We are taking a break for the summer until futher notice.

Week 3 - Rachel and Leah, Introduction (6/4/7 - 6/8/7)

How are you doing? Have the first three weeks given you some food for your heart and mind to feast on? This week we'll look at two more women who were involved in the awesome work of God in the family history of Israel.

Last week we saw how Rebekah sent away her dear son, Jacob, out of fear that Esau would attempt to kill him. Now we'll watch Jacob's story and study the women God gave him who would build the nation of Israel. In all there were four women who impacted his life after his mother, Rebekah. Let's see what this story can teach us for our own lives.

Week 3, Day 1

1. Read Genesis 29:1-12, and tell how Rachel and Jacob met.

2. From Genesis 29:1-20, describe Rachel and Leah.



3. Summarize the events of Jacob's wedding day from Genesis 29:21-30. What happened on the seventh day of the wedding feast? (give verse)

4. In Genesis 29:31 we are told, "Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren." What does this verse tell you about God?

5. From Genesis 29:32-35 and 30:17-20, list Leah's sons and explain her thoughts as she gave birth to each one.

6. After Leah gave birth to Judah, how did her focus change?


1. God looks at the heart. Beware of only observing the outside features of a person. What does God see inside you today? (Psa. 19:14)

Who have you chosen to like or dislike because of their outward appearance, ethnic background, or religious belief?

2. True contentment can only come through God. Can you relate in any way to Leah's situation of feeling unloved? (Gen. 29:35; 1 Tim. 6:1-10)

Can you, like Leah, say "This time I will praise the Lord"?

Week 3, Day 2

1. Read Genesis 30:1-24. What was Rachel's trouble, and how did she decide to deal with it?

Rachel fell into the same impatient trap that Sarah had. Her maidservant did indeed bear two sons, Dan and Naphtali, and Rachel felt a temporary sense of vindication. The animosity between the sisters continued however. Once Leah became barren she did the same thing as Rachel and gave her maidservant to Jacob. From this union came two more sons, Gad and Asher.

2. At this point Rachel and Leah were both barren. Who furnished Leah with mandrakes? (Gen. 30:14)

Mandrakes were a root used in ancient times as an aphrodisiac. It is known today that this root has a relaxing effect on the womb.

3. What was the negotiation regarding the mandrakes in verses 14-15? Did it work in producing a child for Rachel?

4. What occurred for Leah after this, and what was her hope from verse 20?

5. Describe the LORD's blessing to Rachel.


1. God's hand holds the barrenness and blessedness of the womb. How has God touched your bearing of children physically and spiritually? (Psa. 139:1-16)

2. Man's means of fertility is void apart from God. In what area of your home life are you less than fertile today?

3. It is God who blesses the people of the earth. What has God blessed you with today? Have you thanked Him?

Week 3, Day 3

1. Read Genesis 30:22-24. What was Rachel's request to the LORD when her son, Joseph, was born?

2. Up until this time, what kind of relationship did the sisters have toward each other?

3. How was Rachel's response to her first child like Leah's response to her fourth child? (Gen. 29:35)

4. Read Genesis 31:1-18. What appears to be a refreshing change between Leah and Rachel in this passage? (Note the word "us.")


1. Only God can remove reproach from a person's life. (Isa. 4:1; Luke 1:25)

REPROACH (#2781) Cherpah in Hebrew. Meaning: shame, scorn, contempt. It has connotations of blaming others, of pointing the finger, a stigma. (Lexicon, p. 1728.)

What has God graciously removed from your life that was a reproach to you?

2. God can use children to soften the hardest hurts. How has a child brought you into a newness of love for God this week? (Luke 18:16; Matt. 18:3, 19:13-14)

Week 3, Day 4

1. Read Genesis 31:22-35. Describe the incident between Laban, Jacob, and Rachel.

2. What do you suppose was Rachel's plan for the idols?

3. From this passage we are led to believe that no one else knew about the idols except Rachel. What transpired later? (Gen. 35:1-4)


1. God says we must have no other gods before Him! (Ex. 20:1-6) Lest we judge Rachel too quickly, what form of idol worship might you need to throw away? Do you desire purification today?

Week 3, Day 5

1. Read Genesis 33:1-17. In what order did Jacob send his family to meet Esau?

2. What does this tell you about the importance of these women and their children according to Jacob?

3. Read Genesis 35:16-20, and tell what happened to Rachel.

This is a sad closure to a life of many sorrows and joys for Rachel. She died giving birth to her second son. She wanted to name him Benoni, which means "son of my sorrow." However, Jacob gave him the name Benjamin, which means "son of the right hand." Jacob dearly loved Rachel. This sad parting was very difficult for him. In Genesis 48:7 he said, "Rachel died, to my sorrow." He buried her at the place where she died, and her tomb became a memorial in Israel. (I Sam. 10:2)

4. Where was Leah buried? How does this show that she was honored in death, as compared to Rachel? (Gen. 49:29-31)


1. God is fair, just, and merciful. (Rom. 9:8-18) How can you begin today to show a more fair attitude in your home, work, neighborhood, and church?

