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Thank goodness for (godly) women! Created 18 March 2014

WARNING: Some people with chauvinist or feminist attitudes & prejudices may find the contents of this article offensive.

Throughout the ages men and women alike have contributed much to the course of human history. But few, I believe, have influenced the course of mankind in the same way three women in particular have: Eve, Tamar and Zipporah.

Eve's virtues and also poor judgement have been well documented: she was only the second living human being - taken out of the first in order to help him[1]. She was the first to be deceived[2] and, of course, she was the first to give birth to a sprawling human race. Eve was also the first mother of a murderer and she was the first mother of a murdered[3]. What pain she must have felt and what agony she needed to deal with! Eve was a champion of unprecedented human victory and she was a victom of unprecedented human suffering all at the same time. One is left pondering; how did she make sense of it all? Notwithstanding, Eve's story has set the tone for women ever since. Eve, in fact, was the standard by which the other women noted herein contributed to humanity in such a meaningful way.

Yes, there has been Maria - the Mother if Jesus - whom we consider blessed[4]. Her godly life has left a permanent fragrance on all of mankind. Yes, there has been Esther, and Maria Magdalena, and Elizabeth and others.

But how about Tamar or Zipporah? Have you even heard of them? I bet, if you have, it has not been all that frequent at all. Yet, these two women - hidden away in Old Testament Scripture - arguably, are the "what if's" on which all Jewish history rests because, unlike most other women in Scripture, they were offered an opportunity to act in an ungodly, insubordinate way - a way that may very well be seen as "fair" or "reasonable" in social terms today - but opted instead to serve the purposes of God and not their own. Thus, they chose to serve God's way because their attitude, simply put, was godly. On the same basis, they are the "what if's" on which all of Christianity rests as well.

If it were not for these two seemingly 'insignificant women' the Jews may very well not have exited Egypt. Or, at least, the Jews may very well not have exited Egypt in the same way they did or when they did. Furthermore, in all likelihood, the Jewish nation may not have delivered the Saviour through the tribe of Judah, and the Jews may thus not have been called "the Jews".

Of course, all of that is speculation on my part. Still, I do want to highlight the small but tremendously powerful roles which both Tamar and Zipporah played in 'keeping history on track'.

If there are two outstanding features about the decedents of Jacob (the nation of Israel) it is this:

1) they miraculously exited Egypt under Moses; a special leader who had a singularly unique youth and upbringing, and whose godliness had been 40 years in the making before God deemed him ready for the seemingly impossible task of leading an often obstinate people to the Promised Land, from whence the Saviour would come, and

2) the fact that the Jews are named after the tribe of Judah, a leader and a righteous man from whose tribe Jesus of Nazareth would eventually be born.

Let's start with Tamar the widow of two of Judah's three sons. Judah in turn was the fourth son of Jacob after whom the nation of Israel was named. So, the lineage goes as follows: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Judah's third son Shelah (God himself killed the other two[5]) who was to produce an offspring so that the Saviour (Jesus of Nazareth) could be born hundreds of years later. According to custom, Judah was to give Tamar in marriage to his third son following the death of the first two sons so as to produce offspring for his lineage. But he refused to do so, thinking Tamar was 'bad luck' given that his two eldest sons had died being married to her[6]. So, there was little or no possibility then for Judah to have any grandchildren and thus for his lineage to continue. Note that as a consequence the birth of the Saviour was at this point hanging in the balance because from the blood line of Judah the Saviour was to be born.

Very possibly God spoke to Judah to have Shelah marry Tamar but he refused to do so. We note that he (Judah) wasn't living a godly life at all at this point in time, so possibly Judah wasn't paying attention to what God was saying anyway.

Enter an insignificant yet God-obedient woman to rescue humanity from the waywardness of a chosen man. Note that God did not disqualify Judah because he displayed poor judgement or acted waywardly; God did not diminish Judah's role because he was 'wrong'. God did not replace Judah with Tamar because she was 'right'. Instead, albeit in an indirect and exceedingly respectful manner, Tamar - 'the helper' - was used by God to help the 'chosen man' get back on course. God used the (willing) helper to help the (wayward) man.

