The Courage of One Woman – Part 1

By Slim Killens

Courage 1) Is having strength in the face of pain or grief. 2) Is the ability to act on one’s belief despite danger or disapproval.

In this three-part series The Courage of One Woman we will be looking at nine courageous women of the Bible.

For some unjust reason, women often feel short changed when it comes to their representation and treatment in the Bible – this cannot be further from the truth. The Bible is filled with many ordinary women, nine of which we will explore during this three-part-series, demonstrating extraordinary courage in their personal lives.  This misunderstanding can only be due to our inability to recognize that God has always promoted just and safe treatment towards women in both the Old and New testaments (unlike many other nations in ancient times), our limited knowledge of ancient customs as they pertain to women, and/or because our understanding has been skewed about ancient histories based on the greater status afforded women in our more technological societies today. Of course, you are correct that the contributions of women are less mentioned than men in the Bible, but that does not make them insignificant.  Volume, in and of itself, does not prove more notable or of more value.

The first three women we will be reviewing is 1) Rahab, 2) the woman who was determined to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and be healed, and 3) Deborah the prophetess. Each in their own unique way exemplifies courage – wisdom, strength and humility – while encountering potential danger and disapproval during difficult situations, yet standing bold and firm in their convictions.

Rahab (Joshua chapters 2 and 6).

Every child that has grown up in Sunday School is likely familiar with the song and story ‘Joshua fought the battle of Jericho.’ Under God’s direction to Joshua, four priests carried the ark of the covenant, seven priests carried seven trumpets and prepare to blow and shout on day seven “for the Lord has given you the city” and the city is captured and destroyed never to be built again. The biblical story through Joshua’s leadership and army they quietly circle the city of Jericho for six days (seven times on the seventh day), trumpeting and shouting causing the walls of the city, that is Jericho, to come tumbling down. 

Rahab, one of the main characters in this story, an inspiring woman demonstrates courage by recognizing the soon demise of her city, Jericho, procures the safety of her entire family (Joshua 2 & 6:17-25).  This is important. Her actions for protecting the two spies in Jericho, she is introduced to the Mosaic covenant of ancient Israel, becomes a proselyte and fourteen-hundred years later we find her name added to the genealogical blood-line of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). How cool is that?

Jericho was a pagan society. Rahab was likely a priestess of the Canaanite religion which would garner honor and respect in that society (likely a prostitute, performing various rites to one or more of their gods). She would maintain some wealth and status in order to live in the city wall – or penthouse of the day (see Joshua 2:15; 6:17).

Rahab was wise enough to understand that the destruction of neighboring kingdoms by the children of Israel – that the destruction of her city Jericho was imminent. Taking a chance, Rahab makes a courageous request to the spy’s, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” (Joshua 2: 9-11; 6:1).

Fear, of the approaching Israelite army, captivated the leaders of Jericho and was likely the catalyst that persuaded Rahab to disobey the king’s order and preventing the two spies from being captured – which would be considered treason, subject to the death penalty – yet understanding that her city Jericho would soon be captured and destroyed by the mighty hand of God she was willing to hide the two Israelite spies on the roof of her home (under the stalks of flax) until it was safe for them to leave.

According to the law of Moses, as commanded by God, any oral or written contractual agreement (a vow) must to be honored. In other words, the spies agreed. You saved our lives and we will save you and your family’s life, if you do not report our business to the king.  Then we will deal kindly with you when we capture the city (Joshua 6:17, 22-23).   So it was, after the children of Israel captured Jericho, they delivered Rahab and her family, as promised, and shared in these inspiring words, “So she (that is Rahab) dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.” (Joshua 6:25).  

Rahab, in true diplomatic form, was able to negotiated a ‘quid pro quo’ agreement. By providing protection for the two spies they promised to return and in their military conquest of Jericho and deliver Rahab’s family, relatives and possessions (Joshua 2:12-13). This agreement was established between Rahab and the two spies, “So the men said to her: We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, unless when we come into the land you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home.  So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless.  And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him.” (Joshua 2:17-19).

The Woman who touched Jesus’ garment (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48).

This narrative, the woman with the issue of blood – who is not named, is mentioned in three of the four gospels.  It is the gospel of Mark that gives the more extended and detailed version of this miraculous event. What is unique is that in each of the three gospels the woman’s miracle is coupled between the synagogue ruler Jairus’ initial request for Jesus to heal his twelve-year-old daughter and concluding with the actual miraculous healing of Jairus’ daughter.  There are several things that we have learn about this woman.  She had this discharge of blood for twelve long years, she received medical treatment from many doctors – but got worse, she spent all her money hoping for a lasting remedy and finally, only Jesus was able to provide a cure from her chronic condition. 

The divine appointment between Jesus and the woman, proved very efficacious for her.  We are not told whether this woman was a Jew or Gentile, but we can assume from the insertion of this narrative in all three gospels – the synagogue ruler and the mentioning of this woman’s discharge of blood (both customary Jewish practices) – that she was a Jew.  This is significant. Being a Jew, under the Mosaic Law regarding the discharge of blood, she would be considered unclean for the entire duration of her sickness and would cause all those who touched her (applying to Jews only) to be unclean until evening and they were commanded to bathe in order to be cleansed (see Leviticus 15:25-27).  The woman aware of the religious mandates about the discharging of blood – knowing that contact with anyone or anything would render the person or thing unclean, yet she boldly presses on to find and eventually touch Jesus and secure her healing.