2. God is the author and finisher of life. (Acts 17:24-28) What are you doing today that is life-enhancing to the Kingdom of God?

Week 3, Conclusion

Jacob had a life filled with controversy, yet God blessed him richly. For Rachel, Jacob's first love, life was troublesome. In her flesh she struggled with barrenness and idol worship. Leah's life was also filled with sorrow and being unloved. All three of these people dealt with sin issues, and each was held accountable for them. It was only through God's mercy that they received tremendous blessings.

The bickering and jealousy between Rachel and Leah over children was laid to rest in God's perfect timing. It took having children and valuing that procreation miracle to change their hearts. The timing was perfect, and it was then that God called Jacob home to Canaan.

Leah had to live as second best because of the trickery of her father on Jacob's wedding day. Rachel had Jacob's love but suffered from a closed womb. This was unbearable for her, and in her haste, she depended on plants and a servant for her fulfillment. God had His time for her reproach to be healed. It took longer because of her self-willed solutions.

The picture of Rachel weeping in Jeremiah 31:15 is symbolic of Israel weeping because of its barrenness. We'll study more on that in another lesson. Jacob (later named Israel by God) is symbolic of the nation of Israel in the prophetic passages of Scripture. Hundreds of years later, the nation of Israel turned stone cold toward the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The prophets said later that the land cried because of the barrenness of God in the hearts and lives of the people. The idol incident with Rachel was indicative of what would come later because of such mixed religious ideas, false religions, and unbelief in God.

Jacob was cleansed because his heart was right. The nation of Israel grew from Jacob's 12 sons into 12 tribes. They formed a nation, and forevermore Rachel and Leah are known as the mothers of these tribes.


Leah: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun

Zilpah (Leah's maidservant): Gad, Asher

Bilhah (Rachel's maidservant): Dan, Naphtali

Rachel: Joseph - (Ephraim & Manasseh), Benjamin

Week 2 - Rebekah, Introduction (5/28/07 - 6/1/07)

From our first glimpse into Scripture, we find character qualities of humility and compassion in the women who walked the journey of early biblical history. We see that their lives were lived in servitude and with little regard from men. Sarah was a woman of beauty even in her later years. Her love for her husband was evident in her obedience; she was willing to obey him even if it cost her life. (1 Pet. 3:6) In all this, God was observing, intervening, and blessing Abraham and Sarah. He made a great promise to Abraham, and it was through Sarah that the promise was fulfilled. Even in the two incidents we studied last week that could have destroyed the promised blessing, God worked His will, kept His promise, and accomplished the miracle birth of Isaac!

It is refreshing to see that, though Abraham and Sarah sinned in different ways, God still kept His promise to them. Blessing came, and today we have received the fruit of that blessing! PRAISE BE TO GOD.

Now let's look further into the lives of these Women of Faith to learn more about our good and great God as He reveals His plan through the lives of Isaac and Rebekah.

Week 2, Day 1

1. Read Genesis 24:1-67 in one sitting. (Ladies, this is a wonderful chapter - ENJOY IT!)

2. From Genesis 23:19 through 24:14, what do you learn about the following people?





3. What did the servant do in verses 12-14?

4. What significance can be placed on this act of faith by the servant and Abraham?

5. From Genesis 24:15-27, how did God answer the servant's prayer?

6. Describe Rebekah.

7. In verses 12-27, what did the servant do? What did Rebekah do? (give verses)


1. God answers the prayer from the heart. (Gen. 24:45) How sincere and heartfelt are your prayers?

2. The servant interceded for Abraham regarding a wife for Isaac, and God faithfully responded even before the prayer was finished. (Isa. 65:24) When have you interceded for someone and by God's grace seen the answer?

3. God's desire is for us to praise, worship, and adore Him continually. (I Thess. 5:16-18) What response do you give to answered prayer? To unanswered prayer?

Week 2, Day 2

1. Read Genesis 24:28-60 and describe the events that followed the servant's arrival.

2. Was Rebekah asked her opinion about the marriage? (v.51)

3. When the servant heard Laban's reply, what did he do? (vv.52-53)

4. From Genesis 24:54-60, what took place next?

5. What did Rebekah's response, "I will go," say about Rebekah and her willingness?

6. Read Genesis 24:60. What do we now know about the truth of that statement of blessing?

7. Describe the meeting and marriage of Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 24:61-67.

It would appear that Isaac was a man who deeply loved his mother. At the close of Genesis 24:67, we see that Rebekah comforted Isaac after Sarah's death. Though Sarah had died years before, Isaac continued to carry grief in his heart. Isaac took Rebekah into his mother's tent. This gesture was an act of kindness and respect for his mother and for Rebekah. Genesis 24:67 says that "he loved her."


