the bondwoman got to see the Lord and hear His voice while she was awake. And Isaac? How many times do we hear God showing Himself to him? 2-3 times? Still today it’s regarded great when the Lord speaks to men, but when He speaks so directly to a woman it’s less regarded and spoken of. You know it’s true. Hagar had seen great blessings more so than many of the important men of Bible history.
“And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” (Gen 16:13)
ISAC AND REBEKAH
Moving on to Isaac and the prophetic message that was given to Rebekah. A message that was rejected or ignored by Isaac. Yes, many people don’t remember that Rebekah received a prophetic message from the Lord that Isaac just plainly ignored as unimportant. The consequence of his rejection of this message could however not easily be ignored as it had tragic consequences.
Many think we don’t need to receive a woman God has sent with a message, but to reject a man God has sent is wrong and a sin.
However, if the message is from God it doesn’t matter if it’s shared by a man or a woman, it’s still from God.
The first thing we need to know about Rebekah is that God chose her. She is not just a wife Isaac lusted after and took to himself. We are told God had chosen her when the one who is searching for a wife for Isaac asks God to show him who He has chosen by sending him a sign. Notice here how the woman, even though God had chosen her, would not enter into the marriage in any other form than by her free will. God does not force anyone to enter into His plans for their lives. He plans and then He offers us to willingly choose His plan for us. Women were not a merchandise in God’s eyes that were to be subjected to the will of some man.
Abraham said to his servant: «And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.” (Gen 24:8)
So when Abrahams servant speaks to Rebekah’s family after receiving a sign that she is the one God has chosen we see the following happening:
“And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth.
And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.
And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant, and his men.” (Gen 24:57-59)
Again she is asked and her opinion is respected. It’s up to her to make the decision.
Rebecca married Isaac and gets pregnant with twins. Notice how Rebekah asks God directly, and not through her husband, and God then answers her directly and gives her a prophetic message of the future:
“And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD.
And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. (Gen 25:22-23)
The elder shall serve the younger. Did Isaac receive this prophetic message given directly from the Lord to his wife? No. What would Isaac have done if the prophetic message had been spoken directly to him? Had he taken it seriously? Can you picture Isaac going against a message he himself got from the Lord? But because of a downgrading view on women, the message given to Rebekah was less esteemed and even ignored. What is the result?
When Isaac is blessing his son he chose Esau in direct opposition to the message given to his wife. And the blessing he thinks he is giving Esau is the opposite of the message God gave Rebekah. And so, in reality, Isaac was about to try and ‘force’ God to go against His own prophetic message. Isaac says with Esau in mind: «Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. (Gen.27:29)
The prophetic message from the Lord was: «the elder shall serve the younger»
And the blessing Isaac planned to give to Esau was: «be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee”
So God says the elder shall serve the younger and Isaac said that the older should be lord over the younger.
By refusing to acknowledge the prophetic message given to Rebekah, Isaac ended up ready to defy God and teach the opposite of His will. He chose his own judgment over revelation.
Could it be it was because of the degrading view on women and because this message was given to his wife and not him that he didn’t fear to go against it? But as we know, Jacob had dressed as Esau and got the blessing by deception. After this Isaac gave in and re-confirmed this blessing to Jacob.
Rebekah knew God’s will and believed the message she had received and she was frustrated and desperate as she saw Isaac getting ready to do something she knew was not God’s will. And so she came up with this deceitful plan. Rebekah should have trusted that God’s word to her would be fulfilled no matter what Isaac said and did. But in those days a man’s word overruled a woman. She forgot perhaps that the message wasn’t hers but God’s and could not be overruled.
Because the message was ignored and rejected, Esau grew up thinking he had rights to something that really belonged to the brother. The result of everything was that Jacob had to run away from his home and all the sorrow that followed for both Jacob, Esau, Rebekah who did not get to see her son again, and for Isaac who had provoked it all by his stubbornness.
Did it have consequences that the message God gave through Rebekah wasn’t received? Yes, enormously. So why did God not just give the same message to Isaac as he had given to Rebekah? Wouldn’t that have solved everything? Had God done this He would have supported the view to all generations that messages given through women are only to be taken seriously when it’s also given to a man. He would support the wrongful view many had. God’s word was good enough and if they would not receive it because it came from a woman, they lost the blessing that followed.
God’s word, no matter who it comes to or who God speaks through, whether it’s a man, female, or a donkey, is to be taken seriously. We don’t dictate who God speaks to or who Gods speak through, our responsibility is to be humble and receive it. The message God gave through Rebekah was good enough. It was the degrading view of women that was the problem in this situation. God does not make mistakes. He chose to give the message to the wife who was the one who asked Him for council, and not the man, and the man should have received the message and taught his sons their rightful roles.
But also Jacob’s way of viewing women will have unfortunate consequences. He agrees to take more than one wife. The conflicts surrounding these wives and how it affects his children lead up to him losing his beloved Joseph for many years.
