PODCAST: The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible–and Research! Feat. Mary DeMuth

by | Apr 14, 2022 | Abuse, Podcasts | 26 comments

Podcast on Misunderstood women of the Bible and research

We misunderstand women in the Bible–and we misunderstand gender aspects of research! So let’s talk.

We’ve got Joanna visiting, so we’ve recorded a whole bunch of segments about how not to misuse research!

Plus today Mary DeMuth joins us to talk about her new book The Most Misunderstood Women in the Bible.

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 You can support us!
5:00 Gender research mistakes
14:00 Did God just make it that way?
21:00 Distinction between averages and specific couples
25:30 A false default
30:00 Mary joins to discuss misunderstood women in the Bible!
32:30 Hagar, Bathsheba, and Phoebe
43:30 On being misunderstood
54:00 Happy Easter!

The Problems with Evangelicals and Understanding Research around Gender

We started out with some of the issues that evangelicals have with gendered research, such as:

1. Assuming gender differences without asking both genders

A great example of this is Love & Respect which used Shaunti Feldhahn’s badly worded survey question to say that men prefer respect–but then they never asked women. They just assumed women want love.

2. Assuming gender differences mean that God designed it that way

When really it could just be culture!

3. Talking as if a gender difference trend means a gender absolute

We need to remember bell curves! Just because men are taller than women does not mean that an individual man is taller than an individual woman.

4. Taking the male experience as the standard.

We’ve talked a lot in The Great Sex Rescue about how often it’s assumed that because sex is easy for guys, they’re more sexual than women. But that’s not the case.

Joanna will be back on some upcoming podcasts as the three of us talk about more misuses of research and misunderstandings of research that we’ve seen in the evangelical world.

"A groundbreaking look into what true, sacred biblical sexuality is intended to be. A must-read." - Rachael Denhollander

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The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible

Mary DeMuth is an author or more than forty books, a podcaster at PRAY EVERY DAY, an artist, and a literary agent with a passion for the Lord. 

The most compelling books come out of personal experience, and no one shares her life more openly than Mary. In The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible: What Their Stories Teach Us About Thriving, Mary draws readers in at the very beginning to transparently share her own connection to being misunderstood. Combining her gift for storytelling, and her scholarly skills, she looks at the lives of misunderstood biblical women we may have skipped over—women like Eve, Bathsheba, Tamar, The Proverbs 31 Woman, and Mary of Magdala among others, women, not so different from ourselves.

What if we could step into the lives of these women and learn something from their stories? What if readers began to gather hope and learn a better way to work through being misunderstood. How would that change women’s lives?

I had a chance to ask Mary about some of my favourite women in the Bible, why she thought they were misunderstood, and who else she would have liked to include. This book would make an awesome study for a small group.

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Podcast on Misunderstood Women of the Bible

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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26 Comments

  1. A2bbethany

    As far as waking up in the night: I’m terrified of the dark and have never not had a nightlight! And my early memories of the night are of having nightmares and such. So when I hear my baby cry? Huge adrenaline rush and before I’m even awake I’m opening her door! Even when I was trying to let her have a chance to get back to sleep alone! Couple that with our normal sleep habits…. he’s a sleep talker/mover and I’m a light sleeper.

    And that book sounds fascinating! I never realized how much I’d never given those women the benefit of having a say in the stories.

    Reply
  2. Angharad

    I’ve always wondered how those who view Bathsheba as the temptress dal with Nathan’s rebuke of King David. He starts off by telling the story of an innocent ewe lamb, loved by a poor man, who is destroyed because of the greed and power of the rich man. Lambs in the Bible were sacrificial victims – innocent lives that were killed because of the cost of sin. It makes no sense for Nathan to cast Bathsheba in the role of a lamb if she were complicit in David’s sin.

    Reply
    • Angharad

      ‘deal’, not ‘dal’ – my keyboard is dying!

      Reply
      • Mara R

        I knew what you meant. And you make a great point.

        Men WANT to misunderstand her. Because they want David to be less guilty than he was.

        Reply
    • Anon

      You’re exactly right. Bathsheba thought she had privacy bathing on the roof, and David could have chosen to go back into the palace at any time. Instead, he chose to invade a woman’s privacy and let his primary brain get the better of him.

