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Role Of Women In Scripture
Ellen Kavanaugh

Women have important roles on this earth. It is through women that G-d chooses to bring children into this world. A woman is called to partner with a husband, raise children, and create a loving God-fearing home. Her role is so important that the command is for children to "Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee." Exodus 20:12 The woman here commands the same honour as the man. G-d blessed both Adam *and* Eve, and gave them both the responsibility for caring for the earth He had made.

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." Genesis 1:27,28

This may read like a biblical history lesson repeat, but I want to encourage women to remember their special place on this earth. Through-out Scripture we see women in wonderful roles: from Sarah giving birth in her old age to Isaac, the child of promise; to Rebecca assisting Jacob in receiving his father's blessing; to Hannah who prayerfully petitioned G-d for a child and became mother to Samuel the judge; to loyal Ruth who would not forsake for mother-in-law and was rewarded with a Davidic descendant; and to Mary, considered 'blessed among women' who gave birth to Yeshua as a gift for all mankind. Not to mention the numerous other devout women of the Word. These women were special vessels G-d used to further His Plan for us all. Women seem to be the forgotten ones in Scripture, whose roles have been sadly diminished within some assemblies. And yet, a woman's role doesn't stop with motherhood alone. We do well to remember the great women of the TaNaKh, the prophetesses like Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14) Deborah the Judge(Judges 4:4) Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), and Isaiah's wife (Isaiah 8:3).

Do you realize that when Torah was given, women as well as men were commanded to receive the Torah from G-d? And to agree to obey it.

"Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law." Deuteronomy 31:12

"And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law." Nehemiah 8:3

Women heard and accepted the Torah alongside the men. In this day and age, it is usually the woman who maintains a kosher home and most strongly influences her children to grow up fearing G-d.

It warms my heart that the gospels record so much about women! Women are mentioned in the genealogy of Matthew plus it is the actual genealogy of Mary given in Luke! Women are portrayed as humble and eager to learn of Yeshua, like Joanna, Martha and Mary - dear Mary who 'chose the good part' and learned at Yeshua's feet instead of fretting over the housework. (Luke 10:40-42) It was to a Samaritan woman Yeshua revealed He was Messiah (Yochanan/John 4) and with great compassion Yeshua healed the woman with the serious issue of blood -- even encouraging her great faith; (Luke 8:43-48) Yeshua also healed the daughter of the Canaanite woman whom His disciples had sought to send away. (Mathew 15:20-28). Women were indeed touched by Yeshua's message and believed; no wonder it was women who came to his tomb with spices and discovered the greatest miracle of all: the tomb was empty!

Within the epistles we see women were a valued part of the ministry, especially in Romans 16 where Phebe, Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Julia, and the sister of Nereus are all mentioned with love and honor. The epistles and gospels also record for us five more female prophetesses: Anna in Luke 1:36-38 and Philip's four daughters in Acts 21:9

Now, having established a woman's valued place in Scripture, we find confusion within various teachings regarding a woman's role. How can we understand passages used to diminish a woman's role within the body of Yeshua? Let's look:

"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." 1 Timothy 2:11-15
But what does it mean? Women have to be silent all the time? Let's carefully examine the 1 Timothy passage.

Women are to learn in silence. Silence here is Greek hesuchia (Strong's 2271). It is NOT phimoo which would mean 'muzzle' (contrary to how many may want read it) Hesuchia is better rendered 'quietness' and is translated more accurately in 2 Thesalonians 3:11-12 "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Yeshua Messiah, that with quietness/hesuchia they work, and eat their own bread." Clearly, in this passage, it is not assumed hesuchia means that they are to never utter a word. Simply put, they held their tongue and kept the peace. (as in Acts 22:2). This sort of quietness denotes making a conscious choice not to speak out and stir things up, not the same as being muzzled and never ever uttering a single sound ever. Big difference.

So back to the 1 Timothy passage, women are to learn in quiet peace and not teach or usurp authority over a man, but instead, will hold her tongue. The word teach here is didasko (Strong's 1321) meaning "to give instruction." So are we saying that women may give no instructions at all? Let's look closer now at what it means to 'usurp authority' -- it comes from the Greek authenteo (Strong's 831) and means to dominate or take control. Women are simply commanded not to dominate or control men with their teaching. Now this is beginning to make sense. This is not a prohibition against women doing any teaching, but instead a prohibition against women having disciples. Yochanan The Immerser and Yeshua are two important examples of teachers with dedicated disciples. Their disciples lived with them, slept with them, traveled with them everywhere, learned from them, lived their lives according to their teacher's instruction. It is *this* relationship a woman is being warned of. Women are not to take disciples, because such a leader would dominate and teach -- strongly influence their follower's lives. For a woman to take on disciples, she would upset G-d's order and have dominance over men. We can be sure it is this type of leadership teaching role being prohibited here, since we have examples of women performing other types of teaching elsewhere in Scripture. Let's look:

And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." Acts 18:26

Notice that she does not dominate here - she is acting as a helpmeet; she is helping to teach a man alongside her husband. She is not taking on disciples or doing anything unbecoming of a woman. Yet she is helping to teach.