At least to me, it’s obvious that God had chosen Leah to be Jacobs’s wife. But Jacob wanted Rachel. Jacob did not ask God for counsel or pray for a sign the way Abraham’s servant had done when Rebekah was chosen. Jacob wants the woman that his heart lusts after. Jacob at this time knew he was chosen as his father and grandfather and should perhaps have realized how important it was for the woman he married to be the one God had chosen for him. But it seems that this wasn’t important to him. Leah becomes his first wife by deception. Just like Jacob, in order to receive his right, tried to get it by deception, Leah had ended up in the same trap. She had been ignored for the sake of her beautiful little sister and now she had voluntarily chosen deceit in order to be Jacob’s wife. But the common story of Jacob and Leah both deceiving in order to get their rightful position seems to leave little impression on Jacob. He once craved forgiveness for his own deed but had little compassion to give Leah for making the same mistake as he did.
It says: “And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.” (Gen 29:31)
God set an example to Jacob and blessed Leah more than her sister. And her sister was forced to humble herself. God would not have Jacob mistreat the woman God perhaps had chosen for him just because she had made herself guilty in a similar sin as the one He had forgiven Jacob of. When Rachel has been humbled for years and they had pleaded with God to let her have children as well, God hears their prayer and Rachel gives birth to Joseph. However, God does not give Rachel any more children than the bondmaids. All three get exactly two children each while the one God does regard as the real wife of Jacob is given 6 sons. So Leah gets as many sons as all the three other wives combined. And so Rachel has to live with that. Her blessing was no more than the bondmaids.
However, Jacob is still convinced that the one he himself had chosen is the one who will produce the child that would continue down the line to the Messiah. When Esau comes up against Jacob, notice what Jacob does. He fears Esau and their safety. He arranges the women. First the two bondswomen and their children and then Leah and her children and lastly Rachel and her son.
“And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.” (Gen.33:2)
This was even unheard of I think back then, that the first wife was to be placed in that order. We all know today that the son that had been chosen to be Christ’s forefather was Leah’s son Judah. Had Jacob even comprehended this and their importance Leah and Judah would not have been placed as living shields for the wife he loved the most. But God saved all of them. The point here is that women are important to God too. What do we know about the two women? Rachel took her father’s idols with her when they traveled to Canaan. This tells a lot about Rachel and who she was in her relationship with God. It was only after Rachel had humbled herself that God let her bear children, God straight out said He let her be barren because of her hate. And these idols and gods that she brought with her took place after Joseph was born. Her decision to steal them could have cost Jacob his life if not God had interfered. For her father had come to fight Jacob for the sake of them.
God chose Leah to be the woman who Christ would descend, the same woman that Jacob had rejected. The conflict between Leah and Rachel developed into a conflict between their children that had the most serious consequences. All of Leah’s children were old enough to see how they were placed and arranged as a shield before Rachel and Joseph. Being sons of the first wife and have their rights taken from them, and regarded with less value, can have played a factor in their hate towards innocent Joseph. Joseph in a sense became the sin-bearer of the entire conflict when it reached its highest peak and he was treated most terribly by his brothers.
God could have told Jacob from the start that his other sons were to blame and where he could find Joseph. But He did not say a word. Had He, it would have divided the whole family and Jacob would be sure to reject the sons that God had chosen for a special task. And so God did not tell Jacob until his sons had enough time to suffer and regret their actions so that the reveal, when it came, would not lead his sons away from the Lord. Only after Joseph had tried his brethren, and revealed himself, God spoke to Jacob about Joseph. Before then Judah had moved away from his father and then back again. Judah was at this time ready to sacrifice himself for the son of Rachel.
«And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.” (Gen 46:2-4)
Again, God could have easily revealed where Joseph was to Jacob before. But at that time it would have caused Jacob to perhaps treat his sons in a way that made them leave the Lord. He could have easily rejected the one who was chosen for the sake of Joseph. Now they were all united and were to become one nation. For Judah was not to be rejected for Joseph’s sake, and Leah’s children not be rejected for Rachel’s children’s sake. For Leah and her seed was chosen.
In the next story, we see God fights for a woman’s rights is a woman most really look down upon. Tamar was married to Judah’s firstborn and we see from the bigger picture how God had chosen her to be the mother of the promise. Even though Judah’s line would go towards King David and Christ we see that it’s not enough to be just a man or firstborn.
“And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also. Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.» (Gen.38:6-11)
Who is blamed for their death? Tamar right? Not the men’s own evil. Had Onan not let his seed be spilled on the ground, had he not rejected Tamar then God might not have rejected him. He chose to lie with her but not give her his semen. If this was the case, he should not have lied with her. God did not think well of his behavior and is fully on the side of the wronged woman. When Judah doesn’t want to give his last son to her, his son is also rejected as the forefather to the promised Messiah. All of Judah’s three sons are rejected while Tamar is still chosen. Judah’s third son Sela had children too but they were not chosen to lead to the Messiah. Tamar was chosen and she was in this case more important than all of Judah’s three sons. Perhaps this thought would not fit with the worldview back then, but God did what He did. God has high regard for the women He chooses and for women’s rights. When Tamar’s rights were violated, God took her defense.
Tamar, desperate for a child, knowing her rights, now goes into the footsteps of Jacob, Leah, and Rebekah. She chooses to try and get her right by deception, the very right Judah had denied her. If she had asked God for council all would have been avoided.
She then becomes pregnant after deceiving Judah to lie with her and one of her sons becomes the next in line towards the promised Messiah.
The bottom line of the story is this: When both a man and a woman are chosen, if the man rejects the woman, God can sometimes decide to keep the woman and reject the man. As in the case of Tamar, a man can risk his own election by ignoring and rejecting a woman God has chosen. This is how high a woman’s value can be in God’s work.