      Reply
  3. Andrew

    “Then the LORD said to the woman, “What is this that YOU have done?” The woman said, “the serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:13 ESV
    The guest on the podcast must have missed this verse or not read it the way I do. This is the same to me as the devil made me do it in modern language which is the opposite of owning sin and repenting which is what we are called to do. Don’t know what the goal is in trying to promote Eves character over Adam in a revisionist history but if one thinks men and women aren’t both fallen in need of sacrificial atonement, its an error and misleading to say otherwise.

    Reply
    • M

      Eve gave an accurate account of what happened. I think a Adam did too.

      Reply
    • Angharad

      We know from Genesis 2 that the command not to eat of the tree was given to Adam, before Eve was created. Eve obviously knew something of the command, but she adds to it when she repeats it to the serpent – we don’t know if the addition was hers or Adams. Either way, Adam was with her while she was having this conversation, and there is no record that he either corrected her mis-statement or that he intervened.

      I’ve heard numerous sermons which argue that Eve was the one who truly sinned and Adam found out later that she had eaten the fruit and ate some too so that she would not be alone in her punishment. The Bible account makes it obvious that this reading is false – ADAM was the one who was given the command and he was with Eve when she took the fruit. He had plenty of opportunities to attempt to stop her, but there is no record that he did anything except listen in to the conversation and then eat.

      Obviously, both Adam and Eve sinned. But the Scripture seems to say that Eve had only heard the ‘do not eat’ command from Adam, so she was choosing whether to believe the serpent or her husband. Adam had received the command directly from God.

      My understanding of the Scripture is that both were equally at fault. But if you are going to try to argue that one was ‘more faulty’ than the other, the evidence points more toward Adam as having the greater guilt.

      Reply
    • Mara R.

      There is a little bit of blaming God in Adam’s response that doesn’t exist in Eve’s response.
      The devil deceived her, she admits.
      Adam makes sure to remind God the it was the woman that HE gave him that led him into this sin. So It’s kind of God’s fault too.

      This kind of God-blaming, however mild, feels like angels-fear-to-tread area to me.

      Reply
    • CMT

      I think Mary deMuth’s point wasn’t that one gender is more or less sinful, but that the Bible itself doesn’t vilify Eve or women in general the way later Christian beliefs have.

      I do get a different feel than you from Gen3:12-13 though. To me it sounds like Adam is deflecting responsibility onto the woman and God himself, whereas she is acknowledging that she was in the wrong (deceived). But then, we’re WIERD folks reading English translations of a Hebrew text that originated in an ancient patriarchal agrarian society. I doubt if we can know exactly what those brief speeches implied in their original context, so I wouldn’t put too much weight on any particular interpretation, mine included.

      Reply
  4. Katy Didd

    In pro-seductress commentaries about Bathsheba that I have heard/read, when the issue of her powerlessness come up they refute it by saying she should have allowed herself to be killed, or tortured instead. She is culpable because she spared her own life and saved her own sin. Ugh!!

    Reply
    • Angharad

      Which is ridiculous, because she wouldn’t have been given the choice. Every single translation I’ve read says that David sent messengers to ‘get her’, ‘take her’ or ‘bring her’ to him. Not one single translations says or implies that she was given any kind of choice – even the choice between death & obedience. The idea that a lone woman would be able to prevent herself being taken to the palace by a group of men following the king’s orders is just ridiculous and shows how deep-rooted the hatred of women is in the hearts of some supposedly ‘wise’ commentators.

      Reply
      • Karena

        Exactly… and when the king‘s soldiers showed up to take Bathsheba, how was she to know what was to happen or why she was being summoned? For all she knew, she might have been getting news about her husband on the battlefield. Once in the presence of the king and realizing his intent, she would not have had an opportunity to resist, disobey or kill herself. What a silly argument…

        Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      It’s also ignorant of human psychology. Remember, “feign death” is also a response to terror. If Bathsheba were wired such that her response to the complete horror of rape is to mentally shut down and not move, it’s not even really a conscious choice to choose death or “sin.”

      On a side note, suicide is a sin, but that doesn’t mean that you’re sinning if you are murdered. So what is “sinful” about being raped? I’m not quite sure I understand. If it’s to prevent someone else from sinning (some weird theory that you should prevent the rapist from sinning), then why isn’t it a sin to prevent robbery, blasphemy, or any other type of sin? Explain because I’m unclear.

