March is Women’s History Month—and at Family Radio, it’s a wonderful time to reflect on and celebrate some of the incredible women in biblical history!
When thinking about the Bible and women, many people instinctively turn to Proverbs chapter 31. Others might open their Bibles to the books of Esther or Ruth. Personally, when it’s time to celebrate godly women (which is every day!), I like to turn to Matthew chapter 1:1-18.
“But isn’t that a genealogy?”
Yes, it is!
“But there are no great stories in a list of names!”
Actually, there are many!
Think of an ancient genealogy as an old photo album or the pictures you might hang in the hallway of your home. When you see a picture of your father, and his father, and his father—they are not simply images on a page or names in your mind. They are memories! When the family gathers around a photo album, stories are sure to follow! Many of those stories flood your mind without even needing to be shared.
That’s Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew chapter 1. But there are a few unusual things about this genealogy—only one which is important right now. In ancient times, it was not common practice to include women in a genealogy. But Jesus’ genealogy has five! In order, they are: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah), and Mary!
It’s not only remarkable that Jesus’ genealogy contains women, but also that their stories proclaim the excellence of God better than most of their male counterparts! These are women so worthy of celebration that their names make it into the birth announcement of the King of Creation!
Tamar’s story is from Genesis chapter 38. She was a widow. God had given his people laws to protect the livelihood of widows and ensure the line of their deceased husbands would continue. When Judah, Tamar’s father-in-law, acted in fear instead of faith, Tamar secretly executed a plan to honor God’s law. When Judah discovered what Tamar had done in secret, he said, “She is more righteous than I.”
Rahab’s story is found in Joshua chapters 2 and 6. She was a prostitute in the land of Jericho, the first city conquered by Israel when they were coming into God’s promised land. When Joshua sent spies into Jericho, Rahab hid them in her home. God strategically used her to preserve His people and give them victory in conquest. As a result, when the city of Jericho was destroyed, God saved Rahab and her family. For her reward, they stayed among God’s people thereafter.
Ruth, like Rahab, was also not an Israelite. She was a Moabite—a despised nation to ancient Israel. Why? For several reasons. One example: Moab tried to hire Balaam to curse God’s people when they were traveling through the desert.
When Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, returned to her hometown of Bethlehem, she was bitter against God. Her husband and sons had died after sojourning to Moab in a time of famine. Naomi felt that God had punished her—but Ruth knew the truth.
Ruth joined herself to Naomi in her state of perceived affliction and was able to restore Naomi to a right relationship with God. When Ruth gave birth to a son, the women of Bethlehem said to Naomi, “your daughter-in-law who loves you, … is more to you than seven sons.”
Bathsheba’s story is well known because it involves probably the biggest failure of King David. Her story is found in II Samuel chapters 11 and 12. When the king should have been out to battle, he instead committed the sin of adultery. The woman he violated was Bathsheba. Her husband, Uriah, was one of David’s loyal, “mighty men.” When Bathsheba became pregnant, David tried and failed to cover up his sin. In a final act of desperation, King David murdered his friend Uriah. God’s prophet, Nathan, rebuked David. God’s judgement upon David’s sin was the death of the child Bathsheba carried.
The Lord was kind to Bathsheba, however. She later gave birth to King Solomon—David’s heir gifted by God with wisdom that surpassed all other men. Bathsheba suffered the consequences of sin that was not her own—but her story ends in repentance, forgiveness, legacy, and God’s salvation for humanity.
Mary is the last woman found in Jesus’ genealogy. What’s interesting is that she isn’t related by blood to the four other women! Those women are matriarchs of Joseph—the man who adopted Jesus by naming Him in Matthew 1:25. But because Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba are included in Jesus’ genealogy—there’s room for Mary!
Mary was just a teenage girl betrothed to Joseph when she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. An angel of the Lord had to tell Joseph to continue his plans to take her as his wife! She was a virgin, and yet God used her to give birth to Jesus the Messiah—the one who would save His people from their sins.
Where would we be without the five women in Jesus’ genealogy? A few of these stories you probably wouldn’t share with the family around a photo album—at least not the unabridged versions with children present. But it’s clear that God used some incredible women in His best plan to save humanity from their sin. So, this Women’s History Month, and whenever you celebrate the glorious salvation you have in Jesus Christ, give thanks! Remember—Jesus Christ came through the line of more than a few women who said “yes” to God!