Women of the Word: Nereus’ Sister

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In the sixteenth chapter of the book of Romans, Paul extends his greetings to a number of people. Some of the women who he extends his greetings to we have already covered, including: Phoebe, Mary of Rome, Julia, and Junia. Verse 15 in particular reads:

Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them.

Two women are referenced in the above verse, Julia (who we already covered) and Nereus’ sister. Nereus’ sister is included among a group of people who Paul calls “the Lord’s people.” Continue reading

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Women of the Word: Naaman’s Wife and Her Little Servant Girl

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In 2 Kings 5 we meet a man named Naaman who is described as “a great man” and “a valiant soldier.” He was the commander of a king’s army. However, there was just one problem with Naaman. He had leprosy.

We then meet a little girl who was taken captive from Israel by the army that Naaman was commander of. This girl was the servant of Naaman’s wife. When the girl saw that Naaman had leprosy, she said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” The mistress then told her husband, Naaman, what her servant girl said, and Naaman went to see the prophet in Samaria, Elisha, who told Naaman how he could be cured of his leprosy. Naaman’s wife and her little servant girl are not mentioned again, but they play essential roles in one of the most miraculous Old Testament stories. Despite the vast differences in their ages, status, cultural backgrounds, and beliefs, Naaman’s wife and her little servant girl had a mutual respect for one another and desired to see their husband and master healed. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Micah’s Mother

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Judges 17:1-6 records an incident that took place in the hill country of Ephraim when Israel had no king and everyone did as they saw fit. This incident involves a young man named Micah and his mother who is not named. Micah’s mother had eleven hundred shekels of silver stolen from her, and when she found out that her silver was gone, she pronounced a curse on the thief who had taken it. Well, it just so happened that her son was the one who stole the silver. When he heard the curse that she spoke, he must have felt guilty, and promptly told her, “The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you and about which I heard you utter a curse—I have that silver with me; I took it.”

Micah’s mother did not get angry at him. She only said, “The Lord bless you, my son!” And she promised to consecrate all of the silver to the Lord.

But after Micah returned the silver to his mother, she only consecrated two hundred shekels of silver and kept the other nine hundred shekels of silver for herself. And instead of giving the consecrated shekels to the Lord as she had promised to do, she gave it to a silversmith who used the shekels to make an idol. Micah took this idol and put it in a shrine in his house, alongside some other cult objects. He then made one of his sons priest over his household shrine.

From this incident, we see that Micah and his mother were both aware of the one true God, but they mixed their belief in Him with other idolatrous worship – some thing which we as Christians should not do. Micah’s mother gives us two things that we can learn from her. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Midian Women

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The Midianites were enemies of Israel, and in Numbers 11 God tells Moses to carry out His vengeance on them. So twelve thousand Israelite men go to battle against the Midianites. They kill every single Midianite man. They burn all the towns of the Midianites. But the women and children, they keep alive, claiming them and all other plunder for themselves. Numbers 31:9 reads:

The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder.

When the Israelites return to their camp, however, they meet Moses who is angry that the women have been kept alive. This is because in an earlier event, the Midian women had followed the advice of the wicked prophet Balaam and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord. So, Moses commands the Israelites to kill all the Midian boys and kill every Midian woman who was not a virgin. All other women and girls could be spared. Numbers 31:15-18 reads:

“Have you allowed all the women to live?” he [Moses] asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”

This must have been a very sad day – one that was filled with the shedding of blood and tears. One moment, these Midian women were living their lives, some of them with husbands and children. And then the next day, they had everything ripped from them – their homes, their fathers, their husbands, their brothers, their sons; and some of them even had their own lives ended. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Grandmother Maakah

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The books of 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament summarize the lives of many kings of Israel and Judah. Some of the kings did what was right before God and some of the kings did what was wrong before God. One of the kings who did what was right was King Asa. 1 Kings 15 says Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done. (It should be noted that David was not Asa’s immediate father, but is referred to as being a righteous ancestor). This Scripture passage goes on to say that Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. 2 Chronicles 15 describes how Asa worked diligently to rid the land of idols and repair the Lord’s altar. He also led the people into a covenant to seek the Lord with all their heart and soul.

Unfortunately, Asa’s grandmother, Maakah, did not desire to seek the Lord like he did. She made idols and continued her worship of false gods. When Asa got wind of this, 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 15 both record that he deposed Maakah from her position as queen mother and cut down and burned the idol that she had made. 1 Kings 15:13 says:

He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley.

2 Chronicles 15:16 says:

King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley.

So committed was Asa to the Lord that he did not even let family members influence him to do wrong. Asa’s father, Abijah, who was king before him, did what was wrong before God and had a heart that was not fully devoted to the Lord. The same can be said about Asa’s grandmother, Maakah. The Bible does not mention anything about Asa’s mother, so we do not know what her attitude was toward God. But Asa’s life is certainly one we can emulate. However, it is Maakah who we are focusing on at the moment. What can we learn from her life? Continue reading

Women of the Word: Milkah

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Milkah is not a very well-known Biblical figure, but she is the sister-in-law to quite a popular one – Sarah (formerly called Sarai). Sarah was married to Abraham (formerly called Abram), who also had a brother who was not very well-known. This brother was Nahor. When Abraham and Sarah married, Nahor and Milkah also married. According to Genesis 11:29:

Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah.

