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Archive for the ‘Biblical Women’ Category

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him.  (Job 1:1,2).

What readers often take away from the book of Job is how utterly unfair Job’s trials seemed to be. Here was a man who was so righteous that he even offered sacrifices to God for his children in case they had been sinning. Things were going along really well for Job and his wife before Satan came along and tried to make him deny God.

God allowed Satan to take away Job’s ten children, his livestock, and his servants. Job did not sin but replied, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Next, Satan asked God if he could ruin Job’s health. God gave Satan permission to afflict Job’s body, but to spare his life. Satan smote Job with sore boils from his head to his feet. We are not sure what disease caused these boils but they were so painful that Job wished he had never been born (Job 3:1).

After Satan’s attack we find Job sitting by the ashes, scraping himself with a potsherd. This was a fragment of a piece of pottery that was to scrape away the pus and perhaps the worms or maggots that got on Job’s body. Besides possibly sterilizing the potsherd in the fire, the ashes were there for Job to sprinkle over his head as people did in his day when they were in mourning.

This is how Job’s wife finds him when she comes to talk to him. We are usually shocked at what she says and she has been castigated for it by historians and theologians ever since. After her husband became terribly sick and covered with boils, Job’s wife says, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).

Why would Job’s wife even say such a thing to Job?

Let’s take a moment and think about the story from her perspective. First of all, let us remember that those ten children who died were her children too. Perhaps Job’s wife was in such despair after seeing all of her children die that she wondered if God was taking away His blessings for some reason. She was also aware of the deaths of all of their servants and livestock.

The Bible only records this one conversation between Job and his wife. We do not know much else except that she stayed with him all through his trials. She must have served him and nursed him as best as she could. Job’s wife had no servants to help her wash and clean her husband’s puss and worm infested garments. How much time would she have had to spend patching them up or finding new ones?

Maybe it was hard for Job’s wife to see her husband in so much pain. It must also have been painful for her while her husband spent his whole time by the fire. She had probably been used to all of the daily acts of love between a husband and wife. Now her life would be the opposite. She would no longer be able to be comforted by her husband but must work hard to help him in this dire time of need.

It is also possible that Job’s wife was merely responding to what she overheard her husband saying as she brought him food or gave him other care. Throughout chapter 3, Job lamented, “Let the day perish on which I was to be born, and the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.’ May that day be darkness; let not God above care for it, nor light shine on it. ….. Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? Why is light given to him who suffers, and life to the bitter of soul, who longs for death, but there is none.” (Job 3:3,4,11,20,21).

Though her response was discouraging at the very least, Job’s wife may have wished that God would take him home and release him from his suffering. I recall a friend who had cancer whose pain was so awful that he prayed that God would just take him home. His wife admitted later that she prayed that God would give her husband release from pain one way or another. Surely anyone who has watched a loved one suffer so much can understand Job’s wife’s agony.

How did Job respond to his wife’s counsel? “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10).

Job said that his wife speaks “as” one of the foolish women speaks. He didn’t say she was a foolish woman. He remonstrated with her. Then he implored her to accept whatever came from God. We are not told if she repented at this time, but we do know that she stuck with her husband. She did not go somewhere else in spite of the fact that not only had their children been killed, but also all of their donkeys, oxen, sheep, and camels. Their livelihood was gone. Job was in no shape to go out and work. And he couldn’t get any help because all of his servants had been captured or killed as well. Job’s wife went from being very rich to very poor with no prospects. In our day, this would be a good time to run home to mother!

I do not know what it is like to lose a child, let alone all of my children at once. And Job’s wife didn’t even know why. Perhaps we should give her the benefit of the doubt as a frail human being. Imagine day after day watching your husband suffer so much. Anyone who has watched a loved one suffer will understand how Job’s wife felt. And imagine the helpless feeling because she did not know why God was allowing this.

Nowhere in the story does God tell Job what is going on. Job never finds out that Satan was involved. Job never finds out why God allowed all of this to happen to him. Why would we think Job’s wife should know any more than her husband does?

Not only was her husband ill and needing her sustenance, but now three guests show up and later a fourth man will show up. They stay for many days. Customs at the time demanded that Job’s wife feed and show hospitality to them.

Job’s three friends come to visit him and “console” him. They find all kinds of reasons for why Job is being tried. The friends mostly tell Job that he is suffering because he sinned. Bildad the Shuhite says for example, “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right? If your sons sinned against Him, then He delivered them into the power of their transgression. … If you are pure and upright, surely now He would rouse Himself for you and restore your righteous estate.” (Job 8:3-6)

Wow! With friends like these who needs enemies? Truly Job’s wife had a tremendous job on her hands to comfort her husband in spite of his companions.

