If God insists on male leadership, why this?

For a very patriarchal society, God used a remarkable set of women in leadership roles in the stories of the Old Testament:

  • Eve was the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20).
  • Miriam is described as a prophet (Exodus 15:20). She may have been the sister who watched over Moses in his basket when he was discovered by Pharaoh. She led the women in singing and dancing after Moses led the Children of Israel across the Red Sea (Exodus 15). She was temporarily struck down with leprosy after complaining against Moses (Numbers 12)
  • Sarah played a significant role in the story of Abraham and the formation of the Israelite people (Genesis 17-25).  The same is true of Rebecca (Genesis 24-29), and Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29-35).
  • Rahab protected the two spies Joshua sent to Jericho (Joshua 2).
  • Deborah was a prophet and judge ruling over Israel. She led the Children of Israel to victory in a battle against the Canaanites (Judges 4). Barak, the commander of the army, refused to go into battle without her, and God granted them victory.
  • Jael killed Sisera, captain of the Canaanite army by driving a peg through his temple (Judges 4).
  • The five daughters of Zelophehad faced Moses and the entire community of Israel to demand land as their inheritance (Numbers 27).
  • Ruth and Naomi are a beautiful example of God’s dealings with women
  • Hannah was barren until God answered her prayers. She gave birth to the Samuel whom she dedicated to God (1 Samuel 1)
  • Abigail saved her household by providing for David (1 Samuel 25). She later became King David’s wife.
  • young servant girl directed Naaman to go to Elisha for healing (2 Kings 5)
  • When King Josiah didn’t know what to do, his advisors consulted with Huldah, a female prophet, who spoke God’s word to them (2 Kings 22).
  • The teachings of King Lemuel’s mother are part of Scripture (Proverbs 31)
  • Shallum’s daughters helped repair the wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3:12)
  • God used Queen Esther to save the Jewish people (Esther).

Not only does the history of Israel include these women, several women are described in the genealogy of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba (Matthew 1). God has used women throughout human history.

 Photo Credit: Johnk85 via Compfight cc

7 thoughts on “If God insists on male leadership, why this?”

  1. Felicity, what connection do you see between God’s “using women throughout human history” and women being in “leadership” roles in whatever contexts? Why does God’s doings of various sorts through women come into the discussion of His doings through leaders. Could not a similar list of various doings through men be developed without construing those men as “leaders”? Or does the matter depend on how we define “leader”? Is any action an action of leadership? For example is putting a spike through someone’s head an expression of leadership? Is bearing children an expression of leadership? Is Simeon’s declaration concerning the infant Jesus an act of leadership? Are the servants of Cornelius acting as leaders in finding Peter? etc, etc, etc
    I’m wondering whether we can be overreaching sometimes in our efforts to put forward a case, whatever the issue. In this particular matter of advocating a revision of what has traditionally been a male domain, is the fact of God’s accomplishing of His purposes through women as much as through men really relevant to the functioning of either men or women as leaders?

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    1. Jim, some interesting thoughts, and I agree with much of what you say. I’m usually much more careful in how I use the term, “leader” because it can be so easily misunderstood. My bad! However, I think that Deborah is a great example of how leadership is typically understood–she held the highest leadership position in the land and rescued the nation.

      The New Testament contains many examples of women in positions of “influence”–for example, Junia, Phoebe and Priscilla.

      For many years, because I’m a woman, I’ve been on the receiving end of comments like,”God only uses a woman when a man is not available” or “When God uses a woman, it’s like him using Balaam’s ass–he can use anyone, but it’s not his norm” I no longer believe that’s true.

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      1. As a teaching elder in a conventional “church” for a few decades, I’ve constantly been in the conversation about “women in leadership”. I have about 40 books on my shelf that run the spectrum from personal testimonials to highly academic treatments of the topic. But none of those was so helpful as the preparation for, and subsequent teaching of, a course I taught on the theme of “tracing God through women in the Bible.” In around 20 sessions, we merely scratched the surface. We could have used a hundred or two more hours together! What we were collectively left with was a joyful recognition of how stunning God is in all his works through all His people.
        We have not been in a conventional church setting for about 5 years, and are finding that “who is the leader?” never flickers for even a fleeting second. It’s not a factor in anything. What we’re conscious of is God Himself doing whatever He chooses through whomever He chooses. My sense is, in perhaps most cases, such comments as “When God uses a woman …” (and I very much grieve over such formulations), that it’s primarily a hereditary malady that comes with an historically disfigured institutional approach to Body life, crippled by power structures that we can abandon by embracing community life that is deliberately/ guardedly “one another” and “each one”, governed by Spirit and truth. Too simplistic?

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      2. Jim, I agree with you. Most of the gender bias comes from the institutional approach. The problem is that so many women have been damaged by it. And no, not too simplistic at all. We’ve been living it for years, and like you say, the topic of leadership is never an issue.

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  2. One of my favorites – Samson’s mom — the angel came to her first, as the Lord did to Mary.
    As to Jim’s comments, he has a point, but it kinda depends on how you define leadership. Certainly some women in the list are more leaderly than others — Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Huldah perhaps.

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