Seeing the Value of Women in God's Word
When you aren't sure what to do in life, do you ever open the Bible searching for a specific story or moral lesson you can apply? Many of us read the Bible this way, especially when we face challenging or unknown circumstances. But the Bible is not a collection of disconnected vignettes meant to impart a moral lesson. Instead, the Bible is a unified story of redemption that unfolds through many movements.
We understand the message of the Bible when we see how the story unfolds and how each part relates to the big picture. One way to do this is to trace themes through the Bible, seeing how they develop and find their fulfillment in Christ.
In seventeen years of pastoral ministry, I’ve traced many themes through the storyline of the Bible: Kingdom, Land, Head-Crushing, Death, Natural Disasters. These themes have taught me how to think about my career, about mourning and hope, about caring for the earth and my neighbor.
But there is one theme I’d never traced through Scripture: women. I’m ashamed to admit that. It is something that I should have done. Moreover, I think it is something that the Bible wants us to do. Writing a book on the value of women presented an opportunity to do just that—something for which I’m forever grateful.
Join me in a quick flyover of the Bible, tracing the theme of “women” through Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.
Women in Creation
Women first appear in Genesis 1, where “God created man in his own image … male and female he created them.” Together, men and women are given the responsibility to be rulers on earth, exercising dominion over all things.
Genesis 2 zooms in on the creation of the first man and woman. It was not good for man to be alone—“not good” meaning not merely lacking, but positively bad. He needed a helper, which God supplied in the woman. Man is unable to rule the earth without woman; she is a necessary and God-ordained partner.
Women in the Fall
In Genesis 3, sin enters the world through Adam's disobedience. As the Lord pronounces the consequences of this rebellion, He outlines how the created order will be frustrated. The man will still (rightly) desire to tend the ground and eat from it, but the ground will not cooperate. It will produce thorns and thistles and require sweat to work. Correspondingly, the woman will still desire her husband and want to have children. However, childbearing will be painful, and his "rule" over her will be harsh. Their God-ordained partnership will remain central to God's plan for dominion on the earth, only now it will be frustrating and plagued with corruption.
Women in Redemption
Amid these consequences, the Lord makes a promise of redemption. He tells the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
The woman will have an “offspring,” a son who will crush the serpent’s head while receiving a lethal strike to the heel. Because of her role in bringing forth the Savior, the serpent will have a special hatred for the woman.
This promise gives us clues on how to read the rest of the Bible. First, we should read looking for a man—in particular, a Son through whom Satan's tyranny will be ended. (Even in that sentence are several themes you should trace through the Bible: Sonship, Satan, salvation.)
Second, it tells us the entry point of that man—namely, the woman. God didn't have to say He would put enmity between the serpent and the woman, between his offspring and hers. He could have said, "A man will arrive who will destroy you." But speaking as He did, highlighting the role of the woman, we see that she remains a helper, an indispensable part of God's plan. Therefore, as we look for the Savior to arrive, we should watch the woman. We should pay attention to the women who show up in Scripture, looking for the ways the Promised One comes through her.
In Both the Old and the New
As the Old Testament unfolds, we read it looking for the Promised Son. A Hebrew reader would be paying attention to the line (or ancestry) of David. It was to David that God promised a Son who would reign forever (2 Samuel 7:12–16).
There are multiple times that the line of the Son is threatened, only to be rescued by a woman. The line is delivered from both barrenness and burning through the righteousness of Tamar (Genesis 38). The line is rescued by Ruth's faith and covenant loyalty, which leads to Naomi's wise plan to find a husband. David is kept from bloodguilt by obeying the voice of wise Abigail (1 Samuel 25:32–35). The line (and the nation) is preserved by Esther's courageous faith. This is not to mention Israel’s preservation through the actions of women like Moses’ mother, sister and wife Zipporah, Rahab, Deborah and Jael, and Hannah, to name a few. Through the “help” of these women, the promised seed is brought into the world.
This pattern continues in the New Testament. Mary and Elizabeth are the first to believe the promise of the Messiah and his forerunner (Luke 1). Anna helps announce the Messiah’s arrival (Luke 2:36–38). From their own means, women supported the itinerant ministry of Jesus and His disciples (Luke 8:3); they “took care of him” (Mark 15:41 CSB). Lydia, a single woman, is the first baptized convert in Europe, whose home likely hosted a church (Acts 17). Women, such as Euodia and Syntyche, “labored side by side” with Paul in the gospel (Philippians 4:2–3). Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, seems to have financially supported Paul and likely carried his letter to Rome (Romans 16:1–2). Paul regularly greets and commends women for their partnership in ministry.
Women in the Restoration
In the New Heavens and New Earth, God’s corporate people are depicted as a woman—a bride presented to her bridegroom (Revelation 21). Even as Christ rules the earth, his wife (his helper) is at his side, reigning with him (Revelation 22:5). And so, the picture presented in Genesis 1—that of a man and woman exercising dominion over the earth—is brought to fulfillment in Christ and the church.
Why Does This Matter?
What should we take from this brief survey of women in the storyline of the Bible?
First, women are necessary to the story, not an appendix. As we read the story of redemption, we should not read as merely the story of male heroes and their actions. We should see, include, and celebrate the women—just as God did by inspiring their inclusion in the story!
Second, we should remember women are necessary today. It is still not good for the man to be alone. In the home, church, and world, women are essential to exercising dominion over the earth and to fulfilling the Great Commission. They should not be included as a mere token. They should be included because God designed, called, and gifted them as a necessary part of His plan.
Finally, we should worship God. In a world where women are often sidelined and overlooked as weak, inferior, or unnecessary, let us rejoice to see how God designed women in His image! Let us celebrate how the Lord demonstrates strength through weakness. Let us wonder at how God fulfills His plans through the most unexpected of persons.
*To read more about the important role of women in Scripture, we encourage you to read Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher, recently published by Bethany House.
Meet the Author:
Eric Schumacher is the co-author of Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women with Elyse Fitzpatrick. He is a husband, father, pastor, proud Iowa-native, and graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Eric has collaborated in writing worship songs, such as “Not in Me" and “Worthy,” for over fifteen years at Hymnicity. Connect with Eric on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at emschumacher.com.