So, what happened? In short, unbeknownst to Judah, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute at the temple whom he (Judah) ended up engaging in order to produce the offspring God was looking for from his (Judah's) lineage. So, God made a way where there was no way, even if it appeared (appearance only) ungodly[7]. Still, that happened in the context of Judah's desperately poor judgement and, shall we say, 'being on the wrong side of the argument': he was looking to execute Tamar for her obvious immorality (falling pregnant out of wedlock)[8]. Despite this she respectfully and subtly made him aware through her cunning way that he (Judah), in fact, was the father of the unborn child[9]. This, of course changed absolutely everything in the mind and heart of the main perpetrator - Judah, God's wayward appointed man. She exposed his error without reflecting in judgement on it.

Therein lies the key for me; Tamar's 'spirit' or attitude in how she helped convert a bad situation into undeniably God-approved fruit. Her way was gentle, diplomatic, clear, not accusing and very respectful. It immediately led Judah to recognise his waywardness so as to soberly exclaim, "this woman is more righteous than I am!". Perhaps for the first time Judah got it right. But, before then, so Scripture testifies, he wasn't up to much good (compare Gen 37:26). So, he needed help. And the help Tamar offered was help that actually helped. Judah became the godly man the Father was looking for. Her personal, selfless sacrifice led to his 180 degree turnabout (shall we say repentance?) and subsequent pursuit of the Lord in godly leadership from that point onwards. The rest is history as Judah from that point begins to seriously pursue God in righteousness and also takes the lead in dealing with his exiled brother - Joseph - who was to became the main determinant of the future of the Israelites in the land of Egypt where they would stay till Moses led them out some 400 years later (compare Gen 43 and Gen 44).

So, can you see that Tamar had all the right in the world to 'make a fuss' over Judah's obviously patronising and abusive (he wanted to execute her) double standard. But, she didn't. Instead, she served God first and her own desires second - a sure sign tale of godliness. Can you and I say the same? Do you and I have the same level of humility, considering God's appointed (pastor, prime minister, president, parent, husband or elder) higher than ourselves? Or do we demand our own way?

Now for Zipporah. You probably knew that God, at one point in time became angry at Moses because of his timidity in approaching Pharaoh. But did you know that God, at another point in time - on another matter altogether - wanted to literally kill Moses because of his neglegence (note, God had already killed others up to that point, so the passage should be read literally)?

Here's the issue: Moses apparently did not circumcise his son as his God-ordained duty was to do. So, Zipporah - his wife - did it for him, tossing the foreskin at him, saying, 'now you and I are in covenant' (my interpretation[10]). That is the last we ever hear of Zipporah - a little more than 3 verses in all of the Bible, yet thousands of years in impact and significance. Because, as a result of her doing, God then did not proceed to kill Moses as He would have done without her helping him.

Note, though he may have done so, Scripture does not actually record any 'thanks' or 'well done' offered to Zipporah. She remains in the background, silent. The story simply continues as if nothing had happened! And, that is exactly what, I believe, God expects; helpers helping (and not leading) when they're appointed to do so. For all his troubles and His shortcomings, I believe, God - not any human being - would deal with Moses as He saw fit. It would never be that of Zipporah's prerogative. What I am saying here is not that women cannot or should not ever take initiative (on the contrary, as we have seen), only that God has instituted a sovereign order, which godly people do not seek to change[11].

Now what would have happened if God went ahead in killing Moses? I don't know but it would have changed the course of mankind, no doubt. As was the case for Tamar, albeit in a direct manner, Zipporah - 'the helper' - was used by God to help the 'chosen man' get back on course. God used the (willing) helper to help the (wayward) man. If wayward men, today, would only allow themselves to be helped when godly help is offered! And, if wayward women, today, would help as would be their God-given task, and not try to 'take over' or criticize!

Having reflected on the stories of Eve, Tamar and Zipporah, the essence of what I am communicating here is this:

1) God has used women in small but very, very significant ways in the past, and likely is still looking to do so through willing women today. Their 'playing in the background' did not in any way diminish their role in God's eyes or His overall plan.