Terah was the father of Abraham and Nahor and they also had a third brother called Haran. Haran was the father of Lot, but he later died, so Abraham took Lot into his home. At first, they all lived together in Ur of the Chaldeans, but after Haran’s death, Terah, Abraham, Sarah, Lot, and Haran’s wife left Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. On their way to Canaan, they come to a place called Harran and decide to settle there. While in Harran, Terah dies after living 205 years. God then calls Abraham to leave his country and his people and his father’s household and go to the land of Canaan. He promises to bless Abraham and make of him a great nation. So once again, Abraham, Sarah, and Lot pack up their possessions and set out for Canaan.

Meanwhile, Nahor and Milkah remained in Ur of the Chaldeans. Somehow, across the large expanse of desert and sky, Abraham and Sarah and Nahor and Milkah kept in touch. Genesis 22:2 says,

Some time later Abraham was told, “Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor.”

While Abraham and Sarah waited for years and struggled to have just one child, their brother and sister-in-law had quite a large family. Milkah gave birth to eight sons (!): Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel. The youngest son, Bethuel, became the father of Rebekah who years later became the wife of Abraham and Sarah’s long-awaited promised son, Isaac. Milkah is specifically mentioned four other times in the book of Genesis (23; 24:15, 24, 47). Milkah’s youngest son, Bethuel, is also our link to what we can learn from her life. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Lot’s Daughters

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The story of Lot’s wife gets a lot of attention. She is the one who looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah as it was being destroyed, even though she was told not to. As a result, she was turned into a pillar of salt. But the story of her daughters receives a lot less attention, though their lives are just as tragic as their mother’s.

Genesis 19:12-17 tells us that Lot’s daughters were engaged to marry two men before Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed. The angels warned Lot about the coming destruction and told him to get his family out. Lot went and told his soon-to-be son-in-laws to get out of the city before it was destroyed, but his soon-to-be son-in-laws thought he was joking. They didn’t listen to him and continued on living the way they had always lived. When the angels saw this, they were like, “Forget them, Lot! Just get your wife and daughters and get yourselves out!” When Lot hesitated, the angels took him by the hand and took his wife and daughters by their hands, and led them out of the city to safety. Once they were outside of the city, the angels let them go and told them, “Flee for your lives!” The angels also warned them not to look back. We all know that Lot’s wife did look back, but Lot and his daughters did not. Can you imagine how they must have felt when they finally stopped and discovered that Lot’s wife was not with them? In one day, Lot’s daughters lost both their mother and the men who they were planning to marry.

After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his two daughters went to Zoar. Because Lot was afraid to stay in Zoar, they soon left that city and went to live in a cave. It is then that the two daughters wrongly conclude that no other men are left alive on earth for them to marry and have children by, so they come up with a plan to have their father impregnate them so they can continue the human race. The entire unfortunate account of this event is told in Genesis 19:30-38. The daughters eventually give birth to two sons named Moab and Ben-Ammi.

We do not know how Lot reacted when he found out that he was not only the grandfather of his daughters’ firstborn, but also the father. And we do not know how the lives of Lot and his daughters ended. Did they stay in the cave until they died? Were they ever reunited with Abraham and his household? We do know that the sons, Moab and Ben-Ammi, returned to civilization and found women to marry because they became the fathers of their own races, the Moabites and the Ammonites. Whatever the ending of Lot’s daughters may have been, their lives were marked with disgraceful behavior and marred by destruction and death. Continue reading

Women of the Word: Merab

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As we observed in the profile of Merab’s younger sister, Michal, both of these girls were the first princesses of Israel because their father, Saul, was the first King. Before Saul gave Michal to David, he first promised to give him Merab if David served him bravely and fought the battles of Israel. David did exactly that, but jealousy caused Saul not to keep his promise. Instead of giving Merab to David, he gave her to Adriel of Meholah to marry. You can read all about this in 1 Samuel (14:49; 18:17, 19). Adriel and Merab had five sons together, but unfortunately these sons were killed by the Gibeonites as revenge for what Saul had done to them (2 Samuel 21:8-9).

This is all the Scripture that we have on Merab, the oldest daughter of Saul. We don’t know how she reacted to her father’s broken promise about her marrying the future king of Israel. We don’t know how she handled the horrible green-eyed monster that her father became in his obsessive pursuit to get rid of David. We don’t know how she reacted to the deaths of her father and brother, Jonathan, at the hands of the Philistines. We don’t know how she dealt with the horrible deaths of her five sons (although, some believe that she died young and was not around when this happened). Whatever the case, if the musical Annie had been around back then, I’m almost certain Merab would have readily sang ‘it’s a hard-knock life for me!”

Continue reading

Women of the Word: Mary, Mother of John Mark

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Acts 12 recounts one of several instances in which Peter was miraculously delivered from prison. In the middle of the night, an angel appeared to Peter, freed him from his chains, and led him out into the city. Peter thought that it was all a dream, but when the angel left him and he found himself standing alone in the middle of a street, then he knew for sure that God had sent His angel to deliver him. Verse 5 of this chapter says that while Peter was kept in prison, prayer was made without ceasing by other Christian believers unto God for him. One of the places where prayer was being made for him was at the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark. Verse 12 reads:

And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.

To read about another woman who makes an appearance in this Scripture passage, see Rhoda; but first, here’s what we can learn from Mary, mother of John Mark. Continue reading