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Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: The Widow of Zarephath

During a long drought and famine, God sends Elijah away from Israel to the city of Zarephath in Sidon where God directs a widow, a foreigner, to give Elijah food. When Elijah reaches the town gates, he see a widow and asks her for water and bread.

Though she is willing to fetch him water, she has no bread to share. In fact, she plans to use her last remaining provisions to make a final meal for her and her son, before they die of starvation.

Elijah tells her not to worry, to go home and prepare this meal for her and her son—but to first make a small loaf of bread for him. Through God, Elijah promises that her flour and oil will last until it rains again.

She does as Elijah instructs. As pledged, her supplies last, providing food for the three of them every day.

After a while, her son dies. The woman blames Elijah. He takes the dead boy to his room, imploring God to restore life to the lad. God does as Elijah asks.

When Elijah presents the boy to the widow, she finally acknowledges Elijah as a man of God.

Centuries later Jesus recounts this story, reminding the people that God didn’t send Elijah to any of the needy widows in Israel but to a foreigner. This infuriates them, and they try to kill him, but Jesus walks through the mob and leaves (Luke 4:24-26).

Sometimes God asks us to do things that don’t make sense. The Widow of Zarephath did what was illogical and lived.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Kings 17-19, and today’s post is on 1 Kings 17:7-24.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

How Can a Man Write about Women in the Bible?

We are One Through Jesus, Neither Male nor Female

When God prompted me to write about the women in the Bible, I was excited and began work on it immediately. Much of my life, it seems, had brought me to the place to explore the amazing women found throughout the pages of Scripture.

In short, God has given me a heart for women.

I want to celebrate who they are, encourage them, and make sure that no one ever treats them as less than simply because of their gender. Remember, God created us in his image, male and female (Genesis 1:27).

In a traditional sense, I am a feminist, wanting men and women to embrace—and treat—each other as equals. In this respect, I see Jesus as the first feminist. I’m also reminded that Paul said we are one in Christ, neither male or female (Galatians 3:28).

Yet I also knew some would question the suitability of a man writing a book about women in the Bible. I briefly considered asking my wife to take on some small aspect of the project so that I could list her as a co-author, and thereby defuse any gender bias. I’m sure others have used this strategy in the past, but I didn’t feel right about it and didn’t want to do so for the sake of expediency.

I moved ahead with the project God called me to do, all while wondering how to respond to people who question me—as a guy—for having the audacity to do so.

With much joy in the process and aided by Holy Spirit inspiration I authored the book and published Women of the Bible in 2018. It covers 135 women in the Bible, with a list of seventy-four more for additional study.

Readers received the book well, and it remains my most popular one. It continues to sell better than any of my other books, which currently number over two dozen.

A Heart for Women

Even so, people will sometimes ask, “How can a man write about women in the Bible?” Though I could launch into a lengthy justification or attempt to discuss it from a theological perspective, I’ve chosen not to do so. I simply tell my well-intentioned questioners, “I believe that God has given me a heart for women.”

Usually this allays their concerns, and they accept it. But if I suspect they need further explanation, I add one more line. I say, “I want to encourage both women and men to celebrate the women in the Bible.”

Yes, I want men to read Women of the Bible too. Sadly, I fear they’re more apt to do so with a male name on the front cover than a female. That’s on them. It’s not right, but it happens.

For my part, I’ll do whatever I can to change those misogynistic perspectives. After all, when it comes to God, gender doesn’t matter.

When it comes to God, gender doesn’t matter. Click To Tweet

Men in the Bible

Interestingly, there’s another question that catches me off guard. I’ve heard it nearly as often as “How can a man write about women in the Bible?”

What is this inquiry? I’ve had multiple people ask me when I was going to write about the men in the Bible. I don’t think we need such a book, but if people keep asking me about it, I may just write it.

Besides, I’ve already written about many men—along with women—in my book The Friends and Foes of Jesus. And I’ll cover many more in my upcoming book Old Testament Saints and Sinners.

