The Bible gives us wonderful women role models, women who were loyal to the Lord. We’ve looked at the roles of men and women in their relationships together. As we finish up this mini-series on Gender Roles, it’s time to consider the women in the Bible that shaped the way Christians view women and they should act and be treated.
Gender Roles: The Women Who Followed God
I often find that when women are spoken about in a Biblical context. often the verses about what women should and shouldn’t do are pulled, and are often taken completely out of context (although this is a discussion of another time). While these verse and ‘instructions’ that we can find a lot of encouragement and learn heaps about what qualities God puts value on in women when we read about the many women whose stories feature in the Bible.
I want to talk about six women and their stories in the Bible, and what we can take away from these.
Let’s start with Hannah. We can find her story in the book 1 Samuel, Samuel being her son. Hannah was married to a man called Elkanah, who had a second wife; Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah didn’t. She desperately wanted her own child, and prayed to God for this.
“And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head'” – 1 Samuel 1:11
She is basically saying, “God if you consider my pain, please go into action for me and give me a son. In turn, I will commit him to you and make sure he lives a life of Holy discipline.” God listened to her prayer and gave her a son, and she kept her promise. Samuel grew up to be an amazing man of God, and a lot of this was under Hannah’s influence.
While she wasn’t the main spiritual leader in Samuel’s life, Hannah recognized the power of a life dedicated to God, and a lot of this was under Hannah’s influence. While she wasn’t the main spiritual leader in Samuel’s life, she recognized the power of a life dedicated to God, and so she ensured that this happened for her son. She was a quiet but determined woman of God who carried out his plan for her son’s life.
Moving on from Hannah, Ruth and her mother in law Naomi were amazing women of the Bible. Naomi and Ruth had a close relationship and Ruth greatly trusted and loved Naomi. Ruth left her home and followed Naomi to Bethlehem. (Ruth 1:16-18). Naomi gave Ruth some advice (Ruth 3:1-6) which Ruth followed, and Ruth then eded up becoming the wife of Boaz.
Through their family line came King David, and eventually Jesus. As we read, Naomi, an older woman of God, provided Ruth, a younger woman of God, with the advice she needed to live out God’s plan for her. This is another example of women in the role of quiet teacher and guider.
Carrying on with the theme of women as teachers, I want to talk about Lois and Eunice, the grandmother and mother of Timothy. They are are only mentioned briefly in the Bible, but the way in which they are talked about speaks volumes about the kind of women they were.
“That precious memory triggers another: your honest faith – and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice, and now to you! And the special gift of ministry you received when I laid hands on you and prayed – keep that ablaze! God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible” – 2 Timothy 1:5-7
This was part of a letter that Paul wrote to Timothy. Here we read that a ‘rich faith’ was passed down from grandmother, to mother, to son, through the women in the family. This is a gentle passing down of a relationship to God, through quiet teaching and passionate faith. Once again, the women don’t get presented as outspoken spiritual leaders; instead their leadership and teaching is soft and gentle, yet incredibly powerful and important to the people they teach.
Finally, I want to briefly talk about Hagar whose story we read about Genesis. She was sent into the desert by Abraham with her son (Genesis 21:14), and she felt really helpless in her situation. God heard her and promised that he would take care of her and provide for her and her son. He said that he would make of her son a great nation (Genesis 21:17-18). Hagar brought her son up in the wilderness with God on their side, and she ended up finding him a wife (Genesis 21:20-21). We can see here that with God’s guidance, Hagar provided her son with the foundation to live out a life filled with God. She cared for him and God blessed them both. This is yet another example of a woman as a quiet gender.
We often see women leading younger women, and women leading their children in faith. This is a quiet kind of leadership, one that is very understated and incredibly selfless. The bond between mother and child is os instinctual and comes straight from God, but, even without children, we can still experience that same motherly role, even within our friendships. We can provide guidance and advice, and in turn listen to the guidance and advice of older Christian women.
“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” – Titus 2:3
While there is a lot of debate about what women should and shouldn’t do according to the Bible, what we can be sure of is that God wants us to be humble, joyful teachers of his work to the other women around us. We can delight in his word together, and guide each other through our different walks.