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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Female Headship: Biblical Examples

Although Ephesians 5:22 is often quoted as proof that the husband is to be the head of the house, there are some examples of female spiritual leadership in families in the Bible. One such is the wife of Manoah, who was Samson's mother. Another is Hannah, who seems to have taken the lead, rather than her husband doing so, in praying and acting in the matter of having a child, in 1 Samuel 1. Abigail, in 1 Samuel 25, acted without her first husband's knowledge, and was apparently blessed and scripturally commended for doing so. (She later married David.) In Exodus 4, Zipporah, Moses' wife, took action in relation to the circumcision of their sons,when Moses hadn't, and, in doing so, apparently kept God from killing Moses. In Exodus 2, it was the mother of Moses who was responsible for his escape from the command of Pharaoh that all male Hebrew babies should be killed. The Virtuous Woman/Excellent Wife, idealized in Proverbs 31, is described as making business decisions (perhaps not spiritual ones) on her own, and, also, as having a husband at the time.

I am not including all of the women of faith from the Bible in this brief discussion. Rahab and Naomi may not have taken spiritual leadership while they had a husband, but they took it when they were single. Deborah acted in leadership of Israel. We don't know whether she also acted as spiritual leader in her home. A church was begun in Lydia's home. She may not have had a husband. Dorcas may not have, either. There are other examples, in both the Old and New Testaments, of godly female leaders. Some of them may have been the spiritual leader of their husband. We don't know. 2 Timothy 1:5 says that Timothy's mother and grandmother were the spiritual leaders in Timothy's family. His father is mentioned in Acts 16:3. It is possible that that father died early in Timothy's life. Priscilla and Aquila seem to have been equals in ministry. I submit that most likely at least some of the women in this paragraph were spiritual leaders in their home, and had a husband at the time.

My conclusion is that wives and mothers, at least some of the time, took spiritual leadership in Biblical homes, and, therefore, God may expect many wives and mothers to do this now, in the twenty-first century.

Thanks for reading. This is an excerpt from a previous post.

Added June 21, 2012: See this post. Mary, Christ's mother, seems to have exercised spiritual leadership.

4 comments:

superrustyfly said...

Great summary of the Women who may have been heads of certain aspects of society in the Bible. I do challenge the Proverbs 31 bit by saying that it may not be about women in general, but about wisdom and following the Torah, which the rest of Proverbs seems to be making its general point. Just a thought.

FancyHorse said...

Good post, Martin!

God expects both men and women to follow Him and to do His will. When men are negligent, it is women's responsibility to "carry the ball".

The first person to deliver the Gospel message, the resurrection of Christ, was a woman, Mary Magdalene.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, superrustyfly.

Maybe Proverbs 31 is about wisdom, but, on the face of it, it seems to be describing an idealized woman, who was to be wise, true, but was also to be a woman, and the translators of most versions of the Bible give it that sort of heading, not a heading about wisdom. (And then there are all the Mother's Day and funeral sermons, based on this passage, honoring women!)

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, FancyHorse.

It may also be true that the Samaritan woman at the well was the first evangelist.