The Bible has numerous feminist stories and themes. Three of the most ardent feminists present in the Bible are Deborah, Yael and Jesus. Yael and Deborah are located in the Old Testament, whereas Jesus is present in the New Testament.
Yael and Deborah can be found in the Book of Judges or (Sefer Shoftim in Hebrew), which is the Seventh Book of the Bible. Deborah was a woman who gained prestige from her own merit, not because of her relationship with a man. Deborah was the only female judge in the Book of Judges. Deborah is also a highly skilled warrior and general during Israel's combat with King Yabin of Hazor. After receiving strict instructions from God, Deborah summoned an Israelite Warrior named Barak. Deborah then asked Barak to take 10,000 troops up Mount Tabor to face off with Yabin's force of 9,000 chariots. Barak answered the summon and carried out Deborah's orders, which, to some scholars, shows how highly esteemed the word of Deborah was. Other scholars said that Barak was hesitant to follow an order given by a woman, highlighting his response to Deborah:
"If you will go with me, I will go; if not I will not go" (Judges 4:8).
Deborah consents to this request in the next verse, but cautions Barak that with by bringing her onto the field, the victory would not entirely be his own.
"However, there will be no glory for you in the course you are taking, for then the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman" (Judges 4:9).
This prophecy make Sisera's downfall akin to the Witch-King of Angmar's.
The chariots of Jabin's army, lead by his General, Sisera, became stuck in the mud during the course of the battle. Sisera, seeing certain defeat and death awaiting him on the battlefield, leaves his chariot. Sisera flees, and seeks refuge in the camp of Kenites. The Kenites can trace their lineage back to Jethro, Moses' father-in-law. That being said, the Kenites were also superior metal smiths, and had a temporary peace with King Yabin.
Sisera is welcomed into the tent of Yael with open arms by Yael herself. In lieu of providing Sisera with the water he had asked for, Yael provides Sisera with milk. Exhausted from the battle, Sisera falls asleep. Yael, seeing her chance, then promptly grabs a tent spike and impales Sisera's head to the ground, crushing his skull. Yael then triumphantly shows the body of Sisera to Barak, who had arrived at the tent in pursuit of his nemesis, fulfilling Deborah's prophecy. Scholars find it quite interesting that Yael takes an object from the domestic hemisphere (the spike) and transforms the spike into a weapon. The offering of milk is another interesting choice. Yael nourishes Sisera before he collapses between her legs slathered in blood, in a "grim parody of birth." As warrior women, Yael and Deborah are more than Mothers of Israel; they are Judges and Soldiers in their own right.
The feminist legacy of Jesus is not one in which he is drenched with the blood of his enemies. Jesus was a teacher, and advocated teaching women. The most prevalent example can be found in The Gospel of Luke, in the story of Mary and Martha.
Mary and Martha open their home to Jesus and his disciples. Jesus arrives to their abode first. Martha, naturally frazzled at the whole event, is in the kitchen, anxiously preparing food for Jesus and his guests. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, is at the feet of Jesus, listening to his teaching. Frustrated, Martha snaps at Mary, essentially telling Mary: "Get in the kitchen and help me!" Mary does not listen, and instead continues to listen to Jesus. Martha becomes furious. Abandoning the meal she is preparing, Martha turns to Jesus and asks him to send Mary to the kitchen to help her.
Jesus refuses. Jesus instead replies:
"Martha, Martha...you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed— Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
In that one sentence, Jesus tells Martha to abandon traditional gender roles when faced with the prospect of an education. Jesus also lauds Mary for choosing the role as student, instead of being a homemaker. Jesus also famously saves a woman from being stoned to death in the Gospel of John, telling an angry mob:
"Let those without sin cast the first stone at her."
Many followers of Jesus were women, in fact, seven women were present at Jesus' alleged resurrection. Mary Magdalene is the first individual who sees the empty tomb. These women's names (like Thecla) are expunged from historical records, their presence and contributions to Christianity being glazed over by male followers of Jesus. Even Mary Magdalene, the "most beloved disciple" of Jesus, was eventually slandered by the Catholic Church, who attempted to have her agency taken away by transforming her into a whore.*
Though some who interpret the Bible would argue otherwise, readers can find numerous feminist teaching throughout the Bible's pages. In the Old Testament, Yael and Deborah were warrior women who helped birth a new Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus included women in his teachings. These feminist teachings within the Bible should be shared as often as the tale of Eve. The stories of women triumphing over their enemies, or patriarchal gender roles, are as timeless as Eve's first bite into the forbidden fruit.
Image entitled: "Yael Killing Sisera," by Palma the Younger via
*Author's Note: Women should not be judged by how many consensual sex partners they have had. Due to her gender, the patriarchal Catholic Church claimed that Mary Magdalene was a whore in an attempt to discredit her importance to Jesus. That is not the proper thing to do. Sex workers need support, not shaming.