Throughout the pages of Scripture, we encounter many women who played significant roles in biblical history and in God’s redemptive plan. Though women were often overlooked and undervalued in ancient cultures, the Bible highlights the faith, courage, and influence of numerous women. Their examples continue to inspire and instruct us today.
In this post, we will survey some of the most influential women of the Bible and reflect on how their lives testify to God’s profound love for women as well as men. As we study their stories, we can gain wisdom for how to live and lead faithfully in our own time and place.
- God used many women in powerful ways, despite cultural limitations on women’s roles
- Women like Sarah, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, Mary, and others were bold in faith and willing to take risks to follow God’s call
- These women contributed significantly to God’s plan by their courage, wisdom, leadership, and spiritual legacy
- God values and honors both men and women equally; our gender does not limit the ways we can serve God
- The examples of biblical women inspire us to step out in faith when God calls us to believe and obey
Esther – A Courageous Queen
The Book of Esther tells the story of one of the most inspiring women in the Bible – Queen Esther. Though a Jew living in exile, Esther was chosen to be the queen of the mighty King Xerxes of Persia. When the evil Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom, Mordecai appealed to Esther to intervene with the king, saying, “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NKJV).
Displaying remarkable courage, Esther approached King Xerxes, risking her life. She exposed Haman’s wicked plot and pleaded for her people to be spared. As a result, Haman was hanged on the very gallows he built for Mordecai, and the Jews were granted protection. Esther’s bold and wise actions made her an unlikely champion and savior for her people. Her example shows us that God can use anyone – even a exiled Jewish girl in a foreign land – when they are willing to risk everything to follow God’s call. Though Esther’s position was difficult, “who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Mary – The Mother of Jesus
In the Gospels, we read of a young Jewish woman named Mary who was chosen for the immense privilege and responsibility of giving birth to the Savior of the world. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this incredible news, she responded with humility, faith, and courage: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 NKJV).
Despite facing possible scorn for her pregnancy, Mary trusted in God’s plan. Her magnificent song of praise in Luke 1:46-55 expresses her joy in serving as the mother of her Lord. At Jesus’ first miracle, changing water to wine at the wedding in Cana, Mary’s confident instruction to the servants was “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:5 NKJV). Even in her moments of despair at the cross, Mary remained steadfast in faith. Her quiet strength and spirit of worship make Mary a model of true Christian discipleship.
Ruth – A Woman of Loyal Love
Ruth’s touching story is told in the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament. After Ruth’s husband died, she demonstrated remarkable loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi by refusing to abandon her. Instead Ruth left behind her Moabite culture to care for Naomi in the land of Israel. As a poor widow, Ruth took bold initiative to provide for them by gathering leftover grain in the fields of Boaz. When Naomi realized Boaz’s kindness toward Ruth and their potential marriage, she gave Ruth wise advice to humbly appeal to Boaz as her guardian-redeemer.
Ruth’s courage was rewarded as she became the great-grandmother of King David. A foreign woman who faced hardship and uncertainty, Ruth is honored in Scripture as a woman of loyalty, dignity, and faith. She remained steadfast even when her future was unknown, trusting in God’s providence. Ruth’s gentle appeal to Boaz, “Take your maidservant under your wing.” (Ruth 3:9 NKJV), shows that boldness and humility complement one another beautifully in godly women.
Deborah – A Groundbreaking Judge and Prophet
The Old Testament Book of Judges recounts Israel’s repeated cycles of rebellion and deliverance at the hands of God’s chosen judges. Among these judges was the prophet and judge Deborah, an exceptionally influential woman of Israel. At a time of national oppression, Deborah summoned the reluctant military commander Barak to go and fight their Canaanite oppressors, declaring the Lord’s promise of victory. Deborah accompanied Barak into battle and they defeated the Canaanite King Jabin and his army as God had foretold.
As both prophet and judge, Deborah was a groundbreaking female leader guided by God’s Spirit at a pivotal time in Israel’s history. The Song of Deborah in Judges 5 describes this historic battle and heralds Deborah for her courageous leadership and zeal for the Lord’s justice. Deborah’s legacy powerfully attests to the truth that God enables both women and men to lead and serve according to their faith and calling, not their gender. When God said to Deborah, “Go,” she boldly obeyed.
Sarah – Mother of Nations
Among the most prominent matriarchs of the Bible is Sarah, wife of Abraham. When God promised that Abraham would become a great nation (Gen. 12), it seemed impossible since Sarah was unable to have children. Yet Sarah conceived and bore Isaac in her old age, becoming the mother of God’s chosen covenant people. Sarah exemplified the core virtues of biblical womanhood – faith in God’s promises, wifely submission, hospitality, and wisdom gained from a close walk with the Lord.
