Deuteronomy – II Kings — All References to Women

Names, Titles, Positions, Sexual partner, Equality between sexes, Life stories
Gathered from RSV for seminary course 1972
This chapter appears in Decades of Feminist Writing, DYN self-published 2020

Due attention to and respect for Christianity’s Jewish heritage and Jesus’ life-long commitment to Judaism has been overlooked by many Christians. Gathered data like what follows helps a person to claim religious history—a part of what occurred before the present. A major outcome of this project led to my being convinced that women do appear in remarkable ways through early, historical biblical texts, in spite of an overall patriarchal picture. References to women in different books of Hebrew Scripture become noticeable within categories noted: Joshua has fewer than ten, Deuteronomy and Judges each more than twenty, and Samuel and Kings over fifty each. Obviously, many references to women also appear in the short book of Ruth (only a few detailed here). Another chapter in this book highlights my research into the collective work by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and friends titled The Woman’s Bible, published in two portions late in the nineteenth century. Not long after completing this research, I explored several resources by women that discuss biblical content about women.

Lee Anna Starr’s The Bible Status of Woman, first published by Fleming Revell in 1926, appeared again in 1955 published by Pillar of Fire, Zarephath, N. J. Such early writers discuss how “prejudice of the past obscured the teachings of God’s Word concerning the status of woman and her rightful place in the Divine plan.”1 A prayer-like expression that opens her book quotes Clara Scott’s hymn: “Open my eyes that I may see/Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me.” And the resource concludes with the Woman’s Declaration of Independence from Seneca Falls in July 1848 along with biblical scholar Von Harnack’s suggestion that Prisca could well have authored the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Decades after writing it, I re-discovered my 1986 review of Starr’s book. Starr’s three chapters about woman “Under the Mosaic Dispensation,” a chapter each on Home, Church, and State, impressed me. She found woman in the home—mother, wife, sister and daughter—to be generally honored. Their experience included close contact with laws and customs as well as changes brought about by captivities. Within the church chapter, more properly temple, women’s tasks varied. These included: singers, timbrel players, audible pray-ers, ministers at the door of the tabernacle, prophets who proclaimed, priests or Nazarites, readers, elders or counselors. She quotes Hebrew scholar Dr. Ismar J. Perita’s conclusion:

The Semites in general, and the Hebrews in particular, and the latter especially in the earlier period of their history, exhibit no tendency to discriminate between man and woman so far as regards participation in religious practices (as worshipper and official) . . . and that with the progress in the development of the cult, a tendency appears, not so much, to exclude woman from the cult, as rather to make man prominent in it.2

State functions of Israelite women noted by Starr include: writer—of songs and books; seer or judge and elder (as Deborah); heads of father’s houses (14 named in I Chronicles 2-10); kingship—as both power behind the throne and actual Queen (Athaliah, II Kings 11 and Alexandra around 75 BCE.) These chapters follow content about woman’s primal state plus a couple chapters asking if the judgment meted to woman in Genesis 3:16 was prophecy or penalty. Later discussion of New Testament content critiques Protestant pulpits for giving more sermon focus to Pauline writing than teaching of Jesus.3

A writer who provides an overview of women in Deuteronomy through II Kings is Elsie Thomas Culver.4 She suggests that whereas Deuteronomy gives an account of the Exodus/Wilderness experience, with little about women until the statutes (chapters 21-25), Joshua focuses on settling the Promised Land. Interesting stories there highlight Rahab and the daughters of Zelophehad. Considerable information in Judges comes through tales about how people lived. Thomas Culver notes women heroines like Deborah, woman of Thebes, women around Samson, Micah’s mother, and the woman and crime at Gibeah. She suggests that stories may have been written by a woman in the Deuteronomic style, perhaps as satire in protest toward the growing subjugation of women. The story of Naomi and Ruth may reflect historical fiction. Within institutional kingship (Samuel & Kings), women become less significant, known as wives, concubines, harlots, and mothers of famous or wicked men. Thomas Culver suggests that the Elijah-Elisha stories, edited in from independent sources, provide occasions to meet interesting women and everyday life.

Many writers about this content could be named; I note five: Leonard Swidler, Susannah Heschel, Judith Romney Wegner, Judith Plaskow and Wilda C. Gafney.5

Data Gathering Process

During the first session of class, Old Testament Professor Millard Lind presented an overview of the course. Within that summary he suggested possible subjects for major research including “Women within Deuteronomy to II Kings.” Having but a minimum awareness of that historic section of biblical content and curious about whether more women than we might expect appeared there, their names and activities, I chose during that first session to research every reference to a woman. Little did I realize the extensive project before me.

