What is a “strong woman”?
If you were to ask my 8-year-old self, a good example would have been “Sheena – Queen of the Jungle.” Sheena was television’s female counterpart to Tarzan. She was beautiful and brave, conversed with animals, and was very proficient at tree-swinging in her mission to protect the innocent. But that was then and now, many years later, I have changed my perceptions. Over the years I have been fortunate to know, and in some cases form lasting friendships with, many whom I consider to be strong women. So, what exactly are the properties or characteristics that determine whether a woman is “strong”?
Throughout the Scriptures there are many examples of women displaying various aspects of strength. The women differ in age, country, and economic circumstance. And while each displays a unique type of strength, all of the women had at least one thing in common – each fearlessly took action when confronted with hard situations.
Rahab: Hebrews 11:31, “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.”
Living the life of a prostitute in Jericho, Rahab was drawn to the Elohim of the Hebrews who surrounded the city. She sheltered and protected the lives of the Hebrew spies who had been sent to assess the city’s defenses, all at the risk of her life and that of her family. Because of this, Rahab and her family were rescued when the walls of Jericho fell. She later married one of the original spies and became the great-great-grandmother of King David.
Ruth: Ruth 1:16, “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after thee; For whither thou goest, I will go; And wherever thou lodgest, I will lodge; Thy people shall be my people, And thy Elohim, my Elohim.”
Ruth was the daughter-in-law of Naomi, who, when their respective husbands died, journeyed with Naomi to her native Bethlehem. Instead of going back to the safety of her own Moabite family, Ruth endured many dangers and hardships to protect and provide for Naomi. Ruth later won the love of and married Boaz, a Hebrew, who admired her kindness and diligence. Ruth became one of five women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Yahshua.
Deborah: Judges 5:7, “The [inhabitants of] the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel,
Until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel.”
The fourth judge and a prophetess of Israel, Deborah provided civil and spiritual leadership when it was most needed. She inspired the Israelites to a mighty victory over their Canaanite oppressors. Barak, Israel’s military commander, refused to go into battle unless Deborah went with him. Through her courage and leadership, Deborah was a light to her people and turned many back to faith in and service to their Elohim.
Esther: Esther 4:14, “…and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther was a Jewish queen of a Persian king. King Ahasuerus was convinced by Haman, his advisor, to kill all of the Jews in the country. Esther, after fasting and praying, and at great danger to herself, approached the king to ask for mercy on her people. The result is that the king not only spared the Jews in his empire, but also decided to kill all of the enemies of the Jews, Haman included. Esther’s courage saved her people.
Abigail: 1 Samuel 25:35, “So David received of her hand [that] which she had brought him, and said unto her, ‘Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person’.”
Abigail was the wife of Nabal, a churlish, drunken, and selfish fool who refused to help King David and his army with needed provisions. David was readying to kill Nabal and all of his household when Abigail saved them by hastily gathering all that was needed and taking them to David with an apology for her husband’s rebuff. Through Abigail’s quick thinking and courage, Nabal’s household was saved. Nabal died soon after and Abigail became a wife to David.
Phoebe: Romans 16: 1, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.”
A wealthy woman, Phoebe used her wealth to serve others. She was referred to as a “sister” in the faith by Paul. She was also a deacon of the church in Cenchreae, teaching and helping the sick and administering to the poor. As a spiritual sister, she was entrusted with the task to carry Paul’s Epistle to the Romans to the city of Rome, quite a distance from Corinth in Greece. While there, she also represented Paul and his gospel message to the Roman assembly. Due to her first-hand knowledge of Paul’s message, after serving alongside him as a co-worker, Phoebe was able to explain and answer their questions. Phoebe was not only a generous person, but a skilled leader in proclaiming the gospel.
If we look around us today, we see many women struggling with the contentions of the world. In our assembly alone, there are women who have lost husbands or are caring for husbands who will never get well. There are women who have suffered the unimaginable sorrow of having lost unborn, young, or adult children. Then, there are the women who are struggling with their own handicaps or health problems, yet manage to make it to Sabbath services. Many women lack a provider, yet are raising and teaching their children with much love in lieu of money. Widows and other single women living alone, uncomplainingly manage to make ends meet while faithfully following Yahweh’s commands, including tithing each month. Despite hardships, these women have drawn their strength to endure and go forward from their obedience to and faith in Yahweh and Yahshua, His Son. It’s not always the outspoken and opinionated voices that pinpoint tenaciousness, but often the unnoticed, humble, and faithful women who demonstrate the most endurance. These are the truly strong women.
By Debbie Reed
Be sure to check out the other wonderful articles in the Come to the Garden blog!