Single Women of the Bible

Morgan Coyner

I'm sure you saw the title of this post and thought, "Great, another blog post about how Ruth is the epitome of singleness in the Bible." I'm happy to report that that's not what this post is about. I love the book of Ruth. I think it can definitely be helpful to single women, but sometimes, and maybe this is just me, it reads to me of the story of a girl who lost her husband and throws herself at the first available man. Obviously, I'm taking things WAY out of context, and there's a lot more going on in the story than that. But sometimes, as a single woman, reading that book makes me think, "Well, yeah, if there was some totally perfect guy out there, I'd do the same thing," but a lot of times the problem is that we can't find that guy. So today, I'm digging into some different examples, ones that make more sense to me in terms of MY experience in singleness. I hope that you find them encouraging, too.

➳  Shiphrah & Puah

“Then the king of Egypt said to the hebrew midwives, one of whom was named shiphrah and the other puah, “when you serve as midwife to the hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” but the midwives feared god and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “why have you done this, and let the male children live?” the midwives said to pharaoh, “because the hebrew women are not like the egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” so god dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared god, he gave them families.” — Exodus 1: 15-21

During an emotionally fraught time of Israel's history, these midwives make a brave choice. They decide to obey God instead of Pharaoh. This is what I love about the Bible. We could have easily gotten a story that says that the midwives didn't listen to Pharaoh and then moved along. But God gives us their motivation — that they feared God. These women knew who they would ultimately answer to, and they chose to live in response to that. They saved the male children (the male children who were part of the chosen people of God), and then they lied to Pharaoh's face about it. That takes some serious bravery. We also see here that God "dealt well with [them]," and that "He gave them families." They were blessed for their faithfulness to God, but their faithfulness to God occurred during their singleness. God used these women, these seemingly insignificant single women, to change the course of history, to deliver and save His people.

➳  Rahab

“But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “true, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” but she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out. — Joshua 2: 4-14

"Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the lord dried up the water of the red sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the lord your god, he is god in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” and the men said to her, “our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”” — Joshua 2: 4-14

Ever feel like you're too sinful to be useful? Rahab was a prostitute, and even she was used by the Lord to protect His people. She has heard of God, of the exodus and His faithfulness to His people. The text specifically says that when she heard these things, her heart melted. How beautiful is that? The same phrase we use when we talk about falling in love and when little kids do the cutest things. She felt that way about God. Again, she defied the orders of the King of Jericho. Instead of turning over the men, she lets them escape because she knows what God is capable of. And just like those midwives, she lies to the face of the King. She later marries and becomes the mother of Boaz. Remember him? He's the man that marries Ruth. She becomes part of the line of Jesus. Again, a woman, a PROSTITUTE, is used to save God's people, and she is rewarded and remembered. From a prostitute to an ancestor of the Savior. Only God could redeem that. 

➳  Esther

“In those days, as Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the threshold became angry and sought to lay hands on king ahasuerus. And this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king. And the king said, “what honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” ” — Esther 2: 21-23, 6:3

“Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “go, gather all the jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”” — Esther 4:15-16

Esther is obedient to Mordecai, who is reverent to God. Mordecai refuses to worship anyone or anything other than God. Esther relays the information that he gives her, and that information ends up saving the King. This earns Mordecai favor. Though this seems like Esther is passive, it's really an example of a single woman being obedient in the exact place that God has her. In the same way, we should be obedient in whatever season God has placed us in. 

The second scripture is where we see Esther make a choice. She fasts for three days, preparing her heart, praying to the Lord about what she is about to do. And on the third day, she walks into the King's court, though without being summoned, this could result in her death. Though I imagine she was scared, she does it anyway. This is what a life of courage looks like — doing the hard thing even when we're scared. Ultimately, God protects Esther, and through her, Mordecai, and the King, He saves His people from the threat of annihilation by Haman.

➳  Mary Magdalene

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “woman, why are you weeping?” she said to them, “they have taken away my lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” she turned and said to him in hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means teacher). Jesus said to her, “do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my father and your father, to my God and your God.’” Mary magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” — John 20:1, 11-18

Mary Magdalene was one of the women present at the crucifixion of Jesus. She had been with Him during His ministry, and she stayed until the moment He died. Additionally, all four gospels count her as the one who discovered the empty tomb. In terms of historicity, scholars often say that if a fact appears in more than one gospel, it is more likely to be true. If this shows up in four gospels, we can pretty much assure ourselves that this woman was the first witness of Jesus' resurrection. She goes and tells others. This is what we're called to do: to tell others about the resurrection of Jesus. Additionally, in John's gospel, when Jesus appears, Mary recognizes Him when He says her name. Oh how sweet it would be if we could tune our ears to the sound of Jesus calling our names. Our time as single women can be a time where we learn to hear the voice of God so that when He shows Himself to us, we recognize Him.

➳  The Sinful Woman from Luke 7

“One of the pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the pharisee’s house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “if this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” and jesus answering said to him, “simon, I have something to say to you.” and he answered, “say it, teacher.” then turning toward the woman he said to simon, “do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” and he said to her, “your sins are forgiven.” then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “who is this, who even forgives sins?” and he said to the woman, “your faith has saved you; go in peace.”' — Luke 7:36-40, 44-50

I like to think of myself as someone who would have fallen at the feet of Jesus. I like to think that had I seen this woman, I would have applauded her faithfulness rather than condemn her for her sin. But honestly, in my heart, I'm not so sure of that. This woman loves Jesus without abandon. She cries at this feet, though people are watching. She spills precious and expensive ointment at the feet of Jesus. In the eyes of everyone around, she looks crazy. Yet Jesus sees her, really sees her. He sees the love she has in her heart and how she is humbling herself before Him. He doesn't define her by her sin but rather by her love. He forgives her. This is open to us, too. If we bring ourselves to the feet of Jesus, we, too, are forgiven. Our faithfulness to God, the love we show Him in secret or in public, is not a waste. It is always noticed by God. We are always noticed by God. Even now, when we feel like the single season is stretching on into eternity. He sees us. He loves us. And He just wants us to come before Him with love. 

Singleness is hard. The other day, my sister texted me and said, "When you're sad about being single, you should read your own articles." I struggle with this season of singleness. I learn as I write, however, I find encouragement in the arms of and with the Word of God. 

Final Reminders:

  • † We answer to God, not man. 
  • † God can use anyone. Sinners and single women.
  • † We must be brave and and obedient and serve wherever god puts us, even in our singleness. We have no idea how he works his plan and how we will play a part in it.
  • † God sees us. Exactly where we are. Exactly how we are. And he sees us through the lens of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

^ click photo to read more from the lovely Morgan ✍