Sarah was rejected, Jacob rejected, Leah rejected, and Tamar rejected, and they all had this thing in common that they were looked down upon by those who were supposed to give them their blessing. All because they who were giving the blessing could not see or understand whom God had chosen.
All suffered especially because of a degrading view of women’s importance. Jacob suffered because his mother’s message from God was ignored, Leah because her rights were taken from her and Tamar for the same reasons. God seems to be very zealous about women’s rights.
There is no blessing in ignoring or rejecting those women God has chosen and it has lead to conflicts and divisions in families, loss of home, and loss of sons. Still, to this day, men still look down upon women God elects for assignments, but what if this mistake gives great consequences for God’s people even today? Is it really time to teach women “their place”? We will investigate further.
First, we are going to continue and now look at the law.
When rape is considered Murder.
God does not look easily at rape. In the law, it says that when a man attacks a woman and rapes her it should be judged as murder even though she doesn’t die. What happens in western society? Many rapists only get a few years, while murderers are convicted for a long time.
“But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.” (Deu 22:25-27)
What do you think would have happened in the world today if rape was judged as murder? God doesn’t tolerate this type of violence against women. When rape happens against a woman’s will and she has done nothing to place herself in that situation and she screams and wants it to stop it’s not viewed in the law as a sexual assault, it’s not judged after the seventh commandment but after the sixths in God’s final judgment day. In this way, we know that God has acknowledged that even though the woman is still alive in her inner emotional life, the damage is so great on her heart and soul, that it should be considered murder. This shows God’s care for a victim of this type of rape and how He values her pain to a greater degree than our own society does today with how they judge. God says that the woman should not be punished for she has done nothing wrong. What happens in India and many Muslim countries today? The one who has been raped receives the punishment and the man in many cases goes free. What does God’s law say? The woman, if she truly resisted and did what she could to escape, has no guilt in what happened. The man has to take full responsibility.
Another thing that is judged by the sixth commandment, as murder in God’s final judgment, is to call someone ’worthless’. Jesus Himself says this:
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: …and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Mat 5:21-22)
The word «raca» is a Greek word that literally means «O empty one, that is, thou worthless»
This is also a treatment many women get in many places in the world today. They are told and are treated as they are worthless!
WOMEN AND INHERITANCE:
When Israel had conquered Canaan and the land was to be divided we are told of a man who didn’t have any sons but only four daughters. If this was in England in the 18th century a cousin or relative would inherit the property and not the daughters.
“Then came the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons. Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father. And Moses brought their cause before the LORD. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them.” (Num 27:1 -7)
In this story, we can see the women themselves fighting for their rights. But the men are uncertain if women should get the same right as a man in this case and are so unsure they dare not make a decision without asking for God’s counsel. Moses seems to be more in line with the daughters when he places the matter before the Lord, for it says that he spoke on the women’s behalf. He spoke «their cause». Moses was a humble man he does not seem to want to put these women «in their place» in order to feel like a man himself. What does God say? «The daughters of Zelophehad speak right thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them.»
This tells us about God’s view and how He meets them when they lay their case before Him. Their battle for their rights receives the highest approval. The Lord says: «The daughters of Zelophehad speak right.»
This shows how the woman had a right to speak their mind about this injustice and that they were correct in what they said. God agreed with them that it was unfair for them and their father’s house to be discriminated against because of their gender. Notice again that the view on women’s rights is more uncertain with the men who dared not make this decision on their own, with the people, than it was with God. Many think they do God service or that God wants them to discriminate against a woman in a certain situation, because they think their view of women is from God, yet it isn’t.
Job was an honorable man. He also knew the Lord and spoke rightly about Him. When it was time for him to let his children inherit we see him not making any hesitation in letting his daughters inherit along with his sons: “And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.” (Num 27:1)
We have to mention briefly some more women worth noticing. Rahab was a citizen of Jericho right before the city was destroyed. By her bravery and by risking her own life in faith, she saved her entire family and all her male family members. She risked her own life for she believed that the God of Israel was real. She was rewarded by God and became a part of the chosen line down to the Messiah. She was the great great grandmother of King David. She is described as someone who had been a harlot. How she ended up in that situation no one knows.
But still, it’s impossible not to notice all the key women among Christ ancestors had to fight for their rights. Why are they a part of His family tree? Does it say something about how God views women? Again and again, we see how God fights for the oppressed women in spite of how they are treated by the men, even men He had chosen. He does not help his chosen men oppress the women and if they do, He sides with the women. Almost all these key women in Christ’s family tree have been treated poorly and have suffered injustice yet they are brave and strong. God is not threatened by strong women that stand up for their rights and He shows us how He fights with them.
Another strong woman in Christ’s family tree is Ruth. A descendant of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, a people who now was engaging in idol worship. She leaves her homeland and everything she has ever known to serve the God of Israel. She works to support her mother-in-law. She is actively engaged in work outside of her home. Then the shocking thing happens. She takes initiative towards Boas who later becomes her husband. Boas do not come to her and offer marriage, it’s she who encourages the
reunion between them. She lays down by his feet and asks him to be her kinsman which involved marrying her. She took initiative. I don’t think this was common practice in those days for women to do something that bold. This woman became yet another one of the strong women in Christ’s family tree. She was the great-grandmother of King David. God rewarded her courage, she was not rebuked for not following the tradition of sitting waiting for a man to address her. God has nothing against strong women who do things outside the box that society has placed them in.
