On International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate little known women of the Bible. For centuries, people have abused the Bible in order to oppress and quash the rights of women. They’ve done their best to diminish and even obscure the powerful roles women played in our scriptures. Who knows how many stories were simply excluded from the canon by the men who curated it? Here are a few stories of women you may not have heard of whose stories made it through.
Junia (Romans 16:7)
While there are still some Bible translations out there who idenitfy Junia as a man, the majority of Biblicla scholars (and the early church fathers) agree that Junia was a woman. You can read more about that here, if you like devling into Biblical translation scholarship.
Though only mentioned in one verse, we learn quite a bit about Junia here.
Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners. They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
She was not only an apostle, but a prominent one. (
She had been to jail for her beliefs.
Her conversion to Christianity pre-dated Paul’s.
Noa (Numbers 27:1-7)
No. That’s not a typo. I don’t mean Noah, but Noa. Noa was one of the five daughters of Zelopehad.
Zelopehad had no sons, so his daughters (Noa, Tirzah, Mahlah, Hogla and Milcah) went to Moses and asked for the legal right to inherit their father’s property. Moses agreed! They became the first women in the ancient world to have legal rights to property ownership, apart from their fathers or husbands.
Shiphrah and Puah (Exodus 1:15-21)
Shiprah and Puah were the brave midwives who defied the Pharoah’s orders to kill any baby boys born to Israelite women. Not only were they brave. They were clever. When Pharoah called them on not having a high enough body count, the midwives today him that the Hebrew women were so “vigorous” that they had the babies before midwives could arrive. There’s no telling how many babies they saved, but the most prominent among them was a baby drawn out of the water by Pharoah’s daugther and named Moses.
Vashti (Esther 1)
I imagine most people have heard of Vashti, but her story is often obscured by the story of the women whose name bears the book she appears in. The story of Esther begins with Vashti refusing to be used as an sex object by her husband and his drunken friends. Vashti was the first pioneer of the #metoo movement. The king’s advisors told him he had to put her in her place or else other women in the kingdom would start to think that THEY didn’t have to do whatever their husbands said either.
#teamvashti all the way.
There are two women named Tamar in the Old Testament and both are victims of morally corrupt sons with fathers who refused to hold them accountable. Their stories are ones of violence and injustice against women and (not suprisingly) Sunday school teachers and preachers alike tend to avoid them. Read their stories. Remember their name.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.