      Reply
  5. Mara R

    Hhm.

    Finally finished the podcast.

    And, I DO like Sarah.

    Do I like what she did to Hagar? No. Not at all. Nor to Ishmael.

    But neither do I like what Abraham did to her… TWICE! Passing her off as his sister (only) to save his own hide.

    But that was the culture they lived in. It was crazy dangerous, wandering in an unknown land among mighty strangers that could kill you, unprovoked and without worry of any retaliation or fear of an agreed upon law. Because the patriarchs were the law and could be as capricious and arbitrary as they wanted to, with impunity.

    And there was a love and respect between Sarah and Abraham that, I’m pretty sure DID NOT exist between most if not all other patriarchs and their wives. What kind of crazy reason did Abraham have for not taking another wife? He was so far ahead of his time in this and in his relationship with Sarah, placing her on nearly equal, if not completely equal footing with himself. It is my personal opinion that this was one of the reasons God sought him out, because he was so exceptional in how he related to others, even those in lower social positions.

    And I believed that Sarah could see that he was in danger and therefore agreed to be called his sister (only) out of love and respect for him.

    Both Sarah and Abraham were imperfect people, with no Bible to guide them in right or wrong. They did the best they could, even so, many of their decisions sucked. But so did their circumstances. So did their culture, a culture that they were fully immersed in with no outside perspective, like the perspective we have looking back at them.

    I am thankful for how God took care of Hagar. Her interactions with Him are precious.
    I am also thankful for how God took care of the deeply flawed people who used Hagar according to the acceptable parameters of their time and culture, a time and culture that can be way outside anything we can wrap our minds around today.

    Reply
    • Sarah

      I’m named after Sarah and I’ve never really liked her much, so thank you for redeeming her a bit for me with this comment 🙂

      Reply
      • Mara R

        No problem.

        I believe that she is also a misunderstood woman of the Bible. Not thrown away like Hagar or Tamar. But still misunderstood.

        She is one of the few O.T. females whose name made it into the Faith Hall of Fame, that is Hebrews 11.

        In spite of her flaws that were made worse by the dark times she lived in, she is honored for her faith. She was not thrown away by God because of her ignorance and imperfections.

        Reply
  6. Chris

    Sheila, no doubt you are tired of me saying it, but listening to the segment of you and Mary Demuth, just confirms that I think your Catholic and you just don’t know it yet. Its almost spooky how close your thought process is to that of a Catholic world view.

    Reply
  7. Laura

    Excellent podcast! Loved the book talk and feel more encouraged to learn more about the women of the Bible. There’s one woman who I have always felt sorry for and believe her to misunderstood: Leah. She bore Jacob many children and probably did not want to be married to him because he was in love with her “beautiful” sister Rachel. Leah was described as “plain” which kind of upset me because it made me believe that the Bible was reinforcing the societal belief that a woman’s value is placed on her physical beauty. I’m sure Leah felt that she was in a loveless marriage but in those times, she had to get married and her father insisted she should be the one to marry first because she was the oldest. Thankfully, we no longer live in a society (at least in Western culture) where arranged marriages are commonplace. I’m thankful that I get to choose my husband or choose to stay single.

    Reply
  8. Katy Didd

    I’m just about done reading TGSR and I came across this that Joanna said, “You know, we could say it all in just four words: women are people too.” How appropriate for this podcast!

    However, I asked myself, “do I feel like I’m a person?” As I pondered it and what it means to be a person, I realized, “I’m not sure I know what it means to be a person!”

    Lines feel really blurred when you’re a wife and mom who grew up in conservative evangelicalism. I’m not even sure what my personhood is! As a Christian, a wife, a mom, a woman in the first world, I’m called to give, to sacrifice, to serve, to think of others….

    What does it even mean to be a person rather than a, well, service robot?

    I think sometimes our circumstances hurt us, too. I was sharing with my husband an opportunity to take a certificate course of interest to me. He was all for it, but I shared how much it would cost. I could see the wheels turning in his head to go ahead a pay for it, but I’m the primary financier of the household (it’s not his strong-suit) and it would hurt us more than help me, so I said no. We both felt that sting. Once again, life’s unfairness and curve balls takes a bit of humanity away. All I want is a recognized education (as opposed to self-educating, which is great, but doesn’t matter a hill of beans without that piece of paper from an accredited school). But, giving me the education now that I should have received 20 years ago would ultimately steal from our children who are getting closer to college years.

