Women’s role in the Church may be better understood by biblical examples of women in leadership, authority, and prophetic roles, and better instruct us in how God views the daughters of Eve.
Deborah Judges Israel (Judges 4:1-5:31)
“Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4 NIV).
Deborah in the Hebrew is debôrâh, which means bee (as in honey bee). Deborah is called a “prophetess [Hebrew, nebîy’âh, a woman inspired by a word from the Lord]” (Judges 4:4 KJV). In no uncertain terms, Deborah “was leading Israel at that time” (4:4 NIV). In the NT, Peter reminded us of the submission of OT matriarchs to their husbands, such as Sarah to Abraham. “Like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear” (1Peter 3:6 NIV). Even Paul instructed the subordination of women to men in the Church, because of the order of Creation. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1Timothy 2:13 NIV). If Creation ordered it, Sarah practiced it, and NT apostles taught the subordination of godly women to the men, then why did God place Deborah in leadership in OT Israel? Israel refused to follow God’s pattern of godly men taking leadership. “Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7 NIV). The failure of male leadership left a vacuum, which God had to fill with a godly woman, Deborah. Women assume leadership, when the men abdicate their roles.
Deborah was keenly aware of her circumstances. First, she identified herself as a “mother in Israel” (5:7 NIV), not as an Amazon, female warrior. Second, Deborah arose to the occasion, when the men refused to fight. “They held back until I, Deborah, arose” (5:7 NIV). Third, she was not campaigning to subvert God’s creation order, nor was she attempting to take leadership away from the man. But, they would not obey God, unless she led them. “Barak said to her, If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go” (Judges 4:8 NIV). Fourth, she even warned them of losing credit for the victory to a woman. “Certainly I will go with you, said Deborah. But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman. So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh” (Judges 4:9 NIV). Fifth, even though Barak fought and defeated Sisera’s army, the crowning glory of the conquest belonged to Jael, a woman, who drove a tent peg through Sisera’s temple, while he slept. “But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died” (Judges 4:21 NIV). Sixth, angels fought for Israel against Sisera (cf. Job 38:7). “From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera” (Judges 5:20 NIV). Seventh, God will get Himself glory, in spite of the men, and to the credit of the godly women. “4 When You, Lord, went out from Seir, when You marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. 5 The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai, before the Lord, the God of Israel. 8 God chose new leaders when war came to the city gates, but not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel. 31 So may all Your enemies perish, Lord! But may all who love You be like the sun when it rises in its strength” (Judges 5:4-5, 8, 31 NIV).
Huldah Faithfully Prophesies (2Chronicles 34:14-28)
OT Judah had a short window of respite, when Josiah took the throne. This was only 31 years before Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judea in 604 BC. “Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years” (2Chronicles 34:1 NIV). About 370 unimaginably long years earlier, the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom divided away from the Southern Kingdom of Benjamin and Judah. At Josiah’s time in history, the succession of a godly king to Judah had just barely taken place. The Temple was in bad need of repair. The OT Scriptures were largely forgotten; and worse, they were hardly obeyed. Josiah began to repair the Temple, when the “Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses” (2Chronicles 34:214 NIV) was found by Hilkiah the priest, given to Shaphan the secretary, then read to King Josiah. “19 When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes. 21 Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that is poured out on us because those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book” (2Chronicles 34:19,21 NIV). Josiah’s officials went to consult with Huldah about what to do? Who was Huldah? First, she was a female prophet, Hebrew nebîy’âh, just like Deborah (Judges 4:4; 2Chronicles 34:22). Second, she was the “wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe” (2Chronicles 34:22 NIV) — she was not even an official in the government. Third, she “lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter” (2Chronicles 34:22 NIV) — but was known to the government, probably through her husband, Hasrah.
What is Huldah’s significance? First, the very fact that a female prophet had to be sought out, meant a male prophet could not be found — based upon the order of creation (1Timothy 2:13). “Is there no prophet [Hebrew, nâbîy, male prophet] of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” (2Kings 3:11 NIV). Second, evidently Huldah had a reputation in Jerusalem for maintaining an unconventional relationship with the Most High God, otherwise they would not have known to ask for her, instead of a priest or Levite. “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18 NIV). Third, Huldah’s prophecy was in answer to the king’s question about God’s anger about their disobedience, but more importantly, her answer was obedience to God. “The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you” (Numbers 22:35 NIV). Fourth, she probably had little concern for the propriety of a woman prophesying, since Judah had already removed itself out of the place of obedience and blessing to a place of not acting in accordance with God’s Word. “Those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book” (2Chronicles 34:21 NIV).
Fifth, Huldah was an expression for God’s anger, which was because the Nation had forsaken Himself — removing Yahweh out of His rightful place as the God of the Nation — being replaced by other gods — so the Nation must be be judged. “Because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods and aroused My anger by all that their hands have made, My anger will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched” (2Chronicles 34:25 NIV). Sixth, Huldah was an expression for God’s mercy, because Josiah would be spared, since he had humbled himself — placing himself back in the place he belonged. ”Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what He spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before Me and tore your robes and wept in My presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. Now I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here” (2Chronicles 34:27-28). Seventh, Huldah is a reminder that God has unsuccessfully been looking for a man to speak for Himself, so He has had to do it Himself. “And He saw that there was no man [Hebrew, ‘îysh, man, male], and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore His arm brought salvation unto Him; and His righteousness, it sustained Him” (Isaiah 59:16 KJV).