Since we have just celebrated Mother’s Day, and with the recent award-winning depiction of Margaret Thatcher, I thought it fitting to write a column on some of the great iron ladies of both Biblical and American history. Obviously, if we attempted to list all of the great women in both Biblical and American history, the list would require volumes of books to contain them all. Herein, let me list but a few.
Iron Ladies of Biblical History
Jochebed, Moses’ Mother
First, Jochebed is honored in the great “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 for defying Pharaoh’s unjust and unlawful edict to kill the little Hebrew babies. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” (Hebrews 11:23)
Imagine: Jochebed and her husband Amram (Moses’ parents) rebelled against their civil authorities and God praised them for it in Hebrews 11. (Please don’t tell the Romans 13-ers; it will only confuse them.)
Second, Jochebed taught her son, Moses, his godly heritage and instructed him to discern the difference between lawful and unlawful authority. She also taught him the Natural Law principles of liberty for God’s people. We know this, because when Moses saw that Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew slave to death, he stepped in and defended the Hebrew by taking the life of the would-be murderer. And, once again, God praised Moses for his decision to save the Hebrew:
“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” (Heb. 11:24, 25)
When did Moses refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and to choose to suffer affliction with the people of God? When he stepped in to defend the life of the Hebrew slave. That’s when! Remember, as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter Moses was very likely in line to become the next Pharaoh of Egypt. Moses was willing to turn his back on riches and power in order to defend the principle of liberty for his people. What caused him to make such a choice if it wasn’t the training and instruction received from his mother and father?
Please remember Hebrews 11:24, 25 the next time you hear some misguided preacher say that Moses committed murder by killing the Egyptian taskmaster. Moses did no such thing! Defense of oneself or another is a Biblical Natural Law principle. And, of course, the rest of what Moses did is history.
Jochebed was a true Iron Lady.
Rahab, The Jericho Harlot
This story is found in Joshua 6. As with Jochebed, Rahab disobeyed her civil authorities and helped the Hebrew spies escape the Jericho soldiers. This included helping them escape out of a window and down a wall, and then lying to the authorities about it. And, once again, Rahab is honored by God by listing her in the great “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11: “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” (verse 31) She is honored again in the Book of James: “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” (2:25)
What is amazing to me about this story is the fact that even though Rahab was a harlot, she had the discernment to recognize the difference between true and false authority and the faith to act upon it. Why is it that so many “good” Christians today seemingly have little or no discernment when it comes to recognizing legitimate and illegitimate authority, and yet many un-churched and non-Christian people seem to be able to recognize this distinction? It truly baffles me!
Rahab was a true Iron Lady.
Deborah, The Judge
This story is found in Judges 4. Deborah was led of God to deliver the Israelites from the bondage and tyranny of the Canaanites. She teamed up with a man named Barak–a man who was not her husband, but who was equally chosen by God. (Don’t tell the legalists; this, too, will totally confuse them.) She provided the inspiration; he provided the battlefield leadership. Together they wrought a great victory and delivered their people from bondage.
Deborah was a true Iron Lady.
I would also nominate Vashti and Esther, the two queens of the Persian king, Ahasuerus, and Abigail, the woman who became the wife of King David, as true Iron Ladies. In each instance, these courageous women disobeyed their civil government’s–and at the same time, their husband’s–unlawful commands, risking their lives doing so, and stood as rocks for the principles of liberty and lawful authority. (Again, please don’t tell the Romans 13-ers, because it will totally confuse them!)
In the New Testament, I would nominate Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the women of Mark 15:40, 41 as true Iron Ladies.
Iron Ladies of American History
Abigail Adams just might have been the most influential woman in America during our fight for independence. In my mind, she was certainly the greatest. She was the wife of John Adams and the mother of John Quincy Adams–both men becoming US Presidents, of course. The letters Abigail wrote–especially the ones between her and her husband–should be required reading for all American patriots. (I have included a sample of John and Abigail’s correspondence in my compilation of great American documents that I simply call, THE FREEDOM DOCUMENTS.
To learn more or to order THE FREEDOM DOCUMENTS, go here.
Here is a sample of her letters. She wrote this on Sunday, June 18, 1775,
“‘The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but the God of Israel is He that giveth strength and power unto his people. Trust in him at all times, ye people, pour out your hearts before him; God is a refuge for us.’ Charlestown is laid in ashes. The battle began upon our intrenchments upon Bunker’s Hill, Saturday morning about three o’clock, and has not ceased yet, and it is now three o’clock Sabbath afternoon.
“It is expected they will come out over the Neck tonight, and a dreadful battle must ensue. Almighty God, cover the heads of our countrymen, and be a shield to our dear friends! How many have fallen, we know not. The constant roar of the cannon is so distressing that we cannot eat, drink, or sleep. May we be supported and sustained in the dreadful conflict. I shall tarry here till it is thought unsafe by my friends, and then I have secured myself a retreat at your brother’s, who has kindly offered me part of his house. I cannot compose myself to write any further at present. I will add more as I hear further.”
Her letters edified and encouraged many, if not most, of the men whom we would identify as Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson, particularly, paid great homage to the encouragement he received from Abigail Adams.
Elizabeth was also the wife of a man who signed the Declaration of Independence, Francis Lewis. As with so many of the signers and their wives, Elizabeth was forced to endure unbelievable cruelty at the hands of the British. The Crown’s troops were sent to their home “to seize the lady and destroy the property.” And that is exactly what they did. After destroying her home and everything of value that she owned, they carried her off to prison and subjected her to some of the most inhumane treatment possible. Through Herculean efforts by George Washington, she was freed from prison but died shortly thereafter.
The wife of Declaration signer, John Hart, Deborah, too, paid a heavy price to help America win its independence. She and her 13 children had to flee for their lives from the British. They were scattered in all directions and had to live in forests and caves for more than a year. As with Elizabeth Lewis, Deborah did not survive. When her husband John was finally able to return home, he found Deborah had died, his children’s whereabouts were unknown, and his home and property were destroyed. John died a few months later of a broken heart.
Janet was the bride of Richard Montgomery, who was one of eight brigadier generals of the Continental Congress. Richard was killed in battle, and Janet was widowed almost before her honeymoon was over. She made these comments regarding her husband’s death: “As a wife I must ever mourn the loss of a husband, friend, and lover; of a thousand virtues, of all domestic bliss; the idol of my warmest affections, and in one word my every dream of happiness. But, with America, I weep the still greater loss of the firm soldier and the friend to freedom.”
Abigail, Elizabeth, Deborah, and Janet–and thousands like them–were true Iron Ladies.
It is truly tragic that we do not come close to giving our great women of history the adulation and honor that they so richly deserve! Without the courage and sacrifice of these great women, none of us would have ever tasted the spiritual and national blessings that have been bequeathed to us. May God forgive us for our lack of appreciation and gratitude, and may He never leave us alone without wonderful, stalwart Iron Ladies such as these!