1. God's plans for us can bring testing and blessing. Rebekah was excited about the news of a distant relative. How excited are you about the visit of someone you may not have seen in a long time, or about going to visit someone you don't know well?

2. Rebekah responded immediately to the question about leaving with "I will go." God honors a quick response when it is needed. In what area are you delaying when God is calling you to respond right now?

3. Marriage is a union of male and female that God has ordained. How do you view the marriage relationship?

Week 2, Day 3

1. Read Genesis 25:19-34. From verse 21, what was Rebekah's difficulty?

2. What did Isaac do about this problem, and what was the result?

3. The pregnancy was a difficult one. What did Rebekah do about it? (give verses)

4. What response did she receive?

5. How old was Isaac when he was given these children? (v.26)

6. Describe the two boys and which parent was attached to each one. (vv.27-28)

7. Read Genesis 26:1-6. What blessing did Isaac receive from God?

8. From Genesis 26:7-11, describe the sin of Isaac and the mercy of God in protecting Rebekah. Have you heard this lie before? From whom?


1. God can use barrenness for blessing. How has God used a difficulty or season of sorrow or pain in your life to bring blessing to Him, you, and others? Be specific!

2. Prayer is God's way of allowing us to have conversation with Him. What does prayer mean to you? If it's something important then why don't you do more of it?

3. Showing favoritism is not part of who God is! How are you being unfair in your opinion or relationship with someone else?

4. Sin can beget sin from one generation to another. What are you dealing with from the past that needs repentance, faith, and freedom today?

Week 2, Day 4

1. Read Genesis 27:1-46. Describe the deceptive scheme Rebekah and Jacob played on Isaac.

2. Did it succeed?

Rebekah had always remembered the words spoken to her by God during her pregnancy. Jacob would be the one to rule over Esau. Isaac also was aware of these words. It was Esau who had sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a meal. (Gen. 26:30-31) It was also Esau who had married foreign women, bringing much heartache and shame to the family. (Gen. 26:34-35) It was Jacob who was more sensitive and caring. He was around the tents more and kept himself pure from foreign women. Rebekah knew that God had chosen Jacob for the blessing, but her faith was weak. She plotted to take the blessing from Esau by scheming with Jacob and taking advantage of Isaac's blindness.

3. What was the motive behind Rebekah's scheme?

Although it was God's plan for Jacob to receive the blessing, Jacob and Rachel did not chose God's way of bringing it about. Rebekah took action to get the blessing for Jacob, but she did it her way, not God's. She ran ahead of God and paid for it dearly in the end. Jacob also had to bear the results of his deception. Sin always has consequences!

4. What happened because of their scheme to deceive Isaac? (Gen. 27:41-45)

5. Was Rebekah's plea to Isaac about Jacob completely true? (v.46)

6. How long did Rebekah think that Jacob would be gone (v.44)?How long was he gone? (Gen. 31:38-41)

It is believed that Rebekah died sometime in the 20 years that Jacob was away. No further mention of his mother is made after this. However, Rebekah's nurse, Deborah, is mentioned in Genesis 35:8. She died in the company of Jacob and his family. It was common that when a mother died her nurse would be given to the firstborn son, in this case Jacob.

The cost of deception was heavy for Rebekah and Jacob. Rebekah had to live with Esau and his rebellious lifestyle. She also mourned for her beloved son, Jacob, and never knew about the blessings in his life.

Jacob had to work seven years for each of his wives. He was deceived by his father-in-law. He also had to live with bickering, backbiting, and dishonesty in Laban's household for 20 years.

There is a heavy price for going ahead of God and following the will of man.


1. Dishonesty in any form brings separation from God and one another. What deceptive scheme are you working on now that should be stopped before disaster strikes?

2. Showing favoritism can be destructive. Who are you showing favoritism to with costly results?

3. Sin is separation from God and His will for you. What sin in the past has cost you something today?

How can you keep from that sin in the future?

4. One lie leads to more lies. What lie have you told that has become more severe with time?

Are you willing to confess it now and move into wholeness and purity? (1 John 1:9)

Week 2, Day 5

Rebekah was a woman of hospitality and gentle caring. Early in her story we see her willingness to serve by watering the multitude of camels that Abraham's servant had brought. Later, she demonstrated a tenderness toward Jacob that is worth noting. Her desire to see justice for Jacob became clouded, and her impatience with her husband Isaac caused her great sorrow.

