alabaster jars logo
Women of the Bible-W

Search the Bible:


ChristSites vote for this site logo

Widow of Zarephath

  • 1 Kings 17:8-24

1 Kings 17:8:
Then the word of the LORD came to him [Elijah], saying, 'Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.'

This is the popular Sunday school story about the feeding of Elijah. However, Elijah is not the sole focus of this account. The Lord commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath, because the Lord had told a widow there to feed Elijah. Again, the Lord told the widow. This woman had such a close relationship with the Lord that not only could she hear from Him, but Him would speak to her. More, her obedience to the Lord was such that the Lord could send his prophet to her knowing she would obey and feed him.

1 Kings 17:10-12:

So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, 'Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.' As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, 'Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.' But she said, 'As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.'

The women answered Elijah's request for drink, bringing him the water. Then she seemed to hesitate when he requested bread, despite having already been commanded by God to feed the prophet. She did not refuse, but explained she has little food. She had only enough to make one last bit of bread, then--strangely, she expected them to die.

1 Kings 17:13:

Elijah said to her, 'Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth.' She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.

As with Peter walking on the water, the woman was afraid to act once the enormity of her situation dawned on her. If she gave away the food, she and her child would die. Elijah saw her fear and told her not to be afraid. He told her to bring him food first: to obey the command God had given first. After she gave him food, she was to prepare the food for herself and her child. After she "did as Elijah said", God kept His promise.

Currently, a great deal has been made of "seed faith", a concept with which I agree. Yet, before we decide to send that $1,000 to our favorite ministry, we need to really look at what happened in this story. First, before Elijah is even aware of the woman's existence, God spoke to the widow and told her to feed His prophet. In other words, this was not a situation where the man of God told her to give, then gave her a "word from the Lord" which confirmed she was to give. God gave His word to the woman first, then Elijah confirmed it. Next, notice Elijah did not take all, or even most of the woman's provision: he took only a "little cake of it", which would still have left enough to "make something" for her family. These were the conditions under which the "jar of meal was not emptied". Faith is a wonderful and beautiful part of our walk with the Lord, but as with all fruits of the Spirit it must operate under the guidance of the Spirit, and not our favorite preacher or priest.

1 Kings 17:17-18:

After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. She then said to Elijah, 'What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!'

Many times this part of the story has been introduced as if the women was new to faith, and reacted in an immature way. However, as established in the first part of the story, this woman knew the Lord to the point He could command her, and had enough faith to give out of her own need. Yet, she reacted to her son's death in anger and accusation. She blamed the Elijah for bringing up her sin. Does this mean she was in sexual sin? Many commentators have assumed so; yet nothing in the text suggests this.

1 Kings 18:19-20

But he said to her, 'Give me your son.' He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the LORD, 'O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?'

Elijah responded to the woman's accusation by taking the child into the upper room, then questioning God. Where the woman assumed the prophet had caused her son's death, the prophet wonders if it is God who killed the child.

1 Kings 18:21-24:

The LORD listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, 'See, your son is alive.' So the woman said to Elijah, 'Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.'

God listened to Elijah and revived the child. The mother responds with an affirmation of faith--in Elijah. In the story, she didn't question God, but Elijah. After her son is revived she knows that Elijah really is a man of God.

decorative bar

Wife of a Member of the Company of Prophets

  • 2 Kings 4:1-7

2 Kings 4:1-7:
Now the wife of a member of the company of prophets cried to Elisha, 'Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but a creditor has come to take my two children as slaves.' Elisha said to her, 'What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?' She answered, 'Your servant has nothing in the house, except a jar of oil.' He said, 'Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not just a few. Then go in, and shut the door behind you and your children, and start pouring into all these vessels; when each is full, set it aside.' So she left him and shut the door behind her and her children; they kept bringing vessels to her, and she kept pouring. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, 'Bring me another vessel.' But he said to her, 'There are no more.' Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, 'Go sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your children can live on the rest.'

