By Molly Law, Crosswalk.com
The word feminist has a lot of connotations to it; some parts of the movement have not been handled biblically. However, the spirit of feminism — to seek equality and respect for women in a patriarchal society — is very biblical indeed.
The definition of feminism, according to Merriam-Webster, is the “belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests.”
I would like to argue that God was the first feminist. He created male and female. He went to great care to create Eve, just as he did Adam.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh (Genesis 2:20-24).
“They become one flesh.” Two halves equal one. Adam was not considered one nor Eve just a half. They were created equal.
God also created Eve from Adam’s rib, indicating that they were equals in the Bible. She was not created from his head to be above him, nor was she created from the heel of his foot to be below him.
The world that God created had no need for feminism or feminists. This concept only came into existence with the Fall of Man — when sin entered, causing the broken world we all live in.
It came with God’s warning as Adam and Eve were escorted from the Garden. “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).
So, with this understanding, God provided certain protections in a patriarchal world through Mosaic Law.
He raised women’s voices throughout Scripture — Esther and Ruth are the only women to have chapters in the Bible named after them.
God ensured that women who were labeled as disposable by society were included in the genealogy of his Son Jesus Christ: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus revealed his love and respect for women by including a number of women in his ministry, who even provided financial support, as well as being the driving force behind the greatest reveal in history — his resurrection.
Here are just three ways God reveals to us his love for women in a fallen world that will always need feminism until we are all in the New Heaven and New Earth.
1. Mosaic Law Protected Women
As stated, the moment Adam and Eve sinned, the world became patriarchal. Within these confines, God created certain protections for women in Mosaic Law that were not followed by their surrounding neighbors — who treated women much worse.
According to Jewish Encyclopedia, “In some systems of ancient law daughters or sisters were excluded from all rights of inheritance […] the Mosaic law gave the inheritance to the daughter or daughters when there were no sons.”
It also says that “the position of the mother is higher under the Mosaic law than under any other system of antiquity. By the fifth commandment, the mother is to be honored equally with the father, while in the moral law, the command to ‘fear’ the mother, that is, to treat her with respect, is placed even before the duty of ‘fearing’ the father.”
God also protected women who were in polygamous marriages. For women like Leah and Peninnah, whose husbands did not love them, God blessed them with many children, which was the highest honor for women to have.
For the women who had the love of their husbands, Rachel and Hannah, God eventually gave them sons who went on to serve God and bring him glory through his almighty power for his people.
God was also there when Israelite men tried to forgo the law for their own selfish desires and undermine the value of women.
One such woman in the Bible, Tamar, found herself unprotected when Mosaic law specifically provided her a right to be taken care of.
In Genesis 38, Judah disregarded his daughter-in-law’s safety and survival. He did not provide her with another husband after her husband died, as was the law.
When Tamar took matters into her own hands and Judah tried to cover his sins with hers, God protected her and exposed Judah.
Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah” (Genesis 38:16).
There are so many other examples throughout the Old Testament of God’s provision for women, not only provision but progressive acknowledgment beyond the time and place that would keep women down.
I encourage both women and men to read the Old Testament and spot these moments in which God revealed his heart for women, as he intended from the beginning.
2. Jesus’ Treatment of Women
We know that God protected women within Mosaic Law, but just as Jesus came to fulfill the law in a number of human understandings, so did he for women.
For the woman caught in adultery, the Pharisees merely used her for the purpose of trapping Jesus. The fact that they could use a woman in a compromising situation reveals their hearts, but Jesus revealed something far greater.
Whether or not this had been her fault in that time and place, Jesus still revealed to her true sacrificial love. He did not condemn her, even stopping those who did, and forgave her. (John 7:53-8:11).
As 21st-century readers, we can almost skip over the significance of Jesus’ parables. Not their biblical meaning as analogies for the Kingdom of God, but their cultural relevance — how they would have been received by the original audience.
It is fascinating that many of Jesus’ Parables used metaphors that would have been, the majority of the time, things that only women were well-acquainted with in their conventional female roles:
- New Cloth on Old Garment (Matthew 9:16-17); The Lamp (Matthew 5:14-16).
- The Mustard Seed and Leaven Bread (Matthew 13:31-34).
- The Pearl at a Great Price (Matthew 13:45-46); The Marriage Feast (Matthew 22:1-14).
- The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13); The Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8).
Most of these can be found in the Synoptic Gospels, but the Parable of the Persistent Widow is the only one found in the Gospel of Luke.
Not only were there women who followed Jesus and listened to his teachings, but Jesus made it a point to include them in understanding his message of salvation in the context of where society had put women.
He valued the minds of women, whereas, throughout history, we know that women were denied proper education and were kept below the station of men.
More importantly, it reveals that he wants all people with him in the Kingdom of Heaven, not just men.
3. Women and the Message of Salvation
In the Gospel of John, Jesus showed grace to the Samaritan woman at the well who was living with a man who was not her husband (John 4). Jesus revealed to her what the Living Water could do — more than any earthly pleasure.
In revealing himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman, it was she who led her entire community to know the Son of God.
Along with the Samaritan woman, Jesus revealed his resurrected body to the women who came to anoint his dead body in the tomb.
Not only did Jesus trust women with the greatest reveal in human history, but it also solidified the gospel accounts. For if this had never happened, the gospel writers would have followed their literary contemporaries — ensuring that men were the heroes of the story.
In first-century culture, the fact that it was women who were first present at the resurrection only validates Jesus’ resurrection as the truth.
Why Does This Matter?
When I asked if God is a feminist, it was almost a hypothetical question as he was one before the term was ever needed. But because sin altered the world in which he created, God compensated for the broken hierarchy that evil subsequently established.
As Rebecca McLaughlin, cofounder of Vocable Communications and the author of Confronting Christianity puts it, “Jesus’ valuing of women is unmistakable. In a culture in which women were devalued and often exploited, it underscores their equal status before God and his desire for personal relationship with them.”
God did not just compensate for the world’s rules; he revealed his love, and his very heart for women throughout the entire Bible, just as he does today.
God desires all to come to him in Salvation: women and men. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine).
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Molly Law is the Editor of Christianity.com. She has a Master of Arts in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling, UK, where she studied and lived for a year in Scotland. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Professional Writing and a minor in Biblical Studies from Gardner-Webb University. Her editorial career includes Senior Editor of a bimonthly magazine for the nonprofit ACA and Editorial Assistant at Luath Press in Edinburgh, UK. She enjoys reading 18th-century British Literature, creative writing, and traveling.