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We first meet Peninnah in 1 Samuel 1, finding her in competition with her husband, Elkanah's other wife Hannah.

1 Samuel 1:1-2:

There was a certain man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Immediately we learn this woman has been put in a position God never intended: her husband has two wives. God had been very specific in Genesis when He said a man should leave his mother and father to join with his wife (noticeably singular); yet along the line that command had been forgotten. Many times we wonder why God didn't protect women more in ancient times, but we have to separate what God said to do from what sinful humans choose to do. As we see in this story, failure to obey God's word only causes hardship for ourselves.

1 Samuel 1:3-6:

Now this man used to go up year by year from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD. On the say when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb.

We often focus solely on Hannah and her faith, and miss the lesson Peninnah can teach us. She was in an unenviable position--she was married to a man in love with another woman. Worse that other woman lived in the same house she did. When it came time to divvy-up the fruits of her husband's labor, "the other woman" always got a double portion from her husband to show how much he loved her. Leah story may provide us with Peninnah's side of the story--she born the children, nourished and tended her husband's off spring without the reward of her husband's affections or loyalty. However, Leah and Peninnah respond to this situation differently. Leah turned to God for comfort, Peninnah turned to jealousy and spite.
Like Peninnah, we may find ourselves in a situation that doesn't measure up to God's plan for our lives. We have to decide how to respond in that situation--will we turn to God for comfort and help as Leah did, or will we try to handle things ourselves? We have a Strong Tower, yet we must run to It.

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Peter's Mother-in-law

Matthew 8:14-15:
When Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him."

Mark 1:29-31:
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

Jesus healed many people according to the Gospels. One person he healed was Peter's mother-in-law. With this particular healing, something unique occurs. Quite often, after being healed, people left Jesus to go about their renewed lives. Peter's mother-in-law, however, immediately rose and began to "serve" him. The Greek word for this service was "Diakoneo" which can mean to prepare a table. It can also mean to "minister", which is the word used in the King James Version. This same word was used to describe what Jesus did for us and commanded us to do for others. Matthew 28:26-28: "It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

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Pharaoh's Daughter (Exodus)

The book of Exodus opens with the heroism of several women. One of the least appreciated women in this account was Pharaoh's daughter. During a time of intense racial prejudice, Pharaoh's daughter reached across racial and religious barriers to show compassion to a child.

Exodus 2:5-10:

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. 'This must be one of the Hebrews' children,' she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, 'Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?' Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Yes.' So the girl went and called the child's mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.' So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, 'because,' she said, 'I drew him out of the water.'

While bathing, Pharaoh's daughter finds a child, a child she identifies as Hebrew. At the time Pharaoh, her father, had decreed that all male Hebrew babies be put to death to prevent a perceived population explosion. Yet, Pharaoh's daughter had the courage to not only save the baby, but to take him as her son. She named the child Moses.

Stephen noted the actions of Pharaoh's daughter in his sermon.

Acts 7:21-22:

When he was abandoned, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.

Hebrews 11:24 reminds us:

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.

Pharaoh's daughter responded with compassion toward and innocent child, of a despised race. Her act of compassion became the foundation for the liberation of Hebrew people. In many ways, the Pharaoh's daughter was the Good Samaritan Jesus talked about--she overcame racial and social prejudice to respond with true compassion. While not one of the elect, she demonstrated the care the chosen are admonished to give. Often we are quick to dismiss the kindness of non-Christians, but God can use them. He used the daughter of a fearful pagan king to liberate His people from bondage--He can still use those we least expect to bless us today. Though the generosity of Pharaoh's daughter Moses learned many of the skills and much of the knowledge he would later use in service of the Lord.

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Pharaoh's Daughter (Solomon's Wife)

1 Kings 3:1:
Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt; he took Pharaoh's daughter and brought her into the city of David, until he had finished building his own house and the house of the Lord and the wall around Jerusalem.

Despite the law which stated that kings were not to marry outside the tribes of Israel, Solomon married an Egyptian princess. The marriage was a political alliance.

1 Kings 9:16:

(Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up and captured Gezer and burned it down, had killed the Canaanites who lived in the city, and had given it as dowry to his daughter, Solomon's wife.)

The dowry the pharaoh granted his daughter was the city of Gezer.

1 Kings 9:24:

But Pharaoh's daughter went up from the city of David to her own house that Solomon had built for her; then he built the Millo.

1 Kings 11:1-2:

King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the Israelites, 'You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you; for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods'; Solomon clung to these in love.

2 Chronicles 8:11:

Solomon brought Pharaoh's daughter from the city of David to the house that he had built for her, for he said, 'My wife shall not live in the house of David of Israel, for the places to which the ark of the LORD has come are holy.'

Solomon took more than just Pharaoh's daughter as his wife. He also took wives from groups the Israelites had been forbidden to intermarry. At one stage he'd built Pharaoh's daughter a separate home, because he did not want a foreign woman (and her gods) in a holy place. Yet by the end of his life he had adopted foreign gods. Collecting women proved to alienate Solomon from his God.

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Phinehas' Wife

1 Samuel 4:19-22:
Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. When she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth; for her labor pains overwhelmed her. As she was about to die, the women attending her said to her, 'Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.' But she did not answer or give heed. She named he child Icabod, meaning, 'The glory has departed from Israel,' because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, 'The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.'

