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The Top 100 Women of the Bible
Who They Are and What They Mean to You Today
By Pamela L. McQuade
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved.
His name was Nabal and his wife's name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings.
I Samuel 25:3
Here is one of the Bible's great mismatched couples. Since it was the custom of the day to arrange marriages, Abigail had probably been wed to Nabal for his wealth, not for any meeting of the hearts. While she was a faithful and savvy woman, he was not only named "Fool" (the meaning of Nabal), his actions showed he was one.
Though women of that day generally had much less respect and authority than men, the Bible speaks highly of Abigail while recording only the mean-spiritedness and wrong-headedness of her husband. The two were certainly spiritually incompatible. While Abigail had faith, her husband had no time for God—certainly his attitudes and actions were not those of a faithful believer. Still, though theirs could not have been an easy relationship, resentment didn't crush Abigail's spirit. Instead, she used her many personal gifts and graces to bring the best to her household.
At the festive sheep-shearing time, the surly and greedy Nabal intentionally offended King David. Recognizing the danger, one of the wealthy landowner's servants knew whom to approach: He reported the situation to Nabal's
wise wife. Immediately, Abigail understood the foolishness of turning down a polite request for support from the displaced David. Though the newly anointed king was fighting Saul for the throne, his warriors had protected Nabal's fields and clearly deserved some recompense. Food for his band of men did not seem an unreasonable request. Nabal had much, and the common custom of the day would have demanded that he share with those who had protected him and his household from harm.
Instead of wasting time arguing with her husband, Abigail prepared food for David's men and set off to approach their leader to make peace. She mounted her donkey not a moment too soon. On the road to David's camp, she met the warrior-king and his men, headed in her direction and intent on exacting retribution.
Abigail knew her husband's attitude had risked all his holdings and placed her in a difficult position—yet her dependence lay not on her spouse, but with God. Understanding that David was doing God's work and required her support, she provided it. That simple intervention and her humble words and attitude before Israel's anointed-but-on-the-run king prevented unnecessary bloodshed.
David immediately appreciated Abigail's faith and good qualities and praised God for her quick actions. If Nabal did not know how to recognize his wife's value, the king did. He turned aside his wrath because of this faithful woman's generous response.
While Abigail worked out a peace plan, her husband
partied. She returned to find him drunk, so not until the next day did she explain how she'd spent her day. Hearing what his wife had done, the brutish Nabal literally had a fit—perhaps experiencing a stroke. A few days later, he died.
David saw Nabal's death as God's justice and immediately sought Abigail's hand in marriage. In a moment, faithful Abigail moved from a fool's wife to a king's bride.
In Abigail we see many examples of faithfulness. When difficult relationships become part of our lives, we can follow her example. Will bitterness and resentment overwhelm our faith? Or, like her, can we trust God will make use even of our hardest situations? Do we do the good that falls our way, knowing that God's wisdom will bring benefit to ourselves and others?
Though matched with an unbelieving spouse, Abigail remained faithful to her Lord. Like her, do we resist allowing unsatisfactory relationships to stall us out in our faith and continue on, trusting our God?
Humility clothed Abigail's strength. No radical, angry woman, she paved the way for all women of strength to walk humbly before their God and make peace in broken relationships. God alone brings tranquility to broken lives. Abigail experienced that, and so can we. And, like Abigail, we may find that when we've passed through the troubles, God gives us a better life than we ever expected.CHAPTER 2
Rehoboam married Mahalath, who was the daughter of David's son Jerimoth and of Abihail, the daughter of Jesse's son Eliab.
2 Chronicles 11:18
Abihail, whose name means "father is strength," was the daughter of Jesse's first son Eliab, which means "God is father." She certainly had an impressive lineage, since her uncle David and his son Solomon became Israel's greatest kings. And Abihail married one of David's sons, possibly by a concubine.
Abihail's daughter Mahalath married a king, Rehoboam. But this mother's heart must have been saddened to watch the kingdom fall apart in her son-in-law's hands. Doubtless Mahalath also suffered as his wife, since Rehoboam had eighteen wives and sixty concubines. It couldn't have been a satisfying marriage.
