Today for mother’s day at Church we had an incredible talk discussing the five women who are named in Christ’s lineage: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.
Just a quick synopsis on the five women:
- Tamar was married to one of Judah’s sons, but unfortunately he died before they could have any children. By law, Judah’s next son should have taken her into his home and provided children for his brother. When he refused, God killed him. This happened again with Judah’s next son. His final and youngest son was not of age to take a wife, and so Judah sent Tamar back to live with her family until he did. This meant a fall from status for her. When she found out that the youngest son was old enough, but had not come for her, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She posed as a prostitute and seduced Judah. When she became pregnant he was furious until she was able to prove that the child was actually his.
- Rahab ran an inn and was likely a prostitute. When two spies from Israel came to her home she gave them shelter and even lied to the officials of the city about their whereabouts. She negotiated with them to exchange her help for protection when their army came to destroy Jericho. As a result of her faith, all of her household were saved.
- Ruth was a Moabite woman who married a Israelite man. When her husband, his brother and father all died, she forsake everything she knew to return with her mother-in-law to Israel. While supporting the two of them financially, she met and married Boaz a distant relation of her husband’s family and a wealthy landowner.
- Bathsheba is seen as the beginning of David’s downfall when he decides he must have her although she is married. It’s unclear how much consent there was between her and David’s affair, but after her husband was killed and she’d married David, they had a son named Solomon. Later, she follows the counsel of Samuel the prophet, and is able to intercede so that her son becomes the next king despite his lack of birthright.
- Mary is, of course, Christ’s mother. She conceived as a virgin and could have been condemned to death had it not been for the compassion and faith of her betrothed. If he knew of her pregnancy, there were likely many others who did and she must have lived with the rumors for her entire life.
Besides the fact that including women in a lineage was abnormal for the time, I love that these are not your typical women. I mean, many of their circumstances would be ostracizing today, let alone thousands of years ago.
On the car ride home, a friend shared a recent conversation she’d had with an academic who specializes in virginity. The concept of virginity is vital in cultures that prize patri-lineage, or genealogy through the male line. It is only through a woman’s chastity that a man can prove his own claim on her offspring–which is why men had few consequences of sexual wandering, but women were harshly punished and even executed (a double standard that is, of course, appalling).
It is with this additional lens that the five women who were used by the Lord to carry the line of his only-begotten are all the more remarkable. Rebecca and Leah are much less controversial women in his family tree, and yet they were not included by Matthew. In the first verses of the New Testament, God introduces a layer of ambiguity into Christ’s parentage that many would find problematic, and yet he apparently does not. In many ways these women should have been reviled according to the strict social rules within the Law of Moses, and yet, their stories are told in a way that highlights their faith and dedication to the Lord.
In a world that emphasizes perfectionism for women I was so grateful for this message today. Grateful to be reminded that our lives can be riddled with inadvisable life choices and still turn to the Lord and become a disciple with incredible spiritual impact. Our worth to God is not dependent on if we fit society’s perfect mold, but rather, the intent of our hearts.
And yet, these women were not passive. They took an active role in crafting their own stories. Tamar sought justice for herself, Rahab safety for her family, Ruth to care for someone she loved, Bathsheba to rebuild her life, and Mary to become the mother of God. They were all faced with incredibly difficult decisions along the way, but did everything in their power to turn to God, and their children were blessed for it. We do not need to get everything right as women. We just don’t. But I believe as we turn to the Lord with faith, he will bless us and the people we love.