Women have been in the background of civilization’s written history, playing the roles of mothers and meek wives. In the church, not a lot of attention is generally brought upon the women who were the fierce leaders, prayer warriors, and powerful persuaders.
Looking at the fall of man’s story, when Eve ate the forbidden fruit, one could only imagine what she said to Adam to persuade a fully capable man to go against his Creator’s will. Though everyone likes to “blame the woman” for being the weak one, let’s think about the power she had in that moment. Depending on how you read the story, she was either a very convincing temptress or a curious rebel, willing to take a chance on eternity.
If you don’t know the story, the fall of man takes place in the Garden of Eden, the heavenly place on earth where animals and plants lived in harmony with God’s first man and woman, Adam and Eve. God told them not to eat of the forbidden fruit in the corner of the garden. One day Eve ventures off to pick some fruit and happens upon the Tree of Knowledge. A talking serpent whispers into her imagination a fantastic world untouched by man. “Be like God,” he told Eve. Understanding the implications of tasting the fruit, Eve took a bite anyway, and then took it to Adam, who also knew. Now, what happened between the time of her presenting the fruit to Adam and his biting the fruit is simply unknown. Only the eyes of God witnessed the power Eve used to change the fate of all mankind.
Another notable young woman of a pure heart, of course, is Esther, the clever heroine. There is no comparison to the fight to which this young Jew was committed. She was an orphan raised by her cousin Mordecai. Israel was under King Ahasuerus of the Persian Empire at the time. During a royal gathering, his wife, Queen Vashti refused to present herself to the king. The king immediately banished her and began his search for a new wife.
Mordecai thought this was the perfect opportunity for Esther to shine and make a difference for her people. So being one of the most attractive virgins in the entire kingdom, Esther went for the job, concealing her Jewish identity. She eventually became the king’s wife. As the story goes, Mordecai learned of a plot to assassinate the king, but relayed the message to Esther. She saved the king’s life; therefore, he was indebted to her.
Mordecai offends Haman, the king’s prime minister, one day after refusing to bow to him. So Haman’s pride is hurt and he orders the extermination of all Jews in the kingdom. Esther learns of this, ordered the Jews and her handmaids to fast for three days. On the third day, she presented herself to her new husband, without permission (punishable by death in those days), and threw a feast in his honor. In the meantime, Haman was preparing to hang Mordecai.
That night the king learned of Mordecai’s unrewarded effort to save his life. He consulted Haman about honoring an unnamed man. Haman thought the honor was for him, but later is outraged to learn it was for Mordecai. At the second feast, Esther reveals her true Jewish identity to the king and pleads for the lives of her people. As a result, Haman and his family were killed, Mordecai was promoted and Esther remained queen.
Now, most of us know about Jezebel either through passing and possibly referring to that one promiscuous woman in the neighborhood, or from of course the story of Solomon. A lady who used her God-given “woman powers” in submission to the “dark side,” ruining powerful men and warriors of God.
Prophets warned men about her. Stories circulated about her deceptive sexual power. But no man was strong enough to resist her hypnotizing spell. She introduced her pagan religion worship of Baal to the children of Israel, causing confusion in the kingdom. She used her vicious tactics and intoxicating charm to murder those who stood in the way of her unadulterated objective, to spread her pagan religion across the kingdom of Israel.
Her evil works did not go unpunished, however. After her husband, King Ahab died; the rest of the royal family was ordered by God to be destroyed. Jezebel knew she didn’t have a chance. Her eunuchs threw the woman out of the window of her own palace, where she fell to her bloody, brutal death.
Though the she was not a good example of the virtuous woman Solomon wrote about, she certainly demonstrated the unwavering cunning ways of a woman, powerful enough to break down a nation of people.
Plenty of other examples of strong women, good or bad, are prevalent throughout the Bible. They may not be preached about in the most empowering light, if preached about at all, but they definitely did more than rear a child and clean house.