Mother of Samson
Now, this next story is one of my favorites in regards to this topic. For it says a lot about God’s view on women. I will let you read the scripture and notice the details. Notice what God does, what the man does, and what the woman does.
“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.
Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he
shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name:
But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death. Then Manoah intreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born. And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her. And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband, and said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day. And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am.
And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?
And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware.
She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.” (Jdg 13:3-14)
The Lord comes and speaks to the woman directly and not through her husband. The child was also to be the son of her husband yet God chose to talk to her. Why? Because the message was going to affect her to a greater degree. It was her womb. She tells her husband and her husband tells God to come back to tell more. God does listen to him and comes back. We later see that it is the Lord Himself that is this Angel. But who does He met with first? Who does He approach? Does He come to the man? No, He comes to the woman for the second time. The woman first. Why? Because God does not push the woman aside to go talk to her husband instead. If he had, he would agree to the treatment that a woman’s word is not enough and that anything serious had to be discussed with the men. He comes to the woman once more, not when she is with her husband, but when she is alone. It’s the woman herself who chooses to run to her husband and brings him to the Lord. Only then does he get an answer to his prayer. So the man asks the Lord what they should do with the child. What does the Lord say? «Of all that I said unto the woman…» He is saying that He has already told it to the woman. In a very nice way, he is saying that he could have just listened to his wife. He then says the same thing to her husband that he said to her. He adds: «all that I commanded her let her observe». She was to do what he had commanded her, she was not in need of hearing it from her husband. She was to observe it because the Lord had commanded it.
When we read the Bible, is it God who is disregarding the women and discriminating against the women, or is it the men? God did not make a mistake when he chose to speak to the woman and give her the message regarding herself. And when the man wasn’t satisfied with it and ask God to come to tell him, the Lord chose to go to the woman a second time when he wasn’t around.
After they have sacrificed to the Lord notice the difference between their personalities shown by what he says and what she says. And who is the most sensible of the two:
“And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.
But his wife said unto him, If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these.” (Jdg 13:22-23)
The Lord chose to show himself to this woman and came to her also the second time and the man got to take part in this blessing because she included him – yet we don’t know her name. She is just called the wife of Menoah. A woman who has seen the Angel of the Lord twice, chosen by God for a special work, yet she isn’t even mentioned by her own name. Would the same have happened if the Lord showed Himself twice to a man? No, he would have been regarded as one of the ’great patriarchs’.
The new anti-women movement claims that women cannot hold leading positions. The first woman we see with a leading position is Miriam. But she isn’t known as a leader among the Christians. She is mostly known as the «sister of Moses».
But God Himself says about her: «For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam” (Mic 6:4)
Miriam was regarded as one of the leaders. Not only that but God says He «sent» her. She was chosen for this position. Miriam herself said God had spoken to her.
“And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.” (Num 12:2)
In this case, Miriam was punished because she tried to place her authority above Moses. God spoke clearly to both Miriam and Aaron that to Moses he had spoken directly face to face but to the prophets in dreams. Not once does God rebuke Miriam for being a woman. He doesn’t say she was punished for being a woman trying to take a position that wasn’t hers. He explains that Moses is to be regarded higher because He had spoken to him face to face and were more acquainted with God’s will than they were. Not once is this made into a gender topic. There was a difference in authority and Miriam was not over Moses in authority. But she was still a chosen leader, just not over Moses. In this case, God did not fight for her right as she tried to take a right that did not belong to her. However, she was a prophet: “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron..” (Num 12:2)
We see another strong female leader during the time when Israel had judges instead of kings. Her name was Deborah. What did she do while she was a judge?
– Receive messages from God to give to the people
– Be a prophet
– Judge in conflicts
– Teach the people the will of God.
Today, many thousands of years after Deborah was a judge in Israel, many Christian and religious men would not even consider that God would allow a woman in such a position. But God did, AND He spoke to her and she was God’s messenger. She did teach Israel right and wrong. What more do we know about her?
“And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” (Jdg 4:4-5)
She was married but she had the lead role and not the man. She was chosen as a prophet of God.
“And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?
And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.
And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.
And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.” (Jdg 4:6-9)
Because Barak doubted God’s word given through Deborah, God would give the honor to a woman. Not even this was a problem for God. Deborah is not only a prophet and leader and judge. But here we see her courage as she goes straight out to the battlefield uncommon for women in those days. Another brave woman is the one who God gave the courage to execute Sisera, Israels enemy. This by God’s word. Here are two women partaking in the war to give glory to God. If a woman cannot have a leading position then why did God speak to Deborah and have her bring the message to a high positioned man of the army? It is God Himself who is responsible for Deborah having this position, by using her to speak through while she was a judge. God accepted her role.
Working women praised
Many have thought that the Christian wife is supposed to only serve the man, be a housewife and take care of the kids. But few are aware of how a working woman is praised in the Bible. She is multi-talented and creative.
It says «The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her» Meaning she is free and not under supervision.
“She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.” (Pro 31:13-15)
But that’s not all she is also working in real estate and as a farmer:
“She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.»