Read Romans 9:10-13 where Rebekah is mentioned. What does it say?

Week 2, Conclusion

Rebekah had the privilege of hearing God speak to her. He told her that her younger son would be the son of blessing. God knew what would take place. It would have been best for Rebekah to follow His way, but in His eternal power God still turned a woman's impulsive, impatient behavior into the blessing we read about today. God dealt fairly with Rebekah and disciplined her for her scheme with Jacob. She is not mentioned again in Scripture except to say that she was buried along with her relatives in the cave that Abraham had purchased. (Gen. 49:31)

From Hebrews 12:1-13, we learn that actions have consequences and that a loving God disciplines His children. We can see that both Rebekah and Jacob received fair discipline from God for their sinful actions. What must God do in your life today to discipline you? He loves you with an everlasting love. We have every reason to be thankful for God our Father who cares that much for us!

Rebekah ran ahead of God in seeking the blessing for her son Jacob. However, in her youth she was willing to face the unknown in order to experience God's blessing. God gave her a miracle pregnancy in answer to prayer. He also spoke to her when she was pregnant. God knew Rebekah's heart. For that reason, He blessed barren Rebekah with two children. Though they became enemies at one point, in the end they lived in restoration and peace.

Take some time today to ask God where you most need to trust Him for His provision in your present circumstances. Seek Him in prayer and respond like Rebekah with "I will go." Listen expectantly to Him for His answer!

Week 1, Conclusion

Sarah was a remarkable woman. She "obeyed her husband by calling him lord." (I Pet. 3:6) She followed him from Ur to Haran, through Canaan, and down to Egypt. In Egypt she was used as a bargaining tool for the caravan family of Abraham. Sarah shared the burden of despair with Abraham from not being able to conceive a child. It would appear that Abraham was monogamous with Sarah. However, in her impatience, she decided to fix the promise of a child by adopting an idea from pagan culture that was not in keeping with the promise God intended. The Egyptian maid, Hagar, conceived and the result was a child by the will of man. The self-will of Sarah brought much heartache to the family and to Sarah. Later she had to separate herself and her family from Hagar and Ishmael.

Sarah was given a miracle child in Isaac. She and Abraham spent many years enjoying the blessing of God's promise of descendants through their beloved son. This was not without great challenge and faith building, but in the end the blessedness of Sarah's barrenness was revealed by Almighty God. The blessedness of God was seen and shared, as it is even today! TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

Week 1, Day 6

Read Genesis 21:1-21

1. After a second near disaster for Sarah, what did God do for her?
2. Sarah and Abraham named their son Isaac. What did Sarah acknowledge about Isaac in verse 6?
3. What adversity came with the blessing of Isaac for Sarah? (vv.8-10)
4. What did God confirm to Abraham regarding Sarah, Isaac, Hagar, and Ishmael? (vv.11-13)
5. Read Genesis 22:1-19. What do you suppose happened to Sarah during this time of testing for Abraham and Isaac?
6. How old was Sarah when she died? (Gen. 23:1)
7. Where was she buried? (Gen. 23:19)

1. Abraham - 75 yrs; Sarah - 65 yrs; Events - Left Haran, first promise given
2. Abraham - 76 yrs; Sarah - 66 yrs; Event - Left Egypt for Canaan
3. Abraham - 86 yrs; Sarah - 76 yrs; Events - 10 years in Canaan Hagar pregnant with Ishmael
4. Abraham - 99 yrs; Sarah - 89 yrs; Events - 2 angels & LORD appeared to Abraham Promise repeated, Ishmael 13 yrs, first circumcision
5. Abraham - 100 yrs; Sarah - 90 yrs; Event - Isaac born
6. Abraham - 103 yrs; Sarah - 93 yrs; Event- Isaac weaned
7. Abraham - 175 yrs; Sarah - 127 yrs; Event - Died

1. God is able to do the impossible. What, like Sarah, are you looking forward to by faith? (Matt. 17:20, 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37, 18:27)
2. God gives us opportunities to grow in faith. What test of faith might God be allowing in your life today? (1 Pet. 1:6-9, 4:12-13)
3. God remembered Sarah. What are you waiting for in your life right now, praying and trusting that God will "remember" you?