This woman approached the Elisha for help. Her husband had been a servant of the Lord during his lifetime, but once he died the family no longer had a provision. Has a prophet, the man probably did not have a stable lifestyle in which to earn provision for his family. Her situation was similar to situation of missionary families in the 19th century. Elisha sought to alleviate her situation. He sent her for what she did have--a jar of oil. At his instruction she gather a many jars for the oil as possible, and the Lord filled them, to the point she could pay her bills and have more left over.

decorative bar

Wisest Ladies

  • Judges 5:29
Judges 5:29:
Her wisest ladies make answer, indeed, she answers the question herself: 'Are they not finding and dividing the spoil? A girl or two for every man; spoil of dyed stuffs for Sisera, spoil of dyed stuffs embroidered, two pieces of dyed work embroidered for my neck as spoil?'

These ladies in waiting stood in a place many of will face. Watching someone we love wait and hope for their loved one. Those times are never easy. As Christians we can offer something these wise ladies did not have to give--the hope of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us many times that we should care for and support each other, offering love, kind words and consolation. We can turn to the Comforter and be willing to be His vessels.

decorative bar

Wise Woman

  • 2 Samuel 14:2-21, 2 Samuel 20:16-22, Proverbs 14:1
Apparently the phrase"wise woman" was a title, and not just a descriptive. It may have suggested older women who had gained a reputation for wisdom within the community.

2 Samuel 14:2-3

Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman. He said to her, 'Pretend to be a mourner; put on mourning garments, do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning many days for the dead. Go to the king and speak to him as follows.' And Joab put the words into her mouth.

In a scene reminiscent of the plotting of Bathsheba and Nathan, Joab convinces the wise woman to go before the King with a pre-arranged story. Just as with Bathsheba and Nathan, the words she is to say are not from the Lord.

2 Samuel 14:4-5:

When the woman of Tekoa came to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and did obeisance, and said, 'Help, O king!' The king asked her, 'What is your trouble?' She answered, 'Alas, I am a widow; my husband is dead.'

The woman comes before David stressing her vulnerability as a woman. She offers obeisance (as Bathsheba did), then tells him she is a widow, one of the people David is to protect.

2 Samuel 14:6-7

'Your servant had two sons, and they fought with one another in the field; there was no one to part them, and one struck the other and killed him. Now the whole family has risen against your servant. They say, 'Give up the man who struck his brother, so that we may kill him for the life of his brother whom he murdered, even if we destroy the heir as well.' Thus they would quench my one remaining ember, and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth.

The woman's story mirrors the battle between Absalom and Amnon. After Amnon raped Absalom's sister Tamar, Absalom arranged for Amnon's death. Now many in Israel called for Absalom's death. However, unlike the family in the story the woman tells, David does have other sons.
2 Samuel 14:8-11:

Then the king said to the woman, 'Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.' The woman of Tekoa said to the king, 'On me be the guilt, my lord the king, and on my father's house; let the king and his throne be guiltless.' The king said, 'If anyone says anything to you, bring him to me, and he shall never touch you again.' Then she said, 'Please, may the king keep the Lord your God in mind, so that the avenger of blood may kill no more, and my son not be destroyed.' He said, 'As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.'

At this point the woman has gained David's promise that her son will not be harmed; David has not seen the analogy to his own situation.

2 Samuel 14:12:

Then the woman said, 'Please let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.' He said, 'Speak.'

Having gained the promise she sought, the woman reveals her true purpose.

2 Samuel 14:13-

The woman said, 'Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again. We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up. But God will not take away a life; he will devise plans so as not to keep an outcast banished forever from his presence. Now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid; your servant thought, 'I will speak to the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant. For the king will hear, and deliver his servant from the hand of the man who would cut both me and my son off from the heritage of God.' Your servant thought, 'The word of my lord the king will set me at rest'; for my lord the king is like the angel of God, discerning good and evil. The Lord your God be with you!' Then the king answered the woman, 'Do not withhold from me anything I ask you.' The woman said, 'Let my lord the king speak.' The king said, 'Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?' The woman answered and said, 'As surely as you live, my lord the king, one cannot turn right or left from anything that my lord the king has said. For it was your servant Joab who commanded me; it was he who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. In order to change the course of affairs your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.' Then the king said to Joab, 'Very well, I grant this; go, bring back the young man Absalom.'

