Before digging into the Scriptures on this topic, it is first important to address some foundational principles which, when ignored, create much confusion.
- Principle #1 – Commandments were given through Moshe by Yehovah and no one can add to them or take away from them. That is one of the commandments (see Duet 4:2 & 12:32)
- Principle #2 – New Covenant apostolic letters are one-sided communications to answer questions concerning specific first century assemblies of believers.
- Principle #3 – Jeremiah 16:19 prophesied “the nations will come to you from the ends of the earth, saying, “Our ancestors inherited nothing but lies, futile idols, completely useless.”” – Greek/pagan thought has infiltrated every aspect of western religious culture and it is our job to discern error from truth and cling to the truth.
- Principle #4 – Yeshua said that before his return all things would be restored – Matthew 17:11 – we should always be seeking restoration of what has been lost or corrupted and, in so doing, hasten his day.
Taking these principles together, we must understand that two pieces of advice given by Paul, to specific situations 2000 years ago, does not add new commandments to those given by Yehovah to His people for all time.
No where in the Torah (Genesis – Deuteronomy) is there any commandment which limits a woman’s ability to teach, lead, prophesy or exercise any of the spiritual gifts.
It is now our job to “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask about the ancient paths, ‘Which one is the good way?’ Take it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16) My prayer for this post is that :we would strive for peace in our assemblies, letting all members – men and women – exercise the gifts of His spirit. There is nothing more frustrating than being withheld from exercising the calling of the Father, especially when it is the result of a pagan view of the genders.
So let’s explore the recorded roles of women in the Bible…
Eve – Elohim created Eve to be a help-mate to Adam so that together THEY could subdue and rule the earth (Genesis 1:27-28). Eve is described as an ‘ezer kenegdo which literally means a “strong helper” who is “face to face” or “corresponding to” – no definition of נגד (neged) implies subjection. Elohim refers to Himself as an ‘ezer so clearly this is not an inferior role.
“The Hebrew word translated ‘helper’ is used twenty-one times in the Old Testament: twenty of these cases refer to help from a superior. In fact, sixteen of the twenty-one refer to God (such as Exodus 18:4, 1 Sam 7:12; Ps 121:1-2, Psalm 27:9, Psalm 94:17, and Psalm 146:5). Thus, there is nothing at creation that would subjugate women to men. The use of ‘suitable helper’ to describe Eve actually implies a spiritual partnership between the husband and wife. Adam needed help, and help was provided.” (The Role of Woman in the Church, by Frank Daniels)
Miriam, Sister of Moses and Aaron – she was a Prophetess and Leader of the people. Exodus 15:20-21, Micah 6:4
Deborah – was a Judge of Israel and Prophetess, went with Barak into war to defeat Sisra and the army of Yavin king of Kena‘an, also a Song Writer – Judges 4:3-7, Judges 5:1-13
Huldah – Prophetess consulted by Hilkiah the High Priest – 2 Kings 22:11-20
Isaiah’s Wife was a Prophetess – Isaiah 8:1-4
Two women of special note:
Hannah – a righteous woman and mother of the Prophet Samuel – 1 Samuel 2:1-9
Ruth – A former Moabite, grafted into Israel, great-grandmother of King David, a Book in the Bible named after her – Ruth 1:16-17
Esther – Queen of Persia, instructed Mordecai and the people to pray and fast for three days and nights, then risked her life for her people, aBook in the Bible named after her, made official decrees (Esther 9:32)
New Covenant Disciples – Taught Ones – who were instructed to go out and make disciples – TEACHING all things that Yeshua taught them.
Miryam – sat at Yeshua’s feet and was one of his taught ones (disciples) – Luke 10:38-42
Tabitha – a disciple also known as Dorcas, and full of good works and charity – Acts 9:36
Priscilla, wife of Aquila – her name is listed first in contrast to normal convention indicating that she was the primary teacher, also called a co-worker to Paul – Acts 18:26, Romans 16:3
Junia – a person of note among the apostles Romans 16:7
Phoebe – a leader (diakonos) of the congregation in Cenchrea – Romans 16:1
Euodias and Syntyche – fellow laborers with Paul in the gospel – Philippians 4:2-3
Chole – leader of a house church – 1 Corinthians 1:11
Apphia – Paul writing to Philemon, Archippus and “sister” Apphia – leaders of their congregation – aka “Moses, Aaron, and Miriam…” – Philemon 1-2
Nympha – leader of her house church – Colossians 4:15
Lydia – leader of her household, received the gospel at a Shabbat service conducted by women – Acts 16:13-15
THE TORAH WAS GIVEN TO BOTH WOMEN AND MEN
“Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this Law.”