2) For the women mentioned here, both their role and their attitude towards men allowed them to be effective in what God wanted to do. I believe that while men may not have seen their contributions in the overall scheme of things, God did. And, He still does.

3) Faith in God (obedience to His ways) depends not only on fulfilling your role but in doing so with the right attitude, which never seeks to circumvent His appointed order.

4) Being 'right' in any argument is never more important than being 'God-fearing in obedience to His ways'. A women's respect for her husband - in deed as much as in attitude - is not negotiable. This is her service to God. That is the case also in terms of parents, pastors/priests and the governing authorities.

I can only imagine what Judah's response may have been if he had been disrespected or challenged by Tamar for all his shortcomings. If she had refused him the honour that God had ordained. And, I cannot imagine what would have happened if Zipporah did not do Moses' God-given job for him while refusing to attract praise; if she had claimed preeminence because she (obviously) saved his life and secured the future of their son as well. If she insisted on taking the lead because on the matter of circumcision she was, no doubt, absolutely right!

But, that is not how the Bible describes the way God works. His way is different to ours. So too are those who pursue His ways different to others who do not; Godly people seek God's desires above their own.

This is why these woman are so exceedingly significant in biblical terms: they did what was good by God, before trying to do what was good by themselves or any other person. They did not seek to circumvent authority because they were on the "right side of the argument" while their man was "on the wrong side of the argument"; they did not dishonour God by dishonouring His sovereign order. They sought no acclaim or compensation for the good they had done, finding total fulfilment and satisfaction only in being the fulfilment of that 'helper' which God knew beforehand man would need. They assumed no lead in godly matters but stood in the gap for their man instead.

In conclusion, my intention here is to say this: 'Men, you have a job to do - make sure you do it in God's way. Your job is to be right by God, even if it is not easy or popular. Recognise, duly appreciate and nurture the help you have been given. Women, every time you help as you should you are 'right with God'. That is all that matters. Therefore, appreciate that it is given to you to help. After all, the Holy Spirit - though not female - is a helper too'[12].


Note: In writing this article I make no apology nor feel any guilt for charges of either chauvinism or feminism. Neither do I view either of these to be godly attitudes, but consider them as ungodly, secular-world infused prejudices and attitudes that in fact work together to the detriment of mankind. What I have done here is to simply read the Bible and made conclusions from it. You may choose to disagree with some/all of these. If so, I may learn from you and hope that I have the humility to take on board where God is indeed speaking to me through you.


[1] 18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Gen 2:18) [back]

[2] 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity[a] that is in Christ. (2 Cor 11:3) [back]

[3] 8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother;[a] and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. (Gen 4:8) [back]

[4] 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. (Luke 1:48) [back]

[5] 6 Then Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord killed him. 8 And Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. 10 And the thing which he did displeased the Lord; therefore He killed him also. (Gen 38:6-10) [back]

[6] 11 Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown.” For he said, “Lest he also die like his brothers.” And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house. (Gen 38:11) [back]

[7] 12 Now in the process of time the daughter of Shua, Judah’s wife, died; and Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 And it was told Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14 So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as a wife. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face. 16 Then he turned to her by the way, and said, “Please let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. So she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 And he said, “I will send a young goat from the flock.” So she said, “Will you give me a pledge till you send it?” 18 Then he said, “What pledge shall I give you?” So she said, “Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19 So she arose and went away, and laid aside her veil and put on the garments of her widowhood. (Gen 38:12-19) [back]

[8] 24 And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.” So Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned! (Gen 38:24) [back]

[9] 25 When she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “By the man to whom these belong, I am with child.” And she said, “Please determine whose these are—the signet and cord, and staff.” 26 So Judah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again. (Gen 38:25-26) [back]

[10] There are many different interpretations of this passage which has plagued scholars for a long time. My interpretation is that Zipporah circumcised her son as an indictment on Moses' sloppiness or tardiness in fulfulling the Lord's way. Nevertheless, having done his work for him, she not only saved his life but established a special bond (a covenant (which, at the time, were usually made in blood)) between them because of it. 24 And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. 25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’[a] feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!” 26 So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!”—because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4:24-26) [back]

[11] 2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor 11:2-3) [back]

[12] 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26) [back]


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Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptual. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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