What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible. Everyone today, now two thousand years later, may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.
The last point I want to express is “behind every successful man is a strong and wise woman.” So true of these most powerful women in the Bible! I hope you enjoy my review of this week’s next two women.
Did you miss Part One? Click HERE.
This biblical story begins in the time of King Xerexes, who ruled from India to Ethiopia in 486 BC to 465 BC. In the third year of his reign, he gave a luxurious banquet for all his officials and ministers in the garden courtyard. His wife, Queen Vashti, threw a separate party for women in the royal palace. As he became drunk, he ordered his personal servants to bring his wife to him. She was gorgeous, and he wanted to show her off to his proteges. Queen Vashti refused to show off her beauty, and the king lost his temper at her disrespect of his orders. He wanted to avoid his embarrassment, so he ruled her to leave his premises. “Every man is master of his own house; whatever he says, goes.”
King Xerexes’ young royal attendants suggested he search the kingdom for beautiful young virgins to replace Vashti. Soon, a woman named Hadassah, otherwise known as Esther, was brought to the palace and given over to the overseer of the women in the harem. She stayed twelve months for beauty treatments and for visits with the king in the evenings. Esther soon won the admiration of everyone, including the king. He placed a crown on her head and proclaimed a holiday for all the provinces. But she had a dark secret…
Her older cousin, Mordecai, raised Esther after her parent’s death. He was a member of the Jewish community who had an ancestor captured and taken away from Jerusalem. Her rearing was in exile, and Mordecai begged her never to tell a soul.
Mordecai often walked in front of the palace, hoping to glimpse Esther. He still felt responsible for her welfare. One afternoon, he made his usual trek to the palace gates. He overheard two guards plotting the death of King Xerexes, so he quickly sent word to Esther, who told her husband. In the king’s investigation of the incident, she told her husband that Mordecai, “her cousin,” heard the conversation, but this was all the details she gave him.
Sometime later, King Xerexes promoted a man named Haman to the highest-ranking official in the government. He required everyone at the palace gates to kneel before Haman, but Mordecai refused repeatedly. Haman learned Esther’s cousin was a Jew, so he devised a plan to kill all Jews throughout the kingdom.
Esther’s maids told her of Haman’s plan, and she was shocked and scared for her relatives. So she sent a servant to find Mordecai and find out the whole story. She also handed the servant clothes for her cousin to wear, which would hide his Jewish roots. But, Mordecai refused to wear it and relayed a message to her, “Do not imagine that because you are in the king’s palace you alone will escape the fate of all the Jews.…” He encouraged her to talk to her husband.
Esther sent a strong message back to Mordecai.
“Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, either day or night. I and my maids will fast with you. If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.” Mordecai followed her instructions.
Three days later, Esther dressed in her royal robe, visited the king on his throne. She asked him to arrange a dinner with Haman, of which he obliged her request. Meanwhile, Haman was building seventy-five foot high gallows. He would soon hang Mordecai.
The day of the dinner party arrived, and King Xerexes, Esther, and Haman gathered for the feast. The king asked Esther, “What would you like? Half of my kingdom? Just ask and it’s yours.” Her charm beguiled him. She broke into tears and revealed the horror of her people’s fate at the hands of their dinner guest. Haman was now terror-stricken. The king raged with fury and stalked out into the palace garden. He saw the gallows structure and came storming back into the banquet room when he noticed Haman on the floor in front of his wife. Haman was pleading for his life at Esther’s feet, and the king exploded with anger. King Xerexes ordered him hanged at the very gallows meant for Mordecai… and so it was done.
Later in the day, the king presented Queen Esther the estate of Haman, archenemy of the Jews. She admitted her background to him and the story of her cousin. Mordecai came before the king who took off his signet ring and handed it to him in a loving gesture. Esther appointed Mordecai over Haman’s estate. Then, she pleaded with her husband to please revoke the plan plotted against the Jews. “How can I stand to see this catastrophe wipe out my people? How can I bear to stand by and watch the massacre of my relatives?”
King Xerexes allowed Esther and Mordecai to write whatever she deemed necessary to stop the massacre on an order, and he signed it. Their city exploded with joy for Esther saved their lives. Celebration, cheering, and feasting took to the streets. Many non-Jews became Jews on this day. Mordecai also became a mighty name in the palace. The king, with love on his face, turned to Esther and said, “What else would you like? Name it and it’s yours. Your wish is my command.”
Mordecai soon released a notice calling for an annual celebration of the Jew’s freedom, and it became a tradition. He soon ranked second in command to King Xerexes for the peace and prosperity he brought to his race.
I found it interesting God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther, however, the protection of His chosen people is implied. The Jewish religion was an ethnic choice rather than a religious practice in the era of Esther. When the Bible was interpreted, many rabbis were troubled by Esther’s failure to live as a Jew, so her story suffered in its religious connotation.
Why was Esther a powerful woman?
Esther was a female hero, for women in Persia were a low species in society. Whatever power she did have was earned through manipulation of higher forces (such as her husband). Esther used her beauty, charm, and political intelligence to save the Jews. She fought for her objectives.