Generally, biblical content was both lived and recorded within patriarchy; man’s experience and views retained priority. Whether an epoch of matriarchy had preceded patriarchy, following chaos and creation, does not enter discussion here. Males counted in generations, leadership centered in men of a tribe, women missed occasions of worship because monthly blood and the birthing process left them “unclean,” unable to participate. Grateful that men could represent them when useful, women focused on “womanly tasks” including birthing sons. That the Divine plan included their birthing daughters led to some form of connection or marriage and interesting meeting in a “red tent.” How tempted I am to insert notes from my discussion of Anita Diamant’s fascinating, more recent novel.6

Vague background back in 1972 prompted me to wonder what might be found in a careful noting of every reference to woman in a major block of the Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture). With text in hand the list began to note term, scripture, and identity. Through the listing process, possible categories began to formulate in my mind. Names never before known came to light; roles like wife, mother, and daughter recurred in abundance; tasks appeared, both expected and surprising. Therefore, the following organization emerged.

Identity term – (Scripture reference) – Summary description

– Wife (Deut. 5:21) 10 commandments – not covet
– widows (Deut. 16:14) feast rejoicing to include the children, fatherless
– wives (Deut. 17:17) working against multiple wives
– wives (Deut. 21:15-17) first born inheritance rites of disliked wife
– mother (Deut. 22:6-7) may take young, not mother, from bird nest
– widow (Deut. 24:17, 19, 20, 21) gleanings for sojourner, fatherless, widow
– wife (Deut. 25:5-10) levirate custom/marry brother’s widow
– wife (Deut. 25:11-12) wrong way to defend husband
– wives (Joshua 1:14) wives to remain when men go to battle
– Achsah (Joshua 15:16-19 and Judges 1:12-15) Caleb’s daughter Achsah given to nephew Othniel as wife, and her request
– Woman (Joshua 23:12-13) warning against intermarriage
– Wife (Judges 4:4) Deborah wife of Lappidoth
– Jael/wife/woman (Judges 4:17-22 and 5:24-27) wife of Heber; drove tent peg into Sisera’s head
– mother of Sisera (Judges 5:28, 30) wonders and concludes about Sisera’s delay
– wisest ladies (Judges 5:29) answer mother of Sisera
– mother/mother’s family (Judges 9:1-3) Abimelech gets mother’s household to kill 70 brothers and make him king
– wife (Judges 11:2) Gilead’s wife bore sons who threw out brother Jephthah
– daughter (Judges 11:34-40) Jephthah sacrificed her as he promised
– daughters of Israel (Judges 11:40) yearly lament Jephthah’s sacrificed daughter
– Manoah’s wife/woman (Judges 13:2-24) barren – angel appeared – cereal offering – judge Samson born (judge)
– daughter/wife/woman (Judges 14:1-10) Samson desires Philistine wife
– Samson’s (Philistine) wife (Judges 14:15-20) She entices him for riddle answer; he leaves angry
– sister (Judges 15:1-6) Samson’s vengeance with wife’s family
– Micah’s mother (Judges 17:2-4) melts money to make graven image
– daughter (Judges 19:24) old man offers in place of night guest – Levite
– daughters/virgins/wives (Judges 21:1, 7, 12, 14) Israel agreed not to marry daughters to Benjamin’s tribe
– wives/daughters (Judges 21:16-23) virgins of absent Jabesh-Gilead given to them, not enough virgins for Benjamin’s men so took wives of Shiloh, daughters as they danced out at feast.
– Naomi, Elimelech’s wife (Throughout 4 chapters of Ruth) Ruth’s steadfast relation with Naomi; Orpah, Chilion’s wife; Ruth, Mahlon’s wife; Boaz buys” Ruth & Naomi and land; continued descendants include the great grandson David.)
– mother’s (Ruth 1:8) Naomi encourages daughters-in-law to return to their mother’s houses
– Hannah, Elkanah’s wife (I Samuel 1:2-28 & I Samuel 2:1-10) barren prior to prayer answered with Samuel’s birth whom she gives in return; Hannah’s prayer
– Peninnah, Elkanah’s wife (I Samuel 1:2, 4) Peninnah had children
– mother/wife Hannah/daughters (I Samuel 2:19-21) visits and brings clothes to Samuel; then Hannah bore three sons and two daughters
– daughter-in-law, wife of Phinehas (I Samuel 4:19-22) Eli’s daughter-in-law dies in childbirth with Chabod
– daughters (I Samuel 8:13) part of state conscription
– maidservants (I Samuel 8:16) part of state conscription
– daughter (I Samuel 17:25) reward for killing Goliath – King Saul’s daughter
– Saul’s elder daughter Merab/wife (I Samuel 18:20, 27) Michal given to David in exchange for 200 Philistines
– Michal/wife (I Samuel 19:11-17) Michal protects David from Saul
Michal/wife (I Samuel 25:44) Michal given to another man by Saul
– Abigail, Nabal’s wife, handmaid/wife (I Samuel 25:3, 14-42) Abigail keeps David from blood guilt and when Nabal dies, Abigail becomes David’s wife
– Ahinoam (I Samuel 25:43) wife of David, along with Abigail
– wives (I Samuel 27:3) Abigail and Ahinoam fled with David from Saul
– women, wives, daughters, David’s 2 wives (I Samuel 30:2-5, 18-19, 22) Philistines take all these captive but David recovers them
– daughters (II Samuel 1:20, 24) David tells daughters of Israel to weep lest daughters of Philistines rejoice over death of Saul and Jonathan
– wives (II Samuel 2:2) David’s two wives go along to Hebron; he is anointed king; Ahinoam, Abigail
– Maacah (II Samuel 3:2-5) listing of sons born to these wives of David:Haggith, Abital, Eglah
– daughter (II Samuel 3:3) David’s wife Maacah is daughter of king Talmai
– daughter, Rizpah (II Samuel 3:7) concubine Rizpah is daughter of Aiah
– daughter/wife (II Samuel 3:14) David’s former wife, Michal, taken from present husband, given to Abner
– Michal (II Samuel 6:16, 20-22) Michal, Saul’s daughter, despises David for dancing naked in front of Israel
– daughter/wife (II Samuel 11:3) Bathsheba identified
– wife (II Samuel 11:26-27) Bathsheba laments, wishes death and becomes David’s wife
– wives (II Samuel 12:8-14) Prophet Nathan shows David his sin and makes projections
– wife (II Samuel 12:15, 24) Bathsheba’s first child dies, then she conceives and bears Solomon
– daughter/woman/Tamar (II Samuel 14:27) Absalom’s daughter named Tamar, likely due to love for sister Tamar
– Abigal/daughter/sister/mother (II Samuel 17:25) Abigal, mother of David; army heads identified
– daughters/wives/concubines (II Samuel 19:5) David’s household saved at time of Absalom’s death
– Rizpah/Merab/daughters of (II Samuel 21:8-11) wife and daughter of Saul whose 7 sons were hanged to settle blood guilt of Saul with Gibeonites; Rizpah of Aiah, Merab of Saul
– Bathsheba, mother of Solomon, maidservant (I Kings 1:11-31) Bathsheba clears with King David that
Solomon is to reign rather than Adonijah
– daughters (I Kings 3:1; 7:8) Solomon takes Pharoah’s daughter as wife
– Taphath and Basemath (I Kings 4:11, 15) daughters of King Solomon married to king’s officers
– daughter (I Kings 9:16) Solomon rebuilds city given to him as dowry from Egypt Pharoah
– daughter (I Kings 7:8, 9:24) Solomon’s house built for Pharoah’s daughter
– wives (I Kings 20:5, 7, 8) Syrian King Benhaded threatens King Ahab to take wives
– Maacah (I Kings 15:13) removed from queen mother by Asa for image made
– mother, wives (II Kings 24:13, 15) promised King of Babylon takes captive King of Judah, his mother, wives, etc.

