God Never Meant for Women to Be Invisible

by | Apr 23, 2019 | Faith | 44 comments

Why Women Matter to God: We Shouldn't be Invisible

As a woman, there are times that I have felt invisible.

Maybe some of my female readers will agree with me. But I’d like to talk about this today in a way that, hopefully, will point us back to Jesus.

I actually planned to have a really awesome post on 10 things to know about arousal and women today, and I’m still hoping to write that for next week. But honestly–I had an amazing weekend with the whole gang home, and I took yesterday off and didn’t get the work done that I was planning on getting done, so it’s not written. And at the same time I went on several rabbit trails in my head last night, and I’d like to try to share one with you. This post may be a little stream of consciousness, but I hope you’ll bear with me.

I was watching Special Victims Unit and knitting last night when an actress came on. She was playing a judge, and I knew I knew her from somewhere, but I could not place her. Then, about 2/3 of the way into the show, she tilted her head a certain way, smirked a bit, and said the word “justice” with incredible vehemence, and it all came back to me.

In the early 90s the Canadian government produced “heritage minutes” vignettes about Canadian history that aired on television constantly. Each a minute long, and each really well done, there were some about the Vikings discovering Newfoundland, the invention of basketball, Laura Secord and the War of 1812, Vimy Ridge, and many other Canadian things.

But my favourites were always the ones about the Famous 5. They were a group of women from Alberta and Manitoba who led the fight to get women recognized as persons in the British Empire. I’ll let Emily Murphy tell you about it (it’s only a minute long and worth the watch!):

If I could meet anybody in Canadian history, it would be either Emily Murphy or Nellie McClung, one of her fellow Famous 5 members. Nellie is actually my favourite. A devout Christian, her faith motivated her to fight for women to be given the vote and recognized as people. Nellie was also from Manitoba, the same province that my family hails from. What many of you may not know is that the women in Manitoba got the vote in 1916–the first women to be able to vote in the British Empire (and even before American women). That means something to me, as one whose heritage is from Manitoba.

Anyway, I saw Kate Nelligan (the actress from this vignette) tilt her head like that, and I recognized Emily Murphy. And I rushed to watch this vignette again. Which of course caused me to cry, because in twenty odd years I’ve never been able to watch this one without crying.

“I, Emily Murphy, of Alberta, and all Canadian women after me, persons under the law.”

In watching it last night, I realized that Kate Nelligan never actually said the word “justice” in this vignette. Yet when the actress said that word on Special Victims Unit, I recognized her immediately. I guess it’s because subconsciously, the word “justice” is what I always think of when I watch that heritage minute.

Anyway, I was thinking about that fight those women had just to be considered persons. All five of them were doing amazing things in their communities, yet they were “pooh poohed” and not recognized for it.

And I was thinking this on the day after Easter–a day when, all too often, we completely forget and ignore women.

How many sermons have you heard about how “everybody abandoned Jesus” on Good Friday? How many times have you heard that nobody stood with Jesus? That all of his friends deserted him?

I’ve heard plenty (though not from my current church, which is wonderful!).

Yet not everybody deserted Jesus. All his disciples did, yes. But the women who followed Him never did. They were with Him all the way, lining the street as He carried the cross. They were at the foot of the cross when He died, trying to give Him some emotional comfort. And they were the ones who were adamant about preparing His body for burial.

I am not saying that women are better followers of Jesus than men are. I am simply saying that those women should not be forgotten. We make the main story about Easter being the men deserting Jesus, but should not part of the story also be that it is possible to stay devoted, even in stressful times? These women are an important part of the Easter story who also have much to teach us, and they should not be erased, made invisible, or considered afterthoughts.

We know that the women were not afterthoughts to God, because it was to Mary that Jesus chose to reveal Himself and it was Mary who was chosen as the first missionary.

After the women showed up at the tomb and discovered that Jesus was not there, and spoke to the angels, they hurried back to tell the disciples. The women’s roles could have stopped there. John and Peter would have run out regardless, and Jesus could have appeared to them first.

But Jesus didn’t choose to appear first to Peter or John. He chose Mary (John 20:16). In fact, He even called her by name (which is how she recognized Him.) Mary, as an individual, mattered to Jesus. And Mary was chosen as the first missionary–“I have seen the Lord!”–to teach men that Jesus had risen from the dead. In Jewish tradition, testimony from women was often excluded. Yet Jesus wanted to upend that. Jesus appointed Mary to that task, even though she was a woman, partly, I think, because He wanted to show that women’s words mattered.