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Happy Mother’s Day

Be Sure to Celebrate Your Mom Today and Every Day

In my book Women of the Bible, I explore the lives of biblical women, celebrating their lives and their contribution to the world. Their example can inform our faith journey.

I conclude the book with the chapter “Everyone Has a Mom.” Here is what I wrote:

Though the men in the Bible far outnumber the women, this isn’t a reflection of God’s priorities but of man’s perversion of God’s created order. Without these women, the biblical narrative would be much shorter and far less significant. Because of their lives and their actions, we are inspired, encouraged, motivated, and in a few cases, warned.

Beyond them and their example, we know that everyone in the Bible, both male and female, has a mom. These moms give birth to their children, nurture them, and usher them into adulthood. They mostly do this in obscurity. Nevertheless, without these moms giving life to their kids, we would not have their children to read about and learn from. Without these moms our understanding of God would be much different.

Last, you and I have a mom too. Along with our dad, we have her to thank for giving us life. She played a huge role in who we are today.

Have you thanked your mom for the gift of life? If she’s no longer alive, perhaps you can write her a love letter of appreciation.

Thank you, Mom!

[Discover more about moms in Ephesians 6:2–3 and 1 Thessalonians 2:7–8.]

May we celebrate our moms today—and every day. Click To Tweet

May we celebrate our moms today—and every day.

We wouldn’t be here without you, and we wouldn’t be who we are without your influence in our lives.

To my mom and all mothers everywhere, I salute you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Peter DeHaan News

Interview of Peter DeHaan about Women of the Bible

Gabe Hartfield Interviews Author Peter DeHaan

My friend Gabe Hartfield recently interviewed me on Facebook Live about my book Women of the Bible. Gabe works with Intervarsity at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Check out this Women of the Bible interview.

I’m a writer for a reason, preferring to avoid cameras and microphones, but Gabe and I had a great time talking about the Women in the Bible, as well as a few related topics too.

Listen to this live recording of our discussion.

I hope you enjoyed this this conversation about the amazing women in the Bible.

Here’s some of info from the back cover of the book:

“The Bible has story after story about fascinating women. They’re more nuanced than men, have profound insights people often overlook, and can teach wisdom that everyone needs to hear.

“Ideal for personal reflection or group Bible study, Women of the Bible is an excellent read with stimulating stories that are interesting, informative, and entertaining.

“As a bonus, each woman’s story ends with thought-provoking questions for private introspection or group discussion. Then dig deeper by examining related Bible passages to expand your understanding.

“It’s time for a change. It’s time for a fresh perspective. It’s time for every woman—and man—to discover powerful, life-changing truths from Women of the Bible.”

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: Naomi

God Takes Away Naomi’s Bitterness Over Losing Her Husband and Her Sons

Naomi means pleasant. She, her husband, and their two sons leave their home country and travel to Moab because of a famine. While in Moab, her husband dies, leaving her a widow. Later both of her sons die, too, leaving her with two widowed daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth.

Naomi blames God for her misfortune and grows bitter.

She decides to return home when she hears they have food. Orpah and Ruth start back with her. At Naomi’s urging Orpah decides to remain in Moab, but Ruth expresses deep commitment to her mother-in-law and to God, promising to stay with her forever.

Soon after they return to Israel, Naomi develops a plan for Ruth to marry their relative, Boaz. They get married and Ruth has her first child, Obed. Naomi cares for Obed like a son, as the local women celebrate the baby and Naomi’s good fortune.

Like all of us, Naomi’s life contains struggle and disappointment, but God cares for her, providing a loyal daughter-in-law and a cherished grandson.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ruth 1-4, and today’s post is on Ruth 1:1-5.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: Rahab

Learn about Rahab

Rahab is a prostitute who two spies stay with when they scope out Jericho. We don’t know if they seek her for her services, or if they merely want to get out of public view.

When the king of Jericho commands Rahab to turn the men over to him, she commits treason. She hides the men and lies to the king. she tells him that they already left, but she doesn’t know where they went.

Rahab knows God favors Israel and will give the city to them. So in exchange for her protecting the spies, she asks for the safety of her family when they raze the city. In her list of who’s included as family, she mentions parents and siblings, but not a husband or any children.