– Miriam (Duet. 24:9) warning about results of questioning priest
– Rahab-harlot (Joshua 2:1-24) lodged and released two spies
– Rahab-harlot (Joshua 6:22-25) safe release of Rahab’s household in return
– Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, Tirzah (Joshua 17:3-4) Zelophehad’s daughters receive inheritance
– Deborah, prophet, judge, warrior (Judges 4:4-16) Deborah agrees to go to battle with Barak against Sisera and defeats him
– song writer (Judges 5:1-31) Song of triumph
– maidens (Ruth 2:8, 22; 3:2) workers in Boaz’ field
– women (I Samuel 2:22) women serving at entrance to tent of meeting
– women (I Samuel 4:20) women attending Eli’s daughter-in-law in childbirth
– women (I Samuel 18:6-7) musicians out to meet King Saul
– maidens (I Samuel 25:42) five attended Abigail when she became David’s wife
– woman/handmaid (I Samuel 28:7-14, 21-25) Medium called on by Saul to discern future
– Michal (II Samuel 3:13-16) used to achieve covenant between Abner and David
– Wise woman of Tekoa (II Samuel 14:2-20) via story, David is entreated to let Absalom return
– concubines (II Samuel 15:16; 16:21; 20:3) ten concubines left to keep house when King David fled
– maidservant/woman (II Samuel 17:17, 19-20) messenger between David and Jonathan Ahimaaz
– wise woman/maidservant (II Samuel 20:16-22) prediction connected with Sheba
– maiden/nurse/Abishag the Shunammite (I Kings 1:2-4, 15) Abishag brought to be nurse for David in old age
– Bathsheba (I Kings 2:13-22) Adonijah has Bathsheba ask King Solomon for Abishag for wife
– Queen of Sheba (I Kings 10:1-13) queen visits, discovered Solomon’s wisdom, leaves gifts
– Jeroboam’s wife (I Kings 14:1-20) Jeroboam sends her to Ahijah, the prophet; son dies
– widow (I Kings 17:9-24) Elijah sent to her; she gives morsel; son lives
– Jezebel (I Kings 19:1-2) threatens Elijah’s life when Ahab tells her about Mount Carmel
– Jezebel (I Kings 21:5-26) self-assigned task of getting rid of Naboth so Ahab could get vineyards
– Jehosheba (II Kings 11:2) Jehosheba kept Joash, grandson of Athaliah while Athaliah reigned
– Athaliah (II Kings 11:1-3) King of Judah six years.
– Athaliah (II Kings 11:13-16, 20) forcefully removed from throne and slain
– Huldah, prophet (II Kings 22:14) asked to interpret book of law just found; predicts wrath of Yahweh, except to King Josiah
– women (II Kings 23:7) cult prostitutes, followers of Asherah, removed.