Daily she would have spent many hours just making food and taking it to them. Where did she find ingredients for the food? She would have had to gather the grain and thresh it herself. Even if they had stored grain, Job’s wife would have had to pound it herself and prepare it for baking. She would have gathered the wood for the fire and maintained it herself. No mention is made of any other neighbors or help coming for her. The only other people we hear about are Job’s three friends and they mostly sat around talking to her husband.

Did Job’s wife listen in to their conversations? Did she wait to hear the answers to her husband’s questions? As she served him did Job’s wife come to acknowledge her sin and turn and give honor to God?

Job’s wife was a witness to Job’s growth in knowledge and sanctification. At one point in his conversation with his friends Job confessed, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25)

Eventually Job realized the truth. Job finally acknowledged that Jehovah is Lord of all. Job was willing to submit to God. He praised God and said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore, I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees you; Therefore, I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-6).

Job passed the test. His wife was with him. We hope that she followed his lead and humbly repented to God.

In any event, God exonerated Job and told the friends that they were wrong. Then God blessed Job and his wife. He gave them ten more children and twice as many belongings as before. Job gave all of his children, sons and daughters, an equal inheritance. His daughters were considered the fairest in the land. Surely their mother had something to do with that.

 

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For the last 8 months I have posted stories on women who lived during the Old Testament times. Let’s look at life for women in Old Testament from creation through the times of the kings. Then we will ask the questions, “Why did things change from the way God originally created men and women? Why were women treated so poorly during Old Testament times? Why are things different now?”

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26-28).

God created both men and women in His image. This means that they share the same identity – children of God. There are differences between men and women, but both have the same humanity.

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God sent them out of His beautiful garden. There were consequences for each one of them. Eve would now have pain in childbirth. Adam would no longer be able to just pluck fruit from the trees but would have to grow things in ground that is cursed with thorns.

Neither Adam nor Eve would be perfect anymore. They now had sin natures. They would now be selfish and be looking out for their own interests rather than just thinking about pleasing God. The sin nature would be passed down to all humans. The whole world is cursed. Things are not the way they were before the fall.

Life became patterned after God’s pronouncements at the fall. Men worked outside, taking care of growing crops and animals. Women worked inside, cooking, sewing, and raising children. At harvest time everyone helped including the children. Life in the rural areas was happy and fulfilling.

The Ideal wife could be summarized in Proverbs 31:10-31. Following are a few verses from that passage:
Prov 31 25 to 27An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard. She extends her hand to the poor; and she stretches out her hands to the needy. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.

She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

Whether we are talking about women in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or today, all of these abilities describe the godly woman. These characteristics are timeless. But one thing we notice is that very few women actually achieved this level of lifestyle during Old Testament times. The Proverbs 31 woman gets the praise for what she has accomplished. This is what the Bible tells us. But apparently the Jewish leaders did not read their Scriptures.

In reality in Old Testament Israelite society women were not allowed above their station as allowed by the Jewish leaders. The Rabbi’s did not believe that women should be educated. Clearly they were violating the Scriptures by not allowing women to do any of the tasks that we see in Proverbs.

In our day it seems strange that women were treated so poorly. We are used to having freedom to go to school, to work outside of the home, and even to
be in leadership positions. While not every woman has such a successful husband and can afford to buy land and have servants, most women are at least allowed to participate in meaningful work. Of course the calling for women is still inside the home if she’s married and has children, but today women can work outside the home as well. Women go to school and start businesses. Women are teachers, missionaries, and executives.

How did the change come about? Why were things so bad for women in the Old Testament but now are better? Christianity is the answer. If you look at other cultures, such as the Muslim culture or the Hindu culture, you will see that women are treated like objects because of their religious beliefs. Women are no better than furniture in those cultures, to be used by the men however they wish. But everywhere that Christianity has gone, women have been treated better.

women follow JesusJesus is the One Who changed things. When Jesus came, He treated women differently than the rabbis of His day. Jesus modeled the way that men were supposed to treat women. He shocked His disciples on many occasions when He gave so much time to women, but He expected the disciples to learn from Him. He expected them to see that in His kingdom women as well as men were to serve. He did not hand out specific job descriptions; He meant for women to follow Him in whatever way they were called. For most women this would still mean being a good wife and mother. Other women were single or widowed and Jesus affirmed them in their callings as well.

When Jesus met the needs of these women He gave them new life – physically, socially, and spiritually. Jesus gave women back the dignity of the Proverbs 31 woman.

