A Biblical Case for Strong Women
Written by Rebekah Hargraves | February 22, 2019
It’s easy in this day and age to become confused over what it means to be a godly woman living out a biblical, God-honoring life. There are so many voices coming at us, each with their own viewpoint on what femininity is and what “Biblical womanhood” looks like. Certain Christian circles will try to tell you that to be feminine means you must speak in a quiet and sweet voice at all times, that to be weak-willed and subservient are somehow virtues for women to possess. On the flip side, you have the culture, which is regularly telling us that to be a powerful woman, you must be raging in your feminism and ready to have all the men out there hear you roar.
I propose that neither extreme is a picture of Biblical womanhood as God designed it. On the one hand, God has never called anyone to be weak, nor ever considered it a virtue for someone to view themselves (or be treated!) as a subordinate. On the other hand, God never intended for there to be a war between the sexes (we were always intended to be comrades and partners with our brothers in the mission of the Kingdom!) or for man or woman either one to be demanding of their own way (Paul has a lot to say about that in 1 Corinthians 13!).
As always, God has a better way, a more well-rounded, balanced view of what it means to be a godly woman. And one of the characteristics of a woman living out her life as God designed her to is strength!
Finding God’s Purpose and Design for Strong Women in the Pages of Scripture
The creation of woman in the garden
God first tells us of His plan to create women in Genesis 1:26-28 when He says, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.’”
Women and men were both called to rule and take dominion of the earth, to subdue it, and be fruitful in it. This is a role requiring great strength and fortitude! We see this again in Genesis 2:18 when God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.”
Sadly, the word “helper” in this verse has been taken by some to mean that woman is inferior, a mere assistant, and weaker than the man. But this is not at all the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “helper”. That Hebrew word is “ezer” and is used twice to refer to women, a handful of times to refer to the mighty men of valor who were warriors fighting in Israel’s army, and then used 16 times to refer to God as being the strength, defense, help, and protector of His people.
To be an “ezer” (which is what all of us as women are!) is to be someone who is strong and tasked with the mission of helping, rescuing, strengthening, protecting, and coming to the aid of another.
2. Real-life examples
We are given several amazing examples throughout Scripture of women living out their ezer calling. These include:
The Hebrew midwives
In Exodus 1 when the king of Egypt commanded the Hebrew midwives to murder any baby boys they delivered, the women showed a tremendous amount of strength and fortitude and refused to harm the babies. Because of their courage, Moses, the one whom God would raise up to deliver the Israelites out of slavery, survived and was able to fulfill his God-given mission.
Deborah and Jael
Judges 4-5 is an amazing account of two strong women being used by God to rescue His people, Israel, from the hands of terrible oppressors. Deborah was the prophet and judge of Israel at the time and, along with Barak, led Israel into battle. Jael, meanwhile, was the woman who killed the dreaded Sisera once and for all. Both were clearly very strong and brave women!
Ruth was a Moabitess who was widowed and chose to travel to the land of Bethlehem with her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi. Choosing to forsake her homeland and her false gods in exchange for moving to a new place, worshiping the true God, and working hard to provide for herself and Naomi, Ruth was a very strong woman!
Queen Esther literally risked her life when she chose to go before the King on behalf of her people, the Jews, and beg him to not have them killed. In that day, you couldn’t go before the King without being summoned first, and yet that is precisely what Esther did for the sake of her people. That’s selfless strength and courage right there!
The Proverbs 31 woman
Not only does this portrayal of various ways in which godly women can glorify God with their lives include a verse such as “She draws on her strength and reveals that her arms are strong.” (verse 17)”, but the Proverbs 31 woman also clearly possesses a great strength of character in multiple areas of her life.
Additionally, the Hebrew word translated “noble character” in verse 10 is the Hebrew word “chayil” and is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to refer, again, to the mighty men of valor. This is reminiscent of the word “ezer”, and is elsewhere translated as “army“, man of valor”, “forces“, “valiant”, “strength, “power”, “might“, and “strong“. This, friends, is how God describes us as women!
Turning next to the New Testament, we read of young teenage Mary who is ends up becoming pregnant with the Son of God Himself and from that moment forward living a life marked by one hardship after another. And yet, out of her love for God, she lived a life of great strength.
This gal right here, whom we read the most about in Acts 18, is one of my New Testament heroines! She, along with her husband, Aquila, strongly and boldly proclaimed the full truth of the gospel to a traveling minister and evangelist who had been teaching a few false doctrines. That required great courage!
We could go on, but suffice it to say that God never designed women to be weaklings, doormats, or subordinate. Granted, we should balance our strength with love, mercy, grace, gentleness, and compassion, but we are free nevertheless to live in the strength God has given us as His daughters!
Live your life in the freedom this reality brings you, friend, and be a shining light to the world!