Character Study of Twelve Women: Bible Women From Ur to Nazareth
Profiles of Twelve Women
The Gospel of Matthew mentions five (5) women when tracing the ancestry of Jesus. However, from biblical accounts, we can extract the names of twelve (12) more women. This article discusses the twelve (12).
Listed chronologically their names are: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Naamah, Maacah, Azubah, Athaliah, Jerusha, Abijah, Hephzibah, Jedidah, and Zebidah.
Sarah was the first wife of the Hebrew patriarch, Abraham, whose name was originally Sarai. She was actually Abraham’s half-sister; they had the same father, but different mothers.
Ruins of ancient Ur have been excavated by archaeologists. Clay documents, jewelry, art treasures and other such items that were uncovered indicate that at one time, it was a prosperous and thriving city. It brimmed with business activity and was a religious center for Ur-Nammu worshippers, a moon deity.
Along with her husband, moving on faith, Sarah left the Ur of the Chaldeans, to go to Canaan, an unknown land. As a result of this act, Jewish prophets honor her as the mother of the Hebrew people. Although Abraham took a second wife after Sarah’s death, when he died, his body was laid to rest next to hers.
Rebecca was the wife of Isaac, Sarah’s son, and the mother of twins Esau and Jacob. Jacob (whose name was later changed to Israel) was not the first-born. But he was his mother’s favorite. So she came up with a plan to defraud Esau, the true first-born son, of his birthright (inheritance), and trick her husband into giving it to Jacob. It worked! Unfortunately, she paid a high price. She caused enmity between blood brothers, and Esau intended to kill him. So Jacob had to flee. Rebecca never saw her beloved son again. That's painful.
Leah was the first wife of Jacob, but she was not the woman he loved. How did it happen? It seems what goes around, comes around. Jacob could have stood up to his mother and insisted in having no part in deceiving his ailing and dying father. But he didn’t! He went right along with the plan of deception. Many years later, he too would be a victim of a deceptive act. Jacob fell in love with Rachel and she was promised to him by her father in marriage. Evidently, it was customary in those days to cover the face of the bride until after marriage vows had been exchanged. Later the woman could reveal her full beauty to her husband in their bed chamber. On the wedding day, the future father-in-law substituted his oldest daughter, Leah, to become Jacob’s wife. When he woke up the next morning and saw Leah beside him, he knew he had been hoodwinked! Or … veil-winked! Rachel was subsequently given to Jacob to be his wife, but it is the son of Leah, Judah, who is mentioned in the lineage of Jesus. They say this is where the familiar custom comes from of lifting the bride’s veil to see her face before taking vows. The groom needs confirmation BEFORE he makes a commitment that he’s got the right girl!
Naamah was an Ammonite princess. She was the mother of Rehoboam, the wife of King Solomon. There is no indication that she was ever persuaded to become a Jewish proselyte. In fact, the scriptural record states that Solomon accommodated his many foreign wives by building places where they could continue their religious practices. The Ammonites were worshippers of Molech; an idolatrous worship which involved child sacrifice. Conversion was not a requirement for their political alliance. But the horror of what was done to innocent children offered as sacrifices, conversion should have been a mandate!
Maacah was the favorite wife of Rehoboam, the mother of Abijah (and several other sons), the grandmother of Asa. Like Naamah, she too was an idol worshiper. For a time she was allowed to have her way as the queen mother, but once hubby and sonny boy were no longer on the throne, Asa, the grandson removed her. It was part of his overall clean-up effort of religious reforms to get the people to renew their loyalty to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Azubah was the mother of Jehoshaphat, who is remembered as a good and just king. She was the daughter of Shilhi. That’s it! That’s all they wrote about her. Her name means “deserted”.
Athaliah is believed to be the daughter of the notorious Jezebel, wife of the weak and spineless King Ahab. She married Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, and bore him a son, Ahaziah. Are you familiar with the story of Jezebel? If so, did you think she was bad? Then read the story of Athaliah. She’ll show you bad! Jehoram and Ahaziah were not very nice kings and eventually got their comeuppance. Once they were no longer alive, Athaliah decided it was time for the people to have a queen. She took it upon herself to kill everybody who was in the way of her achieving this ambitious goal. Because of the quick thinking of Ahaziah’s sister, his son Joash, was spared from the slaughter. She hid her nephew for six years and when the time was right to make a move … you can probably guess the rest of the story. Athaliah’s last recorded words were “Treason. Treason.” Really? Fine. I’ll have a heart. After all she did come from a long line of and was surrounded by some seriously wicked people who gave her all kinds of examples to follow. Her corruption was inevitable. (Uh huh.)
Five Women Remaining
Information regarding the aforementioned seven (7) women was limited and biographical data concerning the remaining five (5) women is even more scant. Below are the names, along with the names of their husbands and sons:
- Jerusha – Uzziah / Jotham.
- Abijah – Ahaz / Hezekiah.
- Hephzibah – Hezekiah / Manasseh.
- Jedidah – Amon / Josiah
- Zebidah – Josiah / Jehoiachin.
Like Azubah, not much else is known about them. Were they content with their lot as wife and mother? Were they virtuous women? Did the hearts of their husband safely trust in them? Did their children honor them? We don’t know. What we do know is that the Scribes recorded their names for posterity.
What Else Do We Know?
We also know the steps of these twelve women and related descendants ultimately ended in a town called Nazareth. From Ur, a religious and industrial center which was bathed in blood and utterly destroyed, to Nazareth, a place which at one time was held in such disregard and contempt by surrounding communities that people would ask: “Can any good thing come from Nazareth?” (John 1: 46)
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