Jesus also restored these women to the position they had before the fall. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve went about working in the garden as equal stewards. There was no conflict between men and women until sin entered the world. Then the temptation to be selfish would affect all people. That is the essence of sin – I want my own way, especially if it means I can boss you around.
Jesus changed all of this when He taught that we are to think of others before ourselves. Now, as we love and serve Jesus we will love and serve others. We can live the way we were meant to when God created us.

05_Flatbed_2 - JUNE   Original Filename: 76548479.jpgMy sisters, let us keep a biblical view of womanhood. This means that we must study how Jesus treated women and how women responded. My prayer is that more preachers would also take time to read, Proverbs 31, Luke’s Gospel and the book of Acts, and examine their own presuppositions concerning what work that women would be allowed to do in the Church. I pray that they would seek Biblical answers. I pray that men would be more like Jesus as they allow women to follow their callings.

What Jesus inaugurated, the Church should extend. With the spread of Christianity women can serve along side of men to take the Gospel to the lost.

 

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When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. (Hosea 1:2,3).

We don’t know any more details about Gomer except that she was a hosea and gomerprostitute, the daughter of Diblaim. The Bible is silent about how willingly she went along with Hosea. We know that she stayed with Hosea and had some children. Then she took off again into her old lifestyle. She seems just the opposite of Rahab, another famous prostitute.

Rahab remains one of the most famous women in the Bible. But Rahab’s story is quite different from Gomer’s. Matthew tells us in his Gospel that Rahab is an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). Rahab is also honored as a woman of great faith by the writer of Hebrews, “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace” (Hebrews 11:31). James the Lord’s brother tells us, “And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:25) Rahab saved the spies that Joshua sent into Jericho. This led to Israel’s victory. Because of Rahab’s faith and obedience to God, her family members were saved when the Israelites conquered Jericho. She is remembered for her faith and courageous actions.

Gomer is not remembered this way. Her only service was to marry Hosea and have children. Her part in God’s plan was to be a symbol. Hosea was to go through this strange marriage in order to give Israel a picture of its own idolatry. God’s purpose was to make the children of Israel see that they were unfaithful to Him and that punishment was on the way.

The works of the Israelites produced wicked fruit. God intended them to see this in the naming of Hosea and Gomer’s children. Gomer’s children would also be symbols.

And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. (Hosea 1:4)

Recall that Jezreel was the place where Jehu had slaughtered all seventy of the wicked Ahab’s sons. It was the place where wicked Jezebel had died. (See post 8/5/10) God destroyed one kings’ reign after another in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. There was never one single good king in the Northern Kingdom. The king reigning in Hosea’s time was Jeroboam. His royal household would be punished too. (See post 3/7/15)

Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.” …. When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.” (Hosea 1:6, 8,9)

Gomer’s second child was a girl. Her name, Lo-ruhamah, means “not loved”. Gomer’s third child, another boy, was named Lo-ammi. Lo-ammi means “not my people”.

What a sad picture for the Israelites! If I were a true believer in God at that time, Hosea’s words and actions would be devastating. To hear God’s judgment against their nation in those terms should have caused the Israelites to repent and seek God’s forgiveness. Instead they continued in the most disgusting kind of idolatry possible.

Through Hosea, God expressed His wrath:

Say to your brothers, “Ammi,” and to your sisters, “Ruhamah.” Contend with your mother, contend, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband; and let her put away her harlotry form her face and her adultery from between her breasts, or I will strip her naked and expose her as on the day when she was born. I will also make her like a wilderness, make her like desert land, and slay her with thirst. Also I will have no compassion on her children, because they are children of harlotry.” (Hosea 2:1-4)

We can relate to this as we are intended to relate to it. God is separating from his unfaithful wife. We know from history that the Northern Kingdom was indeed punished when the Assyrians completely overran them and caused complete devastation.

Yet God would remember His covenant. He would not completely forsake the Israelites who would repent and seek Him. In the next part of our story we see another picture of this.

Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.” So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. Then I said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.” (Hosea 3:1-3)

Hosea buys Gomer backGomer had run away and was continuing in her harlotry. We do not know how long she was gone. God instructed Hosea to go and buy her back from the man she was living with. Apparently Gomer cannot go home with Hosea unless some remuneration is paid to the man. Hosea brought her home and renewed his marriage vows with her. This time, Hosea says, you will stay with me and stop being a prostitute. Hosea promised to love Gomer and be faithful to her. We are not told how Gomer responded.

Hosea continued to prophesy to the Israelites. He warned them of their punishment if they did not repent and return to God. On the other hand, just as Hosea was willing to take back his unfaithful wife, God would take back His people if they sought Him again.

