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Bible verses about Women's Role
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:16-17

Eve's curse has resulted in the virtual subjugation of women ever since. Until the Enlightenment in the 18th century, women had few rights, if any. Fathers sold their daughters into slavery or wed them to the highest bidder. Wives existed to give the husband pleasure and sons and to keep the house. Many societies insisted that women be veiled in public, and some considered it a criminal act for a woman to walk out of her house without a chaperone. In short, a woman was chattel.

Not every society was this strict. Because of God's law, Israel was one of the most enlightened in this area. Israelite women had certain rights of inheritance, and they could even own land and run businesses (Proverbs 31:16, 24), situations unheard of in other nations. Deborah, an ancient Margaret Thatcher, judged Israel and gave her people forty years of peace (Judges 4:4; 5:31). An Israelite woman's life has frequently been better than her Gentile counterpart's because of Israel's acquaintance with the Bible.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
A Woman's World


 

Genesis 3:16

The curse is in two parts, each composed of two parallel clauses. The first part deals with childbearing and the second with marital relations. With two quick strokes God illustrates the bane of women throughout the ages.

On the surface, this verse seems fairly straightforward. However, the word-for-word translation obscures a great deal of its meaning. Because the Hebrew wording includes so much more than the words' literal meanings, both curses give translators fits. They do not want to stray too far from God's exact words, nor do they wish to leave out underlying ideas expounded by Paul in the New Testament. In the end, most choose to translate the passage word for word.

God's pronouncement on Eve stands in stark contrast to the positive tone He had given to childbearing and marriage in earlier chapters. He expresses His command in Genesis 1:28 in glowing terms: "Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.'" Likewise, Genesis 2:18, 24 paints a positive picture of a woman's role in marriage:

And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." . . . Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

When sin becomes a factor, however, childbearing and marriage lose their God-intended luster, and if human nature takes its course, pain, suffering, and bitter subjection are inevitable.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)


 

Numbers 27:1-11

Numbers 27 is the appeal of Zelophehad's five daughters to Moses in regard to their inheritance. Their father had died without any sons, and under the law of the time, his daughters were left without an inheritance. The commentators who go into this say that such an appeal was virtually unheard of because at that time a woman's station in society was only slightly higher than a child's. The child was always on the lowest social level, which is one reason why Jesus said we have to become as a child. All of society revolved around men.

Moses does three remarkable things. He not only hears the appeal of these ladies, he humbly admits that he did not know the answer. He takes it to God, and God not only hears it, He gives the ladies more than what they asked for, as all they had asked for was the land. God says, in effect, "Not only can you have the land, but you have the right to pass it on just as if you were Zelophehad's sons." It came under their power completely.

The point is that no leader under God can afford not to listen with fullest attention to the appeals of the lowly or to their counsel. He cannot afford to be in an attitude in which he will not listen to the people that he is supposed to be leading. It is a very important lesson and principle of law that comes out of Moses' humility, meekness, and willingness to hear, whereas other leaders of his day would likely have not even allowed those women to come into their presence.

There are only two cases in the life of Moses in which a woman came before him for either a judgment or in accusation. This was one of them, and the other one was his sister, Miriam. We know what happened to Miriam. It makes for an interesting contrast.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Isaiah 3:1-3

The prophet paints a picture of a society that, because of its rejection of God's way, has lost its ability to produce leaders in every sector. Someone must lead, thus the leadership positions are filled by children—immature, inexperienced, and self-involved adults who act like children—and women. These "women" can be literal women, or they can represent men who act like women.

The example Isaiah gives in verses 6-7 is quite picturesque. He imagines a group of people living amidst the crumbling remains of a once-proud city. One of them, unwilling himself to lead, implores his brother to take the responsibility of ruling those left after the repeated disasters that strike a wicked, disintegrating nation. The brother glances around and says, "Don't look at me! I've got nothing to offer! I have no idea how to even begin to fix this mess!" One is left with the impression that, since no one will stand up to lead, the desolation will continue.