Week 1, Day 5

1. What significance is established in Genesis 17:1-8 and 15-21 between God, Abram, and Sarai? (Rom. 4:17-25; Neh. 9:7)
2. Describe the scene in Genesis 18:1-15 by answering the following questions: WHO, WHAT, WHEN & WHERE?
3. What do you see about Sarah?
4. Read Genesis 20:1-18. What did Sarah have to endure yet again?
5. How was she pulled into the lie? (v.5)
6. What was the significance of this event after the Lord had promised Abraham and Sarah a son in one year's time?
7. What can be learned from Abraham's self-willed plan to protect himself from foreigners? (vv.11-13)

1. God chose Abraham and Sarah as His own. He specifically renamed them. How are you viewed among those who know you, and what does your name represent toward man and God?
2. What seemingly impossible circumstance have you laid at Jesus' feet today? (Gen. 18:14; Phil. 4:13) Is anything too difficult for the Lord?
3. What half truth almost became a total disaster for you this week? (1 John 1:5-10)
4. In all the sin represented in these verses, did God change His mind regarding the promise to Abraham and Sarah? How does this bring comfort to your heart, mind, body, and soul today?

Week 1, Day 4

Read Genesis 16.

1. In Genesis 16:1-2, what did Sarai do in her impatience to bear a child?
2. How did Abram respond to Sarai's suggestion? (vv.2-4)
3. What resulted from his decision? (vv.13-16)
4. Who suffered because of this impulsive action? (vv.4-6)

1. What impatient decision have you made that has yielded frustration and disaster in your life?
2. What can we learn about waiting on the Lord's timing?
3. How can you make your disaster a blessing today?

Week 1, Day 3

Read Genesis 13:14-18 and 15:1-21

1. In Genesis 13:14-18, what did the Lord say to Abram?
2. What was Abram's response in Genesis 15:2-4?
3. What was God's answer in 15:5?
4. What does Genesis 15:6 say about Abram?
5. What do we learn from 15:18?
6. How do you suppose Sarai fit into this covenant from the Lord?
7. Do you think Abram shared all these things with Sarai?

We already know that Abram and Sarai were considerably older when the Lord made this covenant with them. Time had passed since they traveled from Haran to Egypt and back to Canaan. If Sarai was 65 years old when they journeyed from Haran, she would have been much older at this point. Life expectancy at that time was approximately 120 years. Sarai had already exceeded the half way point and was in her senior years of life. Clearly her childbearing years were well past.

1. In your daily walk how might you be experiencing the Lord's protection? Be specific.
2. Have you pondered lately the great promise of your inheritance in heaven?
3. With whom have you recently shared about God's promises and blessings?

Week 1, Day 2

Read Genesis 12:10-20.

1.What did Abram tell his wife Sarai to do while in Egypt, and why?
2. How do you suppose Sarai felt about this lie?
3. What happened to Sarai while in Egypt? (vv.15-20)
4. How did God protect Sarai from sin with the Pharaoh?

From the records of the historian, Josephus, it is believed Sarai admitted to her royal admirer (the Pharaoh) that she was indeed Abram's wife. The scene was set. The Pharaoh was convinced by the plagues that it was this deception that had brought him harm. In this way, God protected Sarai and sent Abram, Sarai, and their caravan family on the move again back to Canaan, the land of promise.

1. The lie of Abram was not beneficial to his wife. Like Sarai, have you ever been compromised in your position as a woman? (Col. 3:9, Prov. 14:5)
2. God gave Sarai courage and protection while in Pharaoh's household. How is God helping you in your present difficulty? (Acts 28:15, Psa. 118:6; Heb. 13:6)
3. Sarai must have felt abandoned by Abram during this trial. What do you do when others sell you out to something or someone else? (Psa. 102:1-17)
4. God protected Sarai by casting plagues on Pharaoh's household. How have you been protected by God in your present circumstances?
5. In spite of all the sin in this story, God still kept His promise to Abram. God is true to His Word even when we are not true to Him! How can that help you today? (Trust: Psa. 37:3-5, 40:3, 62:8, 115:9-11; Prov. 3:5-6; Isa. 26:4)

Week 1, Day 1

1. Read the story of Sarah from Genesis 11:26--23:20 in one sitting. Pray that the Holy Spirit will give you insight and application for your life.
2. Read Genesis 11:27-32 and list the details you learn about Sarai.
3. Read Genesis 12:1-9. Abram, Sarai, and their family had settled in Haran for a season then were on the move again. Why?
4. Look on a map and trace the journey of Abram, Sarai, and their family from Ur to Egypt. How many miles was it approximately?
5. What significance do you see in this form of travel for Sarai compared to today or 100 years ago?

1. Sarai traveled from Ur to Egypt because this was the command of her husband. What have you done recently because your spouse, parents, or job required it of you?
2. How was your attitude?
3. The Lord said for them to "go" (Gen. 12:1-2). In what area of your life is the Lord telling you to "go" today?