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,
For you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take words with you and return to the LORD.
Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity,
And receive us graciously,
That we may present the fruit of our lips.”….

For in Thee the orphan finds mercy.
I will heal their apostasy,
I will love them freely,
For My anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
He will blossom like the lily,…

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
Whoever is discerning, let him know them,
For the ways of the LORD are right,
And the righteous will walk in them,
But transgressors will stumble in them. (Hosea 14:1-9)

What a beautiful picture of forgiveness and restoration. Some scholars think that Gomer was only a metaphor and not a real woman. I disagree. God often used detailed physical pictures to teach Israel. What about Gomer? Did she listen to her husband’s prophecy and learn from it? Did she repent and become faithful to him?

We do not know what happened to Gomer after she returned home with Hosea. Perhaps living with Hosea and seeing his faithful love to her she repented. It would be nice to think that she became a believer and finished her life as a good wife and mother.

Certainly, God gives us a picture in Gomer’s story of His faithfulness and love towards us. No matter how bad our sins are, if we truly repent God forgives us and then does even more – He heals our sins and loves us freely. He will continue to answer us and look after us. “Whoever is wise, let him (her) understand these things.”

 

 

 

 

 

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God is not named even once in the book of Esther. And yet this story is really all about God and His sovereignty. This story relates how God took care of His people even in captivity. The Israelites were in captivity in Babylon because of their sin and rebellion in worshipping other gods while in the Promised Land. God punished them by allowing the Babylonians to carry them off out of the Promised Land and into captivity. But God did not forget them any more than He forgot His people when they were in captivity in Egypt 700 years before this.

God used Moses to lead His people out of the Egyptian captivity and into the Promised Land. He warned them that if they continued to sin against Him by worshipping other gods, they would be punished. He punished them by sending enemies to defeat them and carry them off into captivity.

God still loved His people and would preserve them in the land of Babylon. He would save them through the faithfulness of a woman this time – Esther. Later God would lead a remnant of the people back to the Promised Land during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.

“Then let the young lady who pleases the king be queen in place of Vashti.” And the matter pleased the king, and he did accordingly. … A Jew named Mordecai… was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had no father or mother. Now the young lady was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. (Esther 2:4-7)

So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus to his royal palace in the tenth month which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. (Esther 2:16,17)

In last week’s story, King Ahasuerus had deposed his beautiful and virtuous queen Vashti. Eventually his anger over being rebuffed by this gracious woman subsided and he sought to get himself another wife. His advisors came up with a great idea, one sure to please this selfish, lecherous king. Let the king choose from among all of the beautiful virgins in the land by selecting the one that pleased him the most in the royal bed. King or not, this sin is horrible in the extreme. We must not underestimate the wickedness of the king’s actions.

esther's royal robesAnd so, King Ahasuerus chose Esther to be his queen. He apparently loved her very much. Perhaps Esther’s inner qualities of beauty stood out from among the rest of the women. She was certainly an obedient child in Mordecai’s care. Esther followed Mordecai’s command to keep her kindred a secret. If the king had known she was a Jew, he would not have been pleased.

Esther proved not only her faithfulness, but also her courage while she was queen. Soon after Esther became queen, Mordecai uncovered a plot to assassinate the king. He told Esther about it and she in turn told King Ahasuerus about the conspiracy. The incident was recorded in the king’s chronicles. At this time nothing was done to reward Mordecai.

During this time, the king’s highest official in the land was a wicked man named Haman. He hated the Jews and especially Mordecai. Mordecai refused to bow down when Haman passed by and this infuriated Haman.

To get revenge, Haman came up with a plan to exterminate all of the Jews throughout every place in the Babylonian kingdom. King Ahasuerus went along with Haman’s plot and the two of them set a specific date for the genocide.

Letters were sent throughout all of the land so the people would be ready to kill all of the Jews on the specified date. Mordecai learned about the plans and went to Esther immediately.

Esther was alarmed but she was not sure what she could do to help. If she tried to talk to King Ahasuerus without his permission, she could be killed.

Mordecai challenged her with these words –

Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this? (Esther 4:13,14)

Esther told Mordecai to have the Israelites fast and pray for three days and she and her maidsesther fasts and prays would do the same. She dared not approach the all-powerful king without the Lord’s protection. Here we see the hand of God in the background even though He is not mentioned by name. Esther and Mordecai had the faith to believe that God would preserve His people.

Taking her life into her hands, Esther approached the king. She had come up with a carefully devised plan that would save the king’s face while undoing the wicked Haman’s plot. She had several banquets designed to please the king. Haman was the only one invited. Haman was feeling mighty important and he even had a gallows constructed on which to hang his enemy Mordecai.

