Knowledge and the Women of God
“For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6. Scriptures from NASB, unless otherwise noted).
— Ernie Kuenzli
When he listed the character qualities to be developed by the church, Peter mentioned knowledge third in his list. “Applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control … perseverance … godliness … brotherly kindness … love” (2 Peter 1:5-7). This list reveals that the knowledge of God is a prerequisite to developing the remaining Christian character qualities and the obedience required by God from those who desire to serve Him. “My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; … Then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1, 2,5).
With many of the faithful women identified in the scriptures, the knowledge of God and, especially, their application of that knowledge was crucial to their obedience and being pleasing to God. Though it might not be mentioned in the scriptural account, the knowledge of God was behind every faithful woman of God.
Eve’s failure to apply the knowledge received from God had a significant role in her fall into disobedience and sin. While in the garden of Eden, God gave Adam one simple law to follow. “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17). While the law was simple to follow, it promised drastic consequences if disobeyed.
We are not told how this law was communicated to Eve. Still, she had received its message when the serpent questioned her. “The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die’ ’ ” (Genesis 3:2-3). The serpent responded with conflicting information, “You surely will not die!” (Genesis 3:4). This was the first time Eve ever faced inaccurate information — a lie (John 8:44).
Eve now had two conflicting pieces of information. They could not both be true. How did she respond? Did she go to Adam to verify the accuracy of the information received from the serpent? No! Did she go to the Heavenly Father to verify the information received from the serpent? No! Instead, she used her own judgment to compare the conflicting statements. When the purported benefits associated with the serpent’s lie seemed better than those associated with God’s commandment, she opted to believe the serpent. It was undoubtedly a choice she regretted for the rest of her life.
Eve’s example shows the consequences of not following knowledge revealed to us by God. When we stop applying the knowledge of God to ourselves and our lives, we risk our relationship with God and the blessings from that relationship. God reveals His knowledge to us so we will be blessed by applying it in our lives. “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones” (Proverbs 2:7-8).
While Rahab had less knowledge of God than Eve, she acted in harmony with the knowledge of God she did have. As an inhabitant of Jericho, Rahab recognized that God was about to give Jericho into the hands of the Israelites. She told the spies, “I know that the LORD has given you the land and that the terror of you has fallen on us … For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea … what you did … to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed … our hearts melted … for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:9-11).
Recognizing the superiority of Israel’s God, Rahab hid the spies, helped them escape Jericho after dark, and demonstrated her faith in God by hanging a “cord of scarlet thread” in her window (Joshua 2:18). As a result, “Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared” (Joshua 6:25). James writes, “In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:25). Rahab’s obedience by her knowledge not only saved her life but led to her becoming part of the line that brought forth king David, son of Jesse, and our Lord Jesus, the Messiah (Matthew 1:5, Luke 3:23,31,32).
Martha and Mary
In the New Testament, Martha and Mary are examples of those women who craved and profited from the knowledge of God. We meet them in Luke 10:38-41, where Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. While Martha provided hospitality to Jesus and his associates, “she had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to his word” (verse 39). “But Martha was distracted with all her preparations, and she came up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me’” (verse 40). Mary was not sharing the work associated with hosting Jesus, and Martha was upset about it.
Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (verses 41-42). While hospitality was important, Jesus wanted his listeners to hear his words and take them to heart. We read later that Martha applied Jesus’ advice.
The next time we meet Martha and Mary, Lazarus, their brother, had died. The sisters had sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick, but Jesus failed to return in time to heal him. Four days after Lazarus had died, Jesus arrived, and the sisters were heartbroken. Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you” (John 11:21-22). They were incredibly disappointed that Jesus did not return soon enough to save Lazarus. Did he not care? Martha ends her statement with a rather interesting observation, “I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Was she asking Jesus to bring her brother back to life?
Jesus responded, “Your brother will rise again” (verse 23). To this, Martha revealed that she had been listening to Jesus’ teaching, just as Mary did. “I know that he will arise again in the resurrection at the last day” (verse 24). Martha had taken Jesus’ advice to heart. She quoted back to Jesus something he must have said.
Jesus acknowledged this and then connected himself to both the resurrection and the last day. “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (verses 25-26). To this, Martha revealed her faith in Jesus based on her knowledge of him and his teachings, even before Jesus had raised her brother from the tomb. “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, even he who comes into the world” (verse 27).
While her faith in Jesus as the Christ was strong, Martha was unprepared for what happened next. When they reached Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus said, “Remove the stone” (verse 39). Martha responded, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days” (verse 39). Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (verse 40).
After the stone was removed, Jesus had a public conversation with his heavenly Father. “Father, I thank You that You have heard me. I knew that You always hear me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent me” (verses 41- 42). Jesus’ words of thanks to God are in the past tense and suggests that God had already brought Lazarus back to life. Jesus then cried out, “Lazarus, come forth” and God’s power to raise the dead was powerfully demonstrated to Martha, Mary, and their friends (verse 43). Their knowledge of Jesus, gained by accepting his teachings, had led them to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, which he had just publicly demonstrated. Their knowledge led them to accept Jesus as the Messiah and, no doubt, enter the Christian way.
Priscilla and Aquila
Priscilla is another woman follower of God who was known for her knowledge. She and her husband Aquila are introduced to us in Acts chapter 18 when they meet the Apostle Paul in Corinth after they were evicted from Rome with the other Jews. Paul abode with them while at Corinth because they shared the same occupation — tentmaking (Acts 18:2-3, 18-19).
The couple joined the apostle and journeyed with him to Ephesus, where they stayed while Paul traveled on. While there, “now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John” (vs. 24-25). While in Ephesus, Apollos “began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (verses 25-26).
Note two important aspects of this encounter. First, Priscilla is mentioned first, showing that she took the lead in this experience. She knew the difference between John’s baptism for repentance for sins committed against the Jewish law and baptism into Jesus’ death. Secondly, Pricilla and Aquila used discretion in bringing this information to Apollos’ attention. Rather than correct him publicly in the synagogue, they took him aside privately “and explained the way of God more accurately.” They were students of the truth, and they shared the results of their study and understanding with a more prominent public speaker to improve his understanding and ability to witness to the Gospel message.
Paul mentions them again in his greetings of 1 Corinthians 16:19 and 2 Timothy 4:19. Perhaps Paul’s most expansive comment on them is found in Romans 16:3,4: “Greet Prisca [Priscilla] and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” (Romans 16:3-4). We are not told how Priscilla and Aquila risked their necks, but both Paul and all Gentile Christians were very appreciative. God used Priscilla and Aquila because of their knowledge.
Many faithful women in both the Old and New Testaments were obedient and pleasing to God because they acted on their knowledge of God. They believed God’s commandments. They serve as role models for us who are blessed with greater knowledge of God. “Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in your commandments” (Psalms 119:66).