So many of the biblical proofs in regards to women in leadership positions within Christ’s church are found in the New Testament letters written by the Apostle Paul. Although those in disagreement with what Paul has to say about women frequently point out that his writings were so ancient, as to be inconsiderate of the current cultural climate that openly welcomes women into all positions, pastors, elders, or any office that supports the teaching of the Word (specifically to other grown men, as teaching other women or children may not apply), the disapproval of these admissions go back many more centuries before the claims made clear by Paul. I’ll share just two that I’ve come across in reading that not only support the presumably sexist position that Paul proclaims as God’s, one seated halfway back into the Bible and the other seated at the front. Even though these two accounts venture farther into the past, opening the invitation for further argument that the authors were misogynostic due to their place in history, we ought to be careful in our assumptions that men assuming these postures as to where a woman will serve God best are men that have been appointed by the Spirit of God to relay these words to readers past, present, and future.
Walking backwards through the books of the Bible, the prophet Isaiah writes, “Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. O my people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path” (Isaiah 3:12). The entire third chapter of Isaiah is telling of the judgment on Jerusalem and Judah, so this verse is following the foretelling of God’s judgment against those whose words and deeds are against Him (v. 8). During this removal of supply and support by God (v. 1), those within the realm of His wrath desperately seek men to lead them and not one will stand up to the task (v. 5-7) which is why boys became their officials and children governed them (v. 4). He then goes on to shame and insult the women of Zion (v. 13-26) who’ve taken positions of rule, alongside the youth, over the people. Before the Branch of the Lord is foretold in 4:2-6, one last thrashing against these women reads, “In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, ‘We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!'” (4:1).
These women of Zion that God labels haughty (3:16) are nothing like the women we know today, or are they? These women who take the place of weak willed men, the men too whipped by their own lack of masculinity and fallen prey into the traps of submissive femininity, unable to serve and provide, protect and lead, become learned and skilled at assuming the role that God created for them to fill; these women will step in and take over, feeling a sense of pride in their leadership capabilities and, inevitably, replace the men who weren’t willing to abide by God’s ideal that the mature male is meant to guide His people, not immature children and women. We can’t deny that this description hasn’t been witnessed amongst us in the here and now. It is rampant not only in the broader church, Christ’s bride, but also within the microcosm of the family, husband and wife. Men of God are not doing their duty, so women of God are filling in and Isaiah is prophesying this as a judgment from God.
Rewind, now, all the way back to the beginning of Scripture to find additional reference to how God unfolds the original case of when women rule; in this initial interaction, between Adam and Eve, God reveals curses upon the serpent and Adam (Genesis 3:14-15 & 17-19). Between God’s specific curses delivered to them, there lies His will for the woman as He says, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). In this passage, note the degree of responsibility God lays on Adam, above that of Eve, by doling out a curse on him because he listened to his wife and ate from the tree (v. 17). Within God’s words for the woman, there isn’t specific mention of a curse, but pain in childbirth and being ruled over by the first gender. As if giving birth wasn’t painful enough, submitting under the rule of a husband could easily be felt as a curse for the women who’d consider themselves like those previously mentioned, of Zion, or today’s woman, who insists that they can also exist and flourish as the head of their household.
Those women, myself included, who have fiercely stubborn and independent spirits that know in their heart of hearts that how they decide to proceed in any situation is the wiser, more logical, approach above that of their husband, are at risk of disobeying God’s Word. Many times, us women are in clear obedience to biblical mandates and the men in our lives, whether they be leadership in the church or our own husbands, clearly are not. When women allow the authority of Scripture to rule over every aspect of their lives, their conscience can remain clean before God. So when a case comes up, as it surely shall, and the men we are commanded to submit under are not submitting themselves to the Word of God, we can be assured that our disagreements are known, seen, and guided by Him. However, let us be intimately acquainted with His Word so that we have a firm grasp of whether we’re the haughty women of Zion that lead God’s people astray, the woman in the Garden who questioned God’s directions, or women fulfilling the role He desires for us; women whose rule is the Word of God, who submit under Him, ultimately, and, in turn, willingly give up our innate desire to rule, but offer our submission to the godly men He places in our lives to lead us, guide us, protect us, teach us, and love us in the manner that Scripture intends.