Women have played a powerful role in God’s story of redemption throughout Scripture.
In honor of them, instead of talking about how to write better sermons, church management software, or the best online giving for churches, we want to shine the spotlight on 15 women in the Bible who contributed to God’s powerful work in the world and the advancement of his kingdom.
1. Mary of Nazareth
Mary’s significant role in Scripture is widely known: Mary of Nazareth is the mother of Jesus.
She gave birth to the savior of the world when she was just a teenager.
The angel Gabriel told her of the unique role she would play in God’s story and, while this certainly was frightening, Mary bravely embraced her calling and bore for all of humanity the savior of the world:
Scripture on the life of Mary:
“Six months after Elizabeth knew she was to become a mother, Gabriel was sent from God to Nazareth. Nazareth was a town in the country of Galilee. He went to a woman who had never had a man.
She was promised in marriage to a man named Joseph. Joseph was of the family of David. The angel came to her and said, ‘You are honored very much. You are a favored woman. The Lord is with you. You are chosen from among many women.’ When she saw the angel, she was troubled at his words. She thought about what had been said.
The angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid. You have found favor with God. See! You are to become a mother and have a Son. You are to give Him the name Jesus. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give Him the place where His early father David sat. He will be King over the family of Jacob forever and His nation will have no end.’” (Luke 1:26-33)
2. Ruth the Moabite
Ruth the Moabite played a significant role in the coming of Jesus.
After her husband died, she followed her mother-in-law Naomi to her homeland in Israel, where she met Boaz. They would become the great grandparents of King David, and eventually propagate the lineage of the messiah.
Ruth faced great tribulation as a woman in an ancient context with no protection.
But she boldly followed Naomi to the land of Israel, devoted herself to the Lord, and played a critical role in the victory of God over sin and death through her everyday faithfulness in the face of impossible circumstances.
The most popular Bible verse from the Book of Ruth:
“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God’” (Ruth 1:16).
3. Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene is often misunderstood.
She was a faithful follower of Jesus.
After Jesus healed her, she ventured alongside him in his ministry, meeting his needs and encouraging the disciples, eventually bearing witness to his crucifixion and burial.
Three days later, she would be the first witness of the empty tomb of Christ and one of the core critical eye-witnesses to his resurrection that would later resource the gospel writers to give the church historical credibility.
Mary Magdalene in the Bible:
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb” (Matt. 28:1).
Rachel waited earnestly, but patiently, to marry the love of her life: Jacob, who would later be named Israel. She was deceived by her father Laban and sister Leah who, after Jacob had worked seven years to acquire Rachel, was tricked into marrying Leah. So Jacob worked another seven years and Rachel waited patiently another seven years in order to marry Jacob.
Though childless initially, she became the mother to Joseph, who by God’s strength single-handedly saved all of Israel, and Benjamin, the last tribe in Israel to remain faithful to the Lord before the time of exile.
Rachel’s role in the history of redemption is difficult to underestimate, and she should be celebrated for her strength in the face of adversity by the strength of the Lord.
Rachel in the Bible:
“And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.” (Genesis 30:22)
Hannah was initially childless, and prayed desperately for a son.
She made a promise to God that if he permitted her to bear a son, she would devote him to God.
When God fulfilled this request, she faithfully kept her word. She left her son, Samuel, to be raised in the temple of the Lord while continuing to provide him guidance and mentorship along the way.
Hannah’s faithfulness was never in question.
Samuel, her son, would go on to rescue Israel from centuries of slavery to the Canaanites and idolatry to Baal by anointing King David, whose heart was fully devoted to the Lord and who gifted God’s people with most of the Psalms, which the church uses on a daily basis as a source of strength, encouragement, and worship, both through seasons of blessing and tribulation.
Hannah in the Bible:
“It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth” (1 Sam. 2:10).
Eve is a very often misunderstood character in the Bible.
While she and Adam both brought sin and death into the world through partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she is the mother of the human race, and represents God’s promise to beget the one who would crush the head of the devil and redeem humanity from sin once and for all.
Eve in the Bible:
“The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20).
The season of the judges was a tumultuous time for Israel.
After Moses led Israel out of the land of Egypt and Joshua had led Israel into the land promised to Abraham to conquer the Canaanites, Israel fell into cycles of disobedience that prompted God’s wrath to fall on Israel in the form of slavery to the Canaanites.
In this time, God raised up judges to redeem Israel from political slavery and give them an opportunity to repent. Israel often did repent for a single generation, but fell back into idolatry and disobedience, prompting once again God’s wrath.
Deborah was the only named female judge during this time.
She aggressively pulled on the moral bridle of Israel to return to worship of the one true God, and ruthlessly purified the nation of those evil actors who were interested in keeping Israel spiritually complacent and under slavery to the Canaanites.
