Sarai (meaning "my princess") was the wife of Abraham and a woman of great beauty. She endured a long and difficult journey with her husband while remaining barren for many years. God changed her name to Sarah (meaning "princess" or "cheiftainness") as a promise that she would become a mother of nations. God told Abraham that Sarah would have a child when she was nearly 90 years old. This made Sarah laugh, but she soon discovered she was pregnant with Isaac, and became the matriarch of the nation of Israel. She was praised as a woman of extraordinary faith in Hebrews 11. Sarah lived to age 127 and is one of two women whose age is given in the Bible.(Genesis 11, 12, 16, 17)
When faced with the tragic loss of her husband to famine, Ruth of Moab chose to leave her family and all that was familiar to go to the land of her mother in law Naomi, who had also lost her husband and sons to the famine. Ruth courageously stepped out of the familiar and into the unknown to adopt Naomi's God and people. Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, Ruth broke many cultural codes and expectations to help provide for and redeem the honor of Naomi. Ruth was one of the women in the bloodline of Jesus.(Book of Ruth)
She is known to many as a prostitute, a harlot, or an innkeeper in the ancient city of Jericho. Rahab was an unmarried woman who had grown up in a pagan Canaanite culture. She had grown up hearing the stories of all the miracles that the God of Israel had done to save his people. She knew these Israelites had a powerful God on their side. When Joshua sent spies to scope out the city, she welcomed them to her home, which was in the city wall. She provided a hiding place for the men under some flax on her roof. When the king's men came searching for the Israelite spies, she lied and said she didn't know where they went. She asked the spies to be kind to her and her family and spare their lives. They promised they would not harm her or her family as long as she hung a scarlet cord from her window and kept her family inside her home. She let the men down on a rope and advised them to hide in the hills. A few days later, upon the crumbling of the city of Jericho, the spies kept their word and went in to rescue Rahab and her family. They were brought to live among the Israelite people, where Rahab dwelled the remainder of her life. She is commended for her faith and righteousness in the books of Hebrews and James and is one of the women in the lineage of Jesus. (Joshua 2, 6)
Puah was the second head Hebrew midwife mentioned in Exodus.
During the Israelites’ captivity in Egypt, Pharaoh commanded the midwives to kill all firstborn male children of the Israelite mothers giving birth. The midwives feared God more than Pharaoh and refused to kill the babies. When Pharaoh summoned them and asked why they let the boys live, they lied and said “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” God was kind to the midwives because of their faithfulness to Him and gave them families of their own. (Exodus 1:15-21)
Priscilla, or Prisca--her proper name, is spoken of on six different occasions in the New Testament. Most likely of aristocratic Roman origin, she and her husband Aquila were dear friends and fellow tentmakers with Paul. Priscilla and Aquila travelled with Paul to Ephesus and established a church in their home there, where Paul resided with them for two years. An eloquent Jewish scholar named Apollo came to Ephesus and spoke in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they saw that he was lacking portions of the gospel and took him aside to explain more fully to him the gospel of Jesus. Priscilla and Aquila returned to Rome to continue in ministry. Preceding his death, Paul writes a letter saying farewell to his beloved friends, Priscilla at the top of the list. In five of the six times she is mentioned, Priscilla's name is given before her husband's. This is unusual because traditionally, the husband's name would be mentioned first. We don't know why; possibly because she had a more active role in ministry, a stronger personality, or a more noble social standing than her husband. Whatever the case, this couple is inseparable in working side by side in trade and in the church. Priscilla is thought by some scholars to be the author of the anonymously written book of Hebrews. (Acts 18, Romans 16, 1 Corinthians 16, 2 Timothy 4)
The Samaritan Woman at the Well. Her conversation with Jesus is the longest conversation recorded in Scripture. When Jesus stopped and talked with her in the middle of the day, He defied cultural boundaries. Not only did he talk to a Samaritan, hated by the Jews, but he spoke publicly with a woman. Her life was changed by that conversation with Jesus, and she went on to tell her whole community about what Jesus had done for her. Although she had no name in the Bible, she was celebrated as a saint of great renown and named Photini/Photina by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Her witness was said to have brought so many to the faith that she is described as "equal to the apostles". She suffered greatly for her faith and was eventually martyred.(John 4)
In the apostle Paul's instructions to the church in Rome, he introduces Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, in Corinth. He tells the church to welcome her and offer her whatever help she needs. He spoke very highly of her and her work as a benefactor. Phoebe is known to have delivered Paul's epistle to the church at Rome. Her name means "bright and radiant". (Romans 16)
Miriam was the older sister of Aaron and Moses and a leader of Israel as told in the books of Exodus and Numbers. She played a major role in the rescue of her baby brother Moses, saving his life from the decree of Pharaoh to kill firstborn boys. Moses was found and adopted by an Egyptian princess, and he grew up to lead the nation of Israel. Miriam was a prophet and is known for taking up a tambourine and leading the Israelite women in a victory song and dance celebrating God's rescue of her people from the Egyptian army. The prophet Micah later reminds the Jewish people about the freedom they received through the leadership of Miriam, Moses, and Aaron.(Exodus 2, 15, Numbers 12, Micah 6)
Mary was a disciple of Jesus from the town of Bethany. She and her brother Lazarus and sister Martha were very close friends of Jesus. In one of His most well known miracles, Jesus raised her brother Lazarus from the dead. There was a dinner given in Jesus' honor, and Mary entered, anointing Jesus’ feet with perfume and wiping them with her hair. The disciples were bothered by Mary's extravagant act of worship, but Jesus praised this beautiful act. He compared it to preparing his body for burial. He said that her act of love would be proclaimed throughout the world wherever the gospel is preached. Later, when Jesus visited their home, Mary sat at His feet, listening to his teachings as her sister busily worked and and prepared for their guest. Although Martha was frustrated with her sister’s lack of help, Jesus praised Mary for her posture of learning and devotion.(Mark 14, Luke 10, John 11)
Mary Magdalene was from an affluent fishing village of Magdala, which means "tower". A devout follower of Jesus, she and several other women traveled with him and his disciples, providing financial support for them. We aren't told her marital or family status in the Bible, but we know that Jesus had cast out seven demons from her. She was greatly devoted to Jesus and followed him all the way until his death on the cross. She was the first to the tomb to discover he was missing, the first person Jesus appeared to after his resurrection, and the first sent by him to tell the disciples that he was alive. It has commonly been assumed in the church that she was a prostitute, or that she was the sinful woman who anointed Jesus' feet, but there is no mention of these in scripture. In Eastern Orthodox and Catholic tradition, she has been given the title of Apostle to the Apostles. (Matthew 27-28, Luke 8-24, Mark 15-16, John 19-20)
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