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The Women Who Lead Us to Jesus

The role of women in the Bible and consequently in our faith has been marked, from saving the nation of Israel to bearing out Lord Jesus Christ, God has used women dynamically and dramatically. From the first woman, Eve, from who sprang the whole human race to leaders of the first churches, women have played a pivotal role in God's plan. In this study we will look at just some of the ways women have formed our faith.

If one reads Genesis one cannot be blamed for thinking that the creation of Eve was an afterthought [Genesis 2:18-25] because this comes at the end of the second chapter of Genesis. However if we turn to the account of creation in chapter one we find that Eve, woman, was in God's plan from the start [Genesis 1:27], in God's image – male and female. Although it was Eve that first fell for Satan's lies and then convinced Adam to disobey God, we have to remember that Eve was the mother of the human race, and a part of the gene pool for every race under the Sun [Genesis 3:20]. Adam was created from the dust of the ground, I have heard it said that Adam was refined dirt, [Genesis 2:7] but as Eve was created from man's side, she was refined man.

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Generally speaking most women in Genesis are anonymous, the next woman we encounter is Cain's wife [Genesis 4:17] other than Cain had a wife, scripture tells us nothing about her, not her name or where she came from. We are left to assume that she was Cain's sister, however at this time incest was not yet forbidden by the law of Moses, and we need to remember that, as just the second generation, their gene-banks were still very rich. Both Cain and his wife were involved in the murder of their brother Able, because God regards a man and his wife as one [Genesis 2:24]. Cain was subsequently banished and went to live in the land of Nod, to the east of Eden [Genesis 4:16]  His wife obviously went with him because they subsequently had a son, Enoch, in that land [Genesis 4:17], so here was Cain's wife's purpose.

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The next woman comes into the story some seventeen-hundred years later, again Noah's wife is anonymous other than we know she existed. The Bible does not give us her name. She is not mentioned until God tells Noah that he is to build an Ark and take his wife and family into it, and even then she is only referred to as his "... wife..." [Genesis 6:18]. The next women are mentioned as the wives of Noah's sons [Genesis 6:18]. Scripture records that they were faithful to fulfil their duties as wives, and that they were spared because they faithfully followed their husbands [Genesis 7:7 & 13]. The first named woman after Eve is Sarah (Sarai) [Genesis 11:29] Sarai means “Princess” and Sarah means “noblewoman” which indicates she was the daughter of a leader or king, and the beautiful half-sister of Abraham [Gen 20:12]. Sarah is significant in Scripture in that she was unable to have children, but God blessed her in her old age and gave her a son, Isaac [Gen 21:5] in fulfilment to His promise. Isaac would father Esau and Jacob. Jacob would father 12 sons who would become heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah would come David, and finally Jesus of Nazareth, God's promised Saviour. From this we can see how significant Sarah was in God's plan. Abraham's servant Hagar also deserves a mention in Scripture, as the name 'Hagar' means “flight,” it is unclear as to whether this was her actual name of one given to her after Sarah dealt harshly with her and she fled to the wilderness [Genesis 16:6] where she gave birth to Ishmael, but then returned. The significance here is that it was Harar's son Ishmael who became the father of Islam. Later when Ishmael was thirteen, she was banished.

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Next we encounter Rebekah (Rebecca), the daughter of Bethuel who was the nephew of Abraham.  Rebecca colluded in Jacob's deception to obtain Isaac blessing over Esau [Genesis 27:12-13]. She knew that Esau would not make a good leader for the family. Her deception of her husband was wrong, even though Rebecca was a good woman she did wrong, but for the right reasons. God's plan will come to pass in spite of our misplaced attempts to help Him.

We also read about Rachel and Leah who were both in the line to the twelve tribes of the Israeli nation. Dinah the daughter of Jacob. [Genenis 30:21; 34:1] who was kidnapped and raped by Hamor the Hivite.

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The beginning of the Book of Exodus finds us in a male dominated world, where Jacob and his clan of seventy men and their families descend on Egypt, all the men are named but the wives and daughters remain anonymous. Then there is a new Pharaoh on the throne who feels threatened by all these foreigners around him, and is unaware of Joseph. Pharaoh enslaves the Israelites and decrees a 'cull' on all male Israelite babies, to Pharaoh the women are insignificant. However Pharaoh reckoned without God's plan and a Israelite woman called 'Jochebed', she was a Hebrew woman living in slavery in Egypt, she was the daughter of a Levite, and she married Amram, another Levite [Exodus 2:1] It seems that Jochebed married her nephew, so she was Amram's aunt as well as being his wife [Exodus 6:20]. Jochebed also had a daughter Miriam before Moses was born [Exodus 6:20 & Exodus 15:20] who was a prophetess. To save Moses his mother kept him safe for three months and then made a basket from reeds and pitch [Exodus 2:3] to be found by Pharaoh's daughter [Exodus 2:5–10]. God even arranged it that through Moses' sister, his own mother became the child's nursemaid [Exodus 2:7–9]. Here then are two women who figured greatly in God's plan and seemingly were guided by Him to ensure the survival of one of the few people to come face to face with God.

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Both the Gospel of Matthew and Luke's Gospel have the genealogies of Jesus, showing His linage from King David ('of David's line') according to the prophesy [2 Sam 7]. There is a difference between the two genealogies, Lukes Gospel [Luke 3:23-38] is the standard type listing Jewish males, however Matthew's Gospel [Matthew 1:1-16] includes both Gentiles and women that were brought into the people of God. In fact there were several women that were significant in God's plan. There are five women in that genealogy of Jesus in Matthew's genealogy, and in a time when genealogies didn’t usually contain a single female name, why are these women included? And what does their significance?

