*Mom, I know you don’t like swearing, but here’s what I mean by the word “badass.” It’s not being contrary, a rebel for rebel’s sake, or bucking the system. It’s actually not about rebelliousness at all. It’s someone willing to confront injustice and hardship with integrity and faithfulness. Honestly, most people don’t do that. So if someone does, they’re a badass in my book.
With all due respect to Gal Gadot (because she could totally beat me up), she’s not the original Wonder Woman. Lynda Carter, star of the 1970s TV show, isn’t either (though that cameo at the end of WW84 was perfect). If you’re looking for the OG wonder women, you gotta go way back to the pages of the Bible. There are no lassos of truth or invisible jets, but there is superhero-sized faith, bold choices, a well-placed tent spike, and a compassionate generosity that turned the world on its head.
With so many incredible female figures to celebrate during Women’s History Month, let’s not forget the exemplary women of scripture. I’ve found an encouraging and challenging call to pursue God with reckless abandon in their stories of strong faith. The stories of these women have had a deep impact on my life. And, for the record, I’m a dude.
Guys: Impact isn’t gender-specific. If you don’t have a female hero to look up to, you’re not looking in the right place. Stick with me. We’re about to do something about that.
Ladies: While gender-equity might be a controversial subject in some churches (honestly, I don’t understand why), it never has been with God. If you’ve ever been looked over, pushed aside, or made to feel less-than inside the confines of faith, I’m sorry. That pain point didn’t come at God’s directive. As you’ll see below, He routinely used women in incredible ways to advance his plans on earth, and He’s still doing it today.
Everyone: Need a blueprint for a meaningful life? Below are 12 of the most badass* wonder women from the Bible. When you find one you connect with or a story you don’t recognize, crack open that old book (or app) and read it for yourself. You might meet your next favorite Bible hero, and in the process, encounter the God behind it all.
Here’s 12 of the Bible’s badass women with super-sized, strong faith.
Eve - The Ezer Image
The first woman, created by the very hands of God, gets a bad rap. She gets blamed for the tragic choice with the fruit in the Garden, but she wasn’t the only guilty party involved. In fact, given a choice, I’m pretty sure we all would have done the same. But what many don’t realize is that buried in Eve’s design is a deeply meaningful truth. In Genesis 2:18, God recognizes that Adam isn’t faring well alone, so He moves to make a “helper” for him. The original Hebrew word we translated as “helper” is actually ezer. This isn’t someone to do his laundry and dishes. It’s much more profound than that. You see, ezer is only used 21 times in the Hebrew portion of the Bible. Twice it’s used to describe women, three times to describe help in battle (Deut 33:29 for example), and the remaining 16 times to describe God’s help to humanity (Psalm 33:20 and 70:5 for just two examples). Far from demeaning, ezer is an empowering and powerful description of how women reflect the very nature of God Himself (Genesis 1:27).
Read more about Eve in Genesis 1-4.
Shiphrah & Puah - The Creative Subverters
Generations later, God’s people are living as slaves to the world’s superpower, Egypt. Pharaoh, seeking to head off any potential revolts before they begin, instructs the two Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill all male Hebrew babies at birth. It’s a command these bold women promptly ignore. Why? Because they feared God more than any human authority. Their creative disobedience held off a genocide. Perhaps it was their story that inspired the mother of Moses to take her own creatively disobedient step: floating Israel’s deliverer down the Nile, in a basket toward his destiny.
Read their incredible tale in Exodus 1:15-21.
Miriam - The Rockstar
Moses’ older sister, Miriam, gets less air time in the scriptures but is nonetheless present at some of the most critical points in his story. Most historians believe she’s the girl who follows baby Moses’ basket on its Nile voyage. Later, she accompanies her brother, and the rest of the Israelites, out of Egypt. In Exodus 15, she’s the first female in scripture identified as a prophetess (someone who hears from and speaks for God). She also writes part of the first worship song—a hymn of praise for God’s miraculous rescue and overwhelming defeat of Egypt. Like all relationships, she goes through a hard season with Moses, but 700 years later, she’s identified by the prophet Micah, alongside her brother, as a blessing sent from God to His people (Micah 6:4).
