Is Biblical Womanhood Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice?

by | Dec 7, 2022 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 26 comments

Merchandise is Here!

What is a biblical woman?

When you think biblical woman, do you think gentle and quiet and meek? Do you think someone waiting on the men in her life?

There certainly are biblical women like that–but they’re the exception. When we look at the actual women in the Bible, as opposed to what we think women are told to be, we see brave women doing a whole variety of things, from loving and giving to being brave, leading, and winning battles.

That’s what our Be a Biblical Woman merch design shows–a whole variety of actions done by biblical women.

I showed this to people last year, and a number of people asked me what the references were for these women, because they didn’t know them all. And so today I thought I’d tell you about the design, but also tell you about the women! We chose the verbs for each woman based on the main thing that she is known for in Scripture. And as you can see–there are a lot of different verbs!

Be a Biblical Woman Merch

A Brief Primer on These Biblical Women!

Love like Ruth

Ruth was a Moabitess (a woman from a rival nation from Israel). She married one of Naomi’s two sons, but her husband and brother-in-law both died. Naomi, bereft, was returning to Israel to her home, and Ruth, even though she didn’t have to go, went with her to a foreign land to care for her.

book of Ruth

Hope like Anna

Anna had been married briefly as a young woman, but her husband had died after only 7 years of marriage. Anna spent the rest of her days in the temple court, fasting and praying and waiting for the redemption of Israel. She was known as a prophet. When she was 84 years old, Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple to have him dedicated, as the Law required. God told her that this was an important baby, and she told all who would listen about the baby.

Luke 2:36-38

Lead like Deborah

Deborah was a prophet and judge who led Israel during the time of the judges. She adjudicated disputes between people.

At the time that she led Israel, the army commander Sisera of the Canaanites was threatening the nation. Deborah commanded Barak, the leader of the army, to go down with 10,000 men to attack Sisera, because God had told her that it was time and that he would deliver Sisera and his army into Israel’s hands.

Barak balked and replied he would only go if Deborah came with him. Deborah agreed, but also told him that this meant the main glory of the day would be accomplished by a woman (keep that in mind; you’ll har about her in a minute!).

After Sisera’s defeat, the land had peace for forty years, and Deborah led them.

Judges 4-5

Prophesy like Miriam

We know the name Moses, and many of us also know the name Aaron, Moses’ older brother who was his mouthpiece in public. They also had a sister Miriam, who watched the baby Moses as he floated down the river, and whose quick thinking allowed Moses’ mother to become the nursemaid for the Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted Moses.

She was also seen as one of the leaders of Israel during the exodus out of slavery in Egypt, and is called a prophetess in Scripture. She prophesied in front of the nation.

Exodus 15:20-21

Believe like Elizabeth

Elizabeth was a righteous woman married to a righteous priest. The only problem? They were both old, and Elizabeth hadn’t had a child yet. One day, when her husband Zechariah was in the temple performing his duties, an angel appeared to him and told him that Elizabeth would give birth to a son who would be very important in Israel and turn the hearts of many back to God. On hearing this, Zechariah questioned it, and the angel became angry and struck him dumb (unable to speak).

When she was six months pregnant, her relative, Mary, who was also pregnant, visited her. When she heard Mary’s voice, her baby leaped inside her, and she prophesied about Mary’s baby.

When Elizabeth gave birth, she insisted that they call the baby John, as the angel had told them. In the story, she is always shown as believing and expecting.

Her son was John the Baptist.

Luke 1:5-66

Pray like Hannah

Like Elizabeth, Hannah was also barren. She was married to a man with two wives, and that man loved her best. But Hannah could not conceive.

When they went to Shiloh to worship God, Hannah went off and prayed fervently at the Lord’s house. The High Priest, Eli, was a corrupt man, and he didn’t even recognize prayer and thought she was drunk.

But Hannah prayed that she would have a child, and promised to dedicate that child to the lord. God answered her prayer, and Samuel was born. She left him at the temple when he was old enough to go, and he became a prophet and led Israel. He anointed both Saul and David, and became the spiritual leader of the nation.

1 Samuel 1

Teach like Priscilla

Priscilla and her husband Aquila were friends of Paul who worked to spread the gospel. They are mentioned nine times in Scripture.

They taught Apollos the way of Jesus. He was a learned man, but knew only of John the Baptist and had not heard of Jesus. Together, Priscilla and Aquila taught him.

It is thought that Priscilla was the leading teacher, since, in Greek custom, her name is mentioned first whenever their work in the lord is discussed. Aquila’s name is only mentioned first when the topic is their household. Many believe that Priscilla was the author of the book of Hebrews, though this cannot be known.

Acts 18:18-26

Convict like Zipporah

Zipporah was the Midianite wife of Moses, so she was not from Israel. As the family was heading back to Israel to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites out of slavery, God came to Moses and was going to kill him (the story doesn’t make it clear why).