"Let the word of Messiah dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Colossians 3:16

Women are included here, to teach and admonish one another in the assembly through praises. Women are not expected to be totally silent in the assembly.

"But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head..." 1 Corinthians 11:5

Obviously women teach when they reveal prophesies G-d has sent them. If women were forbidden to teach in an assembly or to any man, then it would be silly for G-d to reveal anything to them -- because they wouldn't be able to share it!

"And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." 2 Timothy 2:2

Certainly among the witnesses were many women. And note these witnesses (and those who have heard these witnesses) are to teach faithful 'men' the gospel. ('Men' here is anthropos meaning a generic 'human' or 'mankind,' not like arsen/arren meaning only 'male').

And, of course, women are called to teach other women:

"The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." Titus 2:3-5

So we're seeing that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is more about propriety and order -- women not usurping a man's authority by taking under herself disciples or establishing herself above men in an assembly. A woman is to instead keep her natural place and teach in a way appropriate to women.

But Doesn't 1 Corinthians Also Prohibit Women From Speaking?

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." 1 Corinthians 14:34

As with all of Sha'ul's letters, we have the answer but not the original question he is answering. Our job then becomes one of figuring out what the question may have been. The only thing we can be absolutely sure of is that at least one Corinthian in the assembly wrote Sha'ul about some problem of disturbance in the assembly from a portion of the women. There are three possibilities of what had happened we could guess from Sha'ul's reply.
Scenario 1) Sha'ul is acknowledging these women have caused a disturbance by interupting the assembly with questions, and Sha'ul is ruling that these women should stop disturbing the assembly and keep quiet until they get home.
Scenario 2) Sha'ul is debunking the men's complaint by first quoting the solution they proposed in their letter to him (their solution being that "women keep quiet") and then Sha'ul challenges their solution with "what? did the Word of G-d come to you only"(vs36); meaning, 'do you men actually believe that G-d only gives His Word for men to share and not women?' In which case the answer is 'no' and women may continue the behaviour the men complained about.
Scenario 3) The whole issue is strictly a tongues issue, and that perhaps some women were speaking out of turn and disturbing the entire meeting. With this view, Sha'ul tells them 'not to forbid speaking in tongues' (vs39) but only try harder to maintain order.(vs40)

Keep in mind that this Corinthian passage is dealing with a specific problem in the Corinthian church. It was never intended to be taken out of context and thrown at any woman who dares open her mouth! Let me explain a few reasons why we know this. A) the topic of the passage is dealing with keeping order in the assembly; B) it is directed specifically at wives, but not all women fit the description of those being corrected; for example, it wouldn't apply to single women who have no husbands to ask at home, nor could it apply to women married to non-believing husbands who would not be able to answer their questions, nor also could it apply to all women with believing husbands, since many may have husbands unable to answer their questions; and the final reason this would not apply to 'all women' is C) there is no assumption that this problem existed among all women, it can only be directed to those who caused the disturbance being discussed. (Point being, you cannot establish doctrine for *all* women when the case is addressing only a certain group engaging in a specific activity).

It is hurtful when Scripture is wielded as a sword against women in unfair ways. From the beginning, G-d had a special plan for men *and* women. Women should embrace the role G-d has given them, remember the wonderful female role-models in Scripture, and diligently seek to become Eyshet Chayil.

Eyshet Chayil - Woman of Valor

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31:10-31

Readers ask.....

Q "Are all women called to be wives and mothers? What about the extra women left over--how are they to live? And what about women learning in quietness? When I have a question, I am never content until I follow it through to the end. Must I leave my questions unanswered, not because a good student hears the teacher out, but because I am a woman?"

A The answer about "learning in quietness" is answered in the above article. Scripture doesn't state it's a sin for a woman to not marry, though marriage is a state advised for men and women for completeness (Genesis). There are examples of women without husbands (or having no husband mentioned) in Scripture (Prov. 31:15, Acts 9:36, Rom. 16:1) We know that all parts of the body of Yeshua are valued -- remember in I Cor. 12:20,21 states: "But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." Single women have much to offer the ministry -- without the home obligations other women may have, they can fill roles others may not have time for. Women are not exempt from the command to seek G-d, learn, and obey, whether they are single or married.

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