It’s interesting how much the Easter weekend story features women prominently being faithful to Jesus. Yet we rarely hear of that. (and more on that in just a minute).

In fact, too often Bible stories are interpreted in a way that minimizes women’s roles or maligns women.

Yesterday, I was also watching a debate unfold on Twitter between Dee from The Wartburg Watch and a whole slew of people. She was making the case (very strongly) that the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) is one of sexual assault and abuse. Think about it: David sends people (likely soldiers) to get Bathsheba for him. He then has sex with her. Did she consent? Could she have consented? You’re not allowed to say no to a king, after all–and he summoned her with soldiers.

Later on, David shows us what a tyrant he has become by having her husband murdered. Would she not have known he was this kind of tyrant at the time? It sounds remarkably to me like when Saddam Hussein’s sons would pick pretty women out of the crowd and have soldiers bring them to them. You couldn’t exactly say no.

When Nathan the prophet confronts David about this incident, he does not blame Bathsheba one iota. He lays all the blame at David’s feet.

Yet growing up, I was taught that Bathsheba caused this “adultery” by bathing where David could see her. It was her fault, you see. She asked for it. In fact, I even remember a sermon at a summer camp where they were saying that Bathsheba was deliberately enticing David. It reminds me of rape victims being grilled: “What were you wearing?”

Last year I wrote about how Queen Vashti, in the story of Esther, is commonly thought of as “the disrespectful wife”, when really she was simply refusing to be treated as a sexual object and was rejecting the king’s attempt to sexually harass and abuse her.

Too often, when women are the victims in Bible stories, they have been portrayed instead as the vixens. Or, when they are the heroes, their efforts have simply been forgotten or overlooked.

It is as if women are invisible.

And this is really what I want to get at:

When we treat women like they are invisible, we hurt the cause of Christ.

Why Women Matter to God: Women Should Not Be Invisible to God

You see, to me, this is not about women and it’s not about men. I don’t want women to be elevated and men to be limited. I don’t want this to primarily be about women. What I want is for all of us to realize that when we make women invisible, when we discount their contributions, when we put them under men, we actually malign God.

Let me explain.

Genesis 1:27

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (NRSV)

Both men and women are created in the image of God. And God created us to show different parts of who He is. God is not masculine; He contains the traits of both masculine and feminine.

To paraphrase my friend Joshua Pease on Twitter last week, you can’t say:

  • Both men and women are created in the image of God
  • God created the genders to be different from each other to show us different aspects of God’s character

And then simultaneously say:

  • But we should minimize women’s contributions and elevate men’s needs and wants because that best shows us God

No, if both genders are needed to help us understand God, then when we minimize one gender, we lose the picture that God wanted to give us of Himself. And that matters.

That’s what I’ve been struggling with over the last few months, and it’s really been burdening me.

I always knew that too many aspects of Christianity minimized women, but until I read Love & Respect, I never realized how toxic it was. I’m sorry I keep harping on that book, but I cannot explain to you enough the effect that it had on me. For about a month after writing that series I was first stunned, almost in a stupor, then drained, then defeated. Since then I have been motivated to do something about it. I’ll be sending out everyone who is on my email list my final report about all the comments that came in, and a package that you can give your church about the book, if you so choose (if you’re not on my email list, sign up now to make sure you don’t miss it!). And last week I finished a book proposal for a series that I hope will put some of this bad doctrine to rest.

But this stuff is important, because of the role that we want God to have in our lives. Here’s why:

When we tell women that they must follow and obey their husbands, then we put husbands in the place of God in women’s lives. All of us, regardless of gender, should follow God’s will. When we equate a husband’s will with God’s will, then we actually put husbands above God, and that is more than wrong. That is idolatry.

When we tell women that they must “win their husbands without words” rather than speak up about something that is bothering them, we take one verse out of context in Scripture and ignore so many others. God says that “iron sharpens iron”. God tells us in Proverbs and Ephesians and throughout the gospels about how we should point people to truth and how we should deal with issues that arise. When we tell women that they must keep silent, then, yes, we tell women that their needs are less important than their husbands’ needs. But more than that, we also take away from husbands the biggest tool that God has created to shape us into Christlikeness. Instead of a woman truly being a “helper”, we ask  her to become an enabler. That, again, takes Christ out of the relationship.

