Biblical Descriptions of Women

Here's a fairly exhaustive study of the word "woman" in the Bible, with all of its uses and descriptions (from the ESV version, so I may have missed some mentioned in other versions). I thought it would be helpful for us to see how women are described in the Bible, positively and negatively, as we strive to be godly women.

Not all of them will apply in each of our lives, and some are situation-specific... but perhaps one or many of these will catch your eye and inspire you in a particular area of your life... and we'll come back and examine these a little at the end of the list.

POSITIVE OR NEUTRAL BIBLICAL DESCRIPTIONS OF WOMEN:

  • made by God (Gen 2:22)
  • taken out of man (Gen 2: 23, 1 Cor 11:9)
  • "beautiful in appearance" (Sarai-- Gen 12, Rebekah-- Gen 12, Bathsheba--2 Sam 11:2, Tamar-- 2 Sam 14:27, 1 Ki 1:3-4)
  • "pregnant" (Exod. 21:22, Is 26:17, and many, many more)
  • "skillful" (Exod. 35:25)
  • "tender" (Deut 28:56)
  • "refined" (Deut 28:56)
  • "delicate" (Deut. 28:56)
  • "loved" (Jud 16:4)
  • "worthy" (Ruth 3:14)
  • not worthless (1 Sam 1:16)
  • "discerning" (1 Sam 25:3)
  • "wise" (2 Sam 14:2, 2 Sam 20:16, Prov 31:26)
  • "wealthy" (2 Ki 4:8-- the Shunammite woman who cared for Elisha)
  • "barren, childless" given a home and children (Ps 113:9)
  • "gracious" (Prov 11:16)
  • receives honor (Prov 11:16)
  • precious (Prov 31:10)
  • trustworthy (Prov 31:11)
  • interested in doing good for and pleasing her husband (Prov 31:12, Prov 31:23, 1 Cor 7:34)
  • a willing worker (Prov 31:13, 19)
  • prudent (Prov 31:16, 18)
  • "strong" (Prov 31:17)
  • diligent (Prov 31:18-22, Prov 31:27, Luke 15:8)
  • generous (Prov 31:20)
  • teaches kindness (Prov 31:26)
  • "excellent" (Prov 31:29)
  • "woman who fears the Lord" (Prov 31:30-- worthy of praise)
  • great in faith (Matthew 15:20-28)
  • worshipful, sacrificial, worthy of remembrance (Matt. 26:6-13)
  • "saved" by faith (Luke 8:40)
  • freed from disability (Luke 13:12)
  • bearer of a faithful testimony that led many to believe (John 4:39)
  • uncondemned by God (John 8:10-11)
  • "believer" (Acts 16:1)
  • "seller of purple goods" (Acts 16:4)
  • "worshiper of God" with an open, attentive heart (Acts 16:4)
  • unmarried/betrothed are interested in holiness & "the things of the Lord" (1 Cor 7:34)
  • "glory of man" (1 Cor 11:7)
  • not independent of man (1 Cor 11:11)
  • "quiet" learner (1 Tim 2:11, 12)
  • "submissive" (1 Tim 2:11)
  • "weaker vessel" (1 Pet 3:7)
NEGATIVE BIBLICAL DESCRIPTIONS OF WOMEN:
  • "drunken" (1 Sam 1:13-- Eli was mistaken when he thought this about Hannah)
  • "perverse, rebellious" (1 Sam 20:30-- spoken by Saul to Jonathan about his mother in order to shame him)
  • "desolate" (Tamar-- 2 Sam 13:20, because she was defiled)
  • "cursed" (2 Ki 9:34-- Jezebel)
  • "wicked" (2 Chr 24:7-- idolatrous woman)
  • "barren, childless" (Job 24:21)
  • "forbidden woman" (Prov 2:16, 5:3, 5:20, 7:5-- the adulteress)
  • "evil" (Prov 6:24-- the adulteress)
  • wily of heart (Prov 7:10-- a woman dressed as a prostitute)
  • "a beautiful woman without discretion" is like a gold ring in a pig's snout (Prov 11:22)
  • "quarrelsome" & fretful (Prov 21:19-- living with this kind of woman is worse than living in a desert)
  • heart of snares & nets (Eccl 7:26-- godly men escape her)
  • deceived transgressor (1 Tim 2:14)
There's a lot here, but I think it may be helpful to look at this both in a micro- and macro- way.