Week 1 ( 5/21/07 - 5/26/07) - Sarah/Sarai, Introduction

Facts:- Sarah was Abraham's wife. (Gen. 11:29)- Abraham was Sarah's half-brother. (Gen. 20:12)- Sarah was barren until the age of 90. (Gen. 17:17)- Sarah was one of a select few who was given a miracle-birth child. (Gen. 18:10-11)- Sarai's name was changed to Sarah. Both names can mean "princess" or "beautiful to look upon." (Gen. 17:15)- Sarah's changed name emphasized the new meaning, "mother of nations." (Gen. 17:15)- Sarah lived 127 years. She was the only woman whose age at death is recorded. (Gen. 23:1)

With the above information regarding Sarah, let us now look into Scripture to learn what God desires for our lives from these significant passages.

Women of Faith - From Barrenness to Blessedness

Bible study taken from
week 1 (5/21/7 - 5/26/7) Sarah/Sarai
week 2 (5/28/7 - 6/1/7) Rebekah
week 3 (6/4/7 - 6/8/7) Rachel & Leah
week 4 (6/11/7 - 6/15/7) Manoah's wife; Hannah
week 5 (6/18/7 - 6/22/7) Elizabeth
week 6 (6/25/7 - 6/29/7) Israel, The Church, the Bride of Christ

Life as a woman in the world today is much different than during biblical times. In the weeks ahead we'll take a closer look at the lives of many women who lived and worked in Bible days. We'll see difficulties they faced and similarities of their existence to our own. For this first venture into Scripture, let's look at the historical background which influenced the faith, courage, boldness, and blessedness of these women.

In Old Testament days the family unit consisted of several people including parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and servants. The extended family could be very large. In Genesis 12 we find Abram living in the land of Ur. Later he traveled with his family as God directed him and grew into a very large family unit. As time passed Abram, now called Abraham, parted company with his nephew Lot. The abundance of their family caused trouble between the servants, so they separated and became two different family units.

Before the Law was given at Mt. Sinai, the people of God (from Abraham to Moses) were led as God spoke to the fathers (Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses). From Adam on we see God guiding the men of the family. In some accounts in the Bible, we can read the specific messages God gave these men to obey by faith (ex: Abraham and Isaac in Gen. 22).

Family life was led by the oldest male member, usually the grandfather. He had complete authority not just in practical matters but in religious affairs as well. When the eldest male member died, the oldest son took over by right of birth. The patriarch (oldest male member) was the leader and the law in the family. A good example is Abraham, who was the leader of his clan. When God called him to go to a land unknown to him, he took his family with him. When God revealed Himself to Abraham, he believed. His family followed his lead and accepted his God as their God.

To Abraham God revealed a plan (Covenant) that ultimately brought this family unit to Mt. Sinai. There God gave laws to direct their lives and to point to their need for redemption. In each family, the law of the father and the Law of God made up the directing force for these God-chosen people. These two elements were the central focus of life. Everyday life was wrapped up in the religious life of the family. If a law was broken, the guilty party had to make it right. They recognized that sin had a penalty and that sacrifices were needed to make things right. The father was the final earthly authority; however, they knew that God was the ultimate and absolute authority.

In Bible times, women did not have equal status with men. Women were considered the property of their fathers or husbands. A woman's place was subservient to that of her husband. It was common in ancient times for a man to thank God every day that he was not a woman. E.W. Heaton notes that under a strict interpretation of the Law, the status of Israelite woman was quite low. A woman couldn't leave her husband because he owned her just like sheep or goats. Heaton also states, however, that although this was true, the Israelite women fared much better than the women in other cultures around them. This was by the mercy of God, I am sure!Consider the story of Hannah and Elkanah. (I Sam. 1-2) Elkanah truly loved his wife and treated her well. In I Samuel 1:8, he said to Hannah, "Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?" He must have been extremely good to her compared to most husbands of that day.

Jewish men in biblical times had quite a different view of women than Almighty God. Widows were especially at risk. They were ignored, exploited, and left to starve. In many places in the Old Testament, prophets rebuked priests, rabbis, and other men for their mistreatment of widows and orphans. (Jer. 22:3-5) It's clear God thinks much more highly of women than the "learned" men of biblical days did.

It must have been an ironic twist for the men of Israel when Deborah, a judge and prophetess, came on the scene. Through her, God delivered His people. (Judg. 4:8-10) In other instances, God put women in authoritative positions, such as Moses' mother, the midwives in Egypt, Ruth, Esther, and the prophetess Huldah in the time of Jeremiah. Later in the New Testament, we see Lydia, Priscilla, Elizabeth, Phoebe, Lois, and Eunice as women who not only were home-makers but also witnesses to the cause of Christ.

It is refreshing to see that God's design for women was not the same as man's. The thinking in Israel was far from the pagan perspective. Giving birth gave women a considerable increase in status. Their position was literally saved through childbirth. Unfortunately, however, a barren woman was considered disgraced and cursed by God. (Please note that this was man's view, not God's!)