Abihail proves that even a "premier family" background can't guarantee a trouble-free life. The Bible doesn't describe her sorrows, but we may easily read between the lines and understand that lineage isn't everything.
Today, it still doesn't matter if you hail from a family of great stature or a very humble one—troubles will come your way. Only God, the strongest Father, can protect His children and bring them through each storm. He is powerful enough to help us withstand each problem in life and bring us through safely.CHAPTER 3
Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother's name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah.
2 Chronicles 29:1
There are not many references to Abijah in scripture, but a very important one commends her son, the king of Judah: "Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him" (2 Kings 18:5). Abijah's husband, Ahaz, surely never influenced his son to trust in God, for he increasingly worshiped the pagan gods and even closed Jerusalem's temple. If either of Hezekiah's parents positively influenced his faith, it would have been Abijah.
No matter what a child has experienced, one faithful parent can have a powerful influence for God. While her husband gave himself over to pagan gods, Abijah's quiet faith may have turned her son to the Lord. It is no different today. God still raises up the children of faithful mothers. The unfaithfulness of a father can even become a clear warning and sad contrast to a mother's faith.
No matter what challenges a mother faces, Father God always remains with her, if she trusts in Him and prays faithfully for her child. Though a human father may fail, our Lord never will.CHAPTER 4
Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful girl and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king.
1 Kings 1:3
Abishag had an unusual job: keeping the old and infirm King David warm. And not just by covering him with blankets—the comely Abishag was expected to crawl into bed with the king. David's servants said to him, "Let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat" (1 Kings 1:2 KJV). That's exactly what happened, as Abishag "ministered" to David in a nonsexual way.
We have no biblical record of Abishag's feelings toward her job. Perhaps she was pleased to be chosen as the great king's personal body warmer. Maybe she found lying in bed with a dying seventy-year old man distasteful. Possibly, her feelings shifted from day to day.
Our feelings toward our own responsibilities—at home, at church, at the office, wherever—can vary widely. But whatever we've been called to do, we should do to the best of our abilities. As the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2).
Dream job or nightmare, know that God has called you to this particular time and place. Do your best—and, if appropriate, pray for the chance to move on.CHAPTER 5
And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher." Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.
Caleb's declaration seems strange to us. How could he almost raffle off his daughter to the man who was successful in battle? But in Israel a victory in battle could pay off the bride price, which was owed to the father before the marriage. So maybe the man who really wanted her got her through his bravery.
And the man who won Acsah would have been a good choice as a husband. Othniel became the first major judge of Israel, the leader who freed the nation from subjection to Cushan-Rishathaim, king of Aram (see Judges 3:8–9).
As part of her dowry, Acsah received dry land in the Negev. So she told her husband to ask Caleb for another field, one that had springs. When Othniel didn't do it, Acsah took on the task herself and got the land. Surely Caleb was a loving father, being generous with his daughter.
What did Acsah think about this marriage? We don't know. Sometimes brides were asked for their consent, or perhaps Caleb saw this as a way to give her the man she wanted without asking money from his brother. Either way, what a method for finding a good man! No woman today would think of it.
Like Acsah, we may find romance in unexpected places. Let's remember to let God do the choosing for us—and no matter what the time or situation, we will be blessed. After all, look at the husband Acsah got.CHAPTER 6
Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah.
Lamech, a man of Cain's line, became the first polygamist in Hebrew history, marrying both Adah and Zillah. Though it might have seemed fun for him, what a wreck it made of women's lives for centuries. For though he was the first to do it, he was hardly the last Hebrew to think more wives were better. From his example came a long history of marital confusion, conflict, and disobedience to God.
The Bible describes Adah and Zillah's children, but does not tell us how their mothers got along. Yet if Hebrew family history is any example, they probably didn't have a smooth life. For God intentionally commanded that one man should marry one woman (see Genesis 2:23–24). Those who disobey God pay a price, so marital harmony probably wasn't a part of this tenthold.
Lamech's rebelliousness didn't limit itself to marriage. He took vengeance by killing a man who wounded
him. Like Cain, he overreacted and failed to seek God's counsels.
