By Maureen Nakatudde
A lot has been heard about men in the Bible; from Adam, Abraham (the father of believers), Moses (the rescuer of Israelites from Egypt), Joseph (the prince of Egypt), Joshua and Caleb who took the Israelites to the promised land, Prophet Samuel, King Saul, Prophet Nathan, King David, Solomon to Jesus Christ the saviour of the world.
However, not much has been said about the powerful women in the Bible, except Eve, the woman who ate the forbidden fruit, and Mary, the woman who bore the saviour. As the world celebrates Women’s Day, we take a look at women who inspired others with little acts of mercy and those who were friends with Jesus.
Just like Abraham the father of believers, Sarah was a mother of believers and she gave birth at the age of 90. Previously called Sarai, her name changed to Sarah after God called her and her husband Abraham, whose name was also changed from Abram. She is remembered for being barren. Seeing that her husband would have no heir, Sarah tells him to sleep with Hagar, her servant, who bears them a son called Ishmael.
But later, Sarah mistreats the servant and God tells Abraham to send the servant away with her child. Sarah later gets the child of promise, Isaac. Sarah is also remembered for her beauty.
When they were in Egypt, Pharaoh desired her, but God intervened by inflicting a disease on Pharaoh’s household. After that, Pharaoh let go of Sarah.
Unable to give birth and being taunted by her co-wife, her husband’s consolation meant nothing. Burdened by infertility, Hannah knew what she felt and God alone could answer her.
Consequently, Hannah spent most of her days in the temple praying for a child. Prophet Eli called her drunk as she poured her heart to God in words that were inaudible. Blessed by Eli, God remembers Hannah and grants her a child.
Just as she had promised, Hannah gave the child, Samuel, back to the lord who later became a powerful prophet. God gave her three more sons and two daughters.
Rachael and Leah
These were two sisters whose love was put to the test when they married one man. Rachael, the youngest, was betrothed to Jacob. In the Jewish culture, the younger person would not marry before the elder one.
So, Laban, their father, tricked Jacob and gave him Leah at night for a wife. In the morning, when Jacob woke up, he saw Leah instead of Rachael.
Jacob loved Rachael and he had to work for seven years so that he could marry her. However, when they finally got married, Rachael could not give birth, but her sister would. Rachel became grief-stricken, but later God blessed her womb. She bore Joseph, but immediately died after giving birth to Benjamin. Leah stayed with her husband.
This was a famous judge in the Bible who helped to lead Israel at a time that was difficult, when the Israelites had turned away from God. She is very much a representative of today’s woman.
She was a wife of Lapidoth, a judge. As a prophetess, she was God’s mouthpiece and she interceded to God on behalf of his people. She prophesied and accompanied the Israelite army in a successful battle.
LEFT: Esther transformed from an ordinary girl to a queen, who saved her people from death
RIGHT: Hannah spent most of her time in the temple praying for a child
After Queen Vashti refused to display her beauty to the people at the Persian King Xerxes’ command, the king banished her from the palace. He ordered that all the young maidens in the land be brought before him, so he could find a new queen. Esther, with the encouragement of her uncle Mordecai, did as was required of her by the king.
Esther transformed from an ordinary girl to a queen. One time, Haman agitated the king to kill all the Jews after Mordecai, who was the guard, refused to kneel before him.
Having fasted for three days, Esther intimated to the king what was going on. In the end, the person who wanted the Jews to be exterminated was the one who was hanged. Esther is a clear example of how a woman can influence a man to make a decision which might be good or bad. It is also apparent that every girl has a purpose for which she was created.
Mordecai tells her that if she does not move to help the Jews, then God will send another helper. And he adds, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Ruth, a Moabite woman, is famously remembered for sticking with Naomi, her mother-n-law, through thick and thin. Her famous statement was: “Where you go, I will go and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
This was after Naomi’s children, who were husbands to both Ruth and Orpah, died. Since Noami had no more sons to render to her daughters-in-law, she coerced them to leave. Orpah left, but Ruth refused to abandon old Naomi.
In Israel, instead of running off with other men, Ruth stayed faithful to Naomi, even through poverty. She would go to Boaz’s field and gather remains of the food after the harvest.
One day, Naomi convinced Ruth to lie at Boaz’s feet. Not long after, Ruth was married to Boaz, ending the sorrow of her mother-in-law. Ruth is a great-grandmother of King David from whose genealogy springs Jesus Christ, the saviour of the world.
No one would ever forget the woman in the Bible whose beauty brought a mighty God-fearing king to stoop so low by murdering his friend and army commander Uriah and taking his wife. When King David’s eyes beheld the beautiful Bathsheba bathing, he let off his guard. He slept with her and when she became pregnant, he got scared.
He commanded the woman’s husband to be put where the battle was hottest and hence Uriah was killed. God saw how David had behaved and he sent Prophet Nathan to confront him.
Just like any man, David was blind to his follies and he said: “That man should be killed.” Nathan confronted David and he broke down and wept. David later repented, but the child died. Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon who became the wisest King in the world.
It is bizarre to name a prostitute in the same line with Jesus, but what Rahab did for the two men of Israel spying on Jericho will be remembered for all generations. With just one good turn, she did something wonderful for the children of Israel and her family’s life changed for the better.
Rahab’s family was saved when the Israelites, led by Joshua, attacked Jericho.
She also became a faithful believer of the God of Israel, giving her a privilege to be a grandmother of David. She gave birth to Boaz, who was the great grandfather of David.
Even the heathens know the name Delilah. She was a prostitute from Philistine who seduced Samson, the strongest man in Israel. After being promised wealth by the Philistine lords, Delilah was tasked to find the secret to Samson’s strength.
Although Samson lied to her three times about the source of his strength, the wicked woman later discovered it. Perhaps Delilah mopped all day long and was heartbroken; or she became so sweet that poor Samson gave in.
Hence forth, the Philistine lords cut off Samson’s hair and he became powerless. Delilah disappeared from the scene, while Samson was left crestfallen. In repentance, Samson turned to God and his strength was returned to him, but at a cost. He pulled down the temple, killing all its inhabitants — 3,000 men and women and all the Philistine rulers.
Though not very prominent, Dorcas is a great example to all the poor women in the world who think that what they are doing does not count.
The Bible says Dorcus always made clothes for the poor and when she died, she brought great sorrow to the community.
Although young, Mary is an inspiration to all young women. She shows them that they should not underestimate their potential. She was a humble young girl betrothed to Joseph for marriage.
Because she was pure and kept her faith, God rewarded her. She became a mother to Jesus Christ and her name is celebrated over the ages as a woman highly favoured. And that favour extends to every woman today.