Right from the beginning of time (Eve in Genesis) to the end of times (the Woman of the Apocalypse in Revelation), women are frequently mentioned in the Bible, usually playing consequential roles.
In this post, we look at some of the most famous women of the Bible. Not all these women are famous for good things – a few are well known for the wrong reasons. But they all hold important lessons for our faith today.
What You'll Learn Today
Famous Women of the Bible
Let’s start with, probably, the most famous woman in the bible — Eve. She is the first woman mentioned in the Bible, obviously because she is the first woman ever.
Eve is famous for being deceived by the serpent into eating the forbidden fruit. She then went ahead and shared it with her husband, Adam.
This introduced sin and death into the world. By eating the forbidden fruit, Eve together with Adam, changed the course of humanity.
You can read the full account of the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 3. Here is a snippet.
Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Sarah’s story is one of the most inspiring in the Bible. She was Abraham’s wife and had been childless until she was 90 years old.
When God tells Abraham that he will give him a child through Sarah (Genesis 17:15), Abraham laughs saying that a 100 year old man and a 90 year old woman cannot bear a child.
In the next chapter, the same promise is made and this time, Sarah is there to hear it. She laughs, again wondering how an old woman can get a child.
But, as you know, she is blessed with a son called Isaac.
It’s interesting to note that both Abraham and Sarah have the exact same reaction to God’s promise. They were both equally in doubt about God blessing them with a child.
Esther, an orphan under the care of Mordecai, is chosen to be Queen following the banishment of Queen Vashti by King Ahasuerus.
Esther goes on to save the lives of Jews by telling the King of Haman’s plot to have all the Jews killed.
Esther’s story is about bravery. Despite the risk of death that she faced by approaching the King without being summoned, she went before him anyway.
It’s also a story about doing the right thing for the sake of others. She was already powerful and no one knew she was a Jew. While she did need some prodding from Mordecai, she eventually did the right thing and saved her people.
Her acts of valor were so great that she has her own book in the Bible.
Delilah’s story is one most of us have heard from our days in Sunday school. She brought down one of the most physically powerful and imposing men in the Bible without raising a finger.
We tend to think of Delilah as an evil temptress who uses her wiles to get Samson to reveal the source of his power.
But it’s also important to remember she is a smart and cunning agent recruited by leaders of her country to seduce and bring down Samson.
Judges 16:4-5 After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him.
She starts by asking him flat out to tell her his secret. Everytime he lies to her, she becomes increasingly manipulative and nagging with her words until he cannot take it anymore and reveals to her the source of his strength.
Ruth is another prominent woman who has her own book in the Bible.
The book opens with Ruth losing all the male members of her family including her husband, brother in law and father in law while in Moab.
She refuses to go back to her family and instead follows her mother in law, Naomi, to Judah. This is where that famous verse on loyalty comes from.
Ruth 1:16-17 For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.
Her loyalty and kindness to Naomi is repaid when she meets a wealthy man called Boaz, who takes a liking to her and agrees to buy the land of Naomi’s late husband, Elimelech.
By buying the land, Boaz also acquires Ruth as his wife. She goes on to have a son, Obed. Obed was the father to Jesse, who was the father to King David.
By the way, Ruth is one of only five women included in the Genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. The others are Tamar, Bathsheba, Mary and Rahab.
6. Lot’s Wife
Lot was a kind man who offered food and shelter to the two angels who came to see the wickedness in Sodom and Gomorrah. He also defended them when the men of the city demanded to have their way with the two men.
The angles allow Lot and his family to escape the city before it is destroyed. They are instructed not to look back. But Lot’s wife does it anyway and she turns into a pillar of salt.
Genesis 19:26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
What make’s Lot’s wife notable is that her punishment is so sudden and unexpected. We don’t even know if she was an evil or righteous woman. The simple act of looking back, against instructions from the angels, dooms her.
Some theologians theorize that it was not just a simple matter of looking back. They say she might have looked back with fond memories and regret. Maybe she longed for the comfortable life she lived despite the wickedness surrounding her.
Whatever happened, the story of Lot’s wide is a cautionary tale for Christians to remain steadfast in their faith and not look or turn back towards the world and its sin.
Even Jesus references Lot’s wife when warning his disciples not to waver.
Luke 17:32-33 Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
7. Mary, Mother of Jesus
I don’t need to say much about the virgin Mary. Most of us know about her. She was a virgin who was visited by an angel and told she would bear a son called Jesus.
Today, Mary is one of the most important women in the Bible and in the Christian faith (especially in the Catholic Church).
Catholics, and several other christian denominations, recognize her as a saint.
Herodias takes the award for one of the most evil women in the Bible. She is directly responsible for the death of John the Baptist.
John was already in prison, put there by Herod after John reprimanded him for wanting to have his brother’s wife. Herodias also hated John the Baptist because he had condemned her unlawful marriage to Herod.
Herod could not put John the Baptist to death because he feared what the people, who regarded John as a prophet, would do.
So Herodias came up with a cunning plan. On Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced so well that Herod promised to give her anything she asked for. Her mother took the opportunity and told her to ask for John’s head on a platter.
And so John the Baptist was executed.
9. Queen of Sheba
Queen of Sheba is not a name many people hear often. That’s probably because she doesn’t do anything particularly unique or amazing in the Bible. But she is a fascinating woman nevertheless.
The Bible describes her as an immensely wealthy woman. When she came to see for herself the famous King Solomon, she traveled with spices, gold and precious stones.
Here’s how the Bible describes her gifts to Solomon.
1 Kings 10:10 …Never again came such an abundance of spices as these that the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
10. The Woman of the Apocalypse
If the ‘Woman of the Apocalypse’ sounds ominous, it’s only because that’s how the visions described in revelation sound like.
The woman of the apocalypse appears in Revelation 12. It describes a majestic woman dressed in the sun, moon and stars who is about to give birth.
A great red dragon awaits before her to eat the child the moment it’s born. But the child is swept up into heaven and the woman flees to the wilderness where she is nourished for 1,260 days.
There are different interpretations of what the woman of the apocalypse represents. Some say she represents Mary, mother of Jesus, others say she represents Israel, while others say she is the symbol of the Church or God’s people.