What is biblical womanhood, what is a woman’s place, what is a woman’s role – all things we women ask when trying to learn God’s plan for our lives. What does it mean to be a Godly woman? We often hear biblical womanhood describing women as housewives, stay at home mothers, submissive to husbands/fathers, and teachings that tell women their roles in the church fall in somewhere around Sunday school teacher, secretary, and women’s ministry. Now, please don’t misunderstand me – motherhood, children and women’s ministry are all amazing things and many women are definitely called to these things. However, not every woman feels called to marriage, can have or wants children, or is called to those specific ministries – and we celebrate both of these types of women (traditional and non traditional) – as long as she chooses it! Ezer Rising celebrates women who run companies, women who love motherhood, women who love being a wife, women who preach and prophecy, women who prefer a more traditional family style, and women who choose to be less traditional – you are all amazing.
Did you know that there is no instruction manual found in the Bible for women? Some might refer to Proverbs 31, or verses in the book of Titus and Ephesians, but precious little detail is given when it comes to how we are actually supposed to glorify God with our lives.
What does He value?
Being an obedient wife? Homeschooling? Teaching children? Instructing other women how to do the same?
Forgive me, but this can feel a bit one note, especially for women, like myself, who are not married and do not have children, and for the millions of others like myself. It also does not ring true for the wives and mothers, and single women who are multifaceted and have many different talents, gifts, and interests.
Fortunately for us, God has given us many examples of daughters He loves, and honored. Let’s take a look at some of these incredible examples in Scripture:
1. WOMEN CAN BE LEADERS/INFLUENCERS (AND NOT JUST FOR CHILDREN/WOMEN)
Deborah was a judge and leader of the Israelite army – see Judges 4-5. The account in Judges 4 says that, ” the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided”. She did this while also being a wife.
Miriam is referred to as one of the leaders of Israel in Micah 6:4. Also, Miriam was considered an equal with Moses and Aaron as you read their interactions in Exodus and Numbers.
Esther feels like the obvious example but I want to discuss her anyways. Esther’s life has the finger prints of God all over it. She was a Jewish orphan who ended up marrying a king. When an evil advisor named Haman plotted against the Jewish people to have them all killed, Esther broke the law and presented herself to the king (without being summoned) who welcomed her and she invited him and his advisor to a dinner where she would put her request before her husband. At the dinner, Esther pleads on behalf of her people. Esther could have remained silent and lived her comfortable life as a queen but she took a risk (she could have been killed for her risk) and, long story short, because of her courage the Jewish people were saved. One thing I love about the example of Esther is the humility she displays each time she speaks with the king – rather than angrily or fearfully demanding, she presents her requests in a way that is humble and respectful. Esther displayed wisdom, courage, and bravery and played an important role in Jewish history. Esther displayed important qualities of a leader/influencer: wisdom, willingness to hear counsel from others, risk taking, humility, and thinking of those she served over her self. I would also like to add that Esther was such a significant part of Jewish history that she got her own book in the Bible.
Mary the mother of Jesus may be a bit of a stretch for the word influencer but I believe she is relevant. In the story of the wedding where the wine ran out (John 2) we see Mary boss a grown Jesus around and He submits to her (not immediately). I love that Mary tells Him what to do, He’s like “woman why are you bringing Me into this” and she doesn’t even respond but tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says to do (assuming He will just obey her). Jesus’ obedience to his mother led to His first miracle and the beginning of His miracle ministry on earth.
The Woman at the Well is easily one of my favorite influencers in the New Testament. We are all familiar with her interaction with Jesus in John 4. Jesus shows up to the well, it’s blazing hot and this woman is getting water. She was a Samaritan so Jesus shouldn’t have even been speaking to her. In this story we see Jesus speak to a deeply hurting woman that the church has painted as a whore (I believe differently and wrote about it HERE) and an adulteress. At the end of the story we see this woman (who had just had her mind blown by Jesus) rush back into the city and tell everyone of this man Jesus. In verses 39-42 we see the fruit of her testimony:
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
Priscilla, Lydia, Nympha were all women who led churches in their homes (they didn’t have megachurches in massive buildings back then).