THE MACRO VIEW OF BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD: (The BIG picture)
Generally, the biblical woman is discerning, gracious, generous, and kind. Generally, women are given a role defined by family and the home. Rather than seeking to control or manipulate men, the biblical woman is focused on the Lord, and her husband, children, and home (if married). A godly woman passes her faith on to others (specifically including her children and those who know her testimony) and is willing to sit at the feet of Jesus and love and worship Him.

THE MICRO VIEW OF BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD: (The nitty-gritty)
Starting with what she is not... she is not quarrelsome or worrisome. She does not seek to ensnare, capture, or deceive men. She does not dress seductively. She doesn't act thoughtlessly or imprudently.

She works hard in order to serve her household, the poor, and widows. She worships God. She tells others what Christ has done for her. She learns with a quiet spirit, willing to submit to what is taught.

She is protected by the men in her family when she is a virgin (there were many instances of this, but these were not necessarily descriptive passages so I did not include them in the list), and focused on her family and home once married. She serves her husband and is faithful to him. She seeks to make him known as an honorable man. She raises children, teaching them kindness and faith. If unmarried, she is single-mindedly focused on serving Christ and being holy for Him. She fearfully, faithfully, and attentively serves a gracious, forgiving, and healing Creator God by serving, loving, and giving to the people around her.


This is encouraging and challenging stuff, huh? Any thoughts you'd like to add or other things you see in these descriptions?

14 comments:

The Arab Musicians said...

Just printed this out so I can work through it with the Lord over the next few days. Thanks for compiling it!
~Beth

watchthesky said...

Its a great list. Love your run down. :)

Linda said...

Wow, Jess. This is good. It's nice to see it all put that way in one pice of paper. Thanks. I think I'm going to copy this down for my own review.

Sincerely,
Linda

Bethany Hudson said...

Fun, Jess! I've never seen a list quite like this. It was very intersting to peruse and get an "overview" of Biblical Womanhood.

One point I wanted to make, though (and of course, as you mentioned, you were only dealing with the "in general" view of biblical women) is that some Biblical women had not-so-conventional lives. For example, there were midwives, and of course, Lydia was known as a business woman. It goes without saying (or perhaps it doesn't) that Lydia was a widow and that midwives were still dealing with the "women's realm" of pregnancy and birth, which took place in the home, even though they were part of commerce. But, I think it can be important to give women who are not blessed with husbands and children a little encouragement, too: God gave them examples to follow, just as he gave wives and mothers examples.

Of course, as you said, the Bible primarily deals with wives and mothers, and most women will follow this path, but it's so good to know that God is in charge of it all: even when our lives don't look very conventional.

~Bethany

flyinjuju said...

Wow, what a great list. Thanks for doing this, what a wonderful perspective to keep at the forefront of my thoughts.

The Durham's said...

Absolutely wonderful! Thank you for compiling this list:) The Lord uses your efforts to bless so many! Bless your sweet family!

Anonymous said...

Well said, to both Jess and Bethany! Bethany, as a woman who lost my mom when I was five, and then had to go live with my dad, whom I had only met a few times (his career took him to another land), I can't say what a relief it is to have a woman stick up for a person like me.

Do NOT allow young girls to fend for themselves. Do NOT assume that someone else is watching out for them!! Even if they seem to come from accomplished families!

HomeGrownKids said...

Loved this post. Sent it to my dd to read in her spare time so then we can discuss it and be encouraged together.

Mind if I link to you next time I do a SSSS meme?

Susan

Jess said...

Susan,
Sure, I am always open to links. Thanks!

Britt said...

This comes at a great time (you have a habit of doing that...lol)!

I'm trying to teach my girls to be more lady-like. My 2 1/2 year old is a tom-boy, and while I don't want to crush her independent-full-of-life personality, I do want her to learn to have a quiet and gentle spirit.

S. Belle said...

This post is very inspiring! I'm inspired to work harder to be the woman that God desires for me to be.

It is definitely encouraging and challenging. Faithfully serving our families is a daily exercise in living out the Word of God. Each day has it's triumphs and disappointments. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful thoughts! Thanks so much for posting this. I don't mean to open up a can of worms, but I am just curious to know: What are your thoughts about women in public roles in worship? I have heard both sides of the coin, but just haven't made up my mind about it.

Sherry said...

Nicely done, & so very helpful. Thanks so much for this.

Ferree Bowman Hardy said...

I found this blog post through googgle images and the great picture you included on it. Hope you don't mind if I also use it. I'll visit here again and catch up on your more recent stuff. Stay close to Jesus.