Read about Miriam in Exodus 2:1-10, Exodus 15, & Numbers 12.
Zipporah - The Deliverer’s Deliverer
Moses had more than one lady watching his back. Well before the miraculous rescue in Egypt, the deliverer was running away from his destiny, living as a wandering shepherd in the wilderness. There, he met and married a woman named Zipporah (who the Bible lists as a Cushite. The ancient land of Cush is believed to be in Ethiopia, so it’s highly likely she was a woman of color). God calls Moses to rescue His people, and so he sets out with his family. The only problem? Moses put the cart before the horse. Failing to properly circumcise his son (the ancient sign of commitment between God and His people), the Bible says God rose up to kill Moses in the night. Who saved him? Zipporah. She acted quickly, circumcising their son and saving Moses from divine wrath. Without her, the story of Exodus turns out much different.
Zipporah’s story is found in Exodus 2-4.
Rahab - The Protector
Fresh out of Egypt, God’s people begin moving into their new homeland. The only problem? Other tribes of people already live there—their first big challenge in Jericho, a city surrounded by an impenetrable wall. The leader of God’s people, Joshua, sends two spies into Jericho to scout it out. They stay at the home of a prostitute, Rahab, who saves them from certain death when she helps them hide, and then misdirects soldiers hot on their trail. Why did she do it? She’d heard of the greatness of Israel’s God and wanted to be on the winning side. For her kindness, the spies promise to spare her and her family when they take Jericho. After the battle, Rahab leaves behind prostitution and joins the Israelites. She has a son named Boaz (an important guy in the Bible’s book of Ruth) and finds herself in the direct family line of David (Israel’s greatest king) and, generations later, Jesus as well.
Read Rahab’s story in Joshua chapter 2, 6, and find her listed alongside others with amazingly strong faith in Hebrews 11.
Deborah & Jael - The One-Two Punch
Before Israel had kings, they were ruled by Judges—not old guys with gavels, but leaders who helped settle disputes, led military campaigns, and sometimes acted as prophets. One of the most remarkable (and the only women to serve as a judge) was Deborah. Before her time as Judge, Israel had come under the control of an enemy kingdom. God called a man named Barak to lead the armies of Israel to victory and freedom—only Barak was too scared to do anything about it. So Deborah called him to action—over and over and over again, even going so far as to ride into battle alongside him. True to his word, God led Israel’s army to victory. The enemy general, a man named Sisera, fled the battlefield and took refuge in the tent of a woman named Jael. Though she wasn’t an Israelite, God used her to punish Sisera. While he slept in her tent, Jael quietly snuck in with a tent peg and a hammer and deposited that thing into Sisera’s temple. When Barak finally arrived, there was his mortal enemy, slain by Jael. Deborah and Jael were a one-two female punch used by God to free His people from oppression.
Read about Deborah and Jael’s intertwined story in Judges 4-5.
Esther - The Fearless Queen
Later in their history, God’s people are living in exile under the rule of the Persian Empire. After a falling out with his queen, the Persian king chooses Esther, a faithful Jew living in exile, to replace her. The only catch? He doesn’t know she’s a Jew. Meanwhile, the king’s right-hand man, an evil guy named Haman, is hatching a plot to legally exterminate the Jews living in all parts of the Persian territory. Esther’s uncle learns of the plot and begs her to intervene on her people’s behalf. But it’s a risk: anyone appearing before the king unannounced could be killed. Yet Esther bravely walks into the throne room and invites the king and Haman to a meal, where she eventually reveals her ethnicity and Haman’s diabolical plan. Her actions undoubtedly stopped a genocide and are still celebrated each year in the Jewish festival of Purim.
Read the Queen’s gripping story in the book of Esther.