Zipporah realizes the danger the family is in, and understands that it is because Moses has not followed the commands of God. So she circumcises her son and puts the foreskin and Moses’ feet, and all is well.

She recognized what they needed to do, and she made sure it was done.

Exodus 4:24-26

Give like the Widow

For this, I’m just going to quote the Bible story!

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.

Mark 12:41-44

Protect like Abigail

Abigail, who was intelligent and beautiful, lived during the time of King David. She was married to a horribly abusive, foolish man named Nabal.

Nabal went out of his way to offend David, and David and his men came to seek justice. Abigail realized what was going on, and, without her husband’s knowledge, gathered gifts and offerings together and met David along the way, presenting him with the peace offering.

She gave a diplomatic speech that persuaded David not to do what he was planning on doing. David’s reply to her was:

May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.

Abigail’s actions saved the lives of the servants that were depending on her.

Nabal died 10 days later, and Abigail became David’s wife.

1 Samuel 25

Minister like Tabitha

Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, was “always doing good and helping the poor.” She became sick and died, and Peter prayed and she was raised to life again. Imagine if all that was known of you was that you were “always doing good and helping the poor”! What a lovely testimony.

Acts 9:36-42

Serve like Martha

Martha and her sister Mary were good friends of Jesus. In the famous story, Martha is busy preparing the meal for Jesus and the disciples, while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to him. When Martha asks Jesus to tell her sister to help her, Jesus says that Mary has chosen what is better.

He does not, however, rebuke her for serving, and he likely ate what she made, too!

Luke 10:38-42

Passion 4 Dancing

Support like Joanna

Joanna was a wealthy woman, the wife of the head of Herod’s household, and she travelled with Jesus and supported him out of her own means.

Luke 8:2-3

Mentor like Lois

Timothy’s grandmother Lois had a great and sincere faith, and was credited, along with her daughter Eunice, with passing that faith on to Timothy.

2 Timothy 1:5

Show hospitality like Lydia

Lydia was the first convert in Europe! A wealthy woman and the leader of a wealthy household, when she heard the gospel from Paul, she and her whole household was baptized. The church in Ephesus met at her house, and she had Paul and Silas stay with her.

Acts 16:11-15

Win Battles like Jael

And now we come back to the second woman in the story of Deborah! After Barak’s army routed Sisera’s army, Sisera fled to the tent of a man that he had an alliance with. The man wasn’t there, but his wife Jael was. She tricked him and invited him in and served him. He fell asleep, and while he slept, she took a tent peg and nailed it through his skull.

Judges 4:16-22

Set Boundaries like Vashti

Vashti was the first wife of King Xerxes. The king held a huge banquet for all the nobles of the land, and a week into this banquet, when everyone was really drunk, he commanded his wife to dance in front of the nobles. (Some translators think the Hebrew says to dance in just her crown). She refused, and the king deposed her.

She refused to be objectified and treated like a sex object and be put at risk in front of drunk men, even if it cost her everything.

Esther 1:4-22

Stand Up like Esther

After Vashti, Xerxes married Esther. When Esther found out that the King had signed a decree that all the Jews were to be killed, Esther took a big risk and spoke up to the king on behalf of her people, even though doing so could get her killed. As she realized, “what if she was put here for such a time as this?”

The book of Esther

Seek Justice like Tamar

This is one of my favourite stories! Tamar was the daugher-in-law of Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Her husband, a wicked man, had died, and the Jewish law at the time was that the husband’s brother would marry the widow and give her a child. That child would carry on the name and inheritance of the dead brother, and would provide for the widow in her old age. Otherwise she would be destitute.

But the brother used Tamar but practiced the “withdrawal” method of birth control so she wouldn’t get pregnant (otherwise he would lose some of his inheritance). God saw how evil he was, and he was struck dead too. Judah kept seeing all his sons dying, and didn’t want to give Tamar to the last son, who was young. When the son became of age, he didn’t let Tamar marry the son, and so deprived Tamar of her rights.

So Tamar took matters into her own hands. She dressed up like a prostitute, fooled Judah, and got pregnant through Judah. When Judah realized what had happened, he declared her more righteous than he was and praised her. Tamar is named in the lineage of Jesus, through her son Perez.

Last week, Rebecca’s pastor preached on Tamar, and his message was that when evil men act with injustice towards women and take what God has rightfully given them, women are not at fault for trying to get that back!

Genesis 38

Choose God like Rahab

Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. When Israel sent two spies to the city to see if they could take it, Rahab hid them and protected them. She arranged to save her family when the Israelites came to attack Jericho. She chose God over her own people. Rahab is also mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.

