Politically Active Women of the Bible

Ellen Sheets

In today’s world, many women are becoming increasingly politically active. Women hold numerous appointed and elected positions, including positions in the federal senate, congress and judiciary. Many of these women are Godly women who love the Lord and attend church regularly. No doubt the example of Deborah in Judges 4-5 has inspired many a woman to “engage the culture” and run for political office.

The Bible also gives an illustration of a woman of tremendous political influence. This was a woman who was inspired with a master plan that united the efforts of church and the state, and she personally coordinated this plan that accomplished a significant goal that completely fulfilled her husband’s wishes.
Her name was Jezebel.

She usurped the rightful authority of her husband, the king, wrongfully enacted wicked legislation that was enacted by the church, was responsible for the false accusation and murder of a God-fearing, law-abiding man (1 – the Law says not to sell your property but to keep it), and personally brought the wrath of God down on her family, and God held her husband personally accountable for her actions.

The Bible gives some very specific commands about the role of women in the family and church. However, the main focus of this article is not to illustrate (or defend) these admonitions, but rather to briefly summarize.

• Woman was created to be a helper suitable for man (Gen 1:20-24)
• Women are to reverence and submit to their own husbands (Note: this is not submission to men in general) (Eph 5:22)
• Women are to “keep silence in the church” (I Cor 14:34)
• Women are not to teach in the church (since it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam)(I Tim 1:11-14)
• Women are to be “keepers at home” and have a meek and quite spirit (Titus 2:5)
• Women are to abide in their own houses (Prov 7:11,12)

The Bible also illustrates a number of women who had tremendous political influence, changing the course of law or personally preventing or winning battles. Among these are the Shunnamite Woman, The wise woman of the city of , Esther, Deborah and Jael. The purpose of this article is to illustrate the example of these last two women and their role in winning the battle of Mount Tabor. Please first take a moment to read the account in Judges 4-5 and follow along.

Deborah stayed at home and the children of Israel came to her for judgment, whereas Samuel was a traveling judge (4 1Samuel). She did go to the battle of Mount Tabor, but it does not say that she fought. She alerted Barak that the Lord said for them to go to battle, but Barak called together the men from the appointed tribes.

Heber the Kenite, descended from the father-in-lay of Moses, lived apart from the other Kenites, and was at peace with Jabin the king of Hazor. He showed Sisera, the captain of the host of Hazor, that the Israelites were gone up to battle. When Sisera and his chariots and his host were discomfited with the sword, he fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. Jael went out to meet Sisera; she invited him in and covered him with a mantle. He asked for water, and she gave him milk, and the Song of Deborah adds “she gave him butter in a lordly dish.” He then asked her to stand in the doorway, and if any man enquired of her, asking if there was a man in her tent, to say no. Then he fell asleep and the Lord delivered him into her hand, and she smote him with a tent nail and hammer.

What points can be drawn from this example? Deborah did not enlist in the army or attempt to lead it; she merely reported the word of the Lord to Barak. Deborah and Jael both stayed largely at home. Jael offered hospitality to her enemy, making him comfortable when he was thirsty and weary. She established good diplomatic relations within her sphere and according to the opportunity that the Lord provided through her husband’s choices, conduct and leadership. Jael used the resources that she already had on hand to accomplish the Lord’s work, and she did it in the context of her home.

“Not by power, or by might, but by my Spirit”
“Not to the strong is the race”

The Lord prepared a significant work for Deborah and Jael, and He accomplished it in the context of staying at home and offering hospitality. How can today’s Christian woman stay at home and offer hospitality and yet be politically active?

The number one answer is to help your husband or father with the job that the Lord has given him, for a man diligent in his business shall stand before kings and not mean men. Jael was able to smite Sisera because her husband chose where they lived, and maintained a good relationship with his governing authorities. We are directed to pray for our authorities. The example of Nehemiah and Ezra illustrates the vital teamwork of activism and prayer. When we remember that Sisera was delivered into Jael’s hand, we need to remember how much of the work was done by the Lord. Deborah and Jael were keepers at home, yet alert, prepared and listening. When Sisera came by, Jael was at home, saw him coming, and was ready. Do not be like Jezebel, who coveted her husband’s authority and brought destruction upon herself and her family. For there was none like Ahab, who was stirred up by his wife Jezebel.

The number two answer is to raise up a Godly generation. The accounts of the kings of Judah and Israel list the names of the mothers of the kings, whether the king was good or evil. Do not underestimate the importance of training your sons and daughters! Do not give this privilege away to others for any reason. Sometimes the largest political influence of a woman is upon her child. Proverbs 31 begins, “The words of King Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.” Any woman in America can raise a President, ambassador or statesman; no college or formal training could so well equip a man as a mother who fears the Lord and obeys God’s law, and trains her children to do the same through her example of reverencing and obeying her husband. Mordecai’s life and people were saved because of how he helped to raise his niece, Esther. A child’s relationship with his father will powerfully influence his relationship with his Heavenly Father. How better to teach children to fear and obey the Lord in all things than to give them the daily example of reverencing and obeying their father here on earth? Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. How many elected officials depart from their promises when once they are in office! We mothers need to raise up Godly men who stand firm on God’s promises, and do not turn away. If thou faint in the day of adversity, then thy strength is small.

Women whose children are grown may feel that their job as a mother is done but this is not at all the case. How few women can sew and knit for their family, cook well, preserve food, shop wisely and frugally, keep their houses clean and in order, stay out of debt, and help their husbands with their work? If these things are not learned, and learned well, before the advent of children, disaster can result. Mothers can help their daughters (or daughters-in-law) learn to do these jobs well, no matter what their age, though lessons are learned the easiest while young.

If all these things run smoothly and there is time left over for political activism, there are many practical needs that can be met in the line of political activism.

Educate yourself and others – learn God’s law, the basis of our country’s law. Then you will know how to understand the laws that are proposed and already enacted, and whether God approves of them. An enormous but wonderful work to read is Blackstone’s commentary of the common laws of England. It spells out exactly how different laws apply to different areas of life in a way that is very easy to understand. It is very practical, not lofty and theoretical.

After you start learning about laws and legislation, learn about candidates and public officials. I will cover this and more practical activism – some of which is desperately needed – in Part Two in the next issue of In The Gates.

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Promoting The Steady Hand of Biblically-Based Christian Statesmanship on Public Policy