A Woman’s Place (According to the Bible)      


The Bible says in Jeremiah 31:21-22, “Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities.[22] How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.” The people of Israel had not been serving the Lord. That is a common problem. The world, the flesh, and the devil are formidable enemies to a spiritual life. But the Lord is faithful in giving His call to turn to Him. Go back the way you came. You should know the way back to fellowship with the Lord Jesus. It is found in First John 1:9 and it says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”


But unfortunately, the Israelites did not turn back to the Lord. That is why they were conquered and the remnant was taken captive to Babylon. As has been pointed out elsewhere in the book of Jeremiah, this destruction of Israel and captivity in Babylon was a great change to how the nations of the world had been organized by God. Previously God had put in place His plan to make Israel the greatest nation on the earth, but God changed His plan. God said in Jeremiah 22:29, “O earth, earth, earth hear the Word of the Lord.” And the Lord said in the next verse in Jeremiah 22:30, “…for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” The last phrase in Jeremiah 31:22 refers to the same great change that the Lord was going to make in the earth, but in Jeremiah 31:22 God uses an interesting symbolism. It says, “for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.” The word “compass” means to surround or to encircle. Of course, in the days of Jeremiah, as it has been in most of the history of the human race, it was a man-dominated society. One of the reasons for that was because of man’s physical advantage over a woman. Many things were done only by brute force, especially warfare, and so most women were “compassed” by men. If such a situation were to change, that would be a major change to the whole world and a change to the role for women.


We live now in a time of change and roles are changing. God is in charge of all things and perhaps He is allowing these changes as a sign that He is at work in this world, and there is even more change to come. One of the things that is happening today is described very well by what was said in Jeremiah 31:22, “A woman shall compass a man.” There is a revolution going on in the world: a revolution of change especially in regards to the roles of men and women and their relationships with one other. Some day it may no longer be a world dominated by men. The tables might get turned. Women may come to control the world, or at least have a greater say than men in what is done and when in the various hierarchies of the world. The Bible has always given women a much greater role of leadership than society as a whole. Deborah was a great judge in Israel. It says in Judges 4:3-9, “And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.[4] And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.[5] And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.[6] And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?[7] And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.[8] And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.[9] And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.” Notice that the general Barak would not go into battle unless Deborah went with him. He needed her leadership and her courage.


During the time of Esther, as queen, not only did she have the most authority of all the Jews, but she also performed the greatest act of bravery, risking her own life to save her people. It says in Esther 9:4-6, “For Mordecai was great in the king's house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater.[5] Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them.[6] And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men.” This salvation of the Jewish people was only possible because of Esther and her leadership role.


Proverbs 31:10-31 gives a detailed description of the ideal spiritual wife and the practical abilities and wisdom that she would have. It says, “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.[11] The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.[12] She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.[13] She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.[14] She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.[15] She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.[16] She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.[17] She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.[18] She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.[19] She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.[20] She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.[21] She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.[22] She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.[23] Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.[24] She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.[25] Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.[26] She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.[27] She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.[28] Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.[29] Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.[30] Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.[31] Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.


In addition to pointing out qualities of spirituality, morality, and compassion; this passage shows many leadership qualities that a woman can possess that would rival any of those possessed by a man. It says in Proverbs 31:11 that “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her.” The words that are translated “safely trust” are often used in the Old Testament in reference to a believer trusting in the Lord. Your Lord is your master. Your Lord does things for you that you cannot do for yourself. This is not to say that the wife should be master over the man, but the use of this word in reference to the woman definitely elevates her from the standpoint of Biblical teaching about the potential of a woman. Proverbs chapter 31 shows this virtuous woman as a very hard worker, but not as a servant in the house: rather as a manager of a household and a manager involved in decision-making in all manner of commerce and business affairs. Notice in verse 15 that the home is called “her household.” In other words, the woman is seen as in charge. Just look at the industries that are mentioned here where the woman has expert knowledge and involvement. She is seen as making real-estate decisions in verse 16 and handling the finances for it: “She considereth a field, and buyeth it.” The woman is seen as being knowledgeable in merchandising and transportation. Verse 14 says, “She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.  Verse 18 says, “She perceiveth that her merchandise is good.


Of course, the virtuous woman is involved in all manner of retail, food processing, and clothing business decisions. As stated before she is not a servant in a house, but she is a manger of a household. She is not an employee: she has employees under her management. It says in verse 15 that this woman “giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.” In the hierarchy of the business of running a household, this woman is at the top. The husband might be the CEO(Chief Executive Officer) based upon Ephesians 5:22, but she is the COO (chief of operations). In our society we commonly use the term for a woman in charge of her own home as her full-time responsibility as a “housewife.” The more appropriate Biblical term might be “householder.” The term “householder” speaks of an administrator and someone in charge of many responsibilities just as we see in Proverbs chapter 31. For example, Jesus said in Matthew 20:1, “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.” Jesus also said in Matthew 21:33-34, “Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:[34] And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.


Concerning the involvement of women in the church, it says in Acts 27:17-18, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” This is a quotation from the book of Joel that describes one of the circumstances that will exist in this age of grace in which we live wherein the Holy Spirit has baptized every believer. This out-pouring of the Holy Spirit on every believer did not exist in the time of the Old Testament the way it now does. Since every believer is baptized by the Spirit and gifted by the Spirit, then that means that women are no different than men in this regard. Notice the word “prophesy” that is used in both Acts 2:17 and Acts 2:18. It says that women will “prophesy.” To prophesy means to foretell future events, and it means to tell such events by speaking forth the Word of God. In other words it is one of the words for “preach.” A prophet is a preacher. This makes it very clear that the Bible says that women will preach. No one can preach unless they are gifted of the Holy Spirit to preach. If God gives someone the gift to preach, who are you to try and stop them? There is very little difference between witnessing and preaching any way. What is the difference between standing on a street corner and speaking forth the gospel to people, compared to standing in front of a congregation and speaking forth the gospel to people? Over the centuries Christian women have “preached” God’s Word on street corners many times, but often have been forbidden to preach in front of a congregation.


Some people say that women cannot be pastors. As their main basis for this, they use First Timothy 3:1-2, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach.” Those who hold a limited view of these verses say: it says, “If a man,” and it does not say, “If a man or a woman.” But the point that I am making is that it does not say that a woman cannot be a pastor. The way to look at these verses is that they are addressed to men, but the same truth can be inferred about women if you were to make a similar point when talking to  women. For example, Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives…” Does this mean that wives should not love their husbands? Of course not. The opposite is also obviously true. Wives should love their husbands too. Why does not Ephesians 5:25 mention both men and women: because it was not talking to wives. It was talking to husbands. First Timothy 3:1-2 should be looked at in the same way. When speaking to men, this is a true saying, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…” When speaking to women, this is also a true saying, “If a woman desire the office of a bishop, she desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the wife of one husband…


The point from Jeremiah 31:22 is this, “for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.” God has opened the door of opportunity to women. The world has yet to see what women are capable of doing, but the world will see it. There is much more that women will yet do. That is the prophesy from Jeremiah: “A woman shall compass a man.                             




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Copyright; 2013 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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