A brief look at gender in the bible
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Men and women in the Bible
Gender expression is an issue that everyone has something to say about. My goal was to pick a controversial topic, and I don’t know that there is a more controversial modern topic than gender and gender roles. And I know that the “Christian” take on traditional gender issues has not been the most popular.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: no, the Bible doesn’t hate women. The Bible is full of prominent female figures, including the prophetess and judge Deborah from Judges. Ruth and Esther are both important old testament figures.
In the New Testament, Mary, mother of Jesus, Martha and Mary, who were close friends of Jesus; Mary Magdalene, who was one of Jesus’s closest friends and the first to find out Jesus was resurrected. Pricilla was a woman who hosted one of the original churches in her home. And finally, Junia who was an early female apostle. Paul even calls her “notable among the apostles.”
Some women are portrayed negatively in the Bible. Jezebel, Eve and Delilah; and I hope in the future that we can talk about these women and why their stories are important as well.
There are plenty of men in the Bible who, while featured prominently, their successes are talked about just as much as their failures. A great example of this is King David who was called “a man after God’s own heart” who made terrible choices.
He cheated on his other wives by seeking out women who were already married, got one of these women pregnant and then sent her husband to the front lines to die in an attempt to cover it up.
If you are not familiar with David’s story, I bet you were wondering, “This is the man after God’s own heart?” Yes, because this brings us to one of the first points I want to touch on.
Micah 6:8 says, “For what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and walk humbly with your God?” The keyword that we are going to be focusing on is “humble.” A real man doesn’t need to boast about his achievements and prove himself to others. A real man can admit to wrongdoings and apologize for them.
When David is confronted about his actions, he is repentant and takes ownership of his sins. David has something that many of his predecessors and successors lack: the ability to admit to the wrongs they have done.
David is the king. He makes the rules. He could have quickly gotten rid of those who knew of his transgressions; he could have killed the man who confronted him, the prophet Nathan.
Instead, his ability to admit he had done wrong sets him apart from those who surround him.
The thing about humility is that it’s not necessarily a trait boxed in by gender. Humility is a trait that all people should strive for. I think everyone should strive after many of the biblical characteristics I discuss or touch on in this article.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are fruits of the spirit. And all people should seek out to embody these traits. Even the verse I opened with doesn’t restrict itself to any one person.
This has been one of the major difficulties I have found in writing this particular article, to the point where I very nearly scrapped the entire thing.
I will not alter the Bible to fit the narrative I would like to tell. I set out to define what biblical men and a woman are; and to some degree, I succeed.
The Bible has a lot to say about biblical husbands and wives, but specifically for men and women, there is a lot less. As I have said before, that’s because what God commands remains largely the same for both genders.
A biblical woman
I have spent most of my life figuring out how to be a biblical woman. I have read Proverbs 31, the ultimate girl chapter, many times. If there were one verse I could point out to you and have you take away from reading this, it would be this verse:
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Proverbs 31:10.
As has been the common theme throughout my research for this, a woman’s value is not determined by outward appearance or even what she can do for others, but is determined by the strength of her character.
The woman described in the passage is a hard worker both in her home and in running a business. She cares about those in need and practices compassion for them. She is wise and faithful.
These are traits of biblical women and a biblical wife. I hope that when people come into my future therapy office, they can say that the words I gave them were helpful and wise. I want to be faithful to those who have helped me get where I am today.
But if these are traits of biblical women, then what is a trait of a biblical man?
The Bible said, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The kind of love husbands are called to have their wives is sacrificial. Jesus died so that the church could exist. It is a kind of love that knows no bounds.
When my mom had just had me, she and my father were walking in the mall when a stranger walked into the stroller I was in and into my mom. The stranger then proceeded to act confrontationally and told my mom to “watch where you’re going.” To which my dad immediately pipped up, saying, “Don’t talk to my wife like that.”
That’s the protector kind of love that I think the Bible is talking about. It’s a husband that has your back. It’s a partner that is quick to jump to your defense.
What does the Bible not say?
Men are not called to be tyrants or dictators of the home. Your wife is not your property. Denying women’s education or civil rights is wrong and unbiblical. Abuse of any kind is unacceptable. Nor does the bible call men to enforce biblical womanhood on their wives.
What can we glean from this?
First, it’s very difficult to define what it means to be a biblical man or woman, but God shows us lots of values we can and should instill in others. We should be compassionate, kind and respectful, among many other positive traits.
Second, the Bible outlines differences between men and women, but this is a topic I need to continue to research and read up on before I write 1000 words on it. Needless to say, this will be a topic I am sure I will be coming back to. I don’t think gender and gender expression is going to be leaving the public space anytime soon.
Hopefully, we can learn together.