When we tell women “do not deprive your husbands” of sex, then we reduce sex to something merely physical. When we talk about sex as if it’s only about a husband’s physical release, and that it’s not about a woman’s satisfaction or about any other kind of intimacy, then we take God out of the sexual relationship. God created sex as a mirror to show us how passionate He is about knowing us. Sex is supposed to be a deep, mutual knowing. When we equate it with giving a man an orgasm, then we take away one of the tools that God has given us for understanding true passion with Jesus. And we take away one of the best vehicles men have for learning to be attentive and caring of their wives, and instead point men towards selfishness.

It was way back in 1916 that Nellie McClung fought for Manitoba women, including my great-grandmothers, to get the vote. It was in 1929 that the British Empire recognized that women were persons. I wonder how long it will be before Christians realize that by minimizing and ignoring women, we actually deny God.

Both men and women are created in God’s image. Both men and women are needed to show God’s character. The relationship between men and women is supposed to demonstrate a mutuality and intimacy that points us to our relationship with God.

This is not about women and it’s not about men. It’s about God. We do need to get this right. And Easter seems like a good time to start doing something about it.

What do you think? How can we get people thinking beyond women and men and thinking about mutuality and putting Jesus first? Let’s talk in the comments!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Sleepy

    I agree with what you say. We need to see further than gender. Even Paul writes that now its not about men and women we are all one in Christ. Off course the other things Paul writes complicate things and sadly because most societies are patriarchal the Bible is often interpreted from that point of view. A lot of this comes from early on. We are socialized to believe that this is how things are supposed to be specially in christian circles. Thankfully I live in a country that focuses on equality (sometimes a little too extreme IMO) but that has helped. So a change definetely needs to happen but the question is how. A lot more women are aware of the situation and more is being done and thats great. I think that the fight for equality in the rest of society will affect the church. The surrounding culture will always affect religion. In my own country its not uncommen at all with pastors that are women. My pastor is a single older woman. There are few that care about that. Some still do but form what I see they are mostly old men. I think this comes from the surrounding culture that strives for equality. So its not necessarily the Bible that has lead to that change but the surrounding culture and that causes som problems for me and questions. Is it a good change if it doesnt come from the Bible and what can such a change lead to?

    Because here is my worry. And I dont mean to go against anything you wrote because I agree with it all. We cant deny that the Bible has some complicated texts about women and ministry and etc. But that could easily be said about homosexuality, transexuality etc. If the church is being affected by its surrounding in an area that of tradition has been in one way but now is interpereted in another way what will the church do when it comes to these things? I was commenting on a post from a female pastor talking about accepting everyone in church. She and her husband are fighting hard for equality in the church and thats great. But when I asked how we should act when someone is homosexual she wasnt sure. She said that maybe the right answer was to basically accept it and tell them to not have sex before marriage. Thats difficult for me to accept. At the same time I undestand how difficult it becomes to interpret and accept one thing in Bible based on some scriptures and not to the same thing with another. That discourages me. im sorry I brought it up. I in no way tend to disagree that women need to be seen and heard in the churches but we cant deny that the surrounding society is affecting the churches view. The verse I mentioned before about man and women doesnt matter anymore could easily be used by someone who is for transexualism and say that it doesnt matter what gender we identify as if we follow Christ. And that has happned in my country where we have one of the first transsexual ministers.

    Sorry for rambling I hope you can write something about that some day and how we as christians should see these things. Its something that is definitely will affect the church in the coming years. The question: If gender doesnt matter, does what gender I identify myself as matter? I hate not knowing how to place myself in it without going back to an old way of thinking.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Sleepy,

      Those are important questions for sure. I do want to say, though, that I’m not saying that gender doesn’t matter. I think gender DOES matter. It’s just that we should stop elevating one gender over the other. Both genders are necessary to see a picture of God, and the interactions of the genders is supposed to also teach us about God (and be a tool to make us Christlike).

      I think when it comes to homosexuality we need to remember that the sin is behaviour, not orientation. Being a homosexual is not a sin. Temptations are not sin. One of the most Christian writers I know is Henry Nouwen, who stayed celibate his whole life. I think if our churches were more places of acceptance and deep healing, where people were actually transformed, much of this wouldn’t be an issue. But instead churches too often become places that perpetuate a certain culture, and when it’s about that, then the power of the Holy Spirit is not there.