After securing their promise of protection, she helps the spies escape.

Later, Joshua confirms Rahab and her family will be spared when they take the city, while the rest of the city will be destroyed. She then lives with the Israelites.

Rahab in the New Testament

In the New Testament, Matthew reveals Rahab is one of Jesus’ direct ancestors and the great-great grandmother of King David (Matthew 1:5). She is honored as only one of four women mentioned in Jesus’ family tree.

Further, the book of Hebrews affirms her as a person of faith, one of only two women included in its impressive list (Hebrews 11:31).

Finally, James confirms she is righteous because of her actions in hiding and protecting the two spies (James 2:25).

While our reaction may be to judge this woman for her profession, God sees her differently, as a righteous woman of faith, rewarding her accordingly.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Joshua 4-6 and today’s post is on Joshua 6:17.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Women in the Bible: Miriam

Learn More about Miriam

Miriam is the older sister of Moses; she’s also the sister of Aaron, but we don’t know which one is older.

At the time Moses is born, there’s a degree to kill all baby boys. Moses’s mom hides him as long as she can, then she puts him in a basket and places him in the Nile River. Mariam watches at a distance to see what happens.

When the pharaoh’s daughter finds him, Miriam pops up and offers to find a woman to nurse him; she picks her mom.

As an adult, Miriam is a prophet and worship leader of sorts, leading the women in song and dance to celebrate God’s rescue when they crossed the sea to escape the Egyptians.

Unfortunately, what we know most about Miriam is when she and Aaron oppose Moses over his choice for a wife and out of jealousy. God’s judgment is quick, instantly inflicting her with leprosy (a contagious skin disease, untreatable at the time).

Though Aaron is also at fault, he is not so afflicted, suggesting that perhaps Mariam led their tiny rebellion. When Aaron sees what happens to his sister, he immediately admits his bad attitude and begs Moses to intervene.

Moses does and implicitly God heals her. The whole nation then waits for her for seven days as prescribed by Jewish law.

A few years later Miriam dies; there’s no mention of the people mourning her death, a sad end to a promising life.

Mariam started well as a brave and obedient daughter and later as a prophet and worship leader, she let judgment and jealousy define her later life. Click To Tweet

Though Mariam started well as a brave and obedient daughter and later as a prophet and worship leader, she let judgment and jealousy define her later life. God was not pleased.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Numbers 10-12, and today’s post is on Numbers 12:1-15.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

King Solomon’s Wives: A Subtle Source of Distraction

Consider the Foreign Wives of King Solomon

King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wasn’t so wise with his love life. In all he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Even worse, many of King Solomon’s wives were foreigners, something God prohibited because he feared they would distract his people from fully worshiping him (Deuteronomy 7:3).

Unfortunately, just as God feared, King Solomon’s foreign-born wives, who had vastly different views on spiritual practices, did lead him astray. They caused him to turn from God. As a result, Solomon ruined his legacy and consequently his son would lose the kingdom.

When God tells us “no,” there’s a good reason for it. Will we obey him or think we know better? King Solomon thought he knew better and things didn’t work out so well for him.

Finish Strong

Though Solomon started off well, focusing on God and honoring him, he ended poorly, turning from God and pursuing other gods. It doesn’t matter so much how we start life but how we finish (Luke 14:28-30, Galatians 6:9, Philippians 3:14. and Hebrews 12:1).

May we finish strong for God, serving as an example for others, both now and in the future.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Kings 11-13, and today’s post is on 1 Kings 11:1-13.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Peter DeHaan News

Women of the Bible Q & A with Peter DeHaan

Author Peter DeHaan Talks about His Most Popular Book

Peter DeHaan answers questions about his book, Women of the Bible.

Question 1: Why did you write this book?

Answer: Throughout my life I’ve sat through thousands of sermons and most all of them talked about the men in the Bible. They ignored women or gave them a mere footnote in the message.

If a sermon was ever about a woman, the director of women’s ministry might have given it, or it popped up on Mother’s Day. And frankly we don’t need another sermon about the Proverbs 31 Woman. All the messages I’ve heard about her miss the point.

