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Women of the Bible

Margaret Mowczko
Ever heard of Sera, Aksah or Sheerah?  I hadn’t . . . until I decided to read through the Old Testament, slowly, keeping an eye out for every woman mentioned.  Here’s a little something about these three influential women. SERAH – Genesis 46:17; Numbers 26:46; 1 Chronicles 7:30. Serah was the daughter of Asher, one of the twelve sons of Jacob.  Serah is mentioned by name in three Old Testament genealogies but not much information is given about her.  Apparently she lived an extraordinarily long time.  Because of her longevity, she lived to know both her grandfather Jacob (born around 2000BC) and, five hundred years later, Moses (born around 1500BC). According to Midrashic interpretations... Read more
Tim Krueger
I recently heard a sermon delivered by Dr. Peter T. Vogt, a professor of Old Testament at Bethel Seminary in Saint Paul, MN. In it, he shared some insights about the story of Naomi and Ruth (Listen to the sermon here—it starts around the 40-minute mark). With his permission, I have summarized some of them here. One of the first things we learn about Israel, God’s covenant people, is that God didn’t choose them because they were particularly special; he chose them to be his instruments to bless the world. The second thing we learn about Israel is that it repeatedly failed to be a blessing. Instead, it adopted the practices of its neighbors, always wandering away from Yahweh. Naomi, however, stands in contrast to Israel’s failure to influence its neighbor... Read more
Tim Krueger
 I recently heard a sermon delivered by Dr. Peter T. Vogt, a professor of Old Testament at Bethel Seminary in Saint Paul, MN. In it, he shared some insights about the story of Naomi and Ruth (Listen to the sermon here—it starts around the 40-minute mark). With his permission, I have summarized some of them here. One of the first things we learn about Israel, God’s covenant people, is that God didn’t choose them because they were particularly special; he chose them to be his instruments to bless the world. The second thing we learn about Israel is that it repeatedly failed to be a blessing. Instead, it adopted the practices of its neighbors, always wandering away from Yahweh. Naomi, however, stands in contrast to Israel’s failure to influence its neighbo... Read more
 "Queen Esther daughter of Abihail, along with the Jew Mordecai, gave full written authority, confirming this second letter about Purim" (Esther 9:29, NRSV). Many people in Minnesota get really excited about fall. We welcome cooler weather, colorful trees, and a chance to share treasures from our garden. Fall is also a vivid reminder that we are placed on Earth to help one another. Almost every harvest, I hear a friend or coworker describe how their family, friends, or neighbors worked together to help get the apples picked, or the wheat and beets harvested. The farms on which many grew up are within a day’s drive, and serve as ready reminders that we need each other. To realize this is to live close to the truth that our devotion and even our faith in God is often... Read more
Many know the story of Queen Esther from the Bible. However, often our own culture and struggles can lead us to “discover” lessons that are not part of the text, or miss important details that are. Often in churches, Esther becomes obscured to the point where this brave woman who was mightily used by God becomes passively subject to the decisions of men. For example, a marriage book released recently by a popular pastor and his wife used the story of Esther to promote obedience to one’s husband, contrasting disobedient Queen Vashti with a “submissive” Esther. Is submission to one’s husband truly the lesson of this narrative? Esther, also known as Hadassah, was an orphan, one of the Jewish exiles living as a minority in Persia. Against all odds, she mar... Read more
One famous woman who requires explanation from those who do not believe women should occupy the highest levels of leadership is Junia, “outstanding among the apostles.” Since Joanna is a Hebrew version of the name Junia, some believe Junia may even be the Joanna Luke mentions in his gospel (Richard Bauckham in Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels). Having been healed by Jesus, she accompanied him on his travels and supported him financially in furthering the proclamation of the kingdom of God. After Jesus’ death, she met him again (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8; Gal. 1:1, 15-17). After Jesus’ resurrection, Paul recognizes Junia as an apostle just as he does himself, Silvanus, Timothy, Barnabas, and those among the twelve. Later, Junia—and possibly h... Read more
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.” (Rom. 16:1-2, NIV). A notable New Testament woman, whose leadership has been deemphasized, especially in modern translations, is Phoebe. Paul trusted Phoebe, deacon of the church of Cenchreae, to deliver his letter to the Romans. True to custom, she remained with the church after delivering the letter in order to explain its contents. Paul calls her a prostatis (leader) over many—including himself (Rom. 16:1-2), but curiously, some Bible translations make her out to be simply “a great help.” ... Read more
Many times the leadership of certain women in the Bible are deemphasized because they are in conflict with a pervading thought concerning what women can and cannot do. One notable woman who has needed some explanation from those who say women cannot lead is Judge Deborah. Her life story can be found in Judges 4 and 5. After Joshua had brought God’s people into the Promised Land they rebelled and continually turned to other gods. As a result, God let their enemies gain the upper hand and enslave them. However, God did not abandon his people. When they cried out to him for help, he would raise up judges (Judg. 2:16). These judges were special individuals appointed by God to bring the people back to him, defeat their enemies and lead. One of these was Deborah—a woman. As a j... Read more
Synopsis of the situation: Mordecai, a Jew, is an important man, known to the leadership of the Medes and Persians. His cousin, Esther, whom he raised, is now queen of the Medes and Persians. Haman is a very high official who hates Mordecai and has set up a law so that Mordecai and his entire community will be exterminated. Whether by revelation or just giving him wisdom, God shows Mordecai that Esther must save her people. Mordecai tells Esther this. Esther knows she can be executed for approaching the king without an invitation, queen or not. She’s afraid, but she submits to Mordecai as being a messenger from God. So far, so hierarchical: God tells man, man tells woman, woman obeys. But… Whether by revelation or just giving her wisdom, God shows Esther what she and th... Read more
In our meeting last night, we read the story of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. As it was being read I was struck by something I had never noticed. Abigail is a type and shadow of Christ in this story. You can read the passage here. This story is one of my favorites as an example of women who were honored in the Old Testament. Often, the church peddles a romanticized and chivalrous ideal (which has no foundation in Scripture) to encourage women to be submissive, quiet, dependent, and careful not to make waves. Particularly within a marriage, many churches teach that women should submit to the decisions of their husbands, even if the husband is making very wrong decisions. Women are encouraged that if they will submit and pray, God will honor this and intervene on their behalf. God may, of... Read more

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