“There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.”
“And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the Law…”
“Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore.”
“Moreover Jeremiah said unto all the people, and to all the women, Hear the word of the Lord, all Judah that are in the land of Egypt”
WOMEN HELPED BUILD and SERVED IN THE TABERNACLE
“And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying, Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord; gold, and silver, and brass…And they came… brought the Lord’s offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women… The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work…” Exodus 35:4-29
“And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the looking glasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.” (Exodus 38:8) Meaning women served as part of the priesthood at the Mishkon – the women assembled at the altar of burnt offerings and the laver. This is where the sacrifices were slaughtered and eaten; where the priest were consecrated and lived for seven days after consecration; and where the Nazarites shaved their heads. These women were not just hanging out at the entrance! – Num 18:21-22
“The context shows this passage to be speaking of women…women engaged in ‘service’ at the tent (or tabernacle). The word ‘served’ used to describe the women who ministered at the door is only applied to military service or tabernacle or temple service. The Hebrew word is used to designate the service of only one class of Tabernacle servants: the Levites, the family of the priesthood.” (The Role of Woman in the Church, by Frank Daniels)
Anna the Prophetess, lived in the Temple and was there to recognize Yeshua as the prophesied Messiah – She and Shimon were the two witness at Yeshua’s first presentation to Yehovah at the Temple – Luke 2:36-38
YESHUA TAUGHT and MINISTERED TO BOTH MEN AND WOMEN
“And it came to pass afterward, that He (Yeshua) went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance. And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable”
“And it came to pass, as he (Yeshua) spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the breasts which thou hast sucked.’ But He said, ‘Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.’”
John 4:6-10 tells of Yeshua teaching not just a woman but a foreign woman. This woman became a witness to other men and women in her community resulting in their faith.
“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.” – John 4:39
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Miriam (Mary), which also sat at Yeshua’s feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Yeshua answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Miriam hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Luke 13:10-16 – we see women in the synagogue being taught the Torah, Yeshua heals the inform woman.
“And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Yeshua saw her, He called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And He laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation…And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:10-16)
“Yeshua saith unto her, Miriam (Mary). She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Yeshua saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Miram Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.” – John 20:16-18
And women were witnesses to the apostles.
“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Yeshua, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead…And they departed quickly…with fear and great joy; and did run to bring His disciples word.” -Matthew 28:5-28
The SPIRIT is Given to Both Men and Women
“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…” Acts 2:17-18
THE APOSTLES TAUGHT and FELLOWSHIPPED WITH BOTH MEN AND WOMEN
“Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John… These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Miriam the mother of Yeshua, and with his brethren.”
“But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Yeshua Messiah, they were baptized, both men and women.”
“And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household…”
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.”
The gifts of the Spirit are not gender specific. Yeshua’s instruction to go make disciples (taught ones) among all nations is also not gender specific. It is impossible to disciple someone without teaching them. Seven of the 55 prophets mentions in the Tanakh were women. Prophets by definition teach and instruct.
“A spokesman for G-d, chosen to convey a message or teaching. Prophets were role models of holiness, scholarship and closeness to G-d…” (Judaism: The Role of Women, http://www.jewfaq.org/women.htm)
The Scriptures clearly show that women have been both disciples and leaders, prophets and teachers in addition to being co-laborers in the gospel with men. This is because women are made in God’s image and are made especially to be “ezer kenegdo” – strong helpers alongside men, not subservient to men. Sadly, western Greek thought has so permeated religious thought that women have been sidelined from fully employing their God given spiritual gifts. Let’s not let two 2000 year old statements by Paul, taken out of context, cause our assemblies to suffer the loss of the gifts of our women. Let us instead be in the business of Restoring The Biblical Role Of Women In The Assembly!
Ladies – curious what your spiritual gifts might be? Here’s a test to get you started – I’m not claiming this test to be definitive but it’s a place to start – https://spiritualgiftstest.com/spiritual-gifts-test-adult-version/