Account Login

Sign In  |  Register
You are here: Home  > Reviews | Women of the Bible

Reviews | Women of the Bible

Women of the Bible

Various authors

Paperback or e-book (ePub)

250 pages

Women of the Bible

The Christadelphian review (from April 1982)

Women of the Bible

TO review this very interesting and thought-provoking book has proved an extremely difficult task because of the number of characters with which it deals. It is therefore only possible to comment fairly broadly upon the general impact, giving a few examples to illustrate the points made. The impression the reader is left with, having considered the forty essays, is that here is a comprehensive cross-section of feminine human nature all down the ages. In studying the characters portrayed we can take encouragement from the God-fearing women shown, at the same time being warned by the wicked. Above all, it is their faith which commends the true disciples to God. Also there is much practical advice to be gained for daily living, be one’s duties those of a housewife or a working woman. Whether spiritual or practical advice is sought, this work can be of value to all disciples of the Lord Jesus—brethren or sisters. Times have certainly changed, but divine principles are unchangeable and can be applied in whatever age and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

Basic Scriptural teachings are demonstrated in the main throughout the book. For instance, in the essay on Eve, the pattern upon which man’s relationship with woman is based is clearly stated as Christ and the church, and arising out of this the ideal for marriage is excellently shown. The emanating of the church from Christ and the final uniting of Christ with his bride is mentioned. Just one reservation here: as Scriptural evidence for the idea that Eve herself will be part of that Bride is lacking, to argue that this is the case because of all the other parallels seems tenuous. The Bride is a corporate body—we are each individuals. This is not to say that Eve will not be in the Kingdom, but we have to be satisfied with the lessons God is teaching us in this context and recognise that where a person’s destiny is not revealed it is unwise to speculate.

Various characteristics are highlighted for us as we look at these different portraits. For example, Sarah’s impatience seems to subside as her faith grows. Meanwhile her obedience to her husband is a pattern for all time. The allegory in Galatians 4 showing Sarah as the mother of us all is a wonderful encouragement. But also there is a timely warning to all who belong to the household of God: those who continue in the bondage to sin will eventually be cast out as the bondwoman and her son were.

In the following essay on Hagar, we need to beware of assuming that Hagar had renounced her faith. After all, God had comforted her and blessed Ishmael when they were cast out (see Genesis 21:17–20). The only indication we have of their ‘return to Egypt’ is in verse 21, where we are told of Ishmael’s union with an Egyptian woman. Surely this was a perfectly natural thing to do, having been cast out of Abraham’s household; but we are specifically told that Ishmael, at any rate, dwelt in the wilderness of Paran in the Sinai peninsula.

Powerful Warnings

A very powerful warning is brought out for us in the consideration of Lot’s wife. We are reminded that familiarity with wickedness can diminish our horror of it. Also a warning is given about the dangers of continuing to hanker after our former lives after committal to Christ, leading to inevitable destruction—a sombre and timely caution for today.

Some reservations are necessary regarding Tamar. The commentator’s suggestion that Judah mistook Tamar for a virgin of Astarte would then have put Judah in the position of being an accessory to the practice of idolatry as well as the sin of fornication. Tamar for her part had used deceit in bringing about this illicit union. The suggestion that she only “played the part” of an harlot which was foreign to her nature, seems highly unlikely, as the Hebrew word used, zanah, means to commit fornication or go a-whoring (see Young). And is it permissible to suggest that if Tamar were of a priestly origin, possibly in the line of Melchizedek, this was necessarily an indication of an acceptable character in God’s eyes? One only has to think of such people as Nadab and Abihu for the answer. It is as well to remember that not all the ancestors of the Lord Jesus were men and women of faith. In fact one only has to cast one’s eye down the genealogy given in Matthew 1 to find several unfaithful characters: e.g. Ahaz (v. 9), Manasseh and Amon (v. 10), Jehoiachin (v. 11), to mention a few. It is interesting that these occur in the legal line (Matthew 1)—Joseph’s. In Mary’s genealogy (Luke 3), we have a shortened form and in this record Tamar is not even mentioned, though the vital link, Pharez, is.

The Silence of Scripture

While on this matter of the predecessors of the Lord Jesus, Bathsheba must be mentioned. As pointed out above, it cannot be argued that ancestry of the Lord Jesus guarantees a person’s faithfulness. Because in Matthew 1 Bathsheba is recorded (not by name) with four other women we cannot therefore infer that she too was of their moral calibre. To try to prove Bathsheba’s innocence simply from the silence of Scripture on the question of her reproof seems dangerous. The fact that God struck the child conceived with a fatal illness must have been in itself a reproof for both David and Bathsheba. We know that David, at any rate, had already repented of his sin, though both of them were guilty. In the narrative in 2 Samuel, Bathsheba is described frequently as Uriah’s wife, until the evidence of their sin was removed in the death of the child (see also Matthew 1). Very little is said of Bathsheba’s dealings with Solomon after he became king. We do not know how old she was when she died. How can it be assumed that she exerted such a godly influence over Solomon and that it was only after her death that he went astray?