Herein lies the courage of this woman, especially coming from a Jewish background.  We can assume, though not stated in the scripture, that either she had been told by friends or had personally heard about the power of Jesus’ ministry – that her only hope for healing would come through a personal encounter with him.  She had tried everything in her power – spent all her money – to no avail, and in a last-ditch effort she was determined to seek Jesus and trust in him for a miracle which she did receive.

In a desperate attempt to be relieved of her chronic pain, she throws caution to the wind, and pushes, shoves and presses courageously forward from behind the multitudinous throng of people (knowing each person she had contact with through the press rendered them unclean) determined to touch just the hem of his garment. She remarks with courage and profound faith, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well” and when she did immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.

She was likely planning to sneak into the crowd unawares, touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, be healed and disappear into the city quietly returning to her private residence.  However, her convenient plan was abruptly interrupted. Immediately after she touched Jesus He stopped in his tracks and said, “Who touched me?” Even the disciples were astonished by his remarks because a large crowd of people were surrounding and pressing against them, yet Jesus has the audacity to make such a comment.  But Jesus remarks, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” The woman realizing the awkward predicament she’s in immediately confesses with fear and trembling the reason why she touched Him.  But Jesus doesn’t rebuke her. He compassionately reassures her saying, “Daughter, be of good cheer, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

Jesus uses this phrase many times during his ministry, ‘your faith has made you well.’  Jesus does not say to the woman, or anyone else (as many wrongfully believe), that it is based on how much faith she was able to conjure up, but it was the object in which she placed that faith (that is to say, we must place our faith in Jesus Christ).  There is an apparent misunderstanding amongst many Christian believers today about biblical faith.  If I conjure up enough faith, I can have what I want, if I don’t doubt.  However, biblically our faith must be in Jesus Christ, not in attempting to manipulate Him for our own selfish whims as acknowledged in the scriptures, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” and “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (see James 4:3; I John 3:22).

Deborah, the Prophetess (Judges chapters 4 and 5).  

After the Children of Israel came out of Egypt under the direction of Moses, entering into the promise land they continued to struggle with obedience to Almighty God – the power and influence of the surrounding nations becomes a constant snare – preventing them from enjoying the full blessing God had promised them in the new promise land.  (Joshua 24:31; Judges 2:7).  The period of judges began roughly around 1450-1000 BC (until King Saul, the first Monarch of Israel began to reign). So, for about 450 years, after walking out of the wilderness God had to raise up Judges, as needed, in order to provide guidance and deliverance when the children of Israel lost their spiritual way (Judges 2:18-19; I Kings 6:1; Acts 13:20). 

Two chapters are dedicated to Deborah (Judges chapter 4, Deborah the prophetess and chapter 5, the Song of Deborah). She provided counseling for the children of Israel, she also prophetically predicts the victorious battle over the captain of host Sisera, under the Canaanite King Jabin. However, when God can’t find a man to do His bidding (God does not show partiality of persons). He can easily raise up women, such as Deborah and Jael, to accomplish the task. And so, He did.

Not much is said in these passages about Deborah, but gleaning from the few words, she was both wise and courageous.  The children of Israel, due to their disobedience to God were severely oppressed by Jabin, the Canaanite King, so they sought wisdom and guidance from Deborah.  It is apparent that her wisdom and courage came from her trust and obedience in God and she gave a prophetic utterance to Barak which was ignored, “Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?…Sisera the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.” God gave the honor of victory, to the woman Jael, that would have gone to Barak were he obedient. 

Deborah, a prophetess was married to Lapidoth, is the only female judge mentioned in the Old Testament.  Her office was conducted under a palm tree in mount Ephraim between Ramah and Bethel, the children of Israel would come to her for judgment (godly counsel), she had to persuade reluctant Barak to engage in a victorious battle against the Canaanite king, Jabin who harshly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, and she judged Israel for forty years.  Barak, as many of the Israelites, sought the wise godly counsel of Deborah – Barak’s unwillingness to obey the words of God to go into battle insisted that he would only go fight if Deborah went with him, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.” So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”

In Judges chapter 5, known as the Song of Deborah, captures in poetic fashion the defeat of Jabin, the powerful and oppressive Canaanite King.  How Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, gathered his nine-hundred fearless chariots of iron against the ten-thousand soldiers of Barak – a predictably easy victory for Sisera – but God had other plans.  He routed the army of Sisera who fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for safety. He was exhausted and thirsty, asking Jael for water. She covered him and gave him milk to drink. As he rested in sleep, she destroyed him. The song gives praise to the woman, Jael, “Most blessed among women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite…at her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell dead” as defeating the Canaanite army (Judges 5:24-27). Then the land rested for forty years.

In part-two of this three-part series The Courage of One Woman we will be looking at the second group of women 1) Ruth, 2) Mary, the mother of Jesus and 3) Esther, Queen of Persia. Each in their own unique way exemplifies courage – wisdom, strength and humility – while encountering potential danger and disapproval during difficult situations, yet standing bold and firm in their convictions.