Last week when I was studying the gift of prophecy as related to the role of women in the church, I started wondering about the women that God interacted with in the Bible. How many were there? What did He say to them, and what did they say to Him? When double-checking my list by looking up other bloggers’ articles about women God talked with or women in authority roles, I came across other questions some people were asking: “Why doesn’t God talk with women the way He does with men?” and even “Why does God hate women?”
I’m sure most of my readers will agree with me right away that the answer to the last question is that He doesn’t — God places a high value on women. I was surprised, though, just how much evidence we can summon to support that claim simply by answering the previous questions about how God interacts with women in the Bible.
For purposes of this list, I’m including women God spoke to directly, women whose prayers were answered, women God spoke to through an angelic messenger, and women Jesus interacted with. I’m sure I missed some, so if you think of any more please leave a comment.
God interacted with the first woman in a unique way. She was the crowning achievement of His creation. God didn’t make her at the same time as Adam, as He did with both sexes of animals, but created her only after Adam realized how incomplete he was without a wife (Gen. 2:18-23). She and Adam were both instructed by God (Gen. 3:3), and God spoke to each of them personally when He had to pass judgement on them for their sin.
And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” …
To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Gen. 3:13, 16)
Not a very nice conversation with God, but unfortunately one that Eve deserved, just as Adam deserved his more lengthy reprimand (Gen. 3:8-12, 17-19).
Another woman who the Lord spoke to directly was Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Their actual conversation is short, but there is much dialogue surrounding it since she is eavesdropping on the Lord’s conversation with her husband.
Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” So he said, “Here, in the tent.” And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.) Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh!” (Gen. 18:9-15)
it is worth noting that before having this conversation with Abraham, the Lord made sure Sarah was within hearing range. God had already made this promise to Abraham in Genesis 17:19, and now He reiterates it to Sarah as well.
Here we come to the first woman on our list who brought a prayer before God that He responded to.
Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” (Gen. 25:21-23)
It’s so short you can almost read over it without noticing what’s going on. But what this tells us is that when Rebekah had an important question, she took it straight to God. She didn’t ask her husband, who had prayed for these babies, to inquire for her — she had a personal relationship with her Lord, and He answered when she called.
I find God’s interactions with Hagar fascinating. She didn’t go looking for Him (as Rebekah would years later) but when He spoke to her she didn’t react in fear (as Sarah does). She may not have spoken with God directly — the Bible says “the angel of the Lord” was the one who spoke with her. However, “Angel of the Lord” is capitalized in some translations where it is assumed to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.
And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”
The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” And the Angel of the Lord said to her: “Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”(Gen 16:8-13)
Not only did Hagar speak with “the Angel of the Lord,” but she also gave God a name — El Roiy (H410 and H7210)– not used anywhere else in scripture. When I was reading Liz Curtis Higgs’ book Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible, one of the things she pointed out about Hagar was that she named God — it’s much the same thing the Psalmists do when saying things like, “You are the God who does wonders” (Ps. 77:14).
This wasn’t the only time God talked with Hagar, either. Years later, after Isaac was born, Hagar and Ishmael are sent away. She finds herself lost in the desert with her son dying of thirst.
And God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. (Gen. 21:17-19)
If we ever feel too insignificant for God to notice, Hagar’s story is a good place to turn. She was an Egyptian slave, yet God spoke to her more often than to the women who were married to the patriarchs. He is “the-God-Who-Sees” us, just like He saw Hagar.
When people start talking about strong women of the Bible, Deborah is usually the first on their list. She was one of the judges — “a mother in Israel” — who delivered God’s words to the people and who rode to battle alongside Israel’s general.
Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?”
And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!” 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.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. (Judges 4:4-9)
We can see why people like her so much. Two whole chapters are devoted to her, while some other judges get only a verse (like Shamgar in Judges 3:31). She had a gift of prophecy shown in Judges 4:6, 9, and 14. She wrote a song of praise recorded in Judges 5 that has much in common with songs of the more famous Moses and David.
