Nehemiah’s self-titled book in the Bible details how he and many others rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem after the city had been destroyed by its enemies. We have already looked at two characters who had a role in Nehemiah’s story. The first was the queen of Persia, who likely influenced her husband, king Artaxerxes, to give Nehemiah permission to build the wall. The second was the prophetess Noadiah who tried to hinder Nehemiah from building the wall by making him afraid. Now, we look at another group of women who had a role in Nehemiah’s story. They weren’t queens or prophetesses. They were simply the daughters of a guy named Shallum.
Nehemiah chapter 3 lists the names of some of the people who helped Nehemiah rebuild the wall. Verses 11-12, in particular, read:
Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.
We aren’t given the names or ages of these daughters. They could have been grown women with families of their own or they could have been rather young. The important thing to notice is that the work they did for the Lord alongside their father did not go unnoticed.
1. Shallum’s daughters worked. One may think that girls in Biblical times sat around with nothing to do all day, but that was not the case. The working women is not some 20th/21st century invention. All throughout Scripture we encounter working women. When Abraham’s servant went to find a wife for Isaac, he didn’t find Rebekah at a beauty parlor getting her nails done. He found her fetching water. Work! Moses also found Reuel’s seven daughters fetching water or at least attempting to do so (some mean shepherds were giving them a difficult time). Work! Ruth, before she married Boaz, went out to the field and gleaned grain. Work! And Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis are praised by Paul as women who worked hard for God. Work!
Per Marg Mowczko:
The Bible shows that it was not unusual for ancient women to have a job. The Bible mentions women who worked in commercial trade (Prov 31:16a, 24; Acts 16:14 ), in agriculture (Josh 15:17-19; Ruth 2:8; Prov 31:16b), as millers (Exod 11:5; Matt 24:41), as shepherds (Gen 29:9; Exod 2:16), as artisans, especially in textiles (Exod 26:1 NIV; Acts 18:3), as perfumers and cooks (1 Sam 8:13), as midwives (Exod 1:15ff), as nurses (Gen 35:8; Exod 2:7; 2 Sam 4:4; 1 Kings 1:4) as domestic servants (Acts 12:13, etc) and as professional mourners (Jer 9:17). Women could also be patrons (Acts 16:40; Rom 16:1-2) and leaders (Judg ch 4-5; 2 Sam 20:16). One Bible woman even built towns (1 Chron 7:24). Many women, and men, worked from home, yet the Bible nowhere criticises women who worked outside the home, in the public sphere.
As you can see, there is nothing wrong with a woman working. It’s actually quite Biblical. The model Proverbs 31 woman is described as someone who (1) seeks wool and flax and works with willing hands; (2) brings her food from afar; (3) considers a field, buys it, and plants a vineyard; (4) does not turn out her lamp at night; (5) and makes bed coverings and linen garments to sell. This sounds like one hardworking woman. If we are to follow her example, we too should be engaged in work that benefits others and God.
When God told the Israelites in Exodus 20:9, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work,” He wasn’t just talking to guys. He was talking to girls too. Some advocate that a woman’s place is in the home. And a woman certainly has a place in the home, but she is not limited to only having a place in the home. Just as Shallum’s daughters were wall builders alongside their father, women today can work at anything they set their minds to alongside the best of men.
God is pleased when we work hard and do our jobs with all our might. What we do does not go unnoticed by Him. Whether our work is in architecture, engineering, or nursing, God appreciates it. And if we do not grow weary in well-doing, we will be richly rewarded.