I must confess after reading the first three chapters I nearly gave up on Lost Women of the Bible by Carolyn Custis James. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005, but I’m glad I didn’t. The author had been brought up with the following life plan, “I would be the next in a long line of women devoted to husband, home, and hearth, volunteering countless hours of ministry in the church. Everything I heard and observed within the church and read in books addressed to young Christian women reinforced these ideas.” But it was ten years after completing college that she eventually married and she experienced further delays before becoming a mother. Consequently she had to reconsider her “life plan” and questioned God’s real intention for women. In the first three chapters she discusses identity with reference to Eve, Mrs. Noah and Sarah. For myself I didn’t find this particular interesting but it was probably a case of “been there, done that.”

I started skipping around the chapters and read about the women of Philippi which I found most interesting. In Acts 16 Paul goes to Macedonia and plants a church largely made up of women and later he writes to them (Philippians). We may get upset about gender imbalance in the church but Paul didn’t. I then read about Mary, Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene who was chosen to be the first eye witness to the resurrection. Then I was blown away by the story of Tamar. The Old Testament honours Tamar. People named their daughters after her, she is mentioned in the genealogy that leads to Jesus and her name was used in a blessing at Boaz and Ruth’s wedding. We consider the story to be rather unsavoury since Tamar dressed up as a prostitute in order to become pregnant by her father-in-law. The Bible honours her because she sacrifices her wishes in order to preserve her husband’s seed. This has a profound effect on Judah. Early in Genesis we see him instrumental in getting rid of Joseph and in the end it is Judah who is prepared to lay down his life for Benjamin.

Next I read about Esther, Hannah and Hagar. Hagar couldn’t have had things much worse she was a gentile, a woman and a slave but God allows her to name him El Roi – the God who sees me. Hannah ultimately wanted to stop Peninnah (her husband’s other wife) laughing at God and Esther wanted to save her people. The author agrees with me (!) that “Esther’s story wasn’t a fairy tale. It was, in reality, much closer to a nightmare.” (Though I don’t agree with her in regard to Esther being too passive and concealing her Jewish ancestry. Afterall Jesus didn’t reveal His true identity for 30 years.)

Ten amazing women who act as role models in advancing God’s Kingdom. Well worth a read.