The top Bible verse about Deborah:
“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman” (Judg. 4:9).
Esther was a persecuting citizen of Israel under Persain reign.
In the 7th–6th century BC, Esther was chosen out of the women of Israel to be part of the harem of King Xerxes. She used her political influence to destroy the antisemitic actors who sought to destroy the Jews in Persia, and through her faithfulness, established the Jewish festival of Purim. She was thereafter chosen by Xerxes to be his queen, and she ruled Israel as a Jewish queen of a gentile nation.
Like Deborah a thousand years earlier, Esther saved Israel from the consequences of its own spiritual folly and established a safe place for Jews to worship in the land. It was on this basis that Judaism was allowed to flourish under Greek and Roman rule in the centuries to come, and it was because of Esther that the ministry of Jesus was able to thrive freely and openly in a public society.
Simple story of Esther:
“So Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter concerning Purim. And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews in the 127 provinces of Xerxes’ kingdom—words of goodwill and assurance—to establish these days of Purim at their designated times, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had decreed for them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation” (Esther 9:29–31).
Miriam was a prophetess and Moses’s older sister.
She helped to save Moses when he was only an infant. Moses’s mother left him in a basket to protect him from being murdered by Pharaoh due to his being a Jewish baby. When Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses and had mercy on him, Miriam devoted herself to Pharaoh’s daughter in order to raise him so that they could remain together.
We can credit Miriam with instilling Moses with a devotion to the Lord that manifested itself in later days, which enabled his openness to divine encounter with the one true God and his moral conscience which guided Israel all the way to the promised land.
Miriam in the Bible:
“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.’” (Ex. 15:20–21)
Sarah was a strong woman of the bible.
She was Abraham’s wife, and served as an example of the fact that God always keeps his promises. When God promised Abraham he would bear a son, despite Sarah’s inability to bear children, Sarah gave birth to Isaac when she was 90-years old.
Sarah in the Bible:
“And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, [and] with his seed after him” (Gen. 17:19).
Like Sarah, Elizabeth was far too old to conceive a son.
However, God made it possible for her to bear a child.
She would go on to conceive and give birth to John the Baptist, the last “Old Testament” prophet who would bear direct witness to the divinity and messianic authority of Jesus Christ.
Elizabeth’s faithfulness is meant to draw our minds back to Sarah and the thousands of years during which Israel waited for the Messiah to come.
Elizabeth in the Bible:
“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).
Priscilla was a powerful church leader in the book of Acts.
She and her husband, Aquila, led the church in maintaining theological purity, love for the poor, and mentorship of young, charismatic leaders such Apollos, who were still figuring out how Jesus fit into God’s story of redemption.
Priscilla represents God’s counter-cultural insistence upon the dignity of women in church leadership and the power he plans to accomplish through them to revolutionize what it means to belong in the people of God and what women can do to lead by example in faithfulness and hospitality.
Priscilla in the Bible:
“He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26).
13. Mary of Bethany
Mary of Bethany was the sister of Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the lead (Lazarus).
While hosting him there, Jesus commended her for “choosing the better” by sitting at his feet instead of being distracted by housework and the duties of entertaining.
Mary of Bethany represents Jesus’s clear message that he cuts through cultural expectations and desires to extend fellowship to all human beings, despite the hierarchy humans are often tempted to put into place which marginalize and suppress others.
Mary of Bethany in the Bible:
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound[a] of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me’” (John 12:1-8).
Mary’s sister Martha was rebuked by Jesus for putting her entertainment obligations above learning the words of Jesus. However, she was still a devoted disciple of Christ and desired deeply to know and love Jesus, and did everything in her power to dignify him as the unknown king.
Martha in the Bible:
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38–42).
Jehosheba was the daughter of King Joram.
She is known for saving her nephew while he was an infant.
Her nephew was the prince Joash, who was to be massacred by the Queen Mother. Joash’s survival enabled the line of David, and consequently the line of the Messiah, to endure.
Jehosheba’s bravery played a critical role in the possibility of the coming of Christ, and God’s working through her faithful devotion to his purposes is difficult to underestimate.
Jehosheba in the Bible:
“But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed.” (2 Kings 11:2).
Over to you
We implore you to follow the example of these women of the bible.
These strong women in the bible held the line of faithfulness when many men in Israel were satisfied to capitulate to the paganism of Canaan, Persia, and Greece.
These biblical women represent not only the kind of bravery to which all Christians are called to in the face of suffering, but represent a uniquely powerful purpose which God has designated for women to achieve God’s plan which would otherwise be impossible.
We hope you share these powerful women in the bible with someone else.
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