    Thinking of these women in the Bible, so many of them had their personhood taken away from people on earth, but, in their relationship with God, He honored their personhood. However, it didn’t change their loss of human dignity and rights here on earth:

    Hagar was still banished.
    Esther was still stuck being pretty much a slave-queen.
    Bathsheba was still stuck being married to her rapist.
    Vashti was still put aside and shamed.
    Even today, the prophetesses and deaconesses of the New Testament are “put in their place” and denied their contributions.

    I suppose that means that our personhood and its expression comes from God and from within ourselves, and we can’t expect the fallen world and sinful people to honor it. And perhaps that’s where I’m stuck. I wonder if all these remarkable women of the Bible, after facing such loss of personhood, and regaining it through our Lord, were they able to hold onto it and express it regardless of their continued circumstances?

    Perhaps. Look at Bathsheba. She became Queen Mother and an archetype of Mary, Queen of Heaven (I know not everyone believes that theology, but look up Dr. Scott Hahn’s lecture on youtube “Hail, Holy Queen.” It’s fascinating!)

    Still, though….what does it mean to be a person, especially in humble, working class, white Christian, female American, wifehood, motherhood circumstances? What does it mean to be a person in a male-dominated world? What does it mean to be a person amid the violence and dehumanization found everywhere?

    Reply
    • Jo R

      “However, I asked myself, “do I feel like I’m a person?” As I pondered it and what it means to be a person, I realized, “I’m not sure I know what it means to be a person!” … What does it even mean to be a person rather than a, well, service robot?”

      THIS. Service robot, indeed, at home and at church.

      Thank you for putting it so well, Katy Didd. ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

      Reply
  9. Nathan

    Regarding the idea of some people that Bathsheba should have killed herself to prevent her from “sinning” by being raped, or possibly to prevent the rapist from sinning…

    Interesting that these commentators never suggest that the MEN commit suicide (messengers, the King himself, etc.) to avoid sin.

    Reply
  10. Nathan

    Based on my observations, most Christian pastor and writers (and I’m specifically talking about the ones who are really into male patriarchy) don’t actually seem to think that a woman commits a sin by being raped.

    What they DO seem to think, though, is that once a woman has sex outside of marriage (consensual or not), she’s forever “tainted”, since her purity is the only thing of value that she has. In other words, if she’s raped, she’s relegated to a secondary status, through no fault of her own.

    In some ways, this appears to be worse than sin. If you sin, you can repent, ask for forgiveness, and move on. But if a woman loses her “purity” by having sex before marriage (willing or not), she can NEVER get it back, no matter what, according to some, anyway.

    Reply
  11. Sharon

    I cannot understand why men are always blamed in a breakdown of marriage caused by abuse. Does anyone stop to think that although abuse is never to be condoned in any situation, the wife may not be as innocent as she portrays herself to be. Most often the wife will earn the sympathy when she says she has been abused by her husband.

    I got to know a lady who claimed and was in fact being abused by her husband, like having water thrown at her and beaten, etc. I extended hospitality to her at my home and became a friend to her and gave a listening ear. A few days ago she came to my home and questioned my sincerity towards her since I know some of her husband’s family members. She also accused me recording our conversation with the purpose of sending the recording to her husband’s family members when I did no such thing. All I did was to help her and extend friendship but she showed me her true colors that day

    This person in fact would criticize her husband and his family and how they destroyed her life but refused to make a police report. She would argue and fight with her husband, even in my presence and curse him and his family. She would collect evidence on what her husband was doing, like making recordings of phone conversations, sneak into his phone to retrieve texts and take photographs to use against him and in case he asked for a divorce. So she was not going to make a police report but she planned to use the information she gathered against him, as and when she needed it.

    I no longer look at abused women with pity anymore. I do not think all of them are helpless or innocent as they make themselves out to be. They are capable of lies and deceit. Never trust someone just based on his or her version alone. There is another side of the story. But many blogs on abuse tend to support the women who have been abused without even knowing what the women are capable of.

    Reply

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