The most common misconception about religious people is that they’re soppy – spineless pushovers who would never stand up for themselves. But a cursory glance through the Bible reveals the exact opposite – the Jews and the early Christians were brave, strong and heroic. The women of the Bible were no exception, and though they are less famous than their male counterparts, they are no less admirable. So, brace yourself for tales of death, war and intrigue in our Top 10 Awesome Women of the Bible.
Rebekah is almost a perfect model of an Old Testament woman – she is “fair” to look at, not shy about speaking to strangers and hospitable. When Isaac is looking for a wife, it is Rebekah that catches his eye, while drawing water. They fall in love – an unusual occurrence in a society of arranged marriages – and she bears him twin boys. She is described as shrewd and intelligent as well as being beautiful, and her intelligence is shown in her dealings with the king of the the land that she and Isaac settle in. She also makes wise decisions about which of her twins would be best placed to take over from Isaac – studious Jacob rather than the slightly older Esau, who had a quick temper. True, she uses slightly dubious methods to ensure Jacob’s succession, but she did it for the right reasons. A good role model for the future mothers of Israel.
And one of the future mothers of Israel was Rebekah’s daughter-in-law Rachel – in fact, she is an official “Mother of Israel”, one of four that is remembered in “Echad Mi Yodea“, a Jewish song sung at Passover. Rachel married Jacob, in another love story but this one was anything but straightforward. Jacob fell in love with her, but her father Laban (also Rebekah’s brother – but that kind of thing was acceptable back then) made Jacob work for seven years before being allowed to marry his daughter. Then, in a masterstroke of trickery, Laban presented Jacob with a be-veiled bride, who he married and seduced before it was revealed that…ta-da! It was Rachel’s sister Leah!
So, Jacob had to work for another seven years before being allowed to marry Rachel as well (again, it was acceptable back then) – that’s clearly how awesome this woman was. Pity she died in childbirth with Jacob’s twelfth son, Benjamin. She was remembered as Jacob’s favourite wife, and her tomb is still a landmark today
Mother-in-laws generally get a bad press, but if you’re one of Naomi’s daughter-in-laws you’d count yourself pretty lucky. Of course, having your husband die young so that you have no-one but your mother-in-law to rely on isn’t so lucky and that’s the situation that Ruth and Orpah both found themselves in. When Naomi’s sons both died unexpectedly, she decided to go back to her home in Bethlehem and leave her widowed daughter-in-laws behind in Moab. But Ruth decided to go with Naomi and eventually found work in the field of a man called Boaz. Naomi engineered a plan where Boaz fell in love with Ruth, thus ensuring financial security for all of them. A nice mother-in-law and clever with it.
Of all the tough gigs in the Bible, being the sister of Moses must be one of the worst. Wandering through the wilderness, following your little brother’s every command and developing a kind of leprosy if you dared to question it. But Miriam coped with it all, and more. It was her that saved Moses’ life as a baby, when she hid him in the reeds of the River Nile so that the Pharoah wouldn’t have him killed (at the time, all the male Hebrew babies were being drowned at birth on the Pharoah’s orders). Not only did her actions save his life, she also arranged for their mother to act as his wet nurse, when the baby was found by the Pharoah’s daughter. That’s some smart thinking.
Miriam later performed a famous song of celebration after the Israelites successfully crossed the Red Sea and she was a prophetess, who heard from God as readily as Moses did. That didn’t stop her questioning Moses’ marriage to a Cushite woman, at which point God gave her a bit of a telling-off and a case of the 7-day-leprosy. When she recovered, she followed her brother for the rest of her life, so she clearly didn’t hold a grudge. A smart and loyal woman indeed.
Another woman who was intelligent as well as beautiful. Abigail was the wife of Nabal, who offended King David. King David was enraged and wanted to kill Nabal, but Abigail managed to calm him down by offering him hospitality and telling him he didn’t want to “have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed”. Nabal was soon struck down by God and David took Abigail as his own wife. So, it worked out well for her…not so well for Nabal! Abigail is also said to be prophetic and faithful, as well as wise and beautiful. A worthy queen for a great king.