Joshua 2:6-21

Speak Truth like Huldah

Josiah was only 8 years old when he became king, and he reigned at a time when worship of the lord had been forgotten. He discovered the books of the Law, and realized that the nation had been angering God. He sent the priest to inquire of a prophet, and the priest when to Huldah. She didn’t mince words, but took a risk and foretold destruction and God’s anger because the nation had forsaken him. Josiah took Huldah’s words to heart and turned the nation back to God.

2 Kings 22:14-20

Work Hard like Tryphena

In Romans 16, Paul lists 29 people that he wants to say hi to at the of his letter. 10 of the 29 are female, and 7 of the 10 are mentioned in relation to the work they do for the Lord–a greater proportion than of the men. He specifically calls out Tryphena and Tryphosa, who work hard for the Lord. (We should have included Tryphosa too, but there wasn’t room for her name on the graphic!).

Romans 16:12

And Be Devoted to our Saviour like the Marys

Whether it’s Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was first told that Jesus would come, or Mary Magdalene, who was the first to see the resurrected Jesus, and was appointed to tell the men, the Marys were always devoted to the Saviour. They were present at the resurrection; they followed Him and cared for Him.

May we all be like them.

Romans 16:12

Want to spread the word about these amazing biblical women? 

Our merch can help do that! One of the things that supports this blog and podcast is my merch sales, and this is one of my favourites.

And we’ve got 7 other designs that you can put on t-shirts, mugs, notebooks, tote bags, stickers, magnets, and more!

Need a quick gift under $20 for a gift exchange? Want something unique for a Sunday School teacher or small group leader to encourage them? This fits the bill!

I’ve got a number of different designs, including my Love AND Respect, or our all new Fixed it for You one, but today I wanted to tell you just about the biblical women. 

When people talk about “biblical womanhood”, then, remember that we should look at actual biblical women.

What were the women who were praised in the Bible actually doing? You’ll notice a wide range of things, because we are all made with different purposes.

Don’t ever let anyone pigeonhole you. Biblical women were all different, and they all served God in their own ways. You can, too.

I hope the merch inspires you, and becomes a blessing to your friends!

And check out our other designs, too!

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. Laura

    I love, love, love the one about Vashti! I own the t-shirt! Years ago, in a women’s Bible study about the women of the Bible, we were on the book of Esther. Vashti was not seen in a pleasant light. The women thought she was the one in the wrong because she refused to obey her husband. I reminded them that her husband was drunk and asking her to parade around like a sex object. What was so wrong with setting boundaries? Let’s just say, the response was silence. Did they not read those same verses that I just read and paraphrased? But, of course, since this was the book of Esther, they praised her mightily. I agree Esther was heroic. What children’s Bible stories will not mention and even adult women in Bible studies will not say is that all of the women in the king’s harem, including Esther, who took turns spending the night with the King most likely had sex with him. Rachel Held Evans has a great post about this:

  2. Shanda

    I absolutely love this!! Thank you for helping show who true biblical women are!! 😊 It is really encouraging to know that “meek & mild” does not need to define who I need to be, but that I can actually be the woman God made me to be instead of fitting into a certain box. It’s mind-boggling that it’s taking me so long to be ok becoming fully myself…and I’m already 45 and not fully there yet.

  3. Codec

    I want to get this mug for my grandma.

  4. Nessie

    My former pastor preached once on how mad, disappointed, and frustrated Jesus was at Martha… knowing more now, I realize just how heavily he was projecting.

    Josiah heeding Huldah’s warning makes me consider, “A little child shall lead them,” a bit differently, even if that isn’t what the verse is strictly speaking to.

    Obviously this would be a bad idea but in a very snarky way, I rather want to carry a tent peg and mallet now so the next time someone mentions acting as a “biblical woman,” I can reveal them and just let that person ponder my next move.

    I feel like this post itself is a bible study. Thank you for sharing these summaries!

    • Lisa Johns

      Let me know how that tent peg thing goes! 😂😂
      I want to do it too!

    • Katie

      There’s a actually a meme about the last one. I don’t think I have it verbatim, but it goes a bit like this “When I say I want a Biblical women they think I mean meek and submissive. What I really mean is I want a woman who will drive a tent peg through an evil warlord’s skull.’

      • Nessie

        Lol, that is funny- will have to look for that meme!

  5. Mara R

    I love this post. Thanks!

    I think that I will go buy a few mugs for a few women in my life.

    Also, this post inspired me to think and write about another one of my favorite women in the Bible. The Proverbs 31 Woman. Well, it’s debated if this woman actually existed. But rather, it’s considered that she’s an ideal, or something to aspire to. But just like other women in the Bible, I’ve heard bad teaching about her by men who don’t get it.

