What was the significance of the Syrophoenician woman’s encounter with Jesus? What contribution did Lois and Eunice make to the early church? What can we learn from the character of the woman of Shunem? Do we even know who all of these people are?
We all know about the really important women of the Bible – Elizabeth, Mary, Esther, Eve, Ruth, Deborah - the ones who changed the world, saved nations, and had great spiritual testimonies. But we know less about the ones whose only claim to fame was a quiet room for a traveler, a heartfelt prayer, or perhaps, the example of faith shown to a child or grandchild.
We do not even know the names of some of these women, like the Syrophoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28) and the woman of Shunem, who went out of her way to open her home to the traveling prophet Elisha. We only know of these women by their acts of faith and goodness.
During one particular trip, Elisha and Gehazi were staying at the woman’s house, and Elisha asked for the woman to come see him. Elisha instructed Gehazi to speak to the woman: “Say now to her, ‘See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’” (2 Kings 4:13) The prophet was seeking a tangible way to say thank you for the hospitality that the woman and her husband had so graciously extended. He offered to speak to the king or commander of the army on her behalf, but she responded that she was content and did want anything done for her.
This story of the woman of Shunem is told by Aaron and Elaina Sharp in their book, The Most Important Women of the Bible. They bring attention to those ladies in the Bible, both the famous and the little known, who have been a part of God’s great plan of redemption. Each short, clear story unveils a tiny snapshot in a moment of Bible history and the providential weight it carried in the timeline of history and theology.
The next we hear of Lois and Eunice is in 2 Timothy 1, in a letter sent from Paul to Timothy. The apostle says, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5). It is clear that Paul held Timothy in high esteem for his devotion and faith in God, and recognized that his faith was first planted by the godly influence of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. (The Most Important Women of the Bible, Aaron and Elaina Sharp)
The Bible, God, and Christianity are often labeled as biased and unfair to women. Supposedly, it is said to leave women subjugated, downplayed, or downright villainized. But the reality is, despite cultural norms of the time of the events, women are affirmed in the Bible for even the least of contributions. That includes not only women who are accorded honor and prestige, regardless of their background or reputation at the time, for their part in key events – like the birth of Jesus, the rescue of the Canaanite spies in Jericho, or the Samaritan woman’s receptivity and witness to the Gospel. God also attends to the hopes, kindnesses, and tragedies of women who otherwise lived quietly and unnoticed.
The biblical narrative speaks for itself. At a time when women were all too often vulnerable and powerless, the Bible is full of women who bestowed leadership, counsel, charity, and the power of their faith on those around them – including the most important of male leaders. The God of the Bible does not ignore, forget, or reject women. Instead, He seems to go out of His way to notice and include them in all that He does; even the smallest of deeds, whether the baking of an oil and flour cake (1 Kings 17:10-16), a widow’s two mites (Mark 12:41-44), or a mother’s grief (Luke 7:11-14), is regarded and recorded as a blessing.
The Bible is a book about women and for women, who much like us, might at times feel disregarded, helpless, and unknown, but to whom God gives His full attention and regard to. It is for women, who like the women whose stories are told in the Most Important Women of the Bible, might feel they have small roles and small contributions in the greater scheme of things, but who are written into God’s story as characters with impact, value, and honor.