What did women do in the Bible? If we want to be biblical, this question needs to be asked and answered. Scot appeals first to the creation story and states that God created male and female as mutuals. The fall distorted mutuality and oneness became otherness and rivalry for power (Gen. 3.16). The good news is that the fall eventually gives way to new creation, but the church has far too often perpetuated the fall as a permanent condition. If there is any place in the world where this mutuality should be restored, it should be in the church. Ironically, it can be the least redemptive place of the week.
Miriam, Deborah and Huldah
Miriam was one third of Israel’s triumvirate of leadership according to McKnight. He talks about her role as a prophetess who led the Israelites into worship with inspired words (Ex. 15.21). She is referred to by the prophet Micah as one of the leaders who brought the people out of Egypt (Micah 6.4). Scot sees in Miriam’s defiance strength, power and authority because she could call Moses into question.
I think Scot way over plays his hand here. Do I think Miriam is an important figure in OT history? Sure. Is she a part of a triumvirate (which implies co-leaders)? Hardly. God definitely places Moses ahead of Aaron and Miriam in this narrative and her selfishness and envy should not be seen as strength and authority.
Deborah was called by God to lead his people in the period of the Judges. The judges were both political and spiritual leaders rolled into one person. If we ask what did women do, when we look at Deborah we see a woman speak for God as a prophet, render decisions in a law court as a judge, exercise leadership over the entire spiritual-social Israel, and be a military commander who brought Israel to victory. Deborah is definitely the star of song of Deborah and Barak. I think she is an important figure in the history of Israel. I think she makes a strong case for what Scot is trying to accomplish here, in a patriarchal society, a woman led the people into deliverance. However, opponents will point out (complementarians) that this period of the Judges is hardly any time in Israel’s story to follow as example. The judges throughout this period were flawed (see Samson and Jephthah). Plus, when the writer of the letter to the Hebrews mentions the great judges who exemplified faith, he does not mention Deborah, but mentions Barak.
Scot calls Huldah a “Prophet above the Prophets.” In the days of Josiah, the Torah is discovered in the temple. When discerning who they should consult to see what they should do, they turn to Huldah, the female prophet. He could have consulted Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, or Habakkuk, but he chose the woman. She was chosen not because there were not men available; she is chosen because she is truly exceptional among the prophets. Once again, I think Scot is right, Huldah is a prime example of a woman who is important in the history of Israel. He is making his point, but I think he oversteps his bounds by calling her the Prophet above the Prophets. As far as we know, she has no school (disciples) and leaves no writings behind. She is important in this story and in The Story, but Scot overstates things.
From this brief sketch, we can repeat the question: What did women do? They spoke for God; they led the nation in every department; they sanctioned Scripture and they guided nations back to the path of righteousness.
I think Scot is right in pointing these things out, I just think he overstated things and made them appear greater than they actually were.
But, that was then, and this is now. What about in the New Testament? Did women’s roles decrease or increase? That is the next chapter.