In today’s culture where individualism is emphasized and especially that women are encouraged to assume equal roles as men would normally take, two or three decades ago, it is very difficult to see eye to eye with how women are portrayed in the Bible during biblical times. “Girl power” or women empowerment is the rule of the day for women nowadays.
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While at the moment, the common cry of women is equality to both genders as it is reflected in women’s roles in the family, in public places, and the obliteration of the stereotyped designation of females in past decades which until now has its bearing in the minds of the general public the consequent outcome of this campaign is prevalent in almost every area where function is concerned. In the late 1960s, women’s movement began to blossom.
It was stirred by the then sentiment of repulsion to the tasks being typecasted among women. Women’s movement of the 60s aimed to question the menial duties relegated to women such as getting married, becoming a housewife and afterwards attending to household chores (including raising children), and when outside opportunity comes for them to work, they’re consigned to answering phones, photocopying, etc (Encarta, 2006). The scenery has been changed and is no longer the same as in the past 30 or 40 years.
The typical woman today is one that is among the working class – no longer confined to house premises, but working and providing as much as her male counterparts. She can be the manager or an executive of an established firm where most of the male employees are under her command. Equality in roles has now been achieved. Whereas this status and depiction of women in itself is not outright negative, the undercurrent force that it has created is the programming of the minds of today’s women to be resistant to the biblical description of their role as they are teamed with men.
Instead of seeing male and female partnership as complimentary to both sexes, the danger of too much emphasis on equality especially when it is defined merely in domestic and public functions is the threat that masculinity poses to womanhood. It is good for women to fight for their basic equal rights with men as members of this global community, but if it results in certain imbalances because the aim has become the dethronement of the opposite gender, then the battle for equality has now turned into fight for superiority of the female sex.
Biblical Women in Biblical Text The movie “One Night with the King” has successfully showed to modern world the right balance when it comes to understanding the woman’s role. In the film, the first of these lessons on womanhood could be derived from the example of Queen Vashti, King Xerxes’ dethroned Queen. Vashti’s removal as Queen was hastened by her attitude towards her King as she turned down King Xerxes’ request “to show her beauty to the people and the officials” (Esther 1:11, NKJV The Holy Bible 1982).
At the very outset of this biblical narrative, there was already a sort of struggle as to whether the King should be obeyed in whatever demands he make or not. The whole picture of the Persian Kingdom’s celebration included not only King Xerxes’ feasting with people and officials but also Queen Vashti’s party which she arranged for “the women in the royal palace” (Ibid). In biblical times, kings command absolute obedience to their subjects. They could do everything at whim even the execution of their citizens.
However, to what extent should Queen Vashti needed to “show her beauty to the people” at the King’s bidding, one cannot determine for sure. If it meant the exposure of the beauty of her naked body before the expectant public, it was wise and courageous for her to refuse even if it was a direct violation of the royal protocol. She was submissive to the King until this point of their relationship. Esther, however, as she is the main protagonist in the story, much of the lessons on women can be extracted from her life’s example. The first is her courage to risk her life for others.
When she was finally raised to the high position of a Queen, she did not forget but rather remained committed to the preservation and welfare of her people. Until today, this virtue of selfless courage is admired in the world. It is one of the sought after virtues of leadership which unfortunately is lacking in many of those occupying leadership positions. The courage that the life of Esther showed in the story was not independent courage which resulted from a stubborn will. It was a courage constantly tempered by another life, the life of her cousin and mentor, Mordecai.
She allowed herself to be constantly advised and influenced by the one who helped her reached her current high position. She remained as humble as she was in spite of the great changes and promotion that happened to her. She did not forget where she came from and did not abandon her people. It was Esther’s submissive attitude that brought her to the high position of being Queen to King Xerxes in stead of Vashti. Contrary to what is being promoted today by our culture, Esther continued living her life (even as Queen) in a responsible manner.
It is the dream of many young women today to wade their way through life to reach the point where there will be no one to hold them accountable anymore or have somebody to check them. Example after example of young celebrities have been the focus of media and news headlines that project the common outcry of many which hailed them to be the representations of American dream. Most of these modern-day models are strong-willed, carefree, and want to believe that life can be lived irresponsibly with no accountability. Esther’s example, on the other hand, stands in stark contrast to common perception of women in popular culture.
Effects of Non-Biblical Portrayal of Womanhood Because of this non-biblical portrayal of women in our society, a lot of damaged has been inflicted on the minds of the majority of people. For one thing, the current trend of thinking is resistant to the Biblical teachings regarding women. The common minds have been preconditioned to reject and to not understand the Biblical ideals of what females should be. As a result, when femininity is the question, people would rather look to non-biblical sources as authority than the Bible.
Non-biblical portrayal of women has pre-programmed people to reject biblical standards. When that happens, society begins to have problems because the standards have become different. Its negative effects include the entertainment of a different kind of criteria by which we look at what qualities should our average women possess. This is reflected in the women’s attempt to pursue what are not beneficial to them, simply because they have adopted rules or guidelines that are to them may put them in better position in this very competitive society.
Other things that are currently occurring include the perversion of the role that women play before the eyes of the greater public. Roles that actually begin to evolve and never to bring the women to healthier assessment of themselves but either a view that makes them as simply objects of perversions or whimsical creation of a role that is not only sickening but also in reality, harder than the real, and more biblical portrayal of women.
Femininity then, is very important to be defined and assessed according to real thing: the biblical benchmarks. Women will begin to see themselves the way God sees them then. As partners in the fulfilment of God’s grand design and when women start to accept the roles as defined by the bible, they then develop into healthy “organisms” capable of even settling into times when to be in the background is still very acceptable. Reference:
1. Encarta Dictionary 2006. (DVD) 2. Maxwell, John, 2000. Commentary on Esther. P. 600. The Maxwell Leadership Bible. 3. McMurray, Sheri. “One night with the King” review. Christian Spotlight. Accessed Sept. 24, 2007. <file:///D:/Documents%20and%20Settings/alan/My%20Documents/ESTHER/onenightwiththeking2005. html> 3. New King James Version, 2000. Maxwell Leadership Bible. Maxwell Motivation , Inc
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