2. WOMEN CAN BE ADVISORS, PROPHETS, TEACHERS, EVANGELISTS, PASTORS, AND APOSTLES AS WELL AS TEACH/DISCIPLE MEN.
Deborah is referred to as a prophet and leader of Israel in Judges 4 (while also being a wife).
Miriam is referred to as a prophet is Exodus 15.
Priscilla (also known as Prisca) and her husband Aquila ministered alongside Paul and were considered close friends of his. Priscilla and Aquila had a church that met in their home. In Romans 16, Paul refers to Priscilla as a “co-worker” in Christ. Priscilla (and Aquila) was a foundational and recognized leader in the early church – specifically the church in Ephesus. In Acts 18 we read that Priscilla (along with her husband) mentored Apollos (a well educated Jewish man who already knew the Scriptures very well) in the ways of God. Interestingly, in verse 26 (of Acts 18) Priscilla’s name is mentioned before her husbands which could mean she was more involved in the mentoring of Apollos than her husband was. But, either way, we know for sure that Priscilla mentored Apollos (a dude). Apollos is mentioned many times in the NT as a mighty man who traveled around preaching and teaching – and, he was mentored by a woman!
Anna the prophetess is mentioned in Luke 2 as a woman who stayed in the temple night and day – fasting, praying, and worshipping. She was present when baby Jesus was being “presented to the Lord in the temple”.
Junia was an apostle and friend of the apostle Paul who served jail time with Paul and Andronicus(mentioned in Romans 16). Junia is an awesome example because Paul doesn’t just refer to her as one of the apostles but says she is outstanding among the apostles. In later translations, Junia was changed to Junias – whether that was intentional to back up a patriarchal view of the New Testamant or simply an accident is unsure. But, HERE is some great info on Junia.
The Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maakah in 2 Samuel 20 risked herself by offering wise counsel to Joab, a military official, to spare the city she lived in. He listened to her counsel and the city was saved.
The 4 Daughters of Philip, mentioned in Acts 2, are prophetesses. Interestingly enough, Paul had a very high value for the gift of prophecy and even said that above all of the spiritual gifts to desire to prophecy. These women were carriers of a spiritual gift that was a huge part of developing the early church. Read more about these women HERE.
3. WOMEN CAN FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS/EQUALITY
Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah fought for equal rights. These 5 women were the only children of Zelophehad who had been part of the exodus from Egypt but died during the 40 years in the wilderness. When their father died, the women boldly petitioned the leaders of Israel by saying, “Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.” So, Moses takes their request before God and God says, ““What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.” God had earlier said that the promised land was to be apportioned according to the “number of names” – all males – of the members of the census recorded in Numbers 26. These women, being the only children of their father, would have had no claim to anything after he died – simply because they were female. These women boldly stood up for themselves and God honored them and because of them the decree (in Numbers 27) is changed to: ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter.
4. WOMEN CAN BE AMAZING BUSINESS WOMEN
Lydia had a business selling a rare purple cloth which was a made from an expensive and luxurious purple dye. It is believed that Lydia was wealthy due to the facts that she had servants, her own household, and a trade that was unique. Lydia was also known for her hospitality. It is unknown if Lydia was married but scholars believe that since there is no mention of her husband, she was a widow.
Priscilla and her husband partnered in their tent making business and were church planters with the Apostle Paul. Priscilla and her husband are the ones who taught Paul the tent making trade that he was known for as he traveled.
The Queen of Sheba was a political woman in a position of authority that visits King Soloman to see his wealth of learn of his God in 1 Kings 10.
Proverbs 31 talks about a woman who has a thriving business while also having a family. She also owns property, takes care of her servants, and sells linens.
