Famous, Not So Famous ( And Some Infamous) Women Of The Bible
Second in series on Women in Judasim
Let’s put first things first. The Bible’s Israelite/Hebrew women are all righteous, but the men- not so. On the other hand, the trouble makers are pagans- but some of the saints are also!
( Admittedly, Amos is upset at the wives of the wealthy, “Parot HaBashan, Cows of the Bashan ( over-fed) who oppress the poor and destroy the needy, and Ezekiel complains about the women who mourn the pagan Tammuz, but that’s the exception).
We will skip the obvious matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel. Leah. And go to less well know heroines of the Bible.
1. Shifra and Puah-Ex 1:15 . This unknown pair of widwives save the Israelite male infants from sure death by refusing to kill the newborn males at birth. They fear God, but not Pharaoh. Tradition has it that they are none other than Yochebed and Miriam but it is more likely that they were Egyptian . Why would Pharaoh hire his enemies midwives to do his dirty work?
2. Yochebed and Miriam Ex.Ch . Our Haggadah teaches us that when Pharaoh decreed the death of all male infants, the Hebrew men revolted and threatened not to have any children at all. It is to the credit of Miriam and Yochebed that they convinced the men that to so was tantamount to genocide, as Pharaoh sought to kill only the males, but the Israelite men would destroy the females as well!
3 Ziporah- is the Mohel ( the circumciser) who saves Moses son ( or perhaps, Moses himself, ) .Ex 4 22
4. Daughters of Zelopehad demand justice for themselves, as daughters. Num 27
5. Rahab Hazonah- Rahab, the prostitute, is the great hero of the invasion of Canaan. Joshua II
6. Deborah” em b’yisrael’. Deborah, a Mother in Israel”, declares victory to come through the hands of a woman, Judges Ch 5 . Yael , the Kenite bedouin , kills the enemy Canaanite chieftain, while his mother waits for him to bring home captive :wombs.”
7 The unknown woman warrior who kills the tyrant. Judges 9:45
Abimelech proceeded to Thebez; he encamped at Thebez and occupied it. Within the town was a fortified tower; and all the citizens of the town, men and women, took refuge there. They shut themselves in, and went up on the roof of the tower. Abimelech pressed forward to the tower and attacked it. He approached the door of the tower to set it on fire. But a woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and cracked his skull. He immediately cried out to his attendant, his arms-bearer, “Draw your dagger and finish me off, that they may not say of me, ‘A woman killed him!’”
8. The wise woman of Abel Bet Maacah
[Joab’s men] came and besieged him( King David’s enemy) in Abel of Beth-maacah; they threw up a siegemound against the city and it stood against the rampart. All the troops with Joab were engaged in battering the wall, 16 when a clever woman shouted from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come over here so I can talk to him.” 17 He approached her, and the woman asked, “Are you Joab?” “Yes,” he answered; and she said to him, “Listen to what your handmaid has to say.” “I’m listening,” he replied.18 And she continued, “In olden times people used to say, ‘Let them inquire of Abel,’ and that was the end of the matter. 19 I am one of those who seek the welfare of the faithful in Israel. But you seek to bring death upon a mother city in Israel! Why should you destroy the LORD’s possession?” 20 Joab replied, “Far be it, far be it from me to destroy or to ruin! 21 Not at all! But a certain man from the hill country of Ephraim, named Sheba son of Bichri, has rebelled against King David. Just hand him alone over to us, and I will withdraw from the city.” The woman assured Joab, “His head shall be thrown over the wall to you.”22 The woman came to all the people with her clever plan; and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bichri and threw it down to Joab. He then sounded the horn; all the men dispersed to their homes, and Joab returned to the king in Jerusalem.
9. The woman of Shunam and Elisha ii Kings 1
10 Huldah- the MOST IMPORTANT PROPHET/PROPHETESS after Moses II Kings 22
And the king gave orders to the priest Hilkiah, and to Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Michaiah, the scribe Shaphan, and Asaiah the king’s minister:13“Go, inquire of the LORD on my behalf, and on behalf of the people, and on behalf of all Judah, concerning the words of this scroll that has been found. For great indeed must be the wrath of the LORD that has been kindled against us, because our fathers did not obey the words of this scroll to do all that has been prescribed for us.”14So the priest Hilkiah, and Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah—the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah son of Harhas, the keeper of the wardrobe—who was living in Jerusalem in the Mishneh, and they spoke to her.15She responded: “Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: Say to the man who sent you to me:16Thus said the LORD: I am going to bring disaster upon this place and its inhabitants, in accordance with all the words of the scroll which the king of Judah has read.17Because they have forsaken Me and have made offerings to other gods and vexed Me with all their deeds, My wrath is kindled against this place and it shall not be quenched.18But say this to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD: Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: As for the words which you have heard—9because your heart was softened and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I decreed against this place and its inhabitants—that it will become a desolation and a curse—and because you rent your clothes and wept before Me, I for My part have listened—declares the LORD.20Assuredly, I will gather you to your fathers and you will be laid in your tomb in peace. Your eyes shall not see all the disaster which I will bring upon this place.” So they brought back the reply to the king.23
The two great villainesses of the Bible- are not our own!
