(Image above: Elephant Trunk Nebula, Hubble Space Telescope)
Before the beginning and at the end of the world in the Bible, there are two women. One is building a house and preparing a feast for the children of humanity, while the other is giving birth to a baby in the wilderness, fighting off a giant, evil dragon. At the beginning and the ending of the Bible’s timeline, there is a woman, creating something and at the same time trying to protect her creation from those who have come to destroy it.
Maybe you have not heard about these women, but you should. It stands to reason, though, because they are pretty well hidden. The woman before the beginning of the world, Woman Wisdom, is buried deep in the less popular and more obscure book of Proverbs. Woman Wisdom can be found in chapter 8, where she tells us she was “at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” (v. 23) “I was beside him, like a master worker, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” (v 27-31) (NRSV)
From chapter 8 in its entirety, we see that while God creates the world, Woman Wisdom is busy constructing a house and preparing a feast for all the “children of humanity” whom she loves from her deepest heart. In her provision of wisdom and knowledge, she protects them from harm and evil. She teaches humanity how to live in harmony with God, creation and one another. She has “good advice and sound wisdom, insight and strength.” (v 14). By her “kings reign and rulers decree what is just,” by her “rulers rule and nobles govern rightly.” (v. 16) “I love those who love me,” she says, “and those who seek me diligently find me.” (v. 17) But “those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death.” (v. 35, 36) God delights in her, (v. 30) as she is with him, “delighting in the human race.” (v. 31)
So why haven’t we heard more about her? Why is the traditional creation story dominated by only a lonely, male creator? Maybe she has been hidden from our perception until now, maybe we are just now blazing the trail Wisdom’s House where she has been, all along, keeping the porch light on.
There is no refuting what the ancient editors of the Bible (those Hebrew scholars, priests and scribes who put the whole thing together) chose to leave in. Even though they hid her well, she is there, just like the woman at the end of the world in the book of Revelation, a “woman clothed with the sun and the moon was under her feet.” (12:1) She not only haunts the story with her irrefutable presence, but she completes what is incomplete, she brings balance to what is imbalanced. Like hidden or buried treasure being discovered for the first time, she helps us reclaim and understand with more depth, the value of these stories for our very faith.
These somewhat hidden women of the Bible shine new light on old stories. These women and other hidden stories of women in the Bible, as they come into the light, speak of a different narrative than the one we have always seemed to know. They give us the light we need to make our way to Wisdom’s house. The woman who was before the beginning of the world gives us the tools, insight and permission to rebuild what is crumbling before us, what is left of our faith world. It certainly has been a long journey to find her, but she is there, offering us not just a more balanced vision of faith, but life itself: “whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord.” (v. 35)
After all, it’s not as if women aren’t there in the very pages of the Bible acting as warriors, prophets, military strategists, and leaders of men and women, it’s just that we haven’t really seen them until now.
Seeing is believing.
In this video, I share some of stories of the hidden women of Bible i’ve written about in songs: