Many have suggested that the fact that Israel’s kings were all men indicates that women are to be subordinate to men forever. But this argument fails.
First, Israel has kings at a time when the curse of Genesis 3 was in full effect.
Second, God Himself opposed the establishment of kings, and thus the nature of kings (inheritance of the throne by the oldest male child) cannot be considered a part of God’s eternal design.
We see from the following passage that God replaced the system of judges with male kings only grudgingly, saying that asking for kings was equivalent to rejecting God:
(1 Sam. 8:4-8) So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.
And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.”
Clearly, the rule of Israel by judges was God’s preferred method. Moreover, God individually selected each judge — even Deborah — while after David, kings were selected either by birthright or by coup.
Old Testament Prophets
While the kings of Judah were all men, during the period of monarchy God’s prophets, who , like the judges, were called directly by God, included women.
(2 Kings 22:14-20) Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophetess Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the Second District.
She said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me,
‘This is what the LORD says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’
Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’” So they took her answer back to the king.
In response to this prophecy, Josiah, king of Judah, led his nation in its last reformation before being taken into Babylonian captivity. Even king Josiah — among the godliest of all the kings — heeded the words of Huldah the prophetess.
The Good Wife
God’s vision of the ultimate woman in Old Testament times is found in Proverbs 31:10-31, which describes the “good wife” in a frequently quoted passage.
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Interestingly, the proverb states that the husband “has no lack of gain” and is known at the city gates due to his wife’s industry. She is, therefore, not only a working wife, but also a wife active in community affairs. She develops a mercantile business on her own initiative and engages in very successful agricultural ventures (Willis, ibid, at 36). Moreover, “faithful instruction is on her tongue.” She is a teacher. For all these things she is praised by her husband, her children, and her community.
This ideal woman has much in common with the “you can have it all” woman of today — a good marriage, children, her own businesses, and a role in the community. While she is indeed a homemaker, she is not only a homemaker.
To be honest students, we must ask, why does God describe as the ideal woman a woman who is not only a homemaker, mother, and wife, but also a business woman and teacher?