11 Painted Jezebel - I Kings 18 19
Ahab son of Omri became king over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of King Asa of Judah, and Ahab son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria for twenty-two years.30Ahab son of Omri did what was displeasing to the LORD, more than all who preceded him.31Not content to follow the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, he took as wife Jezebel daughter of King Ethbaal of the Phoenicians, and he went and served Baal and worshiped him.32He erected an altar to Baal in the temple of Baal which he built in Samaria.33Ahab also made a sacred post. Ahab did more to vex the LORD, the God of Israel, than all the kings of Israel who preceded him.
The following events] occurred sometime afterward: Naboth the Jezreelite owned a vineyard in Jezreel, adjoining the palace of King Ahab of Samaria.2Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it as a vegetable garden, since it is right next to my palace. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange; or, if you prefer, I will pay you the price in money.”3But Naboth replied, “The LORD forbid that I should give up to you what I have inherited from my fathers!”4Ahab went home dispirited and sullen because of the answer that Naboth the Jezreelite had given him: “I will not give up to you what I have inherited from my fathers!” He lay down on his bed and turned away his face, and he would not eat.5His wife Jezebel came to him and asked him, “Why are you so dispirited that you won’t eat?”6So he told her, “I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and proposed to him, ‘Sell me your vineyard for money, or if you prefer, I’ll give you another vineyard in exchange’; but he answered, ‘I will not give my vineyard to you.’”7His wife Jezebel said to him, “Now is the time to show yourself king over Israel. Rise and eat something, and be cheerful; I will get the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.”8So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived in the same town with Naboth.9In the letters she wrote as follows: “Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the front of the assembly.10And seat two scoundrels opposite him, and let them testify against him: ‘You have reviled God and king!’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”11His townsmen—the elders and nobles who lived in his town—did as Jezebel had instructed them, just as was written in the letters she had sent them:2They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the front of the assembly.13Then the two scoundrels came and sat down opposite him; and the scoundrels testified against Naboth publicly as follows: “Naboth has reviled God and king.” Then they took him outside the town and stoned him to death.14Word was sent to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned to death.”15As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Go and take possession of the vineyard which Naboth the Jezreelite refused to sell you for money; for Naboth is no longer alive, he is dead.”16When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out for the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite to take possession of it.17Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite:18“Go down and confront King Ahab of Israel who [resides] in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard; he has gone down there to take possession of it.19Say to him, ‘Thus said the LORD: Would you murder and take possession? Thus said the LORD: In the very place where the dogs lapped up Naboth’s blood, the dogs will lap up your blood too.’”20Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy?” “Yes, I have found you,” he replied. “Because you have committed yourself to doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD,21I will bring disaster upon you. I will make a clean sweep of you, I will cut off from Israel every male belonging to Ahab,bond and free.22And I will make your house like the House of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the House of Baasha son of Ahijah, because of the provocation you have caused by leading Israel to sin.23And the LORD has also spoken concerning Jezebel: ‘The dogs shall devour Jezebel in the field of Jezreel.24All of Ahab’s line who die in the town shall be devoured by dogs, and all who die in the open country shall be devoured by the birds of the sky.’” (25Indeed, there never was anyone like Ahab, who committed himself to doing what was displeasing to the LORD, at the instigation of his wife Jezebel.
At the end, when the rebels have won: When Jezebel heard of it, she painted her eyes with kohl and dressed her hair, and she looked out of the window.31As Jehu entered the gate, she called out, “Is all well, Zimri, murderer of your master?”32He looked up toward the window and said, “Who is on my side, who?” And two or three eunuchs leaned out toward him.33“Throw her down,” he said. They threw her down; and her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled her.34Then he went inside and ate and drank. And he said, “Attend to that cursed woman and bury her, for she was a king’s aughter.”35So they went to bury her; but all they found of her were the skull, the feet, and the hands.36They came back and reported to him; and he said, “It is just as the LORD spoke through His servant Elijah the Tishbite: The dogs shall devour the flesh of Jezebel in the field of Jezreel;
12 Her illustrious daughter Ataliah II Kings 11
1When Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, learned that her son was dead, she promptly killed off all who were of royal stock.2But Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram and sister of Ahaziah, secretly took Ahaziah’s son Joash away from among the princes who were being slain, and [put] him and his nurse in a bedroom. And they kept him hidden from Athaliah so that he was not put to death.[Jehoiada] then brought out the king’s son, and placed upon him the crown and the insignia. They anointed him and proclaimed him king; they clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!”13When Athaliah heard the shouting of the guards [and] the people, she came out to the people in the House of the LORD.14She looked about and saw the king standing by the pillar, as was the custom, the chiefs with their trumpets beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets. Athaliah rent her garments and cried out, “Treason, treason!”15Then the priest Jehoiada gave the command to the army officers, the chiefs of hundreds, and said to them, “Take her out between the ranks and, if anyone follows her, put him to the sword.” For the priest thought: “Let her not be put to death in the House of the LORD.”16They cleared a passageway for her and she entered the royal palace through the horses’ entrance: there she was put to death.
Sic semper tyranis, male or female.