God clearly points the finger of blame directly at the "women" who lead the people. They cause the nation to go astray in two ways: by implementing ungodly programs themselves or by weakly standing by as others do so. We have seen this happen in the nations of Israel over the past several decades, and the results are plain: They have rent the fabric of society and torn the nations' religious underpinnings to shreds.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Let Boys Be Boys!


 

Amos 4:1-3

Amos' language is really vivid. He calls the women of Israel "cows." He seems to aim his derision at the affluent women who are perhaps using their affluence in a manner that God is highly displeased with. Spiritually, could he be talking about some of the various groups [a woman being a type of the church] that are present at this time?

"Go out at the breaches" - A breach is a split, a cleft, a break in a wall. Symbolically, a wall represents protection. Cities once had walls to protect them from enemies on the outside. If the wall is split, it allows room for the invaders to come in, so that the inhabitants are no longer secure. It also allows those who are inside an opportunity to go outside, into the world. God is telling the cows of Bashan that they will "go out" into the world—but as captives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 3)


 

1 Corinthians 11:3-15

Did Paul teach the early New Testament church of God that women must wear a hat or veil to church services? To obtain a clear picture of what the apostle meant by these statements, we must understand these verses in the context of his entire discussion of head coverings. This topic begins in verse 3, giving the underlying principle for his decision: "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."

The real subject under discussion is subjection to authority! Paul shows that, under God's government, there is a chain of authority. A woman is subject to her husband, who is subject to Christ, who is subject to God the Father (see also Ephesians 5:22-24).

In verse 4, Paul relates this matter of authority first to a man's head covering. Paul explains that a man should not have his head covered because a head covering symbolizes subjection. To wear a head covering would dishonor his God-given position as the head of his wife. The apostle explains this principle further in verses 7-10.

As God has appointed the roles of men and women, a man stands in a similar position toward his wife as Christ does to men. Thus, Paul says, a man who is a godly example of loving authority "is the image and glory of God." Likewise, a woman stands in a similar position as man does to God, in subjection. Therefore, Paul concludes, a woman must appear in her God-designed role as a submissive wife (Genesis 2:18; 3:16). Her submissive appearance renders glory to her head, her husband.

For further proof that this is what God intends, Paul recalls that God created a man first, then He formed a woman out of the man (I Corinthians 11:8). To him, the order of creation is significant, showing who was to be in authority. He then uses the fact that Eve was created as a helper and companion for Adam (verse 9), rather than vice versa, as a final proof for his conclusion that a man should not cover his head.

Paul immediately explains that the head covering a woman should wear symbolizes her submission to the man (verse 10). The covering on a woman's head is a sign of her willingness to be in subjection to a man. It also acknowledges that she has a special need for protection by angels that a man may not need.

In verses 11-12 the apostle cautions us not to go to extremes in these God-given roles. Men and women need each other and can teach each other many things. In these verses, Paul seems to be recalling Genesis 2:24: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh." If a husband and wife work together "in the Lord," they can produce the godly character that God desires in us. God has made us what we are, so we should, as "one flesh," strive to fulfill His purpose for us.

What is this covering that Paul is saying a man should not wear but a woman should? In answering this unspoken question, Paul asks, "Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?" (verse 13). He immediately answers his own question: "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering" (verses 14-15).

All along, Paul has been writing, not about a hat or veil, but the length of one's hair! He is not saying a woman should wear something over her hair, but rather she should wear her hair long enough to be recognized as feminine. This wearing of her hair long shows her submission to the man.

Thus, in verse 5, Paul is saying that if a woman prays or prophesies while wearing her hair short like a man, she is dishonoring the man. She is not showing a willingness to wear the symbol of submission to the man's authority. Further, for a woman to wear her hair short like a man is just as dishonorable as if she had her head shaved like a fallen woman! Verse 6 means that if a woman has the wrong attitude about this matter, she might as well go all the way and have her head shaved!

The issue under discussion, far from being a matter of wearing a hat or veil, involves the length of men's and women's hair. Paul's "head covering" is the actual hair that grows on our heads, and his teaching is that a woman should wear long hair and a man should wear short hair.