The wise woman calls upon David to use the same standard for his situation that he was going to use in her fictitious situation. She reminds him of his duty has king and servant of God. Of course the question remains: Was this really God's will?

The second "wise woman" appears in chapter 20, and again features Joab.

2 Samuel 20:16-17:

Then a wise woman called from the city, 'Listen! Listen! Tell Joab, "Come here, I want to speak to you."' He came near her; and the woman said, 'Are you Joab? He answered, 'I am.' Then she said to him, 'Listen to the words of your servant.' He answered, 'I am listening.'

Obviously, this is a different woman than the one presented in chapter 16. She doesn't know Joab by sight and must ask to make sure to whom she is talking.

2 Samuel 20: 16-17:

Then she said, 'They used to say in the old days, "Let them inquire at Abel'; and so they would settle a matter. I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel; you seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel; why will you swallow up the heritage of the Lord?' Joab answered, 'Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! That is not the case! But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David; give him up alone, and I will withdraw from the city.' The woman said to Joab, 'His head shall be thrown over the wall to you.' Then the woman went to all the people with her wise plan. And they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, and all went to their homes, while Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.

We can notice several things here. First, the when the wise woman speaks, Joab listens. More she appears to be able to speak for the entire community. She negotiate with Joab, then presents the plan to her people. Basically she arranges for the death of Sheba.

Proverbs 14:1:

The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

decorative bar

Wives of the Apostles

  • 1 Corinthians 9:5
1 Corinthians 9:5:
Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

The believing wives of th apostles travelled with the apostles.

decorative bar

Wives of the Brothers of the Lord

  • 1 Corinthians 9:5
1 Corinthians 9:5:
Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

decorative bar

Woman Making Leavened Bread

  • Matthew 13:33
Matthew 13:33:
He told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.'

Jesus used women in a number of His parables. His illustrations explained spiritual matters in day to day terms, and from points of view everyone would understand. Today, feel of us take time to bake bread, but then everyone, including the men, would understand how a little bit of yeast would mix with the flour and cause the bread to rise.

decorative bar

Woman with an Alabaster Jar

  • Matthew 26:6-13
Matthew 26:6-13:
Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, 'Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.' But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, 'Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.'

A woman approached Jesus with a gift. The alabaster jar she carried was filled with expensive ointment, an ointment she poured over Jesus' head. The disciples were angry that she would "waste" the oil in this way, instead of giving the money to the poor. Jesus, however, honored this woman's service, and understood its spiritual significance. Jesus saw her actions as preparing Him for death, a death His disciples still did not expect. Jesus also promised that where-ever His gospel was proclaimed people would remember this woman.

decorative bar

Woman in the Crowd

  • Luke 11:27-28
Luke 11:27-28:
While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!"

Jesus was teaching about casting out demons saying, "Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first" (Luke 11:26) when a woman shouted out, "Blessed is the women that bore you and the breasts that nursed you." Jesus responded, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!" The first element to notice is that this women actually spoke out during Jesus' teaching, and Jesus's didn't tell her to shut up. Some have argued that women must be silent in church, yet it seems to me that wherever Jesus' was, was church. He allowed this woman to speak out.

Yet, He did correct her. She was trying to use a traditional method of valuing women, but Jesus had a new way to value people. She framed her proclamation within the confines of the cultures value of women. Mary was blessed because she gave birth and nursed Jesus. Jesus did not follow that view. He moved the valuation of women from childbirth and the physical to their relationship with God (which was the same measure used for biblical men.)

Last night, I watched "Reinventing the Taliban" on Discovery Times. A leader of a Muslim youth movement talked about women being mothers, sister and daughters and needing to be protected (by restricting them to the home and only specific jobs) because they were so valuable as mothers, sisters and daughters. Unfortunately, this is the same argument I recently heard from a Christian minister for why men should be the decision makers in the home and women shouldn't work. Jesus used a different yardstick. Instead of placing value on women's roles as mother and care-giver, He focused on our relationship with God. In effect, He changed the focus from "who we are related to", to "Who we relate to".

decorative bar

Woman with the Millstone

  • Judges 9:53-54, 2 Samuel 2:11
Valor, strength--two qualities many of the better known Bible heroes share. Hidden in the pages of Judges is woman possessed of those very same traits. Like Jael she rises to the occasion in an unexpected, but uniquely feminine way.