This women displayed a remarkable sensitivity to the Lord in her last moments. While others looked to the birth of her son as a cause for peace, she realized that Israel lost more than just the ark had departed Israel. She sensed that the glory of God had departed as well.

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Isaiah 8:3:
And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz.

A very short sentence that reveals a great deal. This woman had been accepted during her own time as a prophetess--beyond her connection with Isaiah. In fact, not only does it appear the community accepted her in this role, Isaiah, himself a prophet of God, accepts her. Each time I read this verse, my respect for Isaiah grows. He doesn't diminish her role as prophet, and apparently doesn't fear her in that role either. More, her role as prophetess does not diminish her role as mother. Sometimes we fear that a woman's involvement with God's plans will somehow undermine her "creation" as a woman. We don't have to worry about that any more than Isaiah did. The church could be so much more effective if all of us were willing to accept each others gifts in such a way today.

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Prostitute in Gaza

Judges 16:1:
Once Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went in to her.

Another woman we know about whom we know little. We do know that the Gazites tried to lay a trap for Samson, but missed him because he left around midnight.

This small verse, taken in context with the stories of Samson's wife and Deliah can also help us explore our own biases. How many of us "know" Delilah played the villain in this story, while Samson was the Godly man cruelly deceived? Perhaps the Bible has another warning we have over looked in this story. Perhaps the Bible instead of warning against "evil women" actually warns about our own weaknesses. Samson allowed his sexual desires to put him in danger time after time. First, with his wife, he found himself battling the Philistines (which the Bible says was God's plan), then with the prostitute, he found himself in trouble with the Gazites. Finally, with Delilah he found himself in trouble with the Philistines. I've done the same thing (over and over again)---sinned, gotten in trouble. Sinned again, gotten in trouble again. I have the feeling I'm not alone in that.

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Prostitutes with Baby

The famous story of the two prostitutes with a single baby occurs in 1 Kings. The new and young king Solomon was faced with a seemingly unsolvable problem.

1 Kings 1-22:

Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, 'Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together; there was no one else with us in the house. Then this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant slept. She laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, I saw that he was dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, clearly it was not the son I had borne.' But the other woman said, 'No, the living son is mine, and the dead son is yours.' The first said, 'No, the dead son is yours, and the living son is mine.' So they argued before the king.

Which woman would you believe? Would you have asked how the first woman knew the other had laid on the child if the first woman was asleep at the time? Solomon took a different route.

1 Kings 3:23-28:

Then the king said, 'The one says, "This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead"; while the other says, "Not so! Your son is dead, and my son is the living one."' So the king said, 'Bring me a sword,' and they brought a sword before the king. The king said, 'Divide the living boy in two; then give half to the one, and half to the other.' But the woman whose son was alive said to the king--because compassion for her son burned within her--'Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!' The other said, 'It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it.' Then the king responded: 'Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother.' All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered; and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice.

Solomon determines to which mother the child belonged. Yet notice that the reader is not told to which of the two women who approached Solomon the child belonged. Was it the one who claimed to have slept while the other killed her child? Or the one who claimed the child was hers?

Deciding which of these two women was the mother did not address all of the issues raised, however. What did Solomon do about the conditions in which these women lived? They gave birth alone, without support. Because they were prostitutes they apparently had no male family member to aid them in a society of men. Their only means of financial support was selling their bodies. As Christians, we have a greater obligation than Solomon. He was only called to be king of Israel and dispense wisdom, we are called to dispense love and compassion. We are obligated to look beyond fixing the immediate problems of the weak and marginalize, to caring for all their needs.

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Prostitutes Bathing in Blood

1 Kings 22:38:
Washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria: the dogs licked up his blood, and the prostitutes washed themselves in it.

Prostitutes washed in the blood of idolatrous King Ahab.

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The Bible beginnings Exodus with an horrifying account of racial prejudice and attempted genocide. In Exodus 1:8-22 we find the Pharaoh attempting to destroy the Hebrew people by having the new born males murdered. After years of the Egyptians welcoming the Israelites in honor of Joseph, the Israelites had begun to multiply; causing the Egyptians to fear being overwhelm. In this climate the Pharaoh hatches his plan.

Exodus 1:15-22:

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah. 'When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.' But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, 'Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?' The midwives said to Pharaoh, 'because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.' So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families."

Shiphrah and Puah faced a difficult decision: obey a man in authority over them or obey God. Verse 17 tells us, "But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live." These two women defied authority, facing possible punishment for their disobedience to serve God and his people. Often we ladies are told we have less spiritual discernment than our brothers and are prone to being deceived. However, these two women discerned God's plan for their lives, even when that plan meant rebellion against authority. Far from chiding these two "rebellious" women, "God dealt well with the midwives." This story stands in stark contrast to the message women often receive that tells them to submit to all authority without question. In Acts 5:27-29 Peter made a similar decision. "When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, 'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man's blood on us.' But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than any human authority.'" (Also see Dan 3:1-30/Dan. 6:10-28.)

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Putiel's Daughter

Exodus 6:25
Aaron's son Eleazar married one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the ancestral houses of the Levites by their families.

Clearly, Putiel's daughter being a Levi helped establish her son Phinehas' right to be a priest. While we often over look the roles of mothers, mothers play a great role in establishing a child's spiritual heritage. Mothers (and fathers) can help prepare their children for work in the Lord's house.

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"The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A, and are used by permission. All rights reserved."
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