We come next to another story in Judges. Though she is named only as “the woman” or “Manoah’s wife,” her interactions with God’s messenger are particularly interesting.
And the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. (Jud. 13:3)
The angel proceeds to give her instruction regarding her child and a prophecy that “he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (Jud. 13:5). She tells her husband about this, who prays “O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born” (Jud. 13:8).
And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the Angel of God came to the woman again as she was sitting in the field; but Manoah her husband was not with her. (Jud. 13:9)
Manoah comes on the scene in the next few verses, but I’m struck by the idea that either the Angel of the Lord had poor timing or there was a reason that He initiated contact with the woman rather than her husband. I don’t know why this was, but I have a couple theories. It could have something to do with the level-headedness she displays in verses 22-23. Or perhaps she was less skeptical/more faithful than her husband and more likely to accept a message delivered by God.
In the cases we’ve seen so far where a woman was childless, either her husband prayed for children (like with Isaac and Rebekah) or God told her she would have a child (like Sarah and Samson’s mother) Here in 1 Samuel, we find Hannah herself begging for a child.
And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.” (1 Sam. 1:10-11)
The Lord answered her prayer and, in accordance with her vow, little Samuel is dedicated as a Nazarite (like Samson) and taken to serve in God’s temple. Hannah’s response to God’s favor and faithfulness is a beautiful prayer of praise, too long to quote here but which I encourage you to read: 1 Samuel 1:27-2:10.
No list of this sort would be complete without mentioning Mary. She is probably the woman God interacts with most in the Bible, both in recorded conversations and during the years of Jesus Christ’s life as He grew up with her as His mother (Luke 2:48-49; John 2:3-4, 19:26-27).
Mary is a truly remarkable woman. When the angel Gabriel tells her she will be the Messiah’s mother in Luke 1:26-38, she doesn’t respond with skepticism, laughter, or protests to this extraordinary message. She simply asks a clarifying question and then says, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
She reminds me very much of Hannah. Both describe themselves as the Lord’s handmaid, both are respectful and clever, and both have a song or prayer of praise recorded in scripture. You can read Mary’s in Luke 1:46-55.
Women Jesus Spoke With
An entire book could be written about Jesus’ interactions with women. For purposes of space, I’ll just mention them briefly. Here are the ones I found, in no particular order:
- The bleeding woman who was healed by touching His garment. Matthew 9:20-22
- Jarius’s daughter, who He raised from the dead. Luke 8:54-55 and Mark 5:41-42
- The Gentile woman whose daughter was healed. Matthew 15:21-28
- The widow at Nain, whose son was raised form the dead. Luke 7:13-15
- James and John’s mother, who made an inappropriate request. Matthew 20:20-23
- The sinful woman who washed His feet. Luke 7:36-50
- The woman at the well. John 4:5-26
- The adulterous woman He did not condemn. John 8:1-11
- Mary and Martha, whose house He stayed at and whose brother He raised from the dead. Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:17-44
- The crippled woman He healed. Luke 13:11-12
- Mary Magdalene, who was the first to see Him resurrected. Mark 16:9 and John 20:11-18
Women of Influence
There are a number of important, godly women mentioned in the Bible that this list leaves off. There are no conversations recorded between them and God, but He was clearly working with them and I do want to mention them at least briefly. These include notable names like Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba who are counted in the genealogy of Jesus. It includes Ester and Abigail, who stopped bloodshed using their faith and diplomatic skills. It includes the wailing women in Jeremiah 9:17-21, King Lemuel’s mother whose words are recorded in Proverbs 31, and Priscilla who Paul called a “fellow worker” in the faith. There is also the wise woman who lived in the city Abel of Beth Maachah, and was apparently a leader of the city (2 Sam. 20:15-22).
This list also leaves out several women called “prophetess.” We know that God must have communicated with them, but since we talked about them last week I left all but Deborah off this list. The others are Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22), Isaiah’s wife (Is. 8:3), and Anna (Luke 2:36-37).