Sexual Partner
– woman/wife (Deut. 21:11-14) procedure with desirable captive woman
– woman/wife/virgin (Deut. 22:13-30) six laws (situations) concerning chastity
– cult prostitute/harlot (Deut. 23:17-18) laws concerning man’s divorce
– wife (Deut. 24: 1-4) regulations for divorce
– wife (Deut. 24:5) man’s year-long honeymoon
– mother-in-law (Deut. 27:23) curse for incest
– maiden or two (Judges 5:30) war booty divided
– wives (Judges 8:30) Gideon had many wives
– concubine (Judges 8:31; 9:18) concubine of Gideon bore Abimelech
– harlot (Judges 11:1) harlot of Gilead who bore judge Jephthah
– harlot (Judges 16:1) Samson went in to her
– women (I Samuel 21:4-5) priest can give holy bread to man who has kept himself from women
– Rizpah/concubine/woman (II Samuel 3:7-9) Abner accused of going in to Saul’s concubine
– concubine/wives (II Samuel 5:13) additional concubine and wives David took in Jerusalem
– Bathsheba (II Samuel 11:2-5) Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife) and David conceive
– wife (II Samuel 11:11) Uriah refuses to lie with his wife, David’s intent to cover up his conception with Bathsheba
– Tamar/virgin (II Samuel 13:1-22) Amnon, David’s first son, forces virgin sister Tamar to lie with him
– concubines (II Samuel 16:20-23) Absalom counseled to go in to concubines of his and others
– women/wives/princesses/concubines (I Kings 11:1-8) 700 princesses plus 300 concubines turned Solomon’s heart from Yahweh.

Equality of Man and Woman
– mother (Deut. 5:16) ten commandments equal to honor father/mother
– mother (Deut. 21:18-19) parents together discipline son who is rebellious
– mother (Deut. 27:16) restatement of command to honor father/mother
– sister-daughter of father or mother (Deut. 27:22) equality of father or mother’s daughter
– women (Deut. 22:5) both sexes not to wear clothes of other sex
– female (Deut. 28:68) consequences of disobedience – equal for female and male
– wives (Deut. 29:11) covenant includes all
– virgin (Deut. 32:25) equal destruction of man and virgin for disobedience
– mother (Joshua 2:18) equal protection for entire household
– woman (Judges 9:51) men and women together fled to safe town
– mother (Judges 14:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9) Samson’s father and mother both in on marriage decision
– women (Judges 16:27) men and women together rejoicing, then killed with Samson
– women/woman (Judges 21:10-11) all men and all women, not virgins, killed
– mother (Ruth 2:11) Boaz acknowledged Ruth’s leaving father and mother
– woman (I Samuel 27:9, 11) David left neither man nor woman alive in raids
– women (II Samuel 6:19) celebrating ark coming to Jerusalem, all men and women given foods
– women (II Samuel 19:35) signing men and women for Barzillai
– mother (II Samuel 19:37) Barzillai wants to be buried near father and mother
– mother (I Kings 22:52) Ahaziah evil as father Ahab and mother Jezebel
– mother (II Kings 3:2) Jehoram evil but not as bad as parents Ahab and Jezebel

