Shady Ladies of Scripture
Winston Churchill once said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I am afraid that we can be guilty of this in our study of Scripture when we cherry pick the stories we study instead of looking at the whole of the God’s Word. When studying women in the Bible, I know I have often been guilty of spending my time looking at the “superwomen” (Ruth, Esther, Mary, the Proverbs 31 woman, etc.) and forget to consider the lessons to be learned from the flawed, rebellious, or downright wicked women. God has the stories of those less-than-perfect ladies in Scripture for a reason. Truth be told, there are times when we may have more in common with the women who are remembered more for their failures than we are willing to admit. We can learn some valuable lessons from these women when we ask whether there’s any “shady lady” behavior in our own lives.
In Genesis 18:16—19:29 we find the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, his wife, and his two daughters are the only people to escape the city because angels come to their aid. The angels directly tell the family not to look back (Gen. 19:17), yet Lot’s wife disobeys and looks back at the city only to become a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:26). Theories abound about why she looked back and what made her turn to salt. Was she curious to see what was happening, wishing for people or things she left behind, or just reluctant to leave Sodom? We can’t say with certainty because the text does not tell us. What we can say is that something was more important to her in that moment than obeying the direct command given from the Lord.
Lot’s wife teaches us to examine our own lives and ask, Is there anything more important to me than obeying the Lord?
Judges 16:1-22 tells the story of Samson and Delilah and how their relationship led to Samson’s downfall. Samson loved Delilah (16:4), and she used his love to trick him into revealing secrets that could be used by his enemies to bring about his ruin. She used her words to manipulate Samson (see 16:15-16), and she reminds me of the immoral woman in Proverbs who used words as a weapon to cause people to sin (see Prov. 2:16-19; 5:3-23; 6:23-35; 7:5-27; 22:14; 23:27-28; 29:3; 30:20).
Delilah teaches us to examine our own lives and ask, Am I trustworthy? Do I use words to manipulate people into getting what I want?
Michal’s story is a tragic one and reads like a modern-day soap opera. She was the daughter of Saul and loved David (1 Sam. 18:17-30). Her father knew it and used it to his advantage in hopes of one day getting rid of David. Saul gave Michal to David as a wife, but then Saul tried to have David killed. However, Michal helped David escape (1 Sam. 19:11-17). Of course, this did not make her father happy, and Saul forced Michal to marry someone else despite the fact that she was married to David (1 Sam. 25:44). After about 14 years, David asks for Michal back as one of the terms of a military negotiation (2 Sam. 3:13). No one can argue that Michal had an ideal road!
The incident that Michal is most remembered for, though, is when she berates David for dancing in the streets as the Ark of the Covenant is brought back into the city (2 Sam. 6:16-23). The Bible says that Michal despised David at this point. No woman would wish to live the life Michal lived, being used as a pawn by men she had cared for at some point in her life. She had no control over the circumstances of her life, but she could control how she reacted to them. By the time the incident in 2 Samuel 6 occurs, it is clear that Michal had allowed some negative attitudes to take root in her life—whether it was hatred, bitterness, jealously, we do not know. Hebrews 12:15 warns about how destructive certain attitudes can be, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” It is clear that Michal had allowed an attitude to take root and defile her. You may not face the same circumstances of life as Michal, but you will face dark days and situations out of our control. What you can control is how you react to those circumstances.
Michal teaches us to examine our own lives and ask, Are there any negative attitudes taking root in my life?
Our final “shady lady” is Gomer, the woman described as a “wife of harlotry” to Hosea (see Hosea 1—3 for her story). God tells the prophet Hosea to marry Gomer, and despite the fact that she cheats on Hosea repeatedly and possibly has children with other men, God instructs Hosea to reconcile with her. As Hosea 2:14-20 makes clear, the marriage of Hosea and Gomer was to serve as a picture to the nation of Israel of how God loved them and desired a right relationship with them. Just as Hosea, time after time, sought out Gomer even when she abandoned their marriage and sought out other men, God too loves His people enough to seek them out to bring about reconciliation. That is exactly what Christ did on the cross! As sinful people, we are like Gomer the harlot, continually turning our backs on God. Yet, Christ came and lived a sinless life, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, and rose on the third day so that we could have a right relationship with Him. As 1 John 1:9 teaches, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Gomer teaches us to examine our own lives and ask, Is there anything stopping me from experiencing reconciliation with God?
Lot’s wife, Delilah, Michal, and Gomer are probably not your “fab four” women of the Bible. However, by learning from their mistakes, we can make sure we do not repeat the sinful patterns of their lives. Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit working in our lives, any “shady lady” behavior can be transformed into a life worthy of a saint, holy and blameless before the Lord (1 Thess. 3:13).