In the meantime, God intervened. One night the king couldn’t sleep and had his chronicles read to him. He found out about the plot to assassinate him and that somebody named Mordecai had saved his life. He asked his officials, “What had been done for Mordecai?”
“Nothing has been done for him,” they replied.

The king decided to honor Mordecai and asked Haman, “What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?” Naturally Haman thought the king meant him and so he advised the king to honor the man who saved the king greatly. How mortified Haman was when it was Mordecai who was honored!

esther's banquetAt the second banquet the king asked Esther what he could do for her. She admitted that her people were the Jews and that there was a plot to have them annihilated. The king (who apparently did not remember that he was involved with Haman) was outraged and asked Esther what should be done. She asked that the tables be turned on the perpetrators. She denounced Haman as the enemy. Haman was hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai and all of Haman’s possessions and titles were given to Mordecai.

The king decreed that the Jews were allowed to defend themselves. They would be allowed to destroy any army that tried to fight them and the Jews would be allowed to take the plunder for themselves.

The Jews rid themselves of all of their enemies and rejoiced in their deliverance. They instituted the festival of Purim. It is still celebrated to this day.

God had made Esther queen in order to meet the challenge that Haman constructed. Esther showed wisdom, patience, and much courage to do her part. She relied on God for His help. When we find ourselves in strenuous circumstances we should remember that God might have reasons for the difficulties we face. We can follow Esther’s example of seeking God’s face with fasting and praying and then totally trusting Him to lead us to do His will.

 

 

 

 

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Now it took place in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to
Ethiopa over 127 provinces, in those days as King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne which was at the citadel in Susa, in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his princes and attendants, the army officers of Persia and Media, the nobles and the princes of his provinces being in his presence… And he displayed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his great majesty for many days, 180 days. When these days were completed, the king gave a banquet lasting seven days for all the people who were present at the citadel in Susa, from the greatest to the least, in the court of the garden of the kings’ palace. …

MHH_map_Persian-Empire_500-BC
Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus. On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. Then the king became very angry and his wrath burned within him.
(Esther 1:1-12)

Originally I was going to put Queen Vashti’s story with the stories of two other “evil” queens in the Old Testament. Vashti has generally been portrayed in a negative fashion and so my thought was to include her along with the other two “bad” queens, Jezebel (See post August, 2010) and Athalia (See post March, 2015).

Queen Vashti has been the poster woman for bad wives for many years. According to most sermons one hears, what happened to Vashti is a warning to all disobedient wives. After all, men have the right to expect their wives to obey no matter what.

So I was taught that Vashti was an arrogant, disobedient, ungrateful queen, but now I have studied the facts and I have a different opinion.

The bible says that King Ahasuerus wanted Queen Vashti to come into the court and display her beauty. At first, this doesn’t sound too bad.

However, historians tell us what went on at these Eastern banquets. The drunken friends of Ahasuerus were probably indulging in the pleasures of naked women for many days. The wine sodden Ahasuerus was insulting Queen Vashti by demanding that she appear, some say, wearing nothing but her crown.

Even if Vashti was not to appear naked in front of the king’s drunken friends there were other reasons for her to refuse.

  1. Queens usually appeared with the kings at festivals and sat beside them. However, if there was to be rioting and drinking, the queen was usually sent away and the king’s concubines participated instead. Perhaps Vashti refused to go to the king when his servants came to get her because the servants should have known that the queen was to be in seclusion while the orgy was going on. The queen did not have to lower herself to the position of the concubines or harlots at the banquet.
  2. Only the king had the right to gaze at his wife’s beauty. Vashti refused to debase herself by appearing in front of all the other drunken men. Though she knew she would anger the king, his command to her to appear offended her sense of propriety too much. Not only did the king’s demand lower her dignity as a queen, it was insulting to her as a modest woman.

Yes, wives are to obey their husbands generally. But wives do not need to obey if the husband Vashti refuses Ahasuerusis commanding sinful activity that goes against God’s laws. Ahasuerus was demanding his virtuous queen to be sinful. Vashti was very courageous to refuse her drunken husband’s command. In this case her disobedience is to be praised!