She is strong:
“She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.” (Pro 31: 16 & 17)
She does charity work:
“She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.” (Pro 31:20)
She designs clothing for both herself and her family:
“She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.” (Pro 31:21 -22)
She produces and does trade:
“She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.” (Pro 31:24)
She is a teacher:
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” (Pro 31:26)
She doesn’t go around and do nothing:
“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” (Pro 31:27)
Foremost it says that she deserves praise and pay for her efforts:
“Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Pro 31:31)
Let’s go back to consequences that the Biblical men faced when they were mistreating women. Both Solomon and many of David’s problems are tied to lack of respect for a woman’s worth. The conflicts within Davids family are strongly tied to the degrading treatment of women. Firstly David took many wives which were against God’s command. This taught his sons that women were of less worth which would later have consequences. His relationship with Bathsheba had terrible consequences. And David’s firstborn violated and raped his half-sister Tamar. This was also against God’s law. Because of David’s own sin with Bathsheba, it was hard for him to judge and sentence his son and so he did nothing. The assault on Tamar and Davids unwillingness to save her honor by punishing her abuser lead to Absalom’s anger and war against his father. Even though Absalom was not chosen by God to be king, it does not mean that God looked on the treatment of Tamar lightly. Gods law forbid a brother to lie with his half-sister and in the law, it even says that this type of sexual sin is why God removed the Canaanites from the country. David’s son’s sexual assault on his sister was not something God approved of or regarded lightly at all. God allowed Davids’s actions to have consequences. And, had not David let his daughter down for the sake of his son, his other son might never have declared war against him.
Both Solomon and Davids need for many wives was also what lead to many of their problems. If they had valued a woman in the same way they did a man, and married the woman God had chosen for them and not all the others, then Bible history might have looked very different. The important lesson here is that there are no blessings in degrading women. They were blessed for the good they did and they got curses and serious consequences from the wrong things they did.
Had God spared them from the consequences it would have seemed as God regarded their behavior acceptable. But allowing these curses to fall on them was Gods way of showing He didn’t approve and to help them see why it was wrong.
Unfortunately, Solomon’s choice in marrying many foreign wives was what lead Israel into idol worship for hundreds of years. The consequences of his action affected many more than himself.
The Woman in Sarepta:
Very often we see how important women in Bible history isn’t even mentioned by name. Lot’s wife is one. The mother of Samson another. And then this next woman I am going to briefly mention.
I have actually experienced that men have said no to work with me because I am a woman and they regard it as indecent for a man to work with a woman. Sometimes that might be the case, that a man and women should not cooperate, but not always. God knows peoples heart and He acts according to them. He is not bound to follow our ideas. It’s not impossible for a man to be asked to cooperate with a woman. The prophet Elijah, when there was a drought in Israel, was sent to live with a widow. For many, this would have seemed indecent. But it’s God who tells Elijah to go live with her:
“Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” (1Ki 17:9)
Gods eyes have searched the land and He saw this woman and chose her for this assignment. Jesus said: «But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months when great famine was throughout all the land;
But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.” (Luk 4:25-26)
Here we see a prophet living for a longer period of time with a widow. In this house, there was a daily miracle. They never ran out of oil or flour. But her son dies and Elijah, with God’s help of-course, wakes her son back to life.
God knew she would be hospitable with the last she had without a sign to tell her that God would actually save them from starvation if she did. She acted in faith alone. God knew her heart and therefore he sent Elijah to her so she could be saved during the crisis along with Elijah. Imagine the gossip if a man of God had done the same today?
In the time of King Josiah, the temple was under restoration. The High Priest then finds the Book of the Covenant also known as the Book of the Law.
“And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.
And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD.
And Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.
And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes» (2Ki 22:8-11)
The Book of the Law that was found lead to a reformation in the land. But first, they were in great despair for they realized that they, as a people, had broken the covenant with God.
“And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s, saying,
Go ye, enquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according to unto all that which is written concerning us.” (2Ki 22:12-13)
Here we see the two leaders of God’s people, the king and the High Priest in need of God’s counsel. But who do they go to in order to learn what God’s will is about «this book that is found»? Cannot God speak to them directly? Does God speak to the High Priest in this case?
“So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her.
And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me,
Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read:
…. But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard;” (2Ki 22:14-16 & 18)
The prophetess Huldah, a woman, a married woman, gave the King and High Priest a message from the Lord. God chose to address the leaders of the people through this woman.
I hope this clearly shows that God’s view on women and their function in His work is not always the same as men’s view on the topic. Fortunately, in this case, the King and the High Priest was humble enough to ask for God’s council through this woman and receive it. When the book of the covenant was re-discovered, God enlightened them of His will through a woman.
WOMEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Mary, mother of Jesus.
According to the law of God, a woman who is engaged to a man is seen as his wife and she belongs to him. Meaning that in the law, if you sleep with another man’s wife or another man’s fiancee you face the exact same punishment.
God, however, need not permission from Joseph to place a life in her womb. He doesn’t go to Joseph, he goes to Mary. It’s her body and it’s her consent He wants.
When the angel Gabriel tells her God’s plan for her she answered by saying:
“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” (Luk 1:38)
When God gives a woman a calling he does not ask a man for permission nor does he ask a man to administrate or control her calling. Neither does she need to go to the man in order to understand her calling. God knows a woman isn’t dumber than a man. He doesn’t treat her like a child and her man as the father. When a woman receives a call, God speaks to her directly, just as we have seen several times already. What was entrusted to Mary might be the biggest assignment ever given any man, the most precious and important mission ever was given to her.