5. WOMEN SHOULD SPEAK UP FOR THEMSELVES AND OTHERS
Abigail is a great example of a woman who spoke up not just for herself but to save the lives of her entire family. You can find her story in 1 Samuel 25. Basically, her husband (Nabal -which means fool) was being a fool and angered David (who had been anointed by Samuel but not actually taken the position of ‘king’ at this point) – bringing a death sentence was over her family. Abigail took it upon herself to rectify the situation. She used wisdom and acted quickly to present herself to David, apologize for her husband’s behavior, and make the situation right. She also advised David that it would basically darken his reputation as a future king to have the blood of her entire family on his hands (See 1 Samuel 25:28-31). David received her counsel and pardoned her husband’s idiocy – sparing her family. Nabal ends up dying a week or so later and when David hears this news he asks Abigail to marry him. I have my suspicions that David was attracted to Abigail’s strength, bravery, and mind – considering he only had one encounter with her.
Vashti is seen briefly in the the book of Esther. She is the current queen of King Ahasuerus when we enter the story. in Esther chapter 1, the king has a feast for everyone present in the citadel. At the same time Vashti was holding a feast for all of the women in the royal palace. On the 7th day of the festivities, scripture implies the king was drunk (or close to), and ordered for Vashti to be brought to him so he could show her off to his friends – the NIV version uses the phrase “display her”. Vashti refused to be paraded in front of a bunch of drunk dudes and the king became super mad. So, the king asked his wise men what to do with Vashti for disobeying him and they decided to banish Vashti and search for a new queen (who we all know ended up being Esther). The king’s advisors were worried that other women would follow Vashti’s example (see Esther 1:16-20) and “disrespect their husbands”. No one said no the king and Vashti did! Vashti refused to play into being objectified for her sexual appeal and her beauty. She refused to be a piece of meat for men to lust after and “admire”.Vashti was a voice for women’s rights in her day, unfortunately, she was silenced. I grew up always thinking that Vashti was a bad person, like Jezebel, because of the way I had heard her represented in teachings – she was a disobedient wife. But, thank God, as an adult I have learned to researched for myself. Vashti made a huge statement for women’s rights in her day (and suffered for it) and should be been seen as a role model for women in 2018.
Biblical womanhood is pretty simple really, be who God has created you to be. Very rarely – if ever, in Scripture, are women given specific roles that don’t apply to men and women as a whole. Most of the “roles” assigned to women by the apostle Paul in his letters were generally cultural and were responses to specific issues happening in each church/city. The Bible is filled with women who defied cultural and traditional norms, held positions of authority, took huge risks, and changed history. Biblical womanhood means this: serving Jesus in whatever way He has created you to, called you to, and gifted you to. Biblical womanhood is not limited to being a wife and mother (though most women are wives and mothers because they choose to). Biblical womanhood looks differently for each woman based on the giftings, personality traits, and talents that God has set inside of each woman at their creation. While to one woman biblical womanhood looks traditional it looks non-traditional to another woman. Biblical womanhood is very similar to biblical manhood as we are all given the same commands by God. Men and women are not set different rules and limitations (outside of biological and physical). We are ALL called to be loving, kind, honorable, set apart, and to act like Jesus. But, when it comes to gifts, talents, and roles – they are not gender specific but are different for each person, each marriage, each church.
Who are you? What has God called you to be and do?
Be a mother.
Be a wife.
Be a businesswoman.
Be a preacher.
Be a teacher.
Be a writer.
Be a reader.
Be a worker.
Be an encourager.
Be a leader.
Be a supporter.
Be a question asker.
Be a theologian.
Be a warrior.
You are God’s daughter.
Be the ezer God made YOU to be, not the ezer another woman was created to be. You are unique and only you can be you.
(Muchas muchas gracias to Noelle Toscano for helping me with the editing process, you’re amazing <3)