Vashti’s disobedience made the king very angry. His advisors came up with a plan that basically gave the king revenge on her. One of the king’s clever “yes-men” said to the king:

Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king but also all the princes and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women causing them to look with contempt on their husbands by saying, “King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought in to this presence, but she did not come.” This day the ladies of Persian and Media who have heard of the queen’s conduct will speak in the same way to all the king’s princes and there will be plenty of contempt and anger. (Esther 1:16-18)

This advice pleased the king of course. He acted immediately to protect husbands everywhere from disobedient wives. He sent letters throughout all of his provinces demanding that all women give honor to their husbands, great and small. This command is very humorous in light of the fact that Persian law already proclaimed that the husband was the master in his household. Husbandly rule in the household was already a well-established custom throughout the Eastern world.

Another aspect of this action that does not “ring true” is that immediately upon deposing Vashti, Ahahuerus was able to pick out another queen. The selection process for this queen would basically be a beauty contest. King Ahasuerus would test each and every virgin out in the royal bed. What a delightful solution for his dilemma.

That new queen of course would be Esther. I do not mean to take anything away from Esther’s obedience to her uncle and to God. She was faithful and God used her in His sovereign plan to rescue the Jews. Queen Vashti’s refusal to obey Ahasuerus was a part of God’s plan also. God used this situation to preserve His people while they were in exile for their own disobedience.

What can we learn from Queen Vashti? Should she be the poster child for disobedient wives? I don’t think so. Queen Vashti chose to risk the king’s anger rather than exhibit herself in a demeaning fashion and lose her modest dignity. Her own conscience was higher than the debauched demand of her husband. Along with her regal charm and beauty, her husband should have noticed that this woman was a woman of character. Ahasuerus sinned against Vashti. Queen Vashti had the courage of her convictions in the face of losing her position. She is to be admired for honoring the dignity of women’s modesty and for maintaining her self-respect.

Christian women today can follow Vashti’s example to honor the life that God has given them. Christian women can be careful about modesty and refuse to wear clothes that are immodest just because they are fashionable. Though women with high ideals may be ridiculed for their “old fashioned” values, women of courage who are after God’s heart will stand up to the ridicule and preserve God’s laws and their dignity.

We do not know if Vashti ever became a God-fearer, but her high idealism is an example for us even in this day of irresponsible moral values.

 

 

 

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Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Athaliah the granddaughter of Omri king of Israel. (2 Kings 8:26)

Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. She was born a princess in Israel (the Northern Kingdom). Her parents arranged a marriage for her with Jehoram, king of Judah (the Southern Kingdom). Jehoram was the son of the godly king Jehoshaphat who was the king of Judah at that time.

In those days countries often sealed alliances by arranging marriages between their royal children. But we have to wonder why Jehoshaphat made this arranged marriage between his son and the daughter of the evil Ahab and Jezebel. Didn’t he realize that the daughter of the wicked Jezebel might not be a good influence on his son?

And indeed, Jehoram did not honor God but followed the ways of the evil kings of Israel because “the daughter of Ahab (Athaliah) became his wife” (2Kings 8:18). Though this marriage between Jehoram and Athaliah was evil, God would still sovereignly protect David’s line in Judah as He promised. Though Jehoram only did evil in the sight of the Lord, God did not completely destroy him as he often did the kings and queens in the Northern Kingdom. This was because of God’s covenant with David.

Jehoram reigned eight years and then died. His son Ahaziah became king. But Ahaziah was assassinated after only reigning one year.

During these nine years that her husband Jehoram and son Ahaziah were reigning, Queen Athaliah’s mother Jezebel was still doing as much evil as she could up in the Northern Kingdom.

baal-worshipRecall that while Ahab was alive, he and Queen Jezebel tried to make Baal the god in Israel. They murdered many of God’s prophets and set up their own. Jezebel fought against Elijah because with the true God’s help, Elijah had made a mockery of the prophets of Baal. (See I Kings 18.) Eventually Ahab died. Elijah prophesied that Jezebel would die a horrible death, cursed of God. Elijah said, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.” (I Kings. 21:23) This would come to pass later.

There were several men who became king in the Northern Kingdom after Ahab’s death. One king was Jehu. Jehu fought and killed Ahaziah, who was after all Jezebel’s grandson through her daughter Athaliah. After defeating Ahaziah, Jehu went to Jezreel. Jezebel heard that he was coming and “painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out the window. As Jehu entered he gate, she said, ‘Is it well, Zimri (a traitor who became king by killing the previous king. See below.), your master’s murderer?’”

Now was the time that Elijah’s prophecy would be fulfilled. Jehu asked two or three officials tojezebel thrown from wall throw Jezebel off of a high wall. “So they threw her down, and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall and on the horses, and he trampled her under foot.” Jehu realized that Jezebel was after all a king’s daughter and should have a proper burial. He sent men to get her to bury her, “but they found nothing more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands.” (2 Kings 9:33-35) The dogs had eaten Jezebel’s corpse.