Tamar is the first of these women, a strange woman to include in Jesus' genealogy, this is a woman who solicited sex from her father-in-law, by whom her son Perez was conceived. We do not know where Tamar came from, some think she was a Canaanite. She had been widowed twice, both times by sons of Judah, and she had been promised to the third son Shelah. Judah suspected something was wrong, having had two sons struck dead, and so delayed the marriage. Tamar was in a difficult situation, back in her father's house, no status and no inheritance and not eligible to remarry since she was ‘waiting’ for Shelah. Her future lay in having a child of the house of Judah. In desperation she posed as a prostitute and went to the widower Judah hoping for a child from the head of the house [Genesis 38:1-25]. Judah propositions Tamar no knowing who she is, and then condemns her when she announces she is pregnant. He is so outraged that Judah tries to condemn Tamar to death. Tamar protects herself and her son by obtaining Judah's personal belongings, including his seal and staff. Eventually Judah acknowledges Tamar and her son and announces that Tamar is more righteous than he [Genesis 38:26], and provides for Perez.

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Next is the prostitute Rahab, another gentile woman who lived in Jericho [Joshua 2:1]. Possibly using that profession in order to provide for her parents and siblings. She is best known for hiding the Israeli spies who are on a reconnaissance mission prior to Joshua's attack. Rahab is looking for a way to get out of prostitution and she is sure that God's people will take her city anyway and she seems to fear God. It is already common knowledge how the Israelites came out of Egypt and how they crossed the Red Sea [Joshua 2:10], she has also heard of the defeat of other cities across the Jordan, Kings Sihon and Og. Jericho being the gateway to Canaan and wants herself and her family to survive. She also has 'cords' to signify 'belonging', so the spies, as a reward for hiding them tell her “when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father's household. “ [Joshua 2:19]. As was the plan Rahab and her family were saved during the total rout of Jericho. But that was not the end of Rahab, because she goes on to marry Salmon, a Jew whom tradition says was one of the spies she hid, and they have a son, Boaz. Boaz eventually grows up to be a righteous and godly man [Ruth 2:1].

Which brings us neatly to Ruth, another Gentile, and like Tamar, a widow, but unlike either Tamar and Raab, Ruth is a woman of virtue, a woman of noble character [Ruth 3:11]. Ever since hearing God's name Ruth had been a true follower of the one true God, due to the instruction by her mother-in-law Naomi. In the way of the Israelites Ruth persuades Boaz to marry her in order to provide for her mother-in-law in their old age, which comes in the form of a son, Obed. Ruth had supplied a son, who would grow up to be the grandfather of, none other than King David [Ruth 4:16-22] and created the linage of Jesus.

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Next is one of those anonymous women that are simply recorded as ' . . the wife of ' and this is the wife of Uriah. Although she married David, she was not really his in any real sense. David the womaniser, coveted Uriah's wife and was complicit in her seduction by him.  David, although probably Israel's greatest king, did commit adultery. Her husband was possibly Israel's greatest general of the time, so to solve the problem of her being married, David sent Uriah to the most dangerous battle front where he would be killed. It is not only Uriah who dies but child of that union with David dies also.

Later David repents of the adultery and God in His mercy allows David to have a son by David's wife Bathsheba, that son was Solomon the Wise, who continued the line to Joseph and Jesus.

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Which allows us to arrive in the fifth woman in Matthew's genealogy, Mary who was the wife of Joseph and the parents of our Saviour [Matthew 1:16]. Mary was not a gentile, she was as Jewish as they come and she was a virgin, who, unlike the other four women, was untainted and had found favour with her Lord. Mary was devout and trusts God with her very life, her reputation and her future hope. An angel appears to Mary and tells her that she will be pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit and that she must call him Jesus, and she believes him. This shows a complete and utter trust in her God, for a young girl of Mary's age this was and is a remarkable thing, and her answer shows this when she responds, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” [Luke 1:35-38] Mary seemed to have an in-depth understanding of scripture, another remarkable thing for a woman and a woman of her age, although like the rest of us, as a fallen person she was not sinless, she was a godly, virtuous, and young good Jewish girl.

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Here then are the women who contributed considerably to to the culmination of God's plan in Jesus Christ, women who were variously godly, slaves, miss-fits, of loose morals, scheming, brave, unimportant, unknown, widows and all sinful; but all were used in God's plan. Each of these women changed the course of Earth history by obedience to God. Some helped to form the very nation of Israel, others contributed to the line that resulted in the birth of Jesus, so one would assume that these were fine upstanding women of great virtue, not so. They were ordinary people, some not even Jewish and many except Miriam Ruth and Mary had less than virtuous backgrounds. They struggled with life, fighting for their futures, like Rahab just wanted to survive. One thing that strikes me, just how much like modern people they were, and like Moses, they encourage me certainly, and I pray they encourage you. They were all the sort of people that Jesus came to save; a sinless God/human being in the lineage of sinners. One thing we must not forget; Jesus was fully God; but He was also fully human, which means that Jesus had to deal with all the issues of a human life, yet He never gave in to sin. If Jesus did it as a human, why can't we?

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In God's love


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  • It is always encouraging to read of the ordinary people that God used very clearly for His purposes. He will use us too, in fact He created us for specific good works as Ephesians 2:10 points out. Thanks for the reminder of Derek!

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