Abimelech, son of Gideon's concubine, attacks the city of Thebez, and manages to capture it. Defenders, both male and female, still seek to liberate their city from his clutches. They make their stand at one of the cities high towers. Abimelech follows.

Judges 9:53-54:

But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech's head, and crushed his skull. Immediately he called to the young man who carried his armor and said to him, 'Draw your sword and kill me, so people will not say about me, "A woman killed him."' So the young man thrust him through, and he died.

Here, like the story of Jael, a woman becomes the defender of God's people, the hero to save the people from a wicked leader. Given modern war techniques we might get the impression that this lady just happened by and picked up the nearest object to toss over the wall; this wouldn't quite be the situation. During early warfare, tossing projectiles over the wall provided effective defense against invasion. Depending on the period anything from stones to fire balls, even dead bodies could be thrown over the wall. The Bible specifically labels what the woman threw as the millstone. Grinding grain on the millstone traditionally fell to women-it was "women's" work. For Abimelech this means he's been downed not only by a woman's hand, but a woman's tool as well. For him, the shame of being killed by "merely" a woman proved to much to bear and he asked for a coup d' grace. God apparently didn't see any shame in using "merely" a woman to serve Him, however. In case we were to wonder whether this was truly God's plan the Bible tells us, "Thus God repaid Abimelech for the crime he committed..." in verse 56.

2 Samuel 2:11:

'Who killed Abimelech son of Jerubbaal? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?' then you shall say, 'Your servant Uriah was also killed.'

decorative bar

Woman Suffering from Hemorrhages

  • Matthew 9:20-23, Mark 6:24-34
Matthew 9:20-23:
Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said, to herself, 'If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.' Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, 'Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.' And instantly the woman was made well.

Imagine being "unclean", an outcast in your community and from your church. For twelve years this woman had been excluded due to her medical condition. Social stigma would have compounded her illness. Yet, she had faith that Jesus could heal her. She made her way through the group surrounding Jesus, then reached out for the hem of his cloak. The outcast, the unclean woman understood one of the foundation's of Jesus' teaching--she understood faith. Jesus saw her, and acknowledged that understanding. Her faith had made her well.

Mark 5:24-34:

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, "Who touched me?' " He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

Luke 8:43-48:

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, "Who touched me?" When all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you." But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me." When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace."

decorative bar

Women (Christian)

  • Acts 8:3
Acts 8:3
But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

Early believers faced several challenges. In Israel, they were often viewed with suspicion, if not out right persecution by fellow Jews. In Gentile regions, they were viewed with suspicion and out right persecution by Gentiles. Men and women were imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith in Christ. At the same time, as this story shows, the very people who persecuted the beleivers could become Christians.

Today an estimated 200,000,000 Christians around the world face the same suspicion and persecution for Christ as early believers. The Holy Spirit continues to use this persecution to the glory of Christ as persecutors continue to accept Christ. We never know how our actions will influence another person's decision for Christ. We are to pray for those who persecute us, and who persecute our brothers and sisters in the Lord, because our Savior died for their salvation as well as ours.

decorative bar

Women Dancing with Miriam

  • Exodus 15:20
Exodus 15:20:
Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.

This women joined Miriam in celebrating their freedom from Egypt. Music and dancing are beautiful expressions the freedom Christ brings us.

decorative bar

Women of Jabesh-gilead

  • Judges 21:1-14
The Israelites faced a serious dilemma in chapter 21 of Judges. After murder and rape of the a Levite's concubine they had sworn not to give any of their daughters in marriage to the tribe of Benjamin. This would have meant the extinction of one of the tribes of Israel. To avert that disaster they sought an alternative.

Judges 21:1-3:

Now the Israelites had sworn at Mizpah, 'No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.' And the people came to Bethel and sat there until evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. They said, 'O LORD, the God of Israel, why has it come to pass that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?'

