Buried Talents: Old Testament Women (Kings, Huldah, and the Good Wife)

The Kings

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?

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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0 Responses to Buried Talents: Old Testament Women (Kings, Huldah, and the Good Wife)

  1. Alan says:

    I pretty much agree with the message of this post. It does occur to me that, although we know of one woman judge and a handful of women who were prophets, by far the majority were men. The sons of Israel who became the heads of the twelve tribes were, well, sons. We could speculate about why that is, or why on those few occasions God chose women for leading roles, but the scriptures just don't tell us why. It certainly seems to have been the exception rather than the rule.

    Moving forward to the gospels, the twelve apostles were all men (as was Jesus himself). We could speculate about why that was the case, but again the scriptures don't tell us why. So we should be very careful taking inferences about the woman's role in the church from these facts. God hasn't left us to read the tea leaves. He explicitly told us what he wants us to do.

  2. kris says:

    I've always thought the same of Prov. 31. She was definitely a working mom. My vineyard is a wedding and portrait photography business. And I'm currently homeschooling.

  3. Jay Guin says:

    Alan,

    I agree that the honest scholar has to address the fact that most prophets and judges were men and the fact that the 12 were all men. I'll get to the apostles in a few posts.

    The critical point is simply this. If Genesis 2 or 3 demands that women not have authority over men, then that hypothesis can be tested against God's own actions.

    Just so, if God is pointing us toward greater equality, we can see whether there is a trend toward greater equality as God unfolds and acts within history to bring his plan to fruition.

    No one event or fact is determinative, but God's working among his people has to be consistent with whatever theory anyone propounds.

  4. Alan says:

    What you have been saying makes sense. You're a very reasonable and fair-minded person, and I respect your view. I guess my reaction comes from the fact that, for the most part, you are refuting positions I don't hold. I understand that others do hold those positions, and that it is legitimate to address them.

    I'm expecting that we will come to different conclusions when you get to the new testament passages. I'm just trying to make it clear from the outset that I don't come to my conclusions based on things like the gender of God, nor of the patriarchs, nor of the apostles. Nor do my views come from any notion of female inferiority (As a delightfully proud father of two wonderful daughters, I view that as a repulsive position.)

  5. Jay Guin says:

    Alan,

    That sounds like an apology, and no apology is needed. It's quite alright to disagree with me. I'm used to it. I am, after all, married and the father of four sons. And a lawyer. I'm so used to disagreement that I kind of miss Josh Keele. I wonder where he went to?

    Some of my best and most respected friends agree with you. They are wrong, of course, but I love them anyway. ;) And they put up with me and my attitude.

  6. Alan says:

    That's the essence of unity — accepting one another and not passing judgment over disputable matters. This topic is demonstrably a disputable matter!

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