Wife of/Son of/Mother of/Daughter of
– Haggith (I Kings 1:5; 2:13) Adonijah the son of Haggith
– Bathsheba (I Kings 2:13) mother of Solomon
– Zeruah/mother/widow (I Kings 11:26) mother of Jeroboam the son of Nebat
– Naamah (I Kings 14:21, 31) mother of Rehoboam
– Maacah (I Kings 15:2, 10) Maacah of Abijam, daughter of Abishalom, Maacah of Asa, son of Abijam
– Jezebel (I Kings 16:31) Ahab’s wife, daughter of Sidonian’s King Ethbaal
– Azubah (I Kings 22:42) Asa’s wife, mother of Jehoshaphat, daughter of Shilhi
– wife (II Kings 8:18) Jehoram’s wife, a daughter of Ahab, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat
– Athaliah (II Kings 8:26; 11:1) mother of Ahaziah, wife of Jehoram, granddaughter of Omri
– Zibiah (II Kings 12:1) mother of Jehoash, wife of Ahaziah
– Jehoaddin (II Kings 14:2) mother of Amaziah, wife of Joash
– Jecoliah (II Kings 15:2) mother of Azariah, wife of Amaziah
– Abi (II Kings 18:2) mother of Hezekiah, daughter of Zechariah, wife of Ahaz
– Hephzibah (II Kings 21:1) mother of Manasseh
– Meshullemeth (II Kings 21:19) mother of Amon, daughter of Haruz
– Jedidah (II Kings 22:1) mother of Josiah, daughter of Adaiah
– Hamutal (II Kings 23:31) mother of Jehoahaz, daughter of Jerimiah of Libnah
– Zebedah (II Kings 23:36) mother of Jehoiakim, daughter of Pediah
– Nehushta (II Kings 24:8) mother of Jehoiachin, daughter of Elnathan
– Hamutal (II Kings 24:18) mother of Zedekiah, daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah

Stories of Life Experience
– woman (Judges 9:53) threw millstone on Abimelech – belittling for men to be killed by a woman
– Delilah/loved woman (Judges 16:4-20) Delilah entices Samson to tell secret of strength
– concubine (Judges 19:1-29) Levite takes her, en route home old man lodges them; base men come and demand Levite but man gives concubine and own daughter in place. Concubine dead by morning; Levite takes her home and divides her into twelve pieces to distribute
– harlots (I Kings 3:16-27) two harlots came to Solomon to discover which was the true mother
– wife/maidservant (II Kings 4:1-7) widow asks Elisha for help; vessels filled with oil
– wealthy Shunamite woman (II Kings 4:8-37) prepared chamber for Elisha who in turn restores her promised son
– maid (II Kings 5:2-3) Israelite maid assisting Naaman’s wife suggests cure for Naaman’s leprosy
– woman (II Kings 6:26-31) story of woman betrayed in giving son for food
– woman (II Kings 8:1-6) woman, whose son Elisha had restored, now has land restored following famine

– women (Deut. 20:14) war booty
– women of neighborhood (Ruth 4:14, 17) praised Ruth to Naomi and named the son, Obed
– women (II Samuel 1:26) David compares Jonathan’s love to that of women
– maids (II Samuel 6:20, 22) servants, maids before whom David danced naked
– [mother (II Samuel 20:19) speaking of a city in heritage of Israel]
– sister/wife (I Kings 11:19-20) Pharoah gives sister of wife to Hadad, Solomon’s adversary
– Jezebel (I Kings 18:13, 19) reference to Jezebel’s killing prophets and Asherah’s prophets whom she fed
– harlots (I Kings 22:38) washed themselves in Ahab’s blood
– Jezebel (II Kings 9:7, 10, 22) vengeance on house of Ahab and Jezebel
– Jezebel (II Kings 9:30-37 death of Jezebel and prophesy fulfillment involved
– women (II Kings 15:16) all pregnant women ripped up when Menahem sacked Tappuah
– [daughter (II Kings 19:21) referring to Zion and Jerusalem, Isaiah speaks to Hezekiah]

Although varied options exist, no plan has been pursued for further analysis of this data. To complete the basic gathering task provided personal satisfaction for me. To finally get it into print makes it available for further exploring. I have not, during the intervening decades, learned of anyone’s interest in gathering such data from other sections of scripture, possible as that would be. For example, the Psalms could be charted or the Writings or Prophets. Creative efforts await.