I was in a Christian gift shop in December shopping for a Christening gift for my grandson when I noticed a display of books called Women of the Bible beside the counter. Being somewhat vulnerable to impulsive book-buys, I picked one up and added it to my purchases.
The authors are Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda and the subtitle is A Devotional Study of Women in Scripture (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007).
I had been tossing around the idea of making good this year on a lifetime goal of reading the Bible in its entirety, so I thought this might be an acceptable alternative to taking that monumental project on. I’ve tried before, and made it through the more interesting chapters but you have to admit, some of the text between the two covers of the Bible is pretty dry reading. I even have a One-Year Bible on my bookshelf that I bought a couple of decades ago trying to make good on this goal.
Have you ever read the Bible in its entirety?
“Women of the Bible looks at the lives of fifty-two prominent—and not so prominent—women of Scripture, offering a fresh perspective on the story of salvation,” (p.14). It also offers a perspective on history.
When I was in college in the late 1970s, I took a course called Old Testament Modern Study. It was a history course. We studied the Bible for its historical significance. Although I haven’t retained much of what I learned more than 30 years ago, I do remember being fascinated by the study of the Bible from a historical perspective.
Women of the Bible is a similar study, only from a woman’s perspective. Each chapter focuses on one woman whose story the authors have systematically excavated, providing an inspirational portrait and background information about the culture of each woman’s life along with devotional studies of her scripture legacy, promise, and legacy of prayer. The history part is fascinating.
Although I am very familiar with many of the stories of the Bible from years of on-again-off-again church attendance, I never paid a lot of attention to what the women in the stories were up to, with the exception of Mary the mother of Jesus and perhaps one or two others. I don’t think that is entirely my fault. I think the sermons and lessons we all learned from the Bible were primarily from the male perspective.
Take Sarah, the wife of Abraham, for example. When the famine drove Sarah and Abraham to Egypt, Abraham asked Sarah to pass as his sister because of her beauty. He was afraid the Pharaoh would have him killed to be able to add Sarah to his harem. Sarah did as he asked and served as a concubine while Abraham amassed a fortune in the way of sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels and servants. Although the men were satisfied with the deal, God apparently was not. The truth came out and Sarah and Abraham were allowed to leave with their fortune.
Think about it. Whether or not this story is based in fact doesn’t negate the point that the author of the story when it was written centuries ago, thought nothing of the fact that this woman was traded, by her husband, for animals. Satisfactorily.
You might be thinking, “Grow up. A lot of people have been bought and sold throughout history.”
Lot’s wife’s story is another good example. When Lot welcomes the angels (men) who come to destroy Sodom into his home and the men of the town come at night demanding Lot surrender the men to the crowd, Lot says, “I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men because they have come under the protection of my roof” (p. 41).
What kind of priority system is that?
Eye-opening, historically speaking.
What was Lot’s wife thinking about this solution to the problem? And why did she turn back and end up as a stone pillar as they fled the destruction of Sodom? Was it because she was attached to her life of comfort there or was she concerned about family and loved ones she was leaving behind? Or maybe she just didn’t trust what men told her to do.
Food for thought.