  2. Wifeofasexaddict

    Yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!!!! All that false and toxic teaching you talked about got me in the situation I’m in. Egalitarianism is getting me out. It took my husband confessing to infidelity for me to feel like I could demand anything from him. That’s a bad commentary on Christian teaching.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is a problem when we don’t feel like we have the right to ask our husbands to treat us well. That is part of the marriage covenant, and there are certain things you should expect from your spouse. We really do need a better way of talking about this, because it isn’t helpful to either men or women if marriage becomes a place where sin is enabled. It’s just wrong.

  3. Mercy

    You are mentally ill and have demons whispering in your ear and you all too willingly follow them.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Not really sure what to say to this, but thank you for showing why posts like this are still necessary.

      Can you tell me what I wrote that is from Satan exactly? “Demons are whispering to you” is not exactly an argument.

  4. Andrea

    Sheila, great post as usual, but why are you “not saying that women are better followers of Jesus than men are”? Women outnumber men in church membership. Women commit fewer crimes. Women spend more time with their children than men spend with theirs. Women are more likely to “turn the other cheek” (even in abusive marriages) than men are. And the one thing all the churches who have been discovered as harboring pedophiles (Catholic, Southern Baptist, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, and Neo-Calvinist… so far) have in common is that they bar women from leadership positions. Just to be clear, I’m not saying there is no abuse in other churches – Willow Creek’s Bill Hybels promoted women in ministry while sexually abusing his housekeeper – but so far at least it seems that pedophilia is allowed to thrive where women’s voices are relegated to the background. So let’s not be shy about the plethora of evidence here – women are better followers of Christ than men and it’s a damn shame about the men. Jesus, of course, already knew this, and perhaps that’s why he showed himself to women first. You mentioned that it was women who first discovered the empty tomb, but you omitted the fact that when they ran to tell the male disciples about it they were not believed. (#believewomen!!!) (Or how about this: #don’tmansplaintheresurrectiontome) Seriously, though, here it is directly from Luke 24:11 (NIV): “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” That was two millennia ago yet too many women today know exactly what that feels like.

    Also, you are downplaying the radical act of Jesus by saying that “in Jewish tradition testimony from women was often excluded.” It was always excluded, it didn’t count. The Rabbis said it was better to burn the Torah than to teach it to a woman, yet the greatest Rabbi of all commissioned a woman as the first missionary.

    Finally, THANK YOU for pointing out the slut-shaming of Bathsheba. I went to a Christian college, so I got a double dose of it, in both church and school. But I had the courage back then over 20 years ago to raise my hand and ask “Would Bathsheba have been in a position to say no to the king?” The female professor bethought herself for a second and then simply said “No, she wouldn’t have.” I hate to think what a male professor would have answered (and I wonder if I would have had the guts to ask if it were a male professor).

    OK, one last thing. A couple of years ago I began the tradition of donating to a woman’s cause every Easter specifically to honor the women who delivered the best news in the world (and for the world) only to have it labeled “nonsense.” I wonder if I could get some of you readers on board with this. Domestic violence, rape prevention, assistance to single mothers… whatever it is that moves you. Since Sheila mentioned Special Victims Unit in this post, one of the women’s causes I’ve donated to is Mariska Hargitay’s (the main actress on SVU) End the Backlog (of untested rape kits).


    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, End of Backlog! What a great cause. Absolutely.

      I actually have a cause that I was hoping to make a “thing” here on the blog–getting sanitary supplies to girls in Uganda & Kenya so that they can keep going to school. We also support an organization doing human trafficking prevention in India that I’d love to get more people on board with. I’m trying to figure out how to do it–I may do something like naming one product in a month where all the proceeds go to a cause or something. But it is so important!

      As for the other, I just don’t think it’s super helpful to say that one gender is “better” than the other. I think we all sin. I think the reason that men often sin in “bigger” ways is because we live in a hierarchical society, and men often have more power (at least in church they certainly do). That’s why I’m adamant that churches need to stop with all this hierarchy and get back to levelling the playing field as it was supposed to be!

      • marianna

        Sheila, I am Canadian as well. Thank you for this memory (which also brings me back to my Manitoba roots!) … and your profound and timely wisdom. I so appreciate you – and many others who are making necessary change happen.