Pregnancy and childbirth were a natural part of family life. The birth of a child hardly interrupted all the normal activity. The average Israelite woman nursed her child for two to three years while running the household and caring for her older children. At age three, boys were placed under their father's tutelage and taught from the Torah (Gen.--Deut.) once it was written. Education was forbidden for girls and women. An ancient rabbi wrote that a woman had no need for learning except in the use of the spindle. The Talmud (Jewish interpretation of the law) condemns a father who dares to teach the word of God to his daughter.

Jewish women were given privilege and respect for the number of sons they bore. In the story of Ruth the elders at the gate blessed Boaz by saying, "May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel." (Ruth 4:11) It was only the sons who remained with the family and increased in wealth. Only sons inherited property and provided for elderly parents. The sad fact is widows were often reduced to begging if they had no sons to care for them.

Sons were definitely the preferred gender, but daughters were not shunned. Daughters in Israel had better standing than in the surrounding pagan cultures. It is sad to read the writings of men like Aristotle who viewed women more or less as a necessary deformity on earth to perpetuate the race." Women in some cultures were no more important than animals. In some cultures, newborn girls were even left on mountains to die or were given as child sacrifices to false gods.

In Israel girls were taught by their mothers. They only learned those things necessary to make them good wives for when they reached the age of marriage at twelve and a half. The Talmud stated that a good wife was the only kind to keep. The bad wife was viewed by the Torah as bad as leprosy to her husband.

The duties of a woman in those days were extremely overwhelming in contrast to our day. She cleaned the house, which usually consisted of one room that was shared by the animals. Hauling water, milling grain, preparing food, and sewing cloth were a few of her regular tasks. It is no wonder that Proverbs 31:15-18 tells us that the virtuous woman was up early, and that her lamp did not go out at night. Yet the women of that day did these tasks willingly and with contentment.

Think of what it would have been like to provide clothes for the family. They didn't just go and purchase cloth. Linen began with flax in the field; wool began with sheep. Flax had to be harvested, and sheep had to be sheared. Flax was first pulled, beaten with sticks, then dried in the sun. Next it was steeped in water for a week to separate the fibers, then dried again, beaten again, combed, spun, and finally woven into a garment. Wool had to be cleaned, carded, spun, and woven. You can see why clothes were costly. Poor people often owned only the cloth that they wore. This was true in the New Testament as well. Remember Dorcas from Acts 9:36-41? At her death she was mourned because of the generosity she had shown to widows in making them tunics free of charge. This was a great act of kindness and charity.

Laundry was also very strenuous and time consuming. Usually the women carried their heavy garments to a stream with a swift current so the water could run through them. Another method was to place wet clothes on flat stones and pound the dirt out. If they used soap, it was what they had made themselves.

Cooking and baking consumed most of the day. Bread was the staple, eaten at every meal. It was considered the "life food." Every day the grain had to be ground into flour to make the bread. Using a saddle quern, they ground the grain stone to stone on their hands and knees. Later a hand mill was invented which allowed women to sit while crushing grain between two disc shaped stones. The main meal each day was at sunset, and it took most of the day to prepare. The fire would cook the food. It needed to be kept going all day, so wood had to be cut beforehand. Vegetables were the mainstay, but on special occasions meat would be prepared.

On an ordinary day, women would be busy baking bread, milking the goats, making cheese, gathering wood, cleaning, cooking, sewing, etc. You can see why raising girls would be a blessing to the mother because of the help they would be.

Women in the Old Testament were exempt from attending the annual festivals (Ex. 23:17), though they were allowed to attend if they were able. (I Sam. 1:9, 21-22) Their responsibilities at home kept many from attending. So how did women worship God in the Old Testament?

1. They could serve at the door of the tabernacle. (Ex. 38:8)
2. They could take a Nazarite vow. (Num. 6:2)
3. They could hear the Word of God. (Neh. 8:2-3)
4. They could participate in music ministry. (Ex. 15:20-21)
5. They could prophesy. (Ex. 15:20-21; Judg. 4:4-7)

When comparing Jewish Law with Scripture, we find that the Jewish norm of restriction of women far exceeded God's design. The man-made Jewish laws were not divinely inspired and often reflected a wrong attitude toward women and their God-given abilities.

