One of my favorite texts to rediscover is Hebrews 11. This chapter has long ago been coined as “The Hall of Fame of Faith.” The individuals mentioned within this chapter are defined by having something wonderful accomplished towards the redemption of mankind, and faith being their motivation.
Although the men mentioned in this chapter are the dominant “players” of this story, there are some very notable women described here as well. It is interesting to see the women that the Holy Spirit chose to include in this text.
In this article series we will explore the three women who are talked about, and what their role in the plan of salvation has been.
I hope you look forward to this study, because it is an encouragement to not just women, but men as well to see how important these godly women are to our spiritual history.
In Hebrews 11 the first woman discussed as being full of faithful action is Sarah. What a better place to start than the woman who stood behind the great Patriarch Abraham. When considering the individuals who began the march towards the plan of salvation, Abraham and Sarah started it all. It begins in Genesis 12:1-4a, “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…”.
The most remarkable part of this account to me is the fact that Abraham was told to leave everyone and everything that he knew (as far as we know), went home and told Sarah they were leaving to go to a new land, and SHE WENT WITH HIM. I love that one of the first women of faith we meet in Scripture was so guided by her faith in God she was willing to leave her “comfort zone”. Sarah was well past the age of bearing children, and she still in some way she would bear children through God’s promise.
Though there is some wavering in her faith (Hagar the handmaiden being seen as a surrogate, and the laughing at an Angel telling her she would conceive) there is still all the actions which point to her as being the mother of the faithful as much as Abraham was the father of the faithful.
Hebrews 11:11, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.” Couple this with Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” and we can see how great an encouragement Sarah can truly be.
The next woman that we run into in Hebrews 11 is the mother of Moses. Interestingly her name is not mentioned, but we know from Numbers 26:59 that Moses, Aaron, and Miriam’s parent’s name was Amram and Jochebed.
The following quote from The Priscilla Papers, volume 7 details the influence of Moses’ mother in a very clear way:
Jochebed, the mother of Miriam, Moses, and Aaron, similarly refused to bow to pharoah’s command. Unwilling to kill her baby (Ex. 1:22), Jochebed devised an ingenious plan to save Moses. She built a papyrus basket for her son and sent him downstream to safety (Ex. 2:2–3). Spying the basket, pharoah’s daughter drew the baby Moses from the waters and adopted him as her own. At precisely this moment, Miriam appeared before pharoah’s daughter and offered to find a wetnurse for the baby, none other than Jochebed (Ex. 2:7). Through this arrangement, God insured that Moses would grow up under the godly influence of his mother during his most formative years. The author of Hebrews pays tribute to Jochebed (Heb. 11:23). Her faith allowed her to see the importance of saving her child’s life, for one day Moses would, in turn, save his people.
Although we have very little information about the personality, life, and death of Jochebed, we know she had a great deal of wisdom and faith. I cannot imagine the stress of having a child during a time like when Jochebed had one, but the confidence she had in the ability of God to provide for her is amazing. What a great woman of faith!
The last woman mentioned in Hebrews 11 is found in Hebrews 11:31,
“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” In Joshua 2 we first meet Rahab who is described as a prostitute. It is likely she ran either an inn or brothel (they often were considered the same thing in ancient custom) and worked at this establishment. The fact that the spies found her in such a place adds credibility to the fact she worked at an inn. Apparently the exploits of what the Lord was doing with the Israelites had made waves in the land of Canaan and Rahab was considered a “God-fearer” by the simplest explanation of the term.
While much has been said about the moral issues brought on by Rahab lying to the officers of Jericho, much more can be said about the fact that Rahab was willing to protect these men of Israel. She was a foreigner to the Israelites and she was willing to proselyte because of her knowledge and faith in Jehovah-God.
Jewish tradition added to the biblical account the notion that Rahab married Joshua after converting to faith in God, that her progeny included eight priests and prophets, including Jeremiah. She was supposedly a most beautiful woman who had become a prostitute at the early age of 10, but whose subsequent record exonerated her. A variant to the tradition holds that Rahab was not a prostitute at all, but an innkeeper, a suggestion advanced by the Targum’s euphemistic rendering of prostitute as innkeeper. Rahab (kjv Rachab) became the wife of Salmon and mother of Boaz, and thus an ancestor of Jesus (Mt 1:5).
Not everyone has a holy and wholesome past. For such a woman to place her faith in the one and true living God, and turn her life over to Him in such a way inspires all of us to forget our past, and live for the future hope of heaven with God.