Who’s Who? Biblical Models Of Women In Leadership -- By: Grace Ying May

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 007:2 (Spring 1993)
Article: Who’s Who? Biblical Models Of Women In Leadership
Author: Grace Ying May

Who’s Who? Biblical Models Of Women In Leadership

Grace May

Grace May is a graduate of Yale University (B.A.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.). She has been engaged in campus ministry in Boston and New York City, and intends to pursue doctoral studies in theology at Boston University.

Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a two-part presentation on “Biblical Models of Women in Leadership.” In the next issue of Priscilla Papers, Grace May will continue with an exploration of New Testament female ministry role models.


Reading biographies is inspiring and it was no less true in Biblical times as it is today. Replete with stories of men and women, the Bible demonstrates how God’s extraordinary plans unfold in the lives of ordinary people. God’s revelation takes on flesh and blood as we encounter Shiphrah and Puah, Jochebed, Miriam, Zipporah, Rahab, Abigail, Deborah, Huldah, as well as unnamed heroines. If we are eager to travel with them, their faith can encourage and bolster ours.

Examining biblical models of women in ministry can change our preconceived images of leadership by providing biblically-informed reasons for re-investing women with the dignity and high regard God conferred on them in creation and redemption, and by encouraging us to reflect positively on the gifts with which God has endowed women in the past. Such an examination can even challenge our thinking about women’s use of initiative and authority in the church and suggest avenues of ministry available to women and men that are both contemporary and innovative. By God’s grace, following the faith journeys of others will help to transform our attitudes and behaviors, so that our relationships can better reflect Christ, the One Promised to redeem humanity (Gen 3:16).

Old Testament Female Ministry Role Models

1. Shiphrah And Puah (Exodus 1:15-22)

Years after Joseph died in the land of Egypt, two women arose who played a pivotal role in God’s redemptive plan. Daring to defy the pharoah’s edict, Shiphrah and Puah, two Egyptian midwives, refused to kill the newborn sons of Hebrew slaves. They “feared God” (Ex 1:17) more than the law of the land. When questioned by pharaoh, they responded shrewdly. They were not afraid or timid because they knew that they owed their first allegiance to their Creator. Pleased with how these women stood their ground, God rewarded Shiphrah and Puah with children of their own (Ex 1:21).

In contrast to much teaching today that encourages women to adopt a retiring attitude or to seek to prese...

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