Published on March 29th, 2020 | by Candace Simpson
She Been On: My Fave Biblical Women
What better way to celebrate this Women’s History Month than by featuring some of the oldest women characters in written history? Here are a few of my favorite women in the Bible who inspire and push me beyond the pages of the sacred text.
Rahab in Joshua 2- Joshua 6
Rahab is often referred to as a “prostitute.” I don’t actually know if she was or was not a sex worker, but I do know two things. First: Sex workers are important and deserve to be respected. Second: Whether or not she was a sex worker, the public perception of her entertaining men in a patriarchal society is significant.
As the story goes, Rahab is approached to hide some of God’s men from the feds. Because she was known to have people in and out of her home, her spot is the perfect place to hide. She could provide a host of excuses. Of course, when Rahab makes the deal with the spies, she insists that they protect not only her but her entire family. During the negotiation, she says, “Since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”
Rahab is the woman who enters rooms and remembers her power. And she doesn’t use the power just for herself; she makes sure everybody eats. What good is my life if my people are not also well?
The Unnamed widow in 2 Kings 4
Once upon a time, a woman is about to lose her children to creditors. She’s in so much debt that creditors are hoping to exploit her children as slaves. A prophet comes to her and says, “Go borrow your neighbors’ oil containers. Pour into all the vessels and sell the oil to pay off your debts.” By God’s grace, she starts pouring that oil from her container and it keeps flowing. A miracle!
This unnamed woman is the community saint in our neighborhood who can make a feast out of whatever is in the cupboard. She’s the one who knows that each of us is only as strong as we are together. She has the courage to ask her neighbors for help, and in doing so, saves her children from an unfavorable fortune. I wonder if she used some of that profit to help other people’s children, too.
Tabitha in Acts 9
Tabitha was a woman devoted to advocacy and altruism. We don’t actually know much about her because the text tells us she was “devoted to good works and charity” in verse 36, and then by the next verse she “became ill and died.” So much happens between those two verses. It is quite factually the story of life and death. But Tabitha is so influential that women come to mourn her dressed in the tunics she’d made for them. As the story goes, she was later resurrected.
Hers is a cautionary tale. The weight of this world will force you to work and work, even as you’re working for justice. Tabitha gets a second opportunity to live. Her story makes me think of every freedom-fighting woman who deserves a vacation, her rent paid, healthcare, fresh groceries and more. It’s absolutely ungodly that so many of the women leading “good works” often die without ever seeing the vision come to fruition.
Daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 27
Zelophehad has five daughters. Because he has no sons, his inheritance gets caught up in patriarchal red tape. His five daughters, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, organize to get what belongs to them. They present their case before Moses along with a central question, “Why should our father’s work die with him just because we have no brothers?” Moses takes their case to God, and of course, God agrees with the daughters. From that day forward, the rule extends so that in the case that a man dies and has no son, his inheritance should be passed on to his daughters. Their organizing incited a world of possibilities for generations of people who are not “their father’s sons.”
Basically, it was like Set it Off, but without indoor plumbing.
The Syrophoenecian woman in Mark 7
A woman finds Jesus and asks him if he could heal her daughter. Bowing at his feet, she begs for her daughter’s restoration. Jesus says, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” In this quip, Jesus refuses this person healing (perhaps due to her gender, ethnicity, or both). He calls her, at least metaphorically, “a dog.” Without missing a beat, she replies, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Jesus is likely embarrassed and convicted. He heals her daughter.
Men in power have often denied the rest of us any sort of care or compassion. I think of women like Jennicet Gutiérrez who spoke the truth even in the face of liberal cowardice. It matters that you demand from the authorities the healing and justice that you and your community deserve, even when those very authorities gaslight and refuse to recognize your humanity.
Happy Women’s History month to everybody! May we have the community-minded vision of Rahab; the courage of the unnamed widow to ask neighbors for help; a second chance like Tabitha; the justice-oriented sisterhood of Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah; and the quick-wittedness of the Syrophoenician woman. May we be so bold and full that we are unable to be contained by the short month of March. May this world recognize our gifts and reorient itself to encourage our flourishing.
Candace Simpson is an educator, minister and writer. She believes that Heaven is a Revolution that can happen right here on Earth. She invites others into that philosophy at www.fishsandwichheaven.com