The women of the Bible deserve more attention, and I want to give it to them. There’s so much they can teach us.

Q 2: What drew you to the women in the Bible?

A: Women make up slightly more than half the people on our planet, yet we don’t talk about biblical women too much in church. That is to our shame and our discredit.

I desired to discover more about the women who appear in the Bible. I wanted to learn from them and share the insight that God gave me with others.

Q 3: In all due respect, how can a man write about women? What makes you qualified?

A: I’m glad you asked this question so that we can talk about it, but at the same time I wish it weren’t necessary. The short answer is that I believe God has given me a heart for women.

Obviously, I can’t understand everything women go through, but that doesn’t disqualify me from writing about them, to encourage and inspire others.

In researching and writing this book God gave me a curiosity to ask questions other people would skip, to seek to understand these women’s circumstances, and to draw lessons from their lives. I put all those insights in the book. The outcome is what matters.

Women of the Bible, by Peter DeHaan

Q 4: What was your intent in publishing this book? How do you expect people to use it?

A: My goal was to compile and provide the information for readers to use as they saw fit. Some have treated it as a devotional and others as a Bible study. I’ve heard from people who’ve bought it as a reference and were glad to have it.

One reader intended to read one chapter a day but couldn’t put it down and kept turning pages. She read it in a couple of days. Many have told me they kept reading, with the pledge to read “just one more chapter.”

I also hope that small groups or classes will use it for a study or discussion guide.

Q 5: Is this book just for women, or can men read it too?

A: I wrote the book for everyone. The fact that it’s about women, doesn’t mean that it’s only for women. The truths that it covers are universal, applying to both women and men.

Q 6: What did you learn about yourself as you worked on this book?

A: It seemed perfectly natural for me to write about women in the Bible, but I was surprised at how many people thought it was strange. That may make me atypical, but I prefer to think of it as me having a little bit of God’s heart for the female half of his creation.

Mary Magdalene was the first missionary for Jesus. Never forget that. Click To Tweet

Q 7: What surprised you most when you researched this book?

A: The character of Mary Magdalene has taken a hit in recent years. But after studying what scripture says about her a different story unfolded.

Mary Magdalene was the one to carry the good news about the greatest event in the history of the world—Jesus’s resurrection of the dead—to the disciples. God didn’t have a man do it, even those that’s what the society of the day expected and even demanded.

This makes Mary Magdalene the first missionary for Jesus. Never forget that.

Q 8: Many people criticize the Bible for how it portrays women. Does this make God sexist?

A person who reads the Bible quickly without a discerning eye—or a person who has never read it at all—might claim that the Bible treats women badly or that God is sexist. This, however, is far from the truth.

Remember that God created us in his image, male and female. When he finished, he pronounced it as “very good.”

Yes, the Bible reveals God to us, but the narrative takes place during a time when sin badly distorted what God had in mind for the human beings he made. In this regard, the Bible reflects man’s mistakes, not God’s heart.

Q 9: Who is your favorite woman in the Bible? Why?

A: That’s such a great question. I have many favorites, so it’s hard to pick just one. Ruth is a longtime favorite because of her dedication to her mother-in-law and to God.

Esther is another cherished favorite for using her position to influence the king and save her people from an inevitable genocide. I also like Judge Deborah and Rahab in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament I especially appreciate Priscilla because she often received first billing over her husband. And then there’s Rhoda. Her story, her faith, and her exuberance make me smile every time.

Q 10: Your subtitle is “The Victorious, the Victims, the Virtuous, and the Vicious.” Why did you select these words?

A: The overall arc in Women of the Bible is to celebrate the feminine half of God’s creation. This makes it natural to look at the victorious and the virtuous. But that’s not the complete picture. Due to sin’s impact, some of them are victims.

And there are a few who are just vicious. This is a reminder that terrible behavior isn’t the sole domain of men. Women can fall into evil as well. That’s why we must all be vigilant, to protect ourselves from falling into their error.

women of the bible

Q 11: How many women does your book cover? Why did you include that many?