There were several social norms that were practiced in Jesus' day. These come from the Mishna and the Talmud.
1. Women were shunned in public social contact. The Mishna encouraged men not to engage in conversation with women because it would bring evil to them or cause them to be idle in the study of the Torah. (Mishna tractate Abot, 1,5) This applied first to the wife of a Jew, then to other women as well.
2. Women were forbidden to learn the Torah. The idea of women going to school where men learned was not even considered.
3. Women were restricted from orally communicating the Torah to others, even to children in the home or synagogue.
4. Women did not have the right to bear public witness in judicial cases. Josephus said that the testimony of women shouldn't be used because of the levity and boldness of their sex. (Antiquities 4, 219)

Now let us put aside the coldness of these previous writings and turn to what Jesus taught, which is refreshing to all who will listen and heed His Word.

In Israel My Glory it states:
"In His public teaching, Jesus never uttered a word of deprecation or humiliation regarding women. They never were the object of cruel jokes or criticisms, nor were they ever put down for being women. In His condemnation of adultery and divorce in Matthew 5:27-28 and 19:3-10, Jesus taught that women were not to be treated as sex objects. In His sermons, at least twice He used the example of a woman to rebuke the faithless men of His generation: the widow of Zarephath to the men of Nazareth, recorded in Luke 4:25-26, and the Queen of Sheba to the Pharisees, recorded in Luke 11:31. At least twice in His parables Jesus used a woman in a striking way to illustrate faith and determination: the persistent widow in Luke 18:2-8 and the woman searching for the lost coin in Luke 15:8-10.Jesus never uttered a word that would support the idea of treating women as intrinsically inferior to men. They were always honored in His teaching and never humiliated - a practice modern preachers should take note of and follow. In many churches today, women are subjected to some very cruel comments at their expense, something Jesus never did.It was not only in what He taught, but also in how He related to women publicly that Jesus displayed a truly revolutionary attitude - in the sense that He was overthrowing the wrong social conventions of His day." (Israel My Glory, p. 20)

1. THE SAMARITAN WOMAN - John 4:4-42
She was extremely unacceptable, forbidden to be looked upon much less spoken to. Yet Jesus not only talked to her but also instructed her in the Word and revealed Himself as Messiah. This direct and public act would have been prohibited by the pious priesthood of that day. However, it was part of the plan for Jesus. The Jewish law was not His law. Jesus' disciples were appalled to find Him talking with this woman. Why? Because they were trained in Jewish tradition. Jesus came to correct their misconceptions with His grace!
This woman was brought to Jesus by some accusing Pharisees. They had completely ignored the guilty man also involved in the act, but they brought severe accusations against this woman. Jesus, having gently disapproved of her actions, instructed those with no sin to cast the first stone. All the accusers slowly disappeared. Jesus then instructed the woman to "go and sin no more" (v.8). Jesus deals tenderly with sin, offering forgiveness instead of harsh and hypocritical judgment.
3. MARTHA - Luke 10:38-42
Martha had much to do to prepare enough food for all her guests. (Remember the great detail of preparing food discussed previously.) Yet when she asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her, He gently rebuked Martha for her preoccupation with household duties. These tasks were important, but He knew that to get through the toils of daily life, Martha needed the food of the Word of God. Jesus was there to give the greater gift. Mary seized the moment; Jesus wanted Martha to do likewise. Jesus was not harsh or filled with contempt for Martha. His ways were tender and loving toward Martha, as they are toward us.

1. Women were the last ones at the cross of Christ.
2. Women were the first ones at the tomb of Christ.
3. A woman was the first person Jesus chose to speak to after His resurrection.

Mary Magdalene was a cleansed woman who was given the privilege of testifying for Jesus and the truth of His resurrection. Jewish rabbis did not think it was wise to trust women - Jesus did!

Jesus demonstrated spiritual attention to women. He saw the extreme neglect the teachers of His period promoted. In Luke 8:1-3, we see Jesus surrounded by women who were there to minister to His needs.

Looking back at the women in the life of Jesus, we see many different pictures. One woman cried tears of thanks at Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair. Other women told people about how Jesus raised their brother, son, or friend from the dead. Jesus was always pleased to accept the affections of women, while also moving them to repentance when needed.

Jesus demonstrated an attitude of spiritual equality toward men and women. At Pentecost the whole community of believers received power from God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. Both women and men prophesied, spoke in tongues, and were gifted for service. However, Jesus did not choose a woman to be one of His twelve disciples or an Apostle. This standard continued throughout the early church and was practiced by Peter and Paul.

In 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Paul explains that the role of authoritative teaching in the church is the primary responsibility of men. This does not mean that women are left out of the area of teaching completely. Women are to teach other women for the purpose of godliness. The older godly women are to train the younger women in the way of faith and in being a role model in the home.

As Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28-29: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free man, there is neither male or female; for You are all one in Christ Jesus and if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise."

To know God is to know His Word, every word, the whole counsel of God, the entire Scripture. We, as women, can be greatly encouraged to know that God loves us not because of our status in life but because of His grace, mercy, and love!