From Adah's story we learn the importance of following God's laws. What must it have been like to live with this angry man? And how could Adah share her husband with Zillah, yet understand God's complete commitment to those who love Him?
This quick picture of Adah's life teaches us to let God control our marital choices. In Him, we'll experience the warm, loving relationship we're looking for. Apart from Him, we may feel only pain.CHAPTER 7
Abigail ... went with David's messengers and became his wife. David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives.
1 Samuel 25:42–43
Nearly every time the Bible mentions Ahinoam, David's other wife, Abigail, appears, too. Though Ahinoam was first married to David, the wealthy Abigail seems to overshadow her. Ahinoam didn't even come from an impressive city, for Jezreel was only a town in the hill country of Judah. Since her name means "gracious," perhaps Ahinoam never made trouble—but she had to feel slighted.
With David and Abigail, she traveled to find protection among the Philistines, so Saul could not destroy herhusband. While David went to war at the Philistine king Achish's side, the Amalekites raided his home at Ziklag, capturing Ahinoam and Abigail. David returned early to rescue the women. What a joyous moment it must have been for Ahinoam to see her husband and his troops, for she might otherwise have become a slave.
After Saul died, David became king of Judah, and Ahinoam bore his son Amnon. Amnon would grow up to dishonor his half-sister Tamar, but Ahinoam may never have known that—since she's not mentioned in the story, she may no longer have been living.
Ahinoam has only a small part in biblical history, though she was the wife of a king. She may have been quiet and faithful, getting less press than David's other wives. Like Ahinoam, can we take a backseat? Or would we become resentful, needing front-page attention to be satisfied?CHAPTER 8
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
This is all we know of Anna—you've just read the whole biblical account of her. But it is enough to give a thumbnail sketch of her character and devotion to God.
Her name means "gracious," and grace seems to have permeated her life. She married, but after her husband died, she dedicated the rest of her life to God. Hers was a service of many years; at eighty-four, this widow was still constantly in the temple. She may have lived within the temple confines or perhaps lived nearby and simply spent most of her time "at church." Certainly her fellow Jews would have honored her for remaining single and dedicating her life in devotion to her Lord.
As a prophetess, Anna held a position of honor. Clearly, God spoke to her as she remained in the temple, worshiping,
fasting, and praying. Is it any wonder that when the Messiah first entered the temple, she walked in on Him and His parents? Surely God led her there, to be blessed by the sight of the One she had long hoped for. Immediately recognizing Jesus, she thanked her heavenly Father and spread the news to others.
Like Anna, do we need to remain single and live in the church? Hardly. But whether we are married or single, we need to ask if we share her single-hearted devotion to God. Are our spirits so tuned to His voice that we hear and obey His call in our lives? When His Spirit whispers to us, is that still, small voice drowned out by the cares of the world, or are we so attuned to Him that we can obey at a moment's notice?
When we share Anna's ability to obey, we'll discover how gracious God has been to us. His spiritual blessings will spill over into our lives and others', too.CHAPTER 9
When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family of the house of Judah.
2 Chronicles 22:10
Athaliah, daughter of Israel's wicked king Ahab, is one of the bad babes of the Bible. Instead of being a godly mother, scripture tells us she encouraged her son, Ahaziah, to do wrong (see 2 Chronicles 22:3). After becoming king of Judah, Ahaziah joined his uncle Joram, king of Israel, in a battle against Hazael, king of Aram. Following the battle, the warrior Jehu, who had already killed many of Ahaziah's heirs, wiped out Judah's king, too.
When Athaliah heard the news, she immediately sought to kill off all her grandchildren so she could gain the throne. Once she did that, her claim would be reasonably uncontested. This power-hungry woman literally sacrificed her family on the altar of her own ambition.
Had she been successful, the line of the Messiah would have been destroyed. So God placed a faithful woman, Jehosheba, near Ahaziah's son Joash. This half sister of the dead king saved her nephew and his nurse, hiding them in a bedroom. For six years the child king remained in hiding at the temple while his grandmother ruled (see 2 Kings 11:2–4).
Excerpted from The Top 100 Women of the Bible by Pamela L. McQuade. Copyright © 2007 Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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