The story of Rahab is a great example of how God can use anyone. Rahab was a prostitute, living in the city of Jericho when the Israelites were trying to capture it. When the Israeli spies stopped at her inn, she hid them from the soldiers trying to find them and pleaded with them not to kill her. They agreed to spare her, on account of her kindness to them, and when the Israeli army took the city, she hung a red cord out of her window so the troops would know to leave her alone. She and her family were later taken in by the Israelites. She may have been a prostitute, and therefore the lowest rank of woman in society, but she was brave and pure-hearted and was rewarded for her compassion and protection towards the spies.
A sweet story about a beauty contest has much darker overtones, and at the centre of it is Esther. An obscure Jewish girl, and ward to uncle Mordecai, she rose to become Queen to King Xerxes due to her beauty and gentle nature. But at the same time as she was being feted and adored by Xerxes’, there was a plan being devised to exterminate all the Jews. The author of the plan was Haman, enemy of Mordecai and the King’s right-hand man and the whole reasoning behind the genoicide was simply that he didn’t like Mordecai very much and would stop at nothing to get rid of him. In the face of imminent death, Esther petitions the King to have mercy on her people, and in doing so exposes the wickedness of Haman. Possibly the ultimate Jewish heroine – brave and beautiful.
Deborah lived in a bloodthirsty time for the Israelites – the judges were ruling the land and often did it by force. There weren’t many female judges, but Deborah was one, and a prophetess and oracle as well. When the Israelites were threatened by the Canaanite army (apparently annoyed the Israelites’ constant raids on their towns), it was Deborah that rallied the troops and organised the army, against the will of the military commander Barak. The Canaanites have superior numbers and technology, but a freak storm means that their chariots get stuck in the mud and the Israelites seize the victory (the commander of the Canaanites is later killed in a grisly manner by another woman, but we’ll skim over that). Brave and inspiring, Deborah is possibly the strongest female figure in the whole of the Old Testament.
2. Mary Magdalene
Some women in the bible get a bad rep for no real reason. And so it was with Mary Magdalene, who’s been painted as a prostitute and general loose woman, despite the lack of biblical evidence that she was any such thing. What she was, however, was gutsy. While the disciples were busy cowering in an upper room after the cruxificion, who was down there tending to the grave? That’s right, Mary Magdalene. It wasn’t a pleasant time to be a disciple, but this “fallen woman” was braver than the rest of the men put together. Lately, there have been implications that she was Jesus’ mistress and/or wife, notably in the Da Vinci Code, but that’s largely irrelevant and detracts from her chief quality , which was the most loyal and awesome of all the disciples.
But, of course, there is only one woman who really dominates the gospels and that is Mary, mother of Jesus. She is often painted as meek and mild, but in actuality she was strong and fearless. At just 14, she was charged with giving birth to the son of God which involved public shame (for appearing to get pregnant out of wedlock), an arduous trek to Bethlehem and a run for their lives to Egypt after King Herod decides to have the boy killed. She stuck with Jesus through his ministry and was there when he died, again after the likes of Peter had denied Jesus and run. Unsurprising then that she is revered by Christians all over the world and is, in her own way, a thoroughly kick-ass woman.