Characters of the Holy Bible
Pope Shenouda III | 27 February 2011
We mention in this context our first parents and grandparents Adam and Eve, the first human beings, the first sinners, the first to undergo punishment, and the first married couple forming the first family.
The type of the relationship between our mother Eve and our father Adam:
She is of the same nature, or rather "bone of his bones" and "flesh of his flesh" (Gen 2: 23) She is a helper comparable to him (Gen 2: 18) in nature, in mind, and in spirit. She is in God's image and likeness, responsible for her actions. He is the head, and she a helper, for God said, "He shall rule over you" (Gen 3: 16), and the Scripture says, "The head of woman is man" (1 Cor 11: 3; Eph 5: 22), and commands women to submit to their husbands in everything (Eph 5: 24).
Yet, some women had their influence on men.
• Deborah the Prophetess and Judge: Barak the commander of the army was under her influence and leadership. When she told him that God commands him to fight Sisera, he refused to go without her. So she said, "I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." (Judg 4: 4- 9)
• Abigail had her influence on David the Prophet. She could prevent him from avenging himself by killing Nabal of Carmel. So he said to her, "Blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand." (1 Sam 25: 33)
• Jezebel, with her cunning had a bad effect on her husband King Ahab. When she found him sad for not being able to take the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, she said to him, "I will give you the vineyard." (1 Kgs 21: 7) She plotted against Naboth and brought two false witnesses to accuse him of blasphemy, and he was stoned to death. Then she said to Ahab, "Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth." (1 Kgs 21: 15)
Jezebel and Abigail were very intelligent, but Abigail used her intelligence for good and saved David, while Jezebel used it for evil and destroyed Ahab. She and Ahab suffered as a result, and the dogs licked their blood according to God's judgment (1 Kgs 21: 19).
• Delilah likewise had her influence on Samson the Valiant through betrayal. She pressed on him by her love until he revealed to her his secret and vow, "She lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him ... the Philistines took him and put out his eyes … he became a grinder in the prison." (Judg 16: 19- 21) A dishonest woman conquered the unconquered valiant!
• Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat was even more powerful than Jezebel. When he began to cleanse the land from the traces of Ahab, and went to Jezreel, Jezebel put paint on her eyes and adorned her head, and looked through a window to attract him. But Jehu commanded two of his men to kill her according to the word of the Lord to avenge the blood of His servants the prophets whom Jezebel had killed (2 Kgs 9: 7, 30- 36).
• Solomon the Wise is one of those who fell because of women. Although wiser than all men (1 Kgs 4: 29- 31), and the Lord appeared twice to him (1 Kgs 9: 2), when he was old, his wives turned his heart after other gods. "His heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David." (1 Kgs 11: 5) Therefore, he deserved God's punishment, and God tore out the kingdom from him.
• Two contradictory events reveal men's dealings with women.
King David, the Lord's anointed, could not resist the beauty of Bethsheba. He took the first step to sin; he called her and committed adultery with her, and this led him to other sins (2 Sam 11). He deserved the Lord's reproach and punishment on the mouth of Nathan the Prophet.
On the contrary was Joseph the Righteous. Sin found its way to him with pressure and persistence, but he prevailed over it. He said honestly, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen 39: 9)
• Two other contradicting events appear in the response of sons to their mothers' advice.
Rebekah encouraged her son Jacob to deceive his father Isaac to receive his blessing. Seeing him afraid lest he receive a curse not a blessing, his mother encouraged him, saying, "Let your curse be on me, my son." (Gen 27: 12, 13) He obeyed, deceived his father and received the blessing, but he faced deceit all his life. His uncle Laban deceived him and gave him Leah instead of Rachel (Gen 29: 25), and changed his wages ten times (Gen 31: 41), and his children deceived him, making him think that a wild beast had devoured his son Joseph (Gen 37: 33).
King Solomon did the opposite when his mother asked him to give Abishag the Shunammite to Adonijah his brother as wife (1 Kgs 2: 21). Abishag was like a wife to their father David although he did not know her (1 Kgs 1: 4).
When his mother came to him, Solomon honored her, rose up to meet her and bowed to her, and made her sit on a throne at his right hand. Yet, when she made that wrong request, he objected strongly and refused, although he had promised her to fulfill her request. He put Adonijah to death (1 Kgs 2: 19- 25).
On the contrary, Herod fulfilled his promise to Herodias, but by giving her the head of John the Baptist on a platter (Mk 6: 22- 28), he committed a more awful crime than if he had broken his promise.
• Example of wives rebuked by their husbands for speaking improperly:
Job's wife, seeing the severe temptation Job undergoes, said to him, "Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!" Job rebuked her, saying, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (Job 2: 9, 10)
• Similarly King David acted towards his wife Michal.
When she saw him leaping before the Lord's Ark she despised him in her heart, and said mocking, "How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!" (2 Sam 6: 16, 20) David rebuked her, saying, "It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord … Therefore I will play before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor." Due to David's anger, Michal had no children to the day of her death (2 Sam 6: 21- 23).
• On the other hand, there were women who rescued men and peoples.
Among those was Queen Esther, who saved not only Mordchai, but also her people, when she led them to a public fast in the days of King Ahasuerus (Esth 8). Another example is Deborah the judge and prophetess who led Barak in the war against Kedesh. There is also Rahab who did favor to the two spies, and was a cause for the beginning of victory over Jericho (Jos 2).
• Some women in the apostolic era turned their houses into churches.
Foremost was Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark (Acts 12: 12), and Lydia the seller of purple whose house became a church (Acts 16). St. Paul also mentions Priscilla and Aquila and the church in their house (Rom 16: 5).
• Many women are considered as symbols.
The virgin in the Song who said, "I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem" (Song 1: 5) was a symbol of the church of the Gentiles that was dark, without fathers, prophets, covenants with God, or life with Him. Yet she was beautiful, because she was grafted in the root and fatness of the olive tree (Rom 11: 17). Another symbol of the church of the Gentiles was the Ethiopian woman whom Moses the Prophet had married, and because of whom Miriam and Aaron spoke against him.
Another symbol is the Queen of Sheba who came from the ends of the earth to see the wisdom of Solomon (1 Kgs 10: 4), and the Lord blessed her (Mt 12: 42).
Among the symbols also is the barren in Isaiah's prophecy after the talk about the passions of Christ, "Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! … Enlarge the place of your tent … expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited." (Isa 54: 1- 3)
Other examples are Mary, a symbol of life of meditation, and Martha, a symbol of the life of ministry (Lk 10: 38- 42).
• Many other women were barren and the Lord gave them good children.
They perhaps also were a symbol of the church of the Gentiles that was barren, and begat no children at that time, but God gave her such a big number of saints.
We also remember Sarah the wife of our father Abraham, who was barren, but God gave her Isaac the patriarch; Hannah the wife of Elkanah, who was barren and God gave her Samuel who anointed David as king; and Manoah's wife who God gave Samson; and Elizabeth who God gave John the Baptist.
• Some women ministered to the Lord.
Mary Magdalene out of whom the Lord had cast seven demons is an example. Other examples include Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward; Susanna and many others who provided for Him from their substance (Lk 8); Mary the mother of Mark who gave her house as a church; Mary mother of the sons of Zebedee whose sons became disciples of the Lord; Mary the wife of Clopas who stayed beside the holy Virgin at the cross; and the holy women who went early to the tomb.
• Above all is the holy Virgin Mary. Truly many women received honors, and many were filled with the Holy Spirit, like Elizabeth upon hearing the greeting of Mary (Lk 1: 41), and many others who history remembers.