The women of the Old Testament played an active and important role in the social and religious life of Israel. However, at times the role these women played in the formation and transmission of Israelite faith is not seen because the Old Testament is the work of Israelite men who in general were writing to men who were the leaders of the community.
The books of the Old Testament were written by an elite religious groups, mostly of men. The authors of these books were male; the editors were male, and their views are reflected in the stories found in the Old Testament. But the representation of women in the Old Testament is not unsympathetic. In many places in the Old Testament, women speak with their own voices and in the process their stories and their words help us understand the formal and informal power a woman exercised in the community and the sphere of influence and authority enjoyed by Israelite women.
In her article, “Names and Naming in the Biblical Word,” Karla Bohmbach said that there are 2900 men and 170 whose names appear in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament. Another study calculates that there are 1315 names of men in the Hebrew Bible. The problem in providing a definite number for the named people in the Bible is because some names can be either the name of a man or the name of a woman.
In the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament there are hundreds of nameless women. These nameless women served as prophets, professional singers, professional mourners, professional weavers, professional diviners, professional midwives, professional dancers, professional players, wise women, shepherdesses, perfumers, cooks, and bakers. They made important contributions to Israelite society, even though their names were never revealed.
There are 135 named women in the Hebrew Bible. In the study of the women in the Old Testament, it is important to study the social, economic, political, and legal conditions of patriarchal society in order to understand how the conditions reflect the different demands imposed on Israelite women, that is, in productive and reproductive labor, in differences of value for women’s services, in the range of activities outside the home, and the woman’s authority within the family.
A common life style cannot be assumed for the women of early Israel. There is no common view of how a peasant or a noble woman, or a palace worker, or any other woman lived. But there is a set of expectations that governed the life of an Israelite woman in any circumstance and at any time.
Below there is a list of all the posts where the women of the Old Testament are mentioned. There are 68 women mentioned in these posts. Some women are mentioned only briefly in some posts. Other posts provide more context to the lives and contributions these women have made to the religious, political, and social life of Israel.
The list is not complete. More could be said about the contribution these women have made to ancient Israel and the impact they had in their society. In the future, other posts will be added to this list. My goal is to write a few words about all the 135 women in the Old Testament.
I need your help. As you read these posts, if you encounter any broken link, I would appreciate if you send me a note so that I can fix the problem.
Enjoy reading about these fascinating women of the Old Testament.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
NOTE: Did you like this post? Do you think other people would like to read this post? Be sure to share this post on Facebook and share a link on Twitter so that others may enjoy reading it too!
I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you thought of this post by leaving a comment below. Be sure to like my page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and subscribe to my blog to receive each post by email.
Karla Bohmbach, “Names and Naming in the Biblical Word.” In Women in Scripture: A Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament. Edit by Carol Meyers, Toni Craven, and Ross Shepard Kramer. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
All the Women of the Old Testament
Abishag the Shunammite
Medium of Endor
The Queen of Sheba
Tamar, Judah’s Wife
Tamar, David’s Daughter
Tamar, Absalom’s Daughter
Additional Studies on Old Testament Women