Because Paul specifies that a woman should wear long hair, some wonder, "How long is long?" Some have gone so far as to believe that a woman should never cut her hair. However, Scripture does not specify uncut hair, but long hair. Others have confused shorn hair with cut hair. Shorn hair is hair that has been closely clipped in a mannish hairdo.

Paul is making the point that a woman should wear her hair long enough so that she looks feminine and honorable. This is why he says in verse 15, "If a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her." A woman should pay particular attention to her hair and make certain that it is long enough and properly groomed and styled to enhance her appearance and femininity.

On the other hand, men must not follow modern fads and styles and wear their hair long like women. Long hair brings dishonor upon a man. God intends that we make a clear distinction between men and women in both grooming and dress (Deuteronomy 22:5). The length of one's hair is a most important line of distinction to God.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Men and Women, Hats and Hair


 

1 Corinthians 14:34

The New International Version says that women are to be in submission. The Revised Standard Version says that they are to be subordinate, and the Revised English Bible says to let the women keep their place.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

1 Timothy 2:12-15

Paul comments on the woman's curse in this passage, a section of Scripture that has come under a great deal of scrutiny in recent years. What is immediately striking about Paul's reasoning and conclusion on Genesis 3:16 regarding the church is that he upholds it! Modern theological thought would reason that the effects of "the Fall" are nullified under Christ's blood, but Paul says, "Not so!" They may be diminished, but not eradicated.

Paul cites the fact that God created Adam before Eve as his proof that God intended the man to lead. He backs this up by showing that while Eve proved subject to deception—thus, she was the "weaker" of the two—Adam, whose sin was sheer disobedience, did not. Thus, Eve's sin establishes that woman should not take the lead from man; that route, by the biblical example of our first parents, generally leads to problems. The apostle concludes that a woman, formed by God as a helper to Adam and more inclined to being deceived, should not teach or lead men in the church.

On the other hand, as Ephesians 5:25-29, 33 plainly shows, Christian men must no longer "rule over" their wives. Loving authority is not domineering or despotic, but humble, caring, gentle, kind, and patient. In the same vein, Christian women should submit to and respect their husbands (verses 22-24, 33). Submission is not manipulative or grudging, but done in faith, respect, and humility.

How, though, is a woman "saved in childbearing"? The word Paul uses for "saved" (sozo) can be used for both physical deliverance from danger and spiritual salvation. How does faith, love, holiness, and self-control prevent or nullify the physical dangers of pregnancy? Conversely, is not salvation by grace? Which salvation does the apostle mean here?

Neither. A third explanation fits the context better. Paul's main concern in this section is proper order within the church. Men, he writes, should pray and teach. Women should adorn themselves modestly and do good works, but they should not be teaching publicly or leading men. Verse 15 explains what their primary concern should be: "childbearing." Thus, it means that much of God's judgment of women will be based on how well they perform their God-given role in bearing children.

To us, this sounds quite misogynistic, but to the Greek speaker "childbearing" (teknogonia) covers a great deal more ground than just "popping out babies." The Strong's Concordance definition shows that the extended meaning is "maternity (the performance of maternal duties)." W. E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, agrees, writing that it "impl[ies] the duties of motherhood" (p. 190). The Twentieth Century New Testament translates this clause, "But women will find their salvation in motherhood."

Paul's exhortation aims to bring marriage and family back to what God intended of men and women before Adam and Eve's sin. Just as God will judge men according to how well they fulfill their roles as husbands (leaders) and teachers, so He will judge women by their performance as wives and mothers. Since salvation, particularly the period of sanctification, is a process that covers our entire converted lifetimes, how well we fulfill our God-given responsibilities within our families will make a difference in God's judgment. Paul says we must perform these duties in faith, love, holiness, and self-control—just as we must do everything else in our Christian lives.

To summarize, then, the apostle simply states that God will judge and reward a woman according to her growth as a Christian within her appointed sphere of influence: her family. God Himself has drawn the lines between the sexes, and we should do our best to fulfill our roles with excellence, not rebellion or complaint. In this way, we will make progress in reversing the effects of the curses in the Garden of Eden.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)


 

 




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