Mary of Bethany - The Honest Delighter
When Jesus hits the scene, there’s a number of important women in his orbit—and at least three of them are named Mary. The one we hear about the least, though, is Mary of Bethany. Along with her sister, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, Mary was a close friend of Jesus. When Jesus was traveling, he often stayed at Mary and Martha’s home. On one occasion, while Martha worked herself into a frenzy trying to care for Jesus, the scripture says Mary sat at His feet, just soaking in the time. When Martha complained, Jesus calmly said that Mary had chosen wisely. She delighted in her Messiah, and it would not be taken from her. But while Mary was a delighter, she was also honest. Later, when Lazarus got sick, the sisters sent for Jesus. But before He arrived, their brother died. When Jesus finally came into town, Martha ran to meet him, but Mary stayed home, overcome with grief. When she finally sees Jesus, she unloads her emotions on him. “If you had been here,” she says, “Lazarus would still be alive.” Seeing her heartache, the scripture says that Jesus wept. Then, angry at the cruelty of sin and death, Jesus commands Lazarus back to life. Mary’s delight and honesty moved and endeared her to the heart of Jesus—and before his death, she’d once again show the full breadth of that delight by anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive oil, wiping it clean with her hair.
Read about Mary of Bethany in Luke 10:38-42, John 11 and John 12:1-7
Phoebe - The Teacher
Aside from Jesus, Paul is the most important figure in the New Testament. Once a terrorist seeking to squash the fledgling church, he had a powerful encounter with the Messiah, spending the rest of his life as a traveling missionary and church-planter. If you’re not Jewish, and you know about Jesus, you’re standing on the shoulders of Paul, the first missionary to the Gentiles. Paul wrote extensively, and these letters (to both churches and individuals) now make up the majority of the New Testament books of the Bible. Arguably Paul’s most important (and longest) letter, in which he explains salvation offered through the sacrifice of Jesus, is the book of Romans. In the time of Paul, there was no central postal system—so letters were entrusted to carriers. Because the average person didn’t have the ability to read, these carriers would also be expected to read the letter and expound on any points of confusion. Who did Paul trust with the book of Romans, his letter to the church in the heart of the world’s superpower? A woman named Phoebe. He describes her as a deaconess in the early church movement. What exactly that means, we’re not quite sure, but it was undoubtedly a position of some authority and leadership. Romans is a beautifully constructed and deep letter. Paul’s trust in Phoebe to not only read it but explain and expound upon it speaks volumes to her ability as a trusted teacher and fellow coworker in the early days of the Jesus movement.
Phoebe is mentioned only once, but it’s a doozy in Romans 16:1-3.
Roll Call: There’re so many more incredible women we didn’t even have time to mention. Like Hannah, a woman who prayed fervently to God for a son, and when she got one, actually gave him back out of gratitude (1Samuel 1-2). Or Ruth, a Moabite outsider who was brought into God’s family and found her name in the direct genealogy of Jesus (Ruth 1-4). Or Jehosheba, whose quick thinking saved her nephew, infant king Joash, from a massacre at the hands of a usurper to the throne. Her quick thinking literally saved David’s family line from being obliterated (2 Kings 11). There’s Huldah the Prophetess, who spoke the words of God at a critical moment in Israel’s history (2 Kings 22:14-20) and the unnamed woman of Thebez, who from a tall tower dropped a large stone on an unstoppable general’s head, freeing God’s people from the threat (Judges 9). There’s Mary, the mother of Jesus, chosen by God to carry His own son, staring down ridicule (and even death) with her radical obedience (Luke 1-2); the women who supported and bankrolled Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8:1-3); and Tabitha, an early follower of Jesus known for her radical compassion toward the poor (Acts 9:36-43).
So you can see, not all wonder women are relegated to comic books and movie screens. The stories of these women, and many others, have profoundly influenced my faith. I’m compelled by Phoebe to be a better teacher (and writer), by Zipporah and the midwives to do the right thing quickly and decisively; by Mary of Bethany to be honest with God, and by Eve to honor all the ezers I have in my life.
But that’s just me. The more important question is, how will these women inspire you?