  5. Kate

    Great article Sheila. I don’t want to start a firestorm but i do have to say something regarding the Bathsheba and David case. It seems to be a recent phenomena that people are trying to make her into a victim. I disagree! If she was raped or sexually assaulted the Bible would have said so. God is not a prude, He isn’t shy about being brutally honest. When rape happens it says so without mincing a word! Example: Tamar and Dina. And it’s not really fair to compare Saddam Hussain sons with David since David was a man after God’s own heart (who repented) not heathens like them. I’m sure had Bathasheba turned him down he would have let her go since her husband, Uriah, was very close to David.

    She knew very well who David was after all her husband was one of the mighty men David picked and i’m sure Uriah had talks with her about the daily activities of the palace. And there is no description of her putting up resistance to his sexual advances, like other women in the Bible. God held David responsible for the same reason God held Adam responsible. Men are leaders and leaders are ALWAYS held more responsible in the Bible. That’s why scripture warns us “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” – James 3:1. I just feel like it was two people who lusted after each other (the Bible says David was handsome) and decided to cheat on their spouses. Knowing how brutally honest the Bible is, if she was assaulted it would have said so. As a result i prefer to believe she was not a victim but a willing participant, unfortunately. Thoughts? 🙂

    • Ashley

      I don’t know what to think about this, Kate. What about the story in Judges about the man who threw his concubine outside to be raped, then he was mad that she died? The Bible doesn’t really make him out to be a villain. When I read it, I see this man as guilty as all the men who raped her. I mean, he clearly knew what was going to happen.

      • Kate

        Ashley, you’re talking about Judges 19 right? I’m glad you brought up that chapter because it proves the point i’m making precisely. What happened to her the Bible called, rape. That’s my whole point: if a sexual assault takes place the Bible is not hesitant in mentioning it. In fact the Hebrew word for rape is not used with what took place between David and Bathsheba, unlike Dina, Tamar and Judges 19, and other places.

        • Ashley

          The Bible IS hesitant in really saying her husband’s part in her rape though, just like it is in the case of Lot being willing to do the same to his daughter.

      • Kate

        Let me give you another example Ashley, would YOU consider what Lot’s daughters did to their father as rape? They got him drunk and had sex with him. Would YOU consider that rape even though the Bible doesn’t say so? Many people today would say yes, but i disagree with them. I think i know why the Bible doesn’t consider what happened to him as rape, but that’s going to open a can of worms and i don’t want to hijack Sheila’s post. So if the Bible doesn’t use the word rape for Lots and Bathshebas situation and instead uses it in other cases, like Judges 19, Dina and Tamar, then i have zero qualms with saying Bathsheba was not a victim. I’m 100% confidant that my Lord who is not a God of confusion is not hesitant in informing me/us when women have been genuinely raped.

        • Ashley

          Yes, that would have been rape. The principle is there, even if the word isn’t. Besides, they may not have the concept that a man could be raped back then.

          • Kate

            The Bible is written by God using human authors, 2 Timothy 3:16. So God does know that male rape exists and he would have mentioned it if that’s what happened to Lot. I have my theory as to why He didn’t call it rape but let’s not open a can of worms. lol! 😉

    • Andrea

      I just don’t think we can use the Old Testament as a bar. In the Sodom and Gomorrah story Lot offers the gang of rapists his virgin daughters in order to protect his male visitors, whom the gang of rapists originally wanted. When I asked one of my college professors about this (now that you know, from my previous comment, that I was THAT kid), I was told that’s just how abominable God found homosexuality. I just can’t accept that (and I suspect even my old Christian college would no longer accept that heterosexual rape is preferable to homosexual rape, this was back in the 1990s). I also cannot accept that God ordered the Israelites when conquering new land not to spare any woman or child. And I don’t have to because he sent Jesus who was a total game changer! One thing my college professors got right was that the slaughtering of women and children and all the other Old Testament stuff that “pains our modern sensitivities” (as if being sensitive about the suffering of innocent people is a bad thing!), is that it was all temporary until Jesus came and established a new law. That’s what we were told when we complained about the wife and children and entire family of Daniel’s persecutor being thrown in the lion’s den at the end of that story and that’s what I’ve accepted.

