The Dignity of Womanhood in the Bible
Critics of the Bible sometimes claim the Bible is full of chauvinist speech that devalues women. When such arguments are made, passages which highlight the dignity of women are conveniently overlooked. The goal of this article is simple: to show how the Bible exalts women as equally valuable and dignified as men.
We do not have to look far to see it. Genesis 1:27 says both male and female were created in God’s image, and therefore whatever dignity men have is the same women have. The woman was made from the same “stuff” as man, being fashioned from Adam’s very rib. From the start, Adam recognized her equality with him when he said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23).
Woman was created to be man’s “helper” (Gen. 2:18-20). The context of woman’s creation actually highlights her inherent dignity, for she is clearly contrasted from the animals among whom Adam found no suitable helpmeet. In other words, she is not lesser than man like the animals but equally human. Moreover, her God-given role as “helper” does not diminish her value in the least; the same word is used elsewhere in the Old Testament of God defending and protecting His people from their adversaries (see Deut. 33:7; Psalm 20:2). Feminists (and sometimes Christians who are influenced by similar thinking) mistakenly assume that difference in role means difference in essential value, but the Bible never states or implies this. On the contrary, though it clearly delineates between the two roles from the beginning of creation (1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:13) the Bible speaks very highly of the woman’s worth.
Throughout Scripture, there is consistent recognition of the woman’s purpose to give birth, raise children, and manage the home. The world scoffs at this, but the Bible praises this as a necessary and honorable role. Indeed, without good mothers (or mothers at all), mankind would be extinct. “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far about jewels…Strength and dignity are her clothing… Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised” (Prov. 31:10, 25, 31). “Honor widows who are widows indeed…if she has brought up children, shown hospitality to strangers, washed the saints’ feet, assisted those in distress, and devoted herself to every good work” (1 Tim. 5:3, 10). “But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint” (1 Tim. 2:15).
One of most distinctive privileges of the female gender was the promise of bearing the Savior (Gen. 3:15). The lineage of Christ proves how many (imperfect) women were blessed to carry this seed, including Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary (see Matt. 1). What more significant role could a woman play in God’s plan to redeem man than to bear the Messiah when the fullness of times had come (Gal. 4:4)?
The same apostle who—by the Holy Spirit—prohibited women from leading in worship saw no essential difference in worth between male and female (Gal. 3:28). He also honored women who had proved beneficial to him and highly influential in the kingdom (Rom. 16:1, 3, 6, 13; Phil. 4:3; 2 Tim. 1:5). Anyone who reads Paul’s personal greetings with an unbiased eye will see his high regard for women. He was no male chauvinist.
Scholars of ancient cultures have pointed out many times how Israel’s laws—though to 21st century American eyes can appear cruel—actually give more honor and protection to women than other cultures. Compared to the Hammurabi Code, for example, women in the Old Testament fared far better.
Despite all this, women today are made to feel worthless and enslaved if they do not work outside the home or make as much money as their husbands. Stay-at-home moms are mocked. Wives who submit to their husband’s leadership are pitied. Ironically, a woman’s dignity is tied to how she compares with men in independence and power. But according to the Bible, her dignity is found in being wholly and uniquely woman, as God has designed. And, as she faithfully and courageously executes that purpose, she is truly dignified. “But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet. 3:4).