HERODIAS AND HER DAUGHTER
Scripture references: Matthew 14:1–12; Mark 6:14–29 Bible Search Tool
Herodias had married Philip, the brother of King Herod Antipas. John the Baptist preached against this marriage, which was incestuous according to Old Testament Law. Herod had John imprisoned, but he was afraid to execute the popular prophet. Herod feared John himself, “knowing that he was a just and holy man” (Mark 6:20). Herodias however was incensed that John had publicly condemned her, and she “held it against him and wanted to kill him” (Mark 16:19).
Her chance came when Herodias’s daughter danced at a feast Herod gave, and the king effusively told the young woman to name her own reward. When she looked to her mother for advice, Herodias told her to ask for John the Baptist’s head. Continue Reading Here
A CRIPPLED WOMAN
Scripture reference: Luke 13:10–17 Bible Search Tool
As far as the woman was concerned, her need had been met, and God given the glory due to His name. But the ruler of the synagogue was indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath when people were not to work.
Jesus was scandalized by this man’s insensitivity. He called the man a hypocrite and said, “ ‘Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound; think of it; for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?’ ” (Luke 13:16).
Christ’s contemptu Continue Reading Here
Scripture references: Judges 10; 11
Date: About 1250 b.c.
Main contribution: Jephthah’s daughter illustrates the limitations on women’s freedom of self-determination.
Jephthah was the illegitimate son of an Israelite who was expelled by his family and clan after his father’s death. But Jephthah was an exceptional leader, and when the Ammonites attacked the Israelites, Jephthah was recalled to lead them in battle.
When Jephthah was about to lead the attack on the enemy forces he made a vow to the Lord, that “whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering” (Judg. 11:31 niv).
To Jephthah’s dismay, his only child, a daughter, was the first to come out to meet him! Crushed and miserable, Jephthah told her of the vow “that I cannot break” (Judg. 11:35 niv).
Many have concluded from this dialog that Jephthah did kill and burn his daughter as a sacrifice. However, this is unlikely, in view of the wider context of Scripture. What actually did happen is suggested in the following: Continue Reading Here
ACHSAH, CALEB’S DAUGHTER
Scripture reference: Joshua 15:13–19
Date: About 1400 b.c.
Name: Achsah [ACK-sah, meaning ankle-chain, or anklet]
ACHSAH’S ROLE IN SCRIPTURE
Achsah was the daughter of Caleb, one of the two spies who forty years earlier had urged the Israelites to trust God and invade Canaan (Num. 13). Only Caleb and his companion Joshua survived the thirty-eight years of wandering in the wilderness. Caleb, as filled with faith in his old age as he had been four decades before, attacked the Canaanite strongholds on the lands that were to be his portion after the conquest. Eager to have son’s-in-law as courageous and faith-filled as himself, Caleb promised his daughter Achsah to the man who would attack and take Kirjath Sepher.
Othniel, Caleb’s nephew, accepted the challenge and won Achsah’s hand. While Achsah had no legal right to hold land in her own name, her influence with her husband and father was critical in providing for her family. Continue Reading Here
Scripture references: Numbers 25; 31:15-16
Date: About 1410 b.c.
Name: Cozbi [KOZ-bih: “voluptuousness”]
Main contribution: Her attempt to corrupt the Israelites failed.
When the Israelites approached the land of the Midianites on their way to Canaan, the Midianite ruler was frightened. He called for Balaam, a man reputed to have influence with supernatural powers, to curse Israel for him. But God intervened, and each time Balaam attempted to curse God’s people he was forced to utter a blessing instead.
Still eager to please his employer, Balaam suggested that the Midianites attempt to get the Lord to curse His people for them! Balaam reasoned that if young Midianite women were sent to the outskirts of the Israelite camp, they would be able first to seduce Israelite men sexually, and then induce them to worship their idols (cf. Num. 31:15, 16). Balaam reasoned that God would then turn against His unfaithful people, and the threat to Midian would be removed. Continue Reading Here
Scripture references: Exodus 2:1–10; 15:20, 21; Numbers 12:1–15; 20:1;
Date: About 1520–1420 b.c.
Name: Miriam [MER-eh-um: “loved by Yahweh”)
Greatest contribution: Miriam played a vital role as the protective sister of baby Moses, and later as a prophetess partner of the adult Moses in delivering the Israelites from Egypt.
Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aaron, the two men who play the most prominent roles in the grand adventure of the Israelites as God won their freedom from slavery in Egypt. Miriam herself played a significant role in three incidents described in Exodus and Numbers. As a child she was Moses’ sisterly protector. As an adult prophetess she led the delivered slaves in praising God. And as an unhappy woman she challenged Moses’ special relationship with God.
Exodus 15:20, 21 tells us four important things about Miriam’s role in the redeemed community.
Miriam was a prophetess (Ex. 15:20).
The Old Testament prophets were God’s spokespersons. They spoke as His mouthpieces, delivering messages that were not their own but that had the authority of the divine Word. While Moses himself was the premier prophet of the day, and indeed the prototype prophet for the future, it is significant that he was not the only prophet in the Israelite camp. Miriam, like Moses, had the prophetic gift and calling. Continue Reading Here
The women of the rest of the Pentateuch
With one exception, we know much less about the women than the men we meet in the five Old Testament books that relate the story of God’s people during the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan. It is not that these women are unimportant. It is simply that Scripture now moves at a faster pace. Rather than taking time to develop character, as Genesis does in the case of men as well as women, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and even Joshua focus on the story of what God is doing for an entire people, not His workings within a single family.
With the exception of Miriam, we will not come to know the women in this period of history in the depth that we came to know Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and the others. We will meet women, however, both named and unnamed, who played significant roles in bringing God’s plan of Old Testament redemption to fulfillment. Continue Reading Here
Scripture references: Genesis 16:1–8, 15, 16; 21:9–17; 25:12; Galatians 4:24-25
Date: About 2075 b.c.
Name: Hagar [HAY-gahr: ”light”]
Greatest accomplishment: Hagar was the mother of the Arab peoples.
HAGAR’S ROLE IN SCRIPTURE
While the nkjv describes Hagar, as an “Egyptian maidservant” the blunt fact is that Hagar was a slave. Slavery in the ancient world did not involve the oppression of one race by another. But by its nature slavery involved the ownership of one person by another and thus the loss of the slave’s right to make personal choices.
When Sarai decided to give her husband Abram a child through Hagar, everything changed for the slave woman. Hagar of course had no choice in the matter, and we have no insight into her feelings about her mistress’s decision. What we do know is that Hagar quickly became pregnant. With her pregnancy Hagar’s attitude toward Sarai changed, and Sarai “became despised in her eyes.” The word “despised” suggests a natural reaction. Hagar felt contempt for her mistress. All those years of childlessness clearly were not due to Abram’s sterility. Sarai was “less of a woman” than her slave was! Continue Reading Here