In the consideration of Potiphar’s wife, we have a clear demonstration of how the wrong use of her attractions was counteracted by Joseph. Wisdom and understanding were developed from his belief in and obedience to God’s commandments, and this enabled him to resist temptation, leaving us a very powerful example of how we too can resist temptation of any kind. On the other hand, we should avoid behaviour which in any way might seduce others.

The essay on Athaliah illustrates very clearly that God’s purpose cannot be thwarted and warns us of the consequences of vindictive conduct for our own ends. It concludes with a moving appeal to those of us who are mothers to allow the Word of God to influence the lives of our children so that they may grow in grace and favour in the fear of the Lord.

We have some excellent examples of faithful courage in Jochebed, Rahab, Deborah and the Captive Maid, to name but a few. Self-denial is the keynote of Ruth’s and Naomi’s lives and also that of Hannah, this coupled with complete trust in the God whom they worshipped. These two essays make an interesting comparison between the faith of proselytes and Jews, showing that there need be no difference between the two.

Understanding is demonstrated for us, together with courage, in Abigail and the Queen of Sheba, while at the same time giving us a little insight into life in their times. Also the principle of the correct basis for marriage is again underlined.

Lessons in Patience

A very valuable lesson in patience and understanding during very difficult circumstances is built up on Ezekiel’s wife. No doubt many of our number would agree that those who have tried to develop good relationships within their marriage when conditions were favourable, have found it easier to maintain that harmony and communication when illness or other difficulties have overtaken one partner. Such a situation could arise with any member of a household. This perseverance in the face of adversity is good training for problems ahead, as illustrated in the Woman who touched Jesus’ Robe. Here humility too is shown, as in the Canaanitish Woman.

A beautiful picture of true devotion to her Creator, and wonder at the task for which she had been chosen is given in the study of Mary. When that wonder was translated into the birth of the Messiah, and his growth to maturity, we are given a little insight into the relationship between Mary and Jesus. The complete faith and trust in him which she developed shows that she recognised in her Son one who had divine authority. But nevertheless when finally the sword pierced through her soul as he hung on the cross it is, as the writer says, difficult to comprehend her feelings. But even in his extremity, the Lord Jesus provided for her needs in committing her into John’s care. Thus the two people who had been closest to him during his mortal life were with him to the last, which must have been a great encouragement to the Lord Jesus. In the graphic account of that which the resurrection accomplished the artist rightly shows that we can only dimly perceive its magnitude. The all-pervading power of God’s love in Christ drawing together a perfect family in closely-knit fellowship is a lofty ideal. The explanation of how the Lord Jesus can be to us in this way Emmanuel, does indeed fill us with deep gratitude for this wondrous miracle.

Anna, too, is a very moving example of devotion to her God. Her knowledge of the Scriptures filled her with the hope of redemption. Here we are shown the nature of true service in prayer. This essay gives a clear picture of life in the times of the Lord Jesus in the Roman world. Lessons are drawn from Anna’s life concerning preparation in reading the Word, prayer and meditation. These enable us to sympathise with and understand the problems of others who seek for comfort. The final exhortation to prepare ourselves while we may for the days that lie ahead is a timely warning.

Excellent Guidelines

We are introduced to Martha and Mary in an interesting way. Their hospitality is evident in their relationship with the Lord Jesus. More importantly, it is pointed out that in considering their characteristics we can understand more about the Lord. Martha and Mary felt their faith strengthened by the presence of their Lord, while he sympathised with and ministered to them both. Each presents a picture: Martha of wholehearted practical service, Mary of selfless devotion, to their Lord. From this latter virtue the exhortation is drawn that we also may “know Him”.

We meet Lydia as a God-fearing and successful business woman. Interesting details of her trade and how business would be transacted in those days are given, together with a lucid background description of Philippi, including geographical and historical data. Our attention is drawn to the fact that she might have had Jewish connections, and prior knowledge on the part of the household is suggested as a reason for their readiness to comply with baptism. The fact that business in these days for a practising Christian is probably no easier than it was then is clearly demonstrated and emphasis is rightly laid on the importance of conducting business honestly and treating one’s servants justly. Servants for their part should give honour to their masters “that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed”.

Here then are some excellent guidelines for us today, whatever our walk of life. Returning to Lydia herself, our attention is drawn to her compassion and hospitality. This latter was to her a humble privilege which was extended not only to the apostles, but also to the new converts which came together in her house. The essay ends on a note of rejoicing for the Lord’s mercies in true fellowship, looking forward to that greater Day of rejoicing.