The Lord had not advised them to make such a vow; they devised it for themselves. How many times do we make a poor decisions then turn to the Lord and ask, "Why me?" when the consequences arrive?

Judges 21:4-14:

On the next day, the people got up early, and built an alter there, and offered burnt offerings and sacrifices of well-being. Then the Israelites said, 'Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the LORD? For a solemn oath had been taken concerning whoever did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah, saying, 'That one shall be put to death.' But the Israelites had compassion for Benjamin their kin, and said, 'One tribe is cut off from Israel this day. What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them any of our daughters as wives?

"Then they said, 'Is there anyone from the tribes of Israel who did not come up the LORD to Mizpah?' It turned out that no one from Jabesh-gilead had come to the camp, to the assembly. For when the roll was called among the people, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. So the congregation sent twelve thousand soldiers there and commanded them, 'Go, put the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead to the sword, including the women and the little ones. This is what you shall do; every male and every women that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.' And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man and brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

"Then the whole congregation sent word to the Benjaminites who were at the rock of Rimmon, and proclaimed peace to them. Benjamin returned at that time; and they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead; but the did not suffice for them.

The murder of the concubine escalated into the mass murder of the peoples at Jabesh-gilead, then the rape of the remaining young girls. The "compassion" the Israelites felt towards the Benjaminites turned into cruelty to the people of Jabesh-gilead. The story continues with the women at Shiloh, ending in verse 25: "In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes."

decorative bar

Women at Shiloh

  • Judges 21:15-25
The events that began with the rape and murder of the Levite's concubine have escalated to the murder of thousands of Benjaminite men and women, the murder of thousands at Jabesh-gilead, the capture of young Jabesh-gilead girls and continue in the last section of chapter 21.

Judges 21:15-25:

The people had compassion on Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel. So the elders of the congregation said, 'What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since there are no women left in Benjamin?' And they said, 'There must be heirs for the survivors of Benjamin, in order that a tribe may not be blotted out from Israel. Yet we cannot give any of our daughters to them as wives.' For the Israelites had sworn, 'Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to Benjamin.' So they said, 'Look, the yearly festival of the LORD is taking place at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the wast of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem and south of Lebonah.' And they instructed the Benjaminites, saying 'Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, and watch; wen the young women of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and each of you carry off a wife for himself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. Then if their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, 'Be generous and allow us to have them; because we did not capture in battle a wife for each man. But neither did you incur guilt by giving your daughters to them.' The Benjaminites did so; they took wives for each of them from the dancers whom they abducted. Then they went and returned to their territory, and rebuilt the towns, and lived in them. So the Israelites departed from there at that time by tribes and families, and they went out from there to their own territories.

"In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.

Yet again, to serve expediency women were sacrificed. Some commentators have declared that the girls at Shiloh were simply parading about when they shouldn't, therefore they deserved their fate. The text does not support this conclusion. The Israelites knew the girls were going to be dancing; they were supposed to be dancing as part of the celebration. Another attempt to negate the impact of this story suggests that these girls actually knew the Benjaminite men were going to be waiting for them, thus they really wanted to be kidnaped. In this interpretation the kidnapping was only a ritual abduction, not a true horrifying event. The text excludes this conclusion, as well. If the fathers did not know, certainly the daughters did not know either.

decorative bar

Women Who Had Gathered

  • Acts 16:13

On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.

In this passage women had gathered for prayer. They were actively participating in worshiping and, apparently, organizing worship to the point others associated their place as a "place of prayer".

decorative bar

Women of the Towns of Israel

  • 1 Samuel 18:6-7
1 Samuel 18:6-7:
As they were coming home, when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they made merry. 'Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens thousands.'

The women of Israel came out to praise David and Saul. Unfortunately, because they praised David more, Saul became jealous of David.

decorative bar

Women at the Wall

  • Judges 9:51-52
Women appear in unexpected places in some of the Bible's stories. Would any of us expect to find women defending their city against a stronger invader-literally "at the wall"? Yet in Judges we find one such story.

Abimelech, son of Gideon's concubine, as attached and captured the city of Thebez. His forces having taken the city, now face only a small resistance force centered in one of the city's towers.