    • Nessie

      I just had my teen son read your post, Mara, and he pointed out that Wisdom is personified as a woman. I told him I have heard some men say that wisdom is being quiet in most situations like women should be meek and quiet, to which he responded Wisdom is knowing WHEN to be silent and when to speak up. 🙂

      I appreciate when you share your blog so I have multiple sources to direct my son.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes! I do too. Mara’s got great insights!

      • Angharad

        You have an awesome son! And a very wise one.

      • Mara R

        Thank you.

        I agree with Angharad. You have an awesome son.

        As a side note, one of the reasons my sons have had issues with the church was because of what they witness in the male leadership’s treatment of me. They saw that I had things to contribute. But I was kept to the side, while a young man was streamlined to positions of authority.

        They saw the injustice against me. Though it felt like a trivial irritation, to me that I should overlook in the love of Christ, it was huge in their little eyes. This is why being a Tamar is important. Our children are watching.

        • Nessie

          Thank you, ladies,

          Mara- I can see how hard/big that would be for them to take in. I think kids sometimes discern heart-motives a lot better than adults do so maybe they were seeing more clearly the hearts involved? Yes, children surely do see so much more than we think they do!

          • Mara R

            Well, as always, there’s a whole lot more to the story than what can be related in a short comment. Among them being, this young man was really into Driscoll and Piper and was bringing them into our church which was more distressing to me than what I mentioned above. Because my marriage was falling apart and I already came across to them as a bit of a feminist, I just gave up and left in the end. It wasn’t in me to fight.
            Then my kids told me more things about him later as he used to be their youth leader.

            Anyway this is old news. I almost linked this old post to my comment below concerning how men malign Biblical Womanhood as expressed through Deborah. I wrote this post while still going to that church. My heart was breaking at the “Biblical Manhood” idolatry that was entering in through that young man and then caught wind of this.


  6. Em

    Thank you for this! You had one similar a while back and I’ve been meaning to go searching to find it to make sure I had everyone. This one is getting bookmarked.

  7. Jo R

    How many women who appear to be sugar and spice and everything nice are in reality just stuffing all their frustration, disappointment, anger, and unmet desires, because

    “I have learned to be content in all things”


    “I can do all things thru Christ”

    or, or, or…?


  8. Sedge by the Lakeshore

    Great post!

    You know, this blog might be the first place where I heard the word “Biblical” used properly. Mostly when people use that word they are not talking about who or what is found in the Bible. They express a bias about something, and they just interpret the Good Book as being in support of their opinion. At least, that’s the impression I always get.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you! That’s really a compliment.

  9. Anna Mathew

    Love this post! It made me remember what I learned in an Exodus Bible study by Jen Wilkins about Shiphrah and Puah. These were the 2 Hebrew midwives who were directly ordered by pharaoh to kill all Hebrew baby boys as they delivered them. They directly disobeyed him, risking their lives, directly standing up to him when he called them out for not obeying (by even mocking his people!), and are responsible for literally delivering the deliverer of God’s people! Incredible that in my 30+ years of being a Christian, I had never heard of the bravery and wisdom of these women!!
    (Ex 1:15)
    Thank you so much for all you do! I’m a huge fan and direct people to your books/podcast/blog weekly!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, we should add them! I love them so much.

  10. Mara R

    Going back through this list of Biblical woman, I think about Deborah.

    And I get tired of men trying to say that Deborah leading Israel was a curse because they are so invested in their man-made doctrine of men lead and women submit.

    Nowhere in the Bible, anywhere, does it say that Deborah was a curse, or the milder version: God picked Deborah because there were no men available to lead.

    This is just me venting on and getting over my anger at these men while I wait for my “Be a Biblical Woman” mugs to get here.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly, Mara! Nowhere in the Bible does it say that.

  11. Shoshana

    This post is close to home. I got into an online debate with some complementarian dude about how women should follow bibilical womanhood in his version of of a Titus 2 which I countered with “which biblical woman should I follow-Deborah, Jael, Huldah, Deborah, etc….” I don’t think he had an answer for that one.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      HAHA! Good for you.

  12. LC

    The Vasti interpretation—that she was being asked to dance and/or present herself nude—is a good example of eisegesis. It could, possibly have meant that, but there’s precious little hermeneutical evidence for such an interpretation to have any real merit.

    Interpreting scripture requires that we find the meaning of a text first in its immediate context. Nothing in the book of Esther suggests such an interpretation. If we look to the larger historical and cultural context: the Persians were not known for displays of nudism, for example, in their art. In the even larger context of the whole Bible, there is nothing to suggest such an interpretation.

    (Excepts from “Biblical Hermeneutics”)

    While she was honorable to not appear before the drunken king & his group, please don’t add your narrative to the scriptures, especially for it to fit your agenda.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Have you ever been asked to dance before a whole bunch of really powerful guys who are all drunk? Who will all be staring at your body? I think that’s a pretty fair interpretation, actually.


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