We are now invited to visit the home of Lois and Eunice in Lystra, the two Jewish women to whom Timothy owed his first knowledge of the Scriptures. A vivid description of a typical Greek household is given, but also pointing out the difficulties caused by this divided home for a Jewish boy who wished to be educated in his faith. The beautiful picture of unfeigned faith to be seen in the three generations—Lois, Eunice and Timothy—prayerfully studying the Scriptures together is very moving and an example for today.

Faith and Daily Life

Throughout the book we have the effect of faith (or lack of it) demonstrated in the various characters brought before us. Whether prophetess, judge’s wife, prosperous trader, queen or humble carpenter’s wife—each had opportunity to develop her faith in the Almighty within the framework of her own circumstances.

As the authors point out, these lessons are recorded for our instruction. Each character is so very human, and we should at least be able to relate to one of the faithful and learn from the mistakes of those who were not. But above all we should try to keep before us that ideal picture of the Virtuous Woman in Proverbs 31, dealt with so delightfully in the last essay.

SHEILA G. FITZGERALD

The Testimony review (from September 2004)

The woman’s side

THIS IS A FASCINATING and worthwhile book, describing the lives of forty-two women mentioned in the Scriptures. There is even an article on Lot’s wife, a woman we rarely consider, and thoughts on the lesser-known New Testament sisters, Dorcas, Lydia, Priscilla, Phebe, Lois and Eunice. The book concludes with an essay on the virtuous woman in Proverbs.

I found it a valuable book, full of exhortation and example. The different authorship of the essays gives the book a strength. Each treatment of each subject is different, with the basic Biblical description of the facts of their lives and the lessons to be drawn from them. The understanding of the women by the sister-authors is excellent, as is their comprehension of a sister’s role in marriage.

The essay on Eve is especially interesting and significant. Very few of us have ever thought seriously about her life, yet her role is vitally important to us all. She has been blamed and cursed down the ages for her fall and her belief in what the serpent said, and her action has even affected the treatment of women in more bigoted ages. This detailed study explores her wrongdoing and the consequences.

The effects of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden have lasted until modern times in the structure of families and in women’s role in the ecclesia, even in the covering of women’s heads in the meeting. Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 11 hark back clearly to the Fall and the changes it brought about in the relationship between men and women. However, Paul also assures us that we are all one in Christ Jesus. In the Kingdom all human sex distinctions will be done away, and the bride, the saints, will be brought to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The chapter on Rahab is equally interesting. She was a harlot, but we know she will be counted as one of the faithful. It is not usually recognised that she married Prince Salmon of Judah, and became the mother of Boaz. Thus she was in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ. The line of scarlet thread in her window saved her life and that of her family, and is very significant to us.

The chapter on Jezebel describes very clearly her idolatrous background and the weak-willed character of her husband Ahab. Jezebel’s selfish and ruthless character is well described, and her fanatical support of her god Baal is emphasised. Her ambition to spread this worship throughout Israel, and her hatred of Elijah, forms a major theme of the article. This wicked and selfish woman stopped at nothing to get what she and her husband wanted. In the end her corruption ruined Israel, and this is well brought out.

There is a stark contrast to Jezebel in the story of Ruth and Naomi, beautifully described and aptly commented on. God’s guidance of events is emphasised, and also the parallels in the story with the redemption provided by Christ.

The story of Abigail is fascinating. Here is a beautiful, intelligent and resourceful woman married to a brute of a man, whose very name means ‘a fool’. Why the marriage was ever made, and how she coped, we can only speculate. Her contact with David, and her quick wits in defence of her household, are well described. It is a marvellous story. There is a lot we are not told about Abigail’s life, and we would love to know it, but the Bible reveals no more.

In the New Testament the article on the sister called Tabitha and Dorcas is most interesting. She is a little-known character, though her story became dramatic when she was raised from the dead by Peter. Her practical work of making clothes for the poor has given rise in the past to ‘Dorcas classes’. She is much praised for this.

Paul praises Phebe of Cenchrea, whose name means ‘Shining One’. She carried Paul’s letter from Corinth to Rome, and he describes her as “a succourer of many, and of myself also” (Romans 16:2). She was a trusted servant of the ecclesia at Cenchrea (verse 1), and the article brings out how worthwhile it is to serve and to look after others.

This is a wide-ranging, informative and uplifting book, which every sister should have.

JOAN BRIERS

(Originally published in the September 2004 edition of The Testimony Magazine (page 358), and is reproduced by kind permission.)

Privacy |  Terms & Conditions |  Site Map |  Site by Quick By Design
Registered Address
The Christadelphian, 404 Shaftmoor Lane, Hall Green, Birmingham, B28 8SZ
Registered charity in England and Wales (No. 240090)
A charitable company limited by guarantee
(Company No. 329186 - England and Wales)
Tel: +44 (0)121 777 6328
Fax: +44 (0)121 778 5024
loading loading...