Judges 9:51-52:

But there was a strong tower within the city, and all the men and women and all the lords of the city fled to it and shut themselves in; and they went to the roof of the tower. Abimelech came to the tower, and fought against it, and came near to the entrance of the tower to burn it with fire.

The tower in ancient cities gave defenders the "high" ground. From a tower not only could an attack be made by throwing things down on invaders, but defenders diminished the effectiveness of the invaders attack. Thus, Abimelech resorted to fire. Using fire still left Abimelech with the problem of defenders hurling projectiles from their wall. One woman proved deadly accurate.

decorative bar

Women Who Served at the Entrance

  • Exodus 38:8, 1 Samuel 2:22
Often the role of women in Israelite religious practice can be over looked, yet the Bible does give us pictures of women in service to the Lord. We often overlook this service in our preoccupation with the levitical priesthood, forgetting that the priesthood not only excluded women but the vast majority of men! Thankfully, we did not inherit the Levitical priesthood from Jesus. Our Savior belonged to the tribe of Judah-no Christian can inherit a levitical role from our Judean Master. If we stop limiting our perception of ministry, we find women served the Lord in many ways. One group of women served at the door of the tent of meeting. No one knows exactly what they did, but the Bible makes it plan serving at the entrance to the temple was a ministry.

The first reference go back before the to the meeting tent of Moses.

Exodus 38:8:

He made the basin of bronze with its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

At first we might over look not only the service of the women, but their gift to the Lord. Today we taken mirrors for granted-most of us even carry one in our purses. Yet, during this period a bronze mirror was not only a luxury, but a sign of a women's wealth. Mirrors were great treasures. These women gave not only something valuable, but personal.

1 Samuel 2:22:

Now Eli was very old. He heard all that his sons were doing to all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

The Bible doesn't give us a great deal of information about these women. We can make one of two basic assumptions: one, these women knowingly consented to relations with Eli's sons or two, Eli's sons had used their positions to influence these women. Given Eli's response I tend to believe the second possibility. Today we hear numerous stories of priests, ministers, preachers and pastors using their positions, and power, for sexual gain. Most often the victims of these activities are active members of the church--the altar assistant, a Sunday school teacher--such workers are accessible. Standard boundaries tend to blur when we deal with our minister or church worker; we allow intimacy because these people stand as God's representatives in our lives. But we must remember they are only human, subject to the same flaws as all fallible humans. The church was never meant to be a military structure based on hierarchies and chains of commands--it was meant to be a family. We must be careful not to elevate our ministers above the family circle, or isolate them by that elevation. Ministers must guard against the sense of entitlement Eli's son's displayed, and realize being called to the ministry does not grant more power, authority or privilege than any other believer. If the situation should occur, we, the church, need to respond not with defensiveness but honestly. Only by acting as a family can we heal the damage and prevent future wrongs.

decorative bar

Women at Ziklag

  • 1 Samuel 30:1-3, 1 Samuel 30:18-19
1 Samuel 30:1-3:
Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negeb and on Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag, burned it down, and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great; they killed none of them, but carried them off, and went their way. When David and his men came to the city, they found it burned down, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.

This occurs during the time and his band of followers are fleeing Saul. This short reference supplies us with one small piece of trivia--entire families followed David into exile. It also reveals the very real dangers of the period.

1 Samuel 30:6:

David was in great danger; for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in spirit for their sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.

This was a patriarchal society. Yet, even within this society women were valued--personal affection balanced societal imbalance. These people, loyal enough to follow their hero David into exile were ready to pick up the stone and execute him. In the modern world we interact with people from many cultures and societies. We need to be careful not to confuse the cultural norms of other societies with the very real human interactions that occur between men and women in those societies. Someone whose culture deems a women secondary to men, may treasure, esteem and respect the women in their lives.

David goes before the Lord, then into battle.

1 Samuel 30:18-19:

David recovered all the Amalekites had taken; and David rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken; David brought back everything.

left arrow buttonright arrow button
divider with three crosses
"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."
divider with three crosses

Christian Banner Exchange
The Gospel Banner Exchange

Christian Banner Exchange
The Gospel Banner Exchange

voice of the martyrs logo