      Regarding the “modern sensitivities” of David and Bathsheba, I would compare it to Bill Clinton and Monika Lewinsky. It was consensual on her part and in the recent documentary she even admits to doing things to seduce him, but since he was the leader of the free world at the time the power disparity was such that the act could not actually be considered consensual and she still ended up being the victim (think of how he got to go on with his life, while she had to go into hiding). Tamar and Dina is forcible rape, where physical instead of or in addition to societal coercion is used, more akin to Clinton and Juanita Broaddrick. Yuck, so gross, sorry to get the U.S. presidents involved, but the current one has actually been compared to David by Christian leaders defending him against sexual assault allegations, so that got me thinking about other possible analogies. Sorry again.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Andrea, yes, it was the Lot story that I was thinking of, too. The Bible presents that one as fact without commentary–and yet what a horrible thing for Lot to do! God did not approve of that, yet the Bible does not tell us that. It just presents the story. I think the same thing is happening with David and Bathsheba. It presents the facts, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a power dynamic at work behind the scenes that does matter.

        • Madeline

          Also – Esther and all
          the othe beautiful women that the king got to try out for a night and see who he liked best. When the king made a decree that he was rounding up the beautiful young women I just don’t see how any of them could turn him down. Any time there’s that significant of a power difference I don’t understand how anyone could see that as consensual. I would say the same for Bathsheba and David. Its okay to gather from context that they were raped even if that’s not the word that was used. That’s a part of reading the Bible.

    • Abby

      Hi Kate!
      I just finished a course on Old Testament History and when talking about this passage my professor (who has done much research into culture and practices of that time) pointed out that Bathsheba “bathing” in public was the cultural norm. He taught that people would bathe at a public spring or outside their houses while being fully clothed and it was more of a washing of arms, feet, hair. I asked specifically about the teachings I’ve experienced about Bathsheba being a “temptress” to David, and the conclusion we came to was that the passage focuses on David’s sin, and there is no indication in the passage that Bathsheba sinned or that any of the consequences that follow are about her.
      Obviously we can’t know exactly what Bathsheba was thinking, but knowing the historical context and the point of the passage really helped me to walk away from it in peace and to break free from some of the lies placed on me about how my fully clothed body is tempting men to lust.

      • Kate

        Oh, Abby, I understand the whole bathing situation because i come from a culture where we bathed outside often using only a bed sheet draped over trees as a form of cover and trying to be as discreet as possible. I’m not blaming Bathsheba at all nor am i interpreting the passage how so many women have been taught, fortunately i haven’t been taught any of these things about her. I have always been taught that David was at fault for all of it, which i agree. But it wasn’t until i came to the internet i’m seeing people trying to make David a rapist, and that’s when i’m like, NO! David was a kind man whose lust made him do terrible, terrible things. He didn’t even have the guts to kill Uriah HIMSELF, he hired other people to do it.

        Bathsheba wasn’t afraid of David because she informed him of her pregnancy. A women that is raped doesn’t write a letter to her rapist in the hopes of gaining sympathy from him. If anything that will enrage a rapist who could kill her! Obviously had David not INITIATED everything none of this disaster would have taken place. He is the instigator. He was the head the leader who was given so much power, wealth, privilege who knew the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (for all we know Bathsheba was a pagan woman, she was a decedent of Ham through Caanan and they were pagan. Seeing as how King Solomon turned out she could have been pagan woman), that’s why God held him responsible. What i’m saying is there was no rape and knowing what we know about David i can see where Bathsheba could have turned him down, but she didn’t. David sent his solders because that’s what Kings do. Solders are there to serve the king and do the biding on his behalf. In the end, no she didn’t seduce him, no she didn’t initiate, no she is not a temptress, no she wasn’t raped. That’s all. 🙂

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Hi Kate, I’d just be careful of reading modern sensibilities into an OT story. you say that a woman who was raped wouldn’t try to gain sympathy from her rapist. That’s likely true today. But remember that in Bathsheba’s day, her pregnancy was a death sentence. It meant that she had committed adultery, which meant that she should be stoned.

          And I’m not sure that she could have turned David down. If you look at that passage, it was written to show how far David had fallen from the role that God gave him (“at the time of year when kings went out to war, David stayed at home…”) He wasn’t acting as a man after God’s own heart at that time.

          • Lisa

            Yes, there’s a huge difference between physical assault leading to sex and a cultural and political climate where a woman wouldn’t even think of saying no to a king. Could Bathsheba have said no? Yes, she could have! And what a story that would have been! However, David was absolutely being a disgusting human being and using his power as king to have Bathsheba brought to him. Whether Bathsheba was actually terrified of him or not we’ll never know. And yes, her being pregnant while her husband was away meant she would have been stoned to death. Her message to David was a plea for her life, not a love note.