When Joseph and Mary brought baby Jesus to Jerusalem there was a man that was filled with the holy spirit that got to see the child. But it also tells us about a prophetess, Anna. Another female prophet speaking Gods word. She also became a preacher:
«And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” (Luk 2:38)
Her audience was to anyone who would hear, and those who would hear would hear the most wonderful news told. They would learn that the Messiah had finally come. A message preached first in Jerusalem by a woman.
Woman by the well
Many are well aware of the story where Jesus speaks to the Samaritan by the well. He revealed Himself as Christ to her, something he had hidden from many of the Jews of that time. The first to preach the coming of the Messiah to
the Samaritans was this woman, and it was through her testimony that an entire Samaritan village received Christ. This is just one of many stories that show how important a woman bearing a message can have in God’s work.
“The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.
… And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. (Joh 4:25- 30 & 39-42)
Just like a woman was first given the honor to preach the coming of the Messiah in Jerusalem and another woman first given the secret of Christ identity and to preach it to the Samaritans, it was another woman who was to be honored to be the first to preach Christ risen from the dead. But we will get to that in a bit.
Wife of Pontifex Pilates
The main subject was men that didn’t listen to women. And one of those men who didn’t listen to a woman bearing an important message was Pilate.
“When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” (Mat 27:19)
I think most would agree that he should have listened to her. God warned the roman emperor through his wife not to have any part in the execution of Jesus.
Most remember the story of Martha and Mary, but I want to bring focus to one detail:
“And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luk 10:39-42)
Mary wanted to learn as much as she could from Jesus, she wanted to understand the truth. Martha felt that it was more decent and important for her to do what was known as a woman’s traditional role, serving and doing house chores.
In this time and also later, and even today, it’s custom in many cultures for men to discuss theology and Biblical truth while the women are expected to serve the men. This is a view Jesus didn’t support in this case. It was just as important for a woman to receive a theological education. Martha said: «my sister hath left me to serve alone». Martha’s service for the Lord was the chores of the household. While Mary chose to be properly taught in God’s word. Jesus said: «Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her» Jesus here plainly says that He will not send women away from a biblical education to go and do chores in the house instead. He refused. He did not agree that Mary’s place was in the kitchen if she would rather be educated. This is in great contrast to the “send women back to the kitchen” movement among many Christians.
Mary was the first to preach Christ risen. And this is the result for a woman who chose to take the time to be taught in the word of God. If a woman has received an education from the Lord He will not let this education go to waste. They are invited into the vineyard and are given assignments to preach. Not only is Mary the first to preach Christ risen, but she is the only one who got to witness and see Christ before He had shown Himself to the Father. The disciples saw Him later. So she received a unique message to share. She is the only one who bore the witness that Christ was going to the Father to receive God’s blessing.
“And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (Joh 20:14-17)
Mary is here given the assignment to bring these words to the apostles. She is given the task of bringing the Lord’s word out. She is the first to preach the gospel, yet many men today don’t think it’s a woman’s place, yet preaching the gospel of Christ’s resurrection was a woman’s place first. A woman who left the chores to serve the men to get a Biblical education.
“Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.” (Joh 20:18)
“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
…Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. (Mar 16: 9-11 &14)
Isn’t it interesting how the apostle Thomas is often called “the doubter” because he would not believe before he saw Christ with his own eyes? He would not believe the apostle’s testimony? But rarely do we hear about the disciples that refused to receive the women’s message and they too refused until they saw Christ themselves. And so they were guilty of the same as Thomas. Many Christians do not regard it the same way as it’s considered more acceptable and understandable to not listen to women than to not listen to men.
But with Christ it was opposite. He rebuked them, the apostles, for their disbelief, but He did not rebuke Thomas.
This is because we are used to hearing the bible-stories in a light that degrade women and lift men up.
But the story is even more interesting.
“It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” (Luk 24:10-11)
«Idle tales»? Do God’s men still have such an attitude to female messengers? Are they still looked down upon? Isn’t it still unimportant to receive a female messenger but necessary to receive a male?
The Lord rebuked them for it. It was the Lord Himself who had sent Mary with a message, a joyful message. His joyful message. His gospel. And when they rejected her testimony they really rejected the Word He had sent them.
The same goes today. If the Lord sent us a word through a woman it’s really the Lord’s words we reject when we don’t receive it. It’s Him we let down. God’s word is God’s word no matter what gender it is that presents it. God’s word is not down-rated just because it’s presented by a woman. The word in itself has the same value if it comes from the right source.
God wasn’t taken by surprise. He knows everything. It wasn’t a shock to Him that Mary and the other women’s testimony wasn’t received. He chose deliberately to show Himself to her first. It wasn’t about her being more available at the time. According to the gospel of John Mary came there first and then let everyone know He was gone. Then Peter and another apostle ran to the grave with Mary and looked for Him. At this time Jesus stood there in hiding while Peter and the other apostle were looking. Then they continued on their way and Mary was left standing there alone. That’s when He shows Himself to Mary. Peter and the other apostle had just been there right before Jesus shows Himself to Mary. And He didn’t show Himself to them, He waited until they had gone and then He showed Himself to Mary and told her to bear the message to them and the other disciples.