Surely, Athaliah must have known how her mother died. Why wasn’t this a warning to her not to defy God? She must have been a truly evil woman. In her case, you could say that the apple did not fall far from the tree.

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she rose and destroyed all the royal offspring. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and placed him and his nurse in the bedroom. So they hid him from Ahtaliah, and he was not put to death. So he was hidden with her in the house of the Lord six years, while Ahtaliah was reigning over the land. (2 Kings 11:1-3)

Why did Athaliah have all of the family of the king put to death? Why didn’t she just reign as a queen mother? It was common then as now for a regent to be appointed to advise a youthful monarch until he reached a certain age and could be crowned king. Athaliah had only to rule on behalf of her son until he was old enough to assume the throne. But this wicked woman chose to murder all of the royal heirs and assume absolute power for herself.

We should not be surprised that this woman who worshipped a god who demanded brutality and bloodshed in worship, would think nothing of committing murder herself. And, after all, how many kings in her home country of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) came to the throne by bloodshed? Baasha became king after he killed Nadab. Zimri became king when he killed Elah. Then Zimri killed all of Baasha’s male heirs. There is a pattern here.

Athaliah sought to make a kingdom for herself but she was not reckoning with Jehovah. God was still in control and would foil her plans as part of His great plan of redemption. That involved keeping His promise to David that one in his line would always sit on the throne. Unknown to Athaliah, one baby son, Joash was rescued by his aunt and hidden in safety.

In the seventh year of Athaliah’s reign, the priest Jehoiada decided it was time to bring Joash out of hiding and proclaim him king. Jehoiada gathered hundreds of guards and made them take an oath to protect Joash. Athaliah was very powerful, but if Joash could be crowned king and recognized by the people, her reign of terror would be over.

The priest gave to the captains of hundreds the spears and shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of the Lord. The guards stood each with his weapons in his hand, from the right side of the house to the left side of the house, by the altar and by the house, around the king. Then he brought the king’s son out and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony; and they made him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!” (2 Kings 11:10-12)

king joashAthaliah saw what was going on and ran to the house of the Lord. She noticed that Joash was standing there in the royal robes. People were blowing trumpets and shouting their acceptance of Joash as their king.

It didn’t take this shrewd woman long to see that another was put in her place. She tore her clothes and shouted, “Treason! Treason!”

Jehoiada commanded the guards to take her outside because he didn’t want her put to death in God’s house. The armed guards seized her and took her to the horse’s entrance of the king’s house. They put her to death there.

Athaliah’s wicked reign was over. The people rejoiced and showed God their thanks by going around the land and pulling down all of the altars to Baal that Athaliah had erected. They killed Mattan, Baal’s high priest.

Now, seven-year-old Joash was brought to the throne in the king’s house. He would honor God and reign for forty years doing “right in the sight of the Lord all his days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” (2 Kings 12:2)

Though Athaliah had sought to destroy the descendants of Jehoram (and David) God had intervened and protected one small heir. This story is about a wicked woman, but much more it is a story of God’s sovereignty and His faithfulness to His covenant.

 

 

 

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Ahinoam: Saul’s Wife and First Queen of Israel

The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam the daughter of Ahimaaz. (I Samuel 14:50)

Ahinoam, the first queen in Israel was married to a less than faithful king – King Saul. (There was a second woman also named Ahinoam. She was one of the wives of King David. See below.)

As far as we know Ahinoam was Saul’s only wife. Saul was faithful to his wife if you don’t count concubines. (Recall that Rizpah was Saul’s concubine. See post on December 15, 2014).

Ahinoam bore Saul’s five sons and daughters including the noble Jonathan, David’s friend. There were two other sons, Ishui and Melchishua. Her daughters were Merab, who was promised to David as a reward for killing Goliath, and Michal.

Saul originally promised Merab to David but went back on his promise (I Samuel 17:25) and gave Merab to be the wife of someone else. He would later give Michal to David instead.

The story could have been really romantic, for Michal loved David. David tried to please Saul by accomplishing a hard task in order to win Michal’s hand, because she was after all a princess and he was only a shepherd.

Saul really hoped that the Philistines would kill David when he set out to get a dowry for his daughter. Saul asked for one hundred foreskins of the Philistines. David was happy to go and accomplish this task, and he outdid the bidding by bringing back two hundred foreskins. Now he felt like he was good enough to marry the king’s daughter.

David married Michal and became Ahinoam’s son-in-law.