Queen Esther was a positive role model for Jewish women during her lifetime. She was courageous to approach the king about the death plot of her race. Her life was on the line and it was risky but Esther stood up for what she believed in, even though it was dangerous.
Though God was not mentioned in the Book of Esther, Esther used fasting and prayer for clarity. It placed her in the path of humility.
Esther is a powerful example that our background does not determine God’s plan for us, only faith. She was an orphan and lived in exile, but God brought her to redemption and freedom.
Not many details are known about Esther after the story written in the Bible. However, Jewish scholars claim she had a son named Darius who became a king. He lifted the ban against the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, which led to the building of the Second Temple.
According to Wikipedia, Esther is commemorated as a matriarch in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. She is also recognized as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox Churches. It is believed Esther’s son buried her, with Mordecai, in a mausoleum in Hamadan, Iran. In 2009, Iran added it as a Jewish holy site on their National Heritage List.
Abigail’s short, but compelling story, is in 1 Samuel 25, and written about 960 BC. It occurs in the town of Maon, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
Nabal was a very wealthy, yet obstinate and harsh man, who owned three thousand sheep and one thousand goats. His wife, Abigail, was an intelligent and beautiful woman. One afternoon, Nabal was shearing his sheep in the wilderness. A young warrior named David was hiding in a nearby town, and he heard of Nabal’s huge undertaking. He sent ten of his men to visit Nabal; after all, he guarded Nabal’s sheep on more than one occasion.
“Go and approach Nabal. Greet him in my name, ‘Peace! Life and peace to you! When your shepherds were camped near us we didn’t take advantage of them. I’m asking you to be generous with my men – share the feast! Give whatever your heart tells you to your servants and to David, your son.”
Nabal was furious and began insulting the men while demanding to know the identity of David. He yelled, “Who is this David? The country is full of runaway servants these days. Do you think I’m going to take good bread and wine and meat freshly butchered for my sheepshearers and give it to men I’ve never laid eyes on? Who knows where they’ve come from?”
David’s men ran back to tell him of Napal’s arrogance. “Strap on your swords!” he called out to four hundred of his men. “What a slap in the face! May God do his worst to me if Nabal and every cur in his misbegotten brood isn’t dead by morning!”
Meanwhile, a young shepherd ran back to Abigail and told her of the confrontation in the fields. He begged Abigail to do something before they killed everyone. She immediately took action by gathering two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep ready for cooking, a bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes. She loaded all the food on the donkeys and had her servants lead the way to David. No one could say a word to her husband.
As Abigail was riding her donkey into a large ravine, David and his men were descending from the other end. They all met in the middle where Abigail quickly climbed off the donkey and fell on her knees before David. With humility, honor, and respect, she humbly spoke to him of her husband’s faults.
“My lord should not pay attention to this wicked man Nabal. He simply lives up to his name! His name means ‘fool,’ and he is indeed foolish!” David immediately recognized Abigail was sent by God. He apologized and thanked her for stopping him from murdering all of them. He accepted the food she brought him and said, “Return home in peace.”
Abigail arrived home, and Nabal was eating a huge spread of food and was very drunk. She left him be… until the next morning when she told him what she gave David. Nabal’s raging face turned red, and he grabbed his heart and fell onto the ground. For ten days, he laid in a coma until God took his life.
When David heard Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be God who has stood up for me against Nabal’s insults, kept me from an evil act, and let his evil boomerang back on him.” He sent for Abigail to propose marriage to her, and she didn’t linger. She climbed onto her donkey and rode to David.
Abigail was David’s second wife, as he was also married to Ahinoam of Jezreel. Both women accompanied him while they sought refuge in a Philistine territory, and their life wasn’t easy. But, soon after settling in Hebron, Abigail gave birth to their only child, who was named Chileab (also called Daniel).
In case you did not make the connection in Abigail’s story, the man who she married was none other than a young King David, one of the most well-known figures in Jewish history. He was promised by God that his children would rule Israel forever. If we delve into Bible scriptures, Abigail was one of eight wives to David.
She suffered the consequences of an arranged marriage to Nabal. She could not blame or fight their choice. But, her story reveals why women should follow God’s guidelines for a partner. Though he was an abusive husband, she remained dedicated to him until God’s perfect timing played out.
Why was Abigail a powerful woman?
Abigail was a very humble woman. Though she was wealthy, she did not let her riches interfere with the welfare of her family. Not only did she save her family, but she saved David from committing murders.
She was fearless as she rode to find David and give him her offerings. It was perilous for her to face a man with an army of four hundred men.
Abigail had an attitude of humility, honor, and respect as she approached the man who would one day rule Israel. I think David knew Abigail was the kind of comrade he needed to be a successful king.
She always acted in wisdom, for God was building character in her heart. Living with an abusive man, she still grew into a respectful woman, even amid adversity.
Please join us again next Sunday for two more powerful women in the Bible. God bless!
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