Why does Jesus do this? Because God also chooses to speak through women. And to show this, and demonstrate this, and to teach people this, He has to do these practical examples. He shows how important women are for Him to spread the gospel out to the world. When He rebuked the apostles, He shows how important it is to receive female messengers. He teaches them not to discriminate against the gospel workers and messengers based on gender. Still today it happens. The curse is still resting on women, but with the men who have God’s kingdom inside them, this should not be the case. They should not treat women this way. Yet today many consider a man who degrades women in the work a “good Christian”.
Jesus had to address two prejudices the disciples had and that sat deep in them. One was that they did not want to associate together with heathens or with those who were not circumcised. The other was their attitude towards women. It’s written that in those days, that Jews living in the first century would not even trust women to be witnesses in a trial as they were considered untrustworthy because of their gender.
Christ making these women witnesses was, therefore, a rebuke to such a view. Peter receives a vision from the Lord that leads him to go home to Cornelius and his uncircumcised family and everyone receives the holy spirit. In the same way, they also had to learn and understand that women would also receive the holy spirit to do ministry work.
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” (Joe 2:28-29)
Not just on women, but on handmaids. The lowest of the lowest. Their sons and daughters would speak prophetically. What are prophetic words? The meaning of the Hebrew word shows us it’s talking about ‘speaking by inspiration’. Inspired by who? The holy spirit? By the Lord of course. It’s talking about speaking the Lord’s words. Is the Bible inspired? Yes. Does God choose women to speak from the Bible and from the Spirit when He sends His Spirit? Yes. Is it just as important as when a man speaks if it’s from the Lord? Yes.
We are told:
1) Women, free or handmaids, received the Holy Spirit.
2) We learn that they receive it to make them speak/preach.
Peter quoted this scripture when the holy spirit was sent to them on the feast of Pentecost.
“For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” (Acts 2:15-17)
Peter claims this prophecy was fulfilled in their time. They understood that women also had an assignment to preach the word. That they received the holy spirit just like them in order to make them fit for service. When the holy spirit was sent upon them we learn that both men and women were present:
“And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” (Acts 1:13-14)
More brave women
Who was persecuted? Both men and women (Acts.8:3). When Saul was persecuting the first Christians he went in-house after house and dragged out both men and women and cast them in prison. Both men and women were preaching, filled with the holy spirit. And both suffered for Christ’s sake. To be a Christian in those days acquired bravery, but to be a preacher: even more bravery.
Paul writes: “And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.” (Act 21:8 -9)
Again the same word used. These girls were preachers after the promise given to Joel. «and your daughters shall prophesy»
It’s evident to anyone that you cannot prophesy without opening your mouth to speak the words of inspiration.
Early church history by among others Eusebius tells that these women were very influential :
«Philip’s four daughters are barely mentioned in the New Testament, but they are mentioned several times in other early church writings. The fourth-century church historian Eusebius described these women as “mighty luminaries” and ranked them “among the first stage in the apostolic succession.” Moreover, he regarded the ministry of Philip’s daughters as the benchmark for prophetic ministry in the early church.»
“This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” (Acts 18:25-26)
Here we see Priscilla teaching a man in God’s way. But she was also running a house-church together with her husband: “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” (1Co 16:19)
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (1Co 12:28)
Because: “That there should be no schism in the body” (1Co 12:25)
We already have seen how Jesus sent women to preach for both men and women and how many of the women were prophets. We also see women preaching and teaching. If we reject the women God have placed in the church then we create a «schism in the body» for «God hath set» them in these positions.
Would God have us not receive the hard working gospel workers because they are female?
“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.
Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:
Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” (Rom 16:1-4)
Receive these female gospel workers «as becometh saints».
This text has been controversial for those who want to lessen women’s position in the Christian church. It says she is a servant of the church. But we know from Scripture she traveled to many places, surely not to cook for the men. The word used is diakonos a word used describing male church leaders in other places in the New Testament. It seems the translator decided that when a woman is mentioned, the same word should be translated as “servant” and when a man is mentioned it’s translated to “church leader” or “deacon”. But no one can deny the importance this woman had to have had.
But because the reader sits with a finished prejudice and a traditional understanding of a woman’s ’place’ they read into the verse what is not there. When Paul says similar things about receiving Timothy and Epafroditus it’s clear to everyone that they are gospel workers.
“Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” (Rom 16:7)
In order to bring women “down” the controversy continues with another name, Junia. Here it’s assumed that she cannot be a woman because the word apostle is used to describe her. The name was therefore changed to Junias, a male form of the name, in translations. No Greek manuscript used the male form until the 13th century. The first to change the name to a muscular form was Aegidius in Rome (1245-1316). The biggest change from a female name to a male name was done in Paris in 1512 by Father Stepulensis. And Luther copied from his work. But all earlier manuscript clearly showed it was speaking of a woman. Junia became a man in English translations in 1881 when the Revised Version was published. All it shows was that women were held in much higher regard in the early church then they did hundreds of years later. If we want to go back to the apostolic church it demands that we receive and support female apostles, prophets, and gospel workers.
“I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.
And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Php 4:2 -3)
Again here we clearly see the female gospel workers at work. He says «help them», recognize them for the work they are doing. They need help. Female ministries need help also today but few dare to support them because a fear that they are in the wrong by preaching have emerged.