    • Miia

      This was a really good blog post, thank you Sheila! I haven’t commented before, but this is such an important topic, and you brought up excellent points about women’s significance in Easter. I’m glad you pointed out that Bathsheba didn’t seduce David, since she was just bathing outside as was common those days – maybe she was in an inner yard that David only saw because he was at the roof (2. Sam. 11:2). However, I don’t think it was rape either. After all, Bathsheba’s husband Uriah was in the war and she had been alone at home for a long time. Uriah didn’t even go to her when he was back to city (2. Sam. 6-11), out of loyalty to the other soldiers, so it might be he had done the same thing before. Maybe she felt alone and unloved, perhaps even resentful to her husband. And then comes a handsome king and offers her what she had longed for from her husband but didn’t get. Of course, she couldn’t say no to a king, but I think it wouldn’t need that much convincing for David to get her to say yes. I’m not saying it was her fault, I’m just saying she was in circumstances that made her vulnerable to sin. However, that was not the case for David, who already had at least one wife (if not many) whom he could have called. It was also David who initiated the adultery – probably Bathsheba would have done nothing if she hadn’t been called to the palace. I believe this is why David was rebuked for the sin. Then again, God punished them in way that hurt them both (their baby died), and I don’t understand why God would punish them both if only David was guilty. The way God dealt with them seems to suggest that David’s sin was more serious, but neither was completely innocent. But that’s just my interpretation, feel free to disagree. And thank you again for this great blog!

      • Katie/unmowngrass

        “maybe she was in an inner yard that David only saw because he was at the roof”

        When my former pastor was preaching on the “holy, scandalous women” listed in Jesus’ family tree, he said something like this but expanded. (He is the type of guy who loves history and theology, and he will have done a LOT of research.) The city was on a hill. The palace was at the top of the hill. As one of the leaders in the army, and being quite well off, Uriah’s house would have been near the top of the hill. Also it was night, and not many people would have been out. And there would have been a fence/wall around the edge of Uriah & Bathsheba’s roof. So Bathsheba would actually have been reasonably confident that she WASN’T being overlooked. In fact the only place from where she could have been was the palace roof. Inside the palace probably not.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Totally true. I also think that we could be misunderstanding what “bathing” meant. In Jewish custom, you had to ritually cleanse yourself after your monthly impurity, which did not involve stripping naked. So I think we may be getting a lot of this wrong!

  6. Phil

    My Pastors Easter Sermon included how women were present and their significance. I am so grateful for women. I am not alone 😬. Thanks you Jesus.

    • Phil

      And I do profess my love for my wife with great gratitude…..

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      GREAT pastor! Amen!

  7. Sheila Wray Gregoire

    Okay, I know I’m Canadian and all, and most of you aren’t, but SOMEBODY’S gotta comment on the Emily Murphy video. Wasn’t it wonderful?

  8. Shellie

    Hi Sheila,

    In New Zealand, Women got the right to vote in 1893. An amazing lady Kate Sheppard headed the women’s suffrage movement. It’s well worth a read and something we’re very proud of as a country.
    I love to read your posts. I find them so interesting and helpful.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s amazing! I’ll have to read about it. I always thought that Manitoba was earliest, but that’s cool to learn about, too. I’ll look it up!

  9. EM

    I love that you brought up Vashti. When I read Esther, and learned what Vashti did, I thought, “Good for her!” She must have been a brave woman with a lot of self respect to say no to dancing for the king’s drunken friends. And even though it got her punished, God used that situation to pave the way for Esther to rescue her people. So I think Vashti was a total rockstar that God used for His glory.

  10. Ashley

    Sorry, I didn’t have a chance to watch the video at work, but I love it! I’m so thankful for the courageous women who paved the way for all of us.

  11. Jane Eyre

    I am far from well-versed in Old Testament theology, so pardon if I am mistaken.

    The OT is rife with examples (as you outline) of women being abused, raped, and maligned.

    But then Christ comes and women are put on equal footing to men: women are by the foot of the cross, women are the first to proclaim the resurrection, etc.

    So how can you be Christian and take the OT version of how to treat women? Wouldn’t a better interpretation be that part of what Christ came to change was the world’s maltreatment of women?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love this, Jane! Absolutely agree. Christ came to break the curse, and part of that curse was women being mistreated.

    • Madeline

      Really good point Jane!

    • Lisa

      I highly recommend the book “Beyond Sex Roles” by Gilbert Bilezikian to better understand how God was patient with humanity in ancient times but expects more of us now.