As time went on Saul became jealous of David and tried to kill David and Michal. Saul eventually took Michal away from David and gave her to another man. (You can read more about Michal in the post on 9/12/2012.)

What were Ahinoam’s feelings while all of these things were happening? How sad for her to see her daughter leaving just because of her husband’s sins. Why did she just stand by as her husband treated women like bargaining chips to be used for his own political ends? Perhaps like so many women she did not defy her husband but helplessly watched from the sidelines.

She must have been a quiet woman going about her tasks humbly and faithfully. In those days queens and other noble women worked hard to take care of the poor in their neighborhoods. Ahinoam also had to see to the needs of the royal household. Truly she must have been a kind and gracious queen.

Unfortunately, like Jeroboam who came later in history, Saul also turned from God. God would cut off Saul’s house. Jonathan would die and eventually all of Saul’s offspring. How much sorrow came to this godly wife, mother, and queen as her menfolk perished?

Ahinoam is an example to us as a faithful wife and mother.

Ahinoam #2 – David’s Wife

David had also taken Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both became his wives. (I Samuel 25:43)

As mentioned above, Saul tried to kill David when he realized that God was going to take the Ahinoamkingdom away from him and give it to David. While David was on the run from Saul he rescued two women from a wicked man named Nabal. God had killed Nabal and left his virtuous wife Abigail as a widow. (For more on Abigail see post 9/9/2010.) Abigail had been kind to David and so he rescued her and a woman named Ahinoam.

This Ahinoam is mentioned six times in the Old Testament as one of David’s wives. She and Abigail traveled with David the whole time he was on the run from Saul. When David eventually became king he would have eight wives altogether. Ahinoam would be the mother of David’s son Amnon. Later in life Amnon sinned grievously against his stepsister Tamar (See post 9/15/2014). Tamar’s brother Absalom had Amnon killed.

The wife of Jeroboam: First Queen of the Northern Kingdom

At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam became sick. Jeroboam said to his wife, “Arise now, and disguise yourself so that they will not know that you are the wife of Jeroboam, and go to Shiloh; behold, Ahijah the prophet is there, who spoke concerning me that I would be king over this people. (I Kings 14:1,2)

Jeroboam was hoping that a prophet of God would assure him that his son would recover from a serious illness. He was too cowardly, or perhaps had an extremely guilty conscience, to jeroboam wife Ahijahgo see the prophet himself, so he sent his wife. Jeroboam had set up new places for the people to worship false gods. God had already sent a “man of God” earlier to warn Jeroboam, but Jeroboam continued in his evil ways. Jeroboam made priests to worship the idols and “this event became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to blot it out and destroy it from off the face of the earth.” (I Kings 13:34) Jeroboam’s wife did all that her husband asked of her. She disguised herself and went to see Ahijah. The prophet Ahijah gave her a message to take back to Jeroboam. It was not good news. All males in Jeroboam’s house, including her son, would die.

Then Jeroboam’s wife arose and departed and came to Tirzah. As she was entering the threshold of the house, the child died. All Israel buried him and mourned for him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through His servant Ahijah the prophet.”   (I Kings 14:17,18)

This was sad news for the wife of Jeroboam, yet I believe that God blessed this faithful wife and mother by letting her child die a natural death and receive a proper burial. The prophet Ahijah said “All Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he alone of Jeroboam’s family will come to the grave, because in him something good was found toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.” (I Kings 14:13) The other males in Jeroboam’s house would die violent deaths and they would not be buried. “Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs will eat. And he who dies in the field the birds of he heavens will eat; for the Lord has spoken it.” (I Kings 14:11)

It was considered a curse in Israel to remain unburied. We will see this kind of curse again on an Israelite who was guilty of killing God’s prophets and doing as much evil as she could – Jezebel. Jezebel’s name became a byword for evil in Israel (Rev. 2:20). Jezebel was thrown off of a high wall. The king wanted to bury her, but when his men went to get her body all they found was her skull, hands, and feet. The dogs had eaten her up! This kind of death was a curse that God sent on evil people.

This horrible death was spared to Jeroboam and his wife’s son. It is very likely that the mother of Abijah had the comfort that her son was saved and would go to be with the Lord since God granted him a peaceful, honorable death. She herself would see her son in Heaven. She could do nothing with her wicked husband; it was too late. God would bless her for her own faithfulness.

And so all of these queens were faithful, obedient women. They all had tragedy in their lives. All would see their sons die. Queen Ahinoam, Saul’s wife, lost her son Jonathan. Queen Ahinoam, David’s wife, lost her son Amnon. Jeroboam’s queen lost her son Abijah. They remained faithful to the Lord in spite of so much sorrow and sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

 

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