Although Paul suggests women to subordinate their husbands this is not the same as claiming that God doesn’t speak directly to women, that women can’t be messengers (to also men), prophets, gospel workers, and preachers. That even a married woman can be a leader, like Deborah, without dishonoring her husband. The same with prophetess Huldah that had a husband who did needlework. One thing does not mean another. God created an order for the family to organize family responsibilities and tasks with the man in the leading role if possible. But as always God’s individual relationship with them comes first. One is bigger than the other. Therefore the law of God says nothing about set roles in the household or a ‘woman’s place’. Those few verses Paul writes about women subordinating themselves have nothing to do with women’s service for the Lord, he himself praises and worked with female preachers. He also asked a slave to subordinate his master, in spite of the fact that he had uttered that there is no slave and master relationship in Christ. It was tied to respecting the rules of the society, to not battle prejudice, and choosing one’s battles.
If women were forbidden to preach or teach, this would have been written in God’s law. But it’s not. And so it is not a sin for a woman to either lead or preach in God’s kingdom. As the law defines what sin is and what it isn’t. Neither does the law speak against female leaders or women in other important positions. But we need to adjust to the culture we are in if we want to reach them.
Would I reach a single woman visiting a strict Islamic country if I dressed what they considered improper or even acted in a way they would consider improper? Of course not. If I did and Paul was alive he would have told me to act proper considering where I was, or the gospel would suffer. Would my husband be able to preach to them if they saw he had no control over his wife? Probably not. Adjusting to the society we are in helping us reach out with the gospel. But sin is defined by the law and not the traditions of men.
God has Himself sent women out to preach, teach, prophecy and to lead. And God does not sin. If a man sins by supporting women in these roles we are calling God a sinner too. That itself should show us we err. Are we more holy than God in this matter?
God’s people are living in hope for the latter rain to help them get the last warning out to the world. And when the latter rain pores we will again see women filled with the holy spirit preaching. If we work against God’s plan to reach out with the last message by sabotaging those who are of the opposite sex, isn’t that hindering the Spirit who has called them to preach? Do we not work against God’s plan? Those who try to silence the women and hinder them from sharing the word, do they really work on God’s side in the last conflict? God needs everyone who is willing. We will expect to see female teachers, prophets, leaders, and messengers when the Spirit is given. Those who refuse to receive them or listen to them can not expect God will send them the message through a man they think is more fit. They might even be left in the dark.
One of the biggest denominations that keep the Sabbath is the Seventh-day Adventist church counting over 18 million members.
They had a female stand on the pulpit at a time when most churches believed no woman should do so.
But another messenger would bring the coming church its biggest pillars. Her name was Rachel Oakes Preston. She was a Seventh-day Baptist that preached the Sabbath to the Advent-millerites which again lead to Adventists keeping the Sabbath. When she first started preaching the Sabbath to them they were so busy preparing for what they thought would be the second coming of Christ that they had no time to hear her out. However, after being disappointed they were humbled and started listening to her. But what if none of these men would have allowed her to teach them this truth?
Does God send more important truth’s through women today that is being ignored because it comes from a woman? It’s worth to at least ask ourselves that question. If you think there is no female discrimination among us today I will ask you the following. You know names of great preachers like Doug Bachelor, Walter Veith, Steve Wholberg, David Gates, yes I’m sure you can list much more. But do you know the names of any great female preachers?
Even though there are many women that work and reach far they are not acknowledged in the same way as men. Nor do they receive the same support. Like so many in the Bible, they become a part of a group of nameless women. The Advent movement listened to their women in the beginning but do they now?
Although female ministries receive little support or recognition they have a major advantage.
The advantage God has in using female messengers is that they are less likely to be made into mediators. Many male preachers are looked up to and many go to them for answers as if they were closer to God than what they themselves can ever hope to be. This can lead men into the trap where they put on themselves tasks they have not been called to do. The greater the preacher, you will notice how they slowly make themselves judges on all Biblical topics and conflicts as if God had made them all-knowing. And too easily they start sabotaging others work by their ignorance. They run where others are sent while placing stumbling blocks before those God really has sent.
A female worker is more likely to lead men straight to Christ as almost none uplifts them in the same way they do male preachers. God does not want human mediators, He wants us to draw people to Christ and not to ourselves. Here women have a lot to give, because they are looked upon as «lesser workers» they can more easily direct people to the Bible and Christ without taking a mediating position. Today, when men keep creating and uplifting to themselves teachers and mediators it’s good for the Lord to sometimes pick a woman to bring the word out.
Please help stop the persecution of female ministries. And remember Onan. If God has a calling for you and you sabotage a woman’s calling, it could be that her work will remain standing and yours will be taken from you.
May God continue to bless you.
This article has blew away all my preconceived notions about women. I often used the verse 1 Timothy 2:12 to say women shouldn’t preach but i never assumed they couldn’t teach. It was a woman’s website that got me out of my adulterous sin. I am a lover of God’s Word and i love the truth, and you used scripture to back up everything you said. I will now be open-minded about women, just like i am about men as long as they line up with God’s Word. Thank the Lord our God and his precious Son Christ for using you. This has blessed me in more ways than i could say. I will make sure to lead people to this article and will strengthen those women whom the Lord calls. Thank you and have a happy Sabbath.
Thank you for leaving a comment and for your encouraging words. May God richly bless you in knowledge and wisdom and help you on your pilgrim voyage! Thank you for caring about women sacrificing their lives to share the gospel!