      Deborah was both a prohphet and a judge over all of Israel. Eve was given to Adam as his “ezer kenegdo,” which should be interpreted as a spiritual warrior that swoops in to save. When God rescues Israel over and over again He refers to himself as “ezer” to Israel. An ezer is not a “helpmeet” but someone who saves. And it is absolutely not a subordinate.

  12. Natalie

    Wow, I never even thought of the David & Bathsheba story that way! I’ve only ever heard it as a story about lust and women seducing men/being overly sexual. I had to go back and re-read the whole thing, and you’re totally right! I think the story says more about the woes of power and ego than about seduction.

    (slightly different topic) I think I still have a hard time putting together the ideas of male, spiritual headship within the family and marriage unit, and men and women being equal and having equal voices and roles in the eyes of the Lord. Do you plan on doing a post about that sometime soon? Cuz I think this topic and the topic of women sometimes coming off as “invisible” or at least less important in the Bible go hand-in-hand. I’ve always been taught (& I know there’s scripture to back this up too) that the husband should be the head of the household. Heck, I WANT my husband to be more take-charge in our marriage and family when it comes to spirituality than he currently is. But I don’t know how to rectify that with the idea (also rooted in scripture) that husband and wife are both equal in God’s eyes. I was never taught thankfully that the wife should go to her husband for her spiritual nourishment and he should go to God. But I was also taught that the husband is put in charge over the wife, as per God’s design. I guess I just have trouble joining the two ideas in my mind, since it would appear both are Biblically based.

  13. Lisa

    Shelia, like you that book “Love and Respect” really grieved me. To the point that I had to walk away from all Christian marriage sites and books that even tiptoed close to that line. It really sickened me. I finally got to the point of feeling really sorry for Eggerichs, for the childhood he described in his book, to how little he has experienced as a human being. And for how he’s placed a limit on the intimacy of his marriage, how he believes a man can never satisfy a woman’s emotional needs. To how description of sex in marriage being just so vapid and one-sided. It’s just all so sad. And I look forward to the day when it is an archaic book in an old library somewhere. People will look at it and wonder how people could have ever bought that kind of thinking.

  14. Michelle

    Wow. Appreciated comments here. I’ve read the Love and Respect and lots of “Christian “ self help books to try to save my very toxic marriage. I didn’t realize how many of these articles, though well intentioned deny the personhood of the woman. It took me being divorced( not what I wanted, but unfortunately what was needed) to see this and to realize that God values me even if my husband didn’t. My question is what can we do to bring change in the church without going to unhealthy extremes? Abuse is rampant in the state I live in and generally while it’s not denied there is very little attention to it. Also there are a lot of single moms and a lot of widows out there from my perspective seem to be surviving on their own. Where is the church? And how can we change this dynamic? Thanks.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Michelle, I really don’t know. I ask myself those questions all the time! I think the big thing I’m called to do is to expose where these teachings hurt and how they’re not what God ever intended.

      But on a personal level, we just have to get better at building community that includes people other than couples. I’m not sure how to do that, but we have to get better at it!

  15. Bonnie

    Thank you Sheils for talking about so many relevant issues. As a woman in Canada I have not personally experienced the degree of polarization concerning women in the church that seems to occur in the U.S.? But on a sad note, Canadian society is post Christian.
    Thank you for talking about our “Famous Five”. I wonder if young women today ķnow the debt of gratitude we owe them. And the struggle American women had to endure to achieve the right to vote..
    arrests for peaceful demonstrations, force feeding during hunger strikes in prison for example.
    Thanks also for the Emily Murphy clip. I recall it well. Kate Nelligan is a superb actress; think “Prince of Tides” and “Margarets’s Museum” Your ministry is invaluable..
    Sheila I would like to add that one of the famous five was from a town where I now live, Alix Alberta.. Irene Parlby. Alix is just down the road from Erskine Ab where I heard you speak a couple of years ago and why I get your blog. Thanks for coming so far to teach us.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s great, Bonnie! I don’t know much about Irene Parlby. I’d like to read biographies on all of them. I know more about Nellie McClung because my girls read her novels when they were younger, and some historical novels about her. Plus there’s that whole Manitoba thing. But I’d like to learn about the others, too. I’m currently reading a biography of Josephine Butler, the English Victorian woman who campaigned to stop the terrible laws that were hurting prostitutes, and who tried to rescue them and ban child prostitution. It’s fascinating. It’s amazing what women fought for a century or two ago!


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