A: I cover 135 women in Women of the Bible. Most books about biblical women address only a handful, usually twelve or less. And that omits a lot of interesting women and ignores what we can learn from them. Initially my goal was 100, but I quickly realized that wasn’t enough.

Although I could’ve kept writing and gone beyond 135, at that point I covered what I felt was important. To continue writing about some of the very obscure names that remained wouldn’t really add anything to the discussion. So, I stopped at 135.

Of course, that’s not to say there couldn’t be an expanded version of Women of the Bible in the future that would blow past this 135 number. An appendix in the book lists dozens more women I could add in the second edition—if there’s value in doing so.

Q 12: Will you write a counterpart to this book, Men of the Bible?

A: I’d never considered doing that, but some people have asked about it and one reader assumed I would. If I do so, to be fair, I may need to cover 135 men so I can keep things balanced.

Q 13: Will you be writing any more about women in the Bible?

A: I’m glad you asked. The answer is yes!

Women in the Bible is book one in the Bible Bios series. My next book in the series is Friends and Foes of Jesus. This will look at New Testament characters, and many of those in Women of the Bible will make a reappearance.

For them I’ll offer new and expanded content. In this way their story continues. Then I’ll repeat the process for a book about Old Testament characters: Old Testament Sinners and Saints.

Plus, I have several more books planned for the Bible Bios series, such as prophets, judges, and kings and queens. Every book will include women.

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Is It One Woman Who Anoints Jesus or Four Different Women?

The Four Gospels Each Have a Story of a Woman Who Worships Jesus

Each of the four accounts of Jesus’s life—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—give a story about a woman who anoints Jesus with expensive perfume, but the details in each report vary. It may be that this happens on four separate occasions. Or it could be the same story, with a few details that differ. Or it might be somewhere in between.

Matthew and Mark’s Version

Matthew and Mark’s accounts are the closest, with the only difference being who criticizes the woman for wasting expensive perfume: Matthew says it’s the disciples. Mark says it’s some people. Matthew and Mark likely cover the same event.

In these passages the woman anoints Jesus’s head. Some people think this symbolically prepares him for what he is about to endure: his death, burial, and resurrection.

John Says

In John’s version, the woman who anoints Jesus is Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, but in the other three reports, we don’t know the woman’s name. John’s version is like Matthew and Mark’s, but one key difference is that this woman anoints Jesus’s feet, not his head as in the first two accounts. Also, John names just one person who criticizes her: Judas Iscariot. Last, John says that Martha is serving dinner in Jesus’s honor, so we assume it’s at her home, while Matthew and Mark say Jesus is hanging out at Simon the leper’s house.

In anointing Jesus’s feet, some people think this symbolically prepares him for ministry.

Luke’s Account of the Woman Who Anoints Jesus

Luke’s version differs the most. First, he calls her a sinful woman, something not even hinted at in the other three accounts. Next, his version takes place at a Pharisee’s home. His name is Simon, but it doesn’t say he’s a leper. And there’s no mention of it being in Bethany, as with the other three versions.

In Luke’s story, a woman comes up behind Jesus as he reclines at the dinner table. She weeps at his feet, showing sorrow for her wayward actions. Her tears fall on him and she uses her hair to dry his feet. Then she dumps her perfume on his feet.

In this account, the woman doesn’t receive criticism, but Jesus does. The Pharisee thinks that Jesus should have known the woman touching him is a sinner. Jesus affirms the woman for washing his feet, something his host didn’t do. Then he forgives her for her many sins, confirms her saving faith, and sends her off in peace.

Luke’s account has enough differences that it’s likely a separate event.

Consider the lavish adoration given to Jesus. Click To Tweet

What Really Counts

It doesn’t really matter if this event happened once, twice, three times, or even four. It also doesn’t matter where it happened or who was involved.

What counts is the lavish adoration given to Jesus. This woman or these women really know how to worship Jesus. May this passage inspire us to do the same.

[Discover more about these stories in Matthew 26:6–13, Mark 14:3–9, Luke 7:36–50, and John 12:1–8.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.