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Lessons for Life from the Old Testament: The Women

Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.


Lessons for Today from the Old Testament: Women - the Good and the Bad.

While the records in the Old Testament deal largely with the accounts of the famous leaders like Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Elijah and many other men, it often gives us a glimpse of women, both good and not so good, or even really bad. These women give us an important glimpse into the reality of human life and the relationship between the sexes.

It all starts with Eve who hears the lie of Satan in the Garden of Eden, believes it, and then shares it with Adam, who buys it hook line and sinker. Because of this Eve often gets the blame, but we need to remember that we each have a free will to listen for the truth and obey it. Surely Adam should have had the intelligence to realise that what he was being told was a lie? Often Satan packages his lies in pretty parcels, and so we need to be careful who we listen to. Always check out the facts to make certain it is not “fake news”!

There is a short list of women in the Old Testament who can be described as really bad. Here Jezebel tops the charts and seems to be simply evil. Potiphar’s wife who attempted to seduce Joseph, could be included in that list. Others were simply weak and fell to temptation and this could include Bathsheba and Delilah. Trapped in situations where it was difficult to stand for the right choice, they fell to temptation, a danger that lurks around every corner in this world.

But there are also some who were a shining example of good! One of the early Judges in the history of Israel was Deborah. When she was leading Israel (Judges 4:4) as one of the early judges, Barak was instructed to take up arms against their enemies who were lead by Sisera. Barak replied: “If you go with me I will go; but if you don’t go with me I won’t go.” (Judges 4:8; NIV translation} So Deborah agreed to go and after they won the battle she composed a song of praise, recorded in chapter 5.Hannah when not able to conceive and is taunted by Peninnah weeps in desperate prayer and God hears her crying and answers her prayers (1 Samuel:1:7).

With the present health crises in the world it seems appropriate to mention two lesser known women in the Old Testament, Shiphrah and Puah. They were midwives in Egypt and were instructed by the king of Egypt to put to death any Israelite boys that they were delivering (Exodus 1:16). The women refused to do this and as a result were rewarded by the Lord (vs.20-22).

Another lesser known woman was the un-named woman of Shunem (2 Kings4:8), who urged her husband to build a room and furnish it for the prophet Elisha so that he could use when he came to their area. She was rewarded with a much desired son.(2 Kings 4:8-17)

It is however Esther, who stands out for her courage in saving the nation from disaster, a situation still celebrated today by Jews in the feast of Purim. Queen Vashti sets the scene for this moving story. How a young and beautiful Israelite woman becomes the new queen after Vashti refuses to parade her beauty in front of King Xerxes’ drunken guests at a big banquet. After a search for a new queen is made, Esther is chosen and when the evil Haman plots to put all the Israelites to death, Esther risks her life by going into the king’s presence to plead their case. A story filled with heart stopping drama and adventure suitable for a modern block-buster movie. It all ends well and again doing the right thing trumps evil. Her Uncle Mordecai makes the plea: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows that you have come to royal position for a time like this” (Ester 4:14).

Ruth and Naomi rate highly in the stakes of loyalty, integrity and friendship. They travel to Bethlehem after living in Moab and Naomi encourages Ruth to return to her people in Moab. Ruth then makes the famous reply: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17a). Ruth becomes part of the genealogy of Jesus as the wife of Boaz the great-grandfather of David.

The Queen of Sheba is a difficult woman to put into any category as she travels from Africa to visit the powerful and rich King Solomon, offering gifts to him and receiving gifts from him. Legend has presented many stories about her and Solomon but we need to leave it in that category.

So what can we learn from these Old Testament woman that can help us today?

Firstly: God uses women to fulfil His purposes. While historically women were not often given the opportunities to lead an opportunity that they obviously deserved, they often rose to great heights.

Secondly: They show that life offers opportunities to do what is right and what is wrong. Choosing the right is always best.

Thirdly: Women show great determination in the face of challenges and often have the courage that is needed in a difficult world.

Postscript: It is strange indeed that during the Covid 19 epidemic most countries that have women leaders have coped well with combating the virus; Germany, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.

Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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