However, Sarah was not perfect – she wavered in belief at times and favored her son Isaac over Hagar’s son Ishmael. Yet God honored His covenant with Sarah, reaffirming his promise, “I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations” (Gen. 17:16 NKJV). Though deeply flawed, Sarah’s life illustrates that we do not need to be perfect for God to work through us in extraordinary ways. When Sarah died, the Scripture says Abraham eulogized her as his beloved partner who “lived a good lifetime” (Gen. 23:1).
Rahab – A Brave and Bright Light
Rahab the Harlot may at first seem an unlikely candidate for spiritual heroism. A Canaanite prostitute in the city of Jericho, Rahab risked her life to hide two Israelite spies sent by Joshua to scout the city (Joshua 2). Rahab had heard of the mighty power of the Israelite God and acted in faith to protect His people. In return, the spies promised to spare Rahab and her family when Jericho was conquered.
Rahab demonstrated remarkable spiritual insight for a pagan woman, declaring her faith that the Lord had given the land to Israel. Her actions, driven by faith in Israel’s God, saved her family from doom. Rahab even appears in the genealogy of Jesus as the wife of Salmon and mother of Boaz (Matt. 1:5). Though marginalized for being a Gentile and a prostitute, Rahab’s courage, quick intellect, and desire for truth shine through her story. She was bold and discerning enough to walk in the light and turn to worship the one true God.
Abigail – A Peacemaker with Wisdom
In 1 Samuel 25, we read the account of a clever, beautiful, and God-fearing woman named Abigail who was married to the foolish and arrogant Nabal. When Nabal callously rejected food for David and his starving men, David was inflamed and set out to slaughter Nabal’s entire household. The quick-thinking Abigail defused the situation by preparing abundant provisions and appealing to David with extraordinary wisdom and humility.
As a result, David blessed Abigail for her godly prudence and discretion. Her actions averted David’s anger and bloodshed, thereby saving her household. Following Nabal’s death, David was so impressed by Abigail’s character that he married her. Abigail’s story displays the power of a woman of faith who turns away wrath with her wisdom. As peacemakers who calm conflicts, godly women become channels of God’s blessing.
Elisabeth – A Spirit-filled Mentor
In Luke chapter 1, the angel Gabriel brings news to the elderly and previously barren woman Elisabeth that she will bear a son who will be “great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1:15 NKJV). This long-awaited child was John the Baptist, the prophet sent to announce the coming of the Messiah. Luke describes Elisabeth as righteous and blameless, filled with the Holy Spirit even before John’s birth. When Mary visits Elisabeth and declares the news of her own miraculous pregnancy, John leaps in Elisabeth’s womb and Elisabeth is filled with prophetic insight. Her beautiful blessing on Mary affirms and encourages the younger woman in God’s calling.
Though advanced in years and of humble status, Elisabeth models spiritual maturity and wisdom gained from years of walking in faith with God. Her Spirit-filled mentorship to her young relative Mary reminds us of the value of godly older women. Their spiritual depth, prayerfulness, and maturity make them invaluable guides and teachers of the faith for younger believers.
Phoebe – A Leader in the Early Church
The New Testament contains references to many women who were actively involved in Jesus’ ministry and prominent in the early Christian church. One such influential woman leader was Phoebe, whom the Apostle Paul commends in Romans 16:1-2 as a “servant of the church” and “helper of many.” Paul instructs the church at Rome to welcome Phoebe and give her any help she needs, indicating she was a revered leader in the church who in turn supported the ministry of others.
As an early church leader, Phoebe defied common cultural constraints on women’s roles and exercised her spiritual gifts to serve the Body of Christ. Her story is a reminder that when women submit their lives to Jesus, the Holy Spirit can elevate and empower them for leadership according to their spiritual gifting and willing hearts. Phoebe answered the call to whatever ministry she was equipped for and gifted to do.
Throughout Scripture, we are continually inspired by accounts of godly women who profoundly shaped biblical history and God’s redemptive plan. Their stories teach us that God values both men and women equally as image-bearers called to serve His Kingdom purposes. When women like Esther, Mary, Ruth, Deborah, Sarah, Rahab, Abigail, Elisabeth, and Phoebe answer God’s call on their lives in faith and courage, they become partners in His divine plan to shower redemptive blessings on humanity.
As Christian women today, these examples point us to the many ways we can actively participate in God’s work – whether through spiritual motherhood, prophetic voice, leadership, prayerful mentoring, peacemaking, advocacy, or acts of service. No matter our limitations or the cultural constraints we may face, the Spirit can empower ordinary women for extraordinary influence when we submit ourselves to God’s call. Each of us has Kingdom purpose if we respond in faith.