Incumbent Upon Me: Answers for the Women of the Bible

This article on women of the Bible is written by Misty Arterburn, author of the devotions for The One Year Bible for Women.


Not a bedroom door, not a car door. Not a fist on a table. My Bible. Shut.

Incensed over what I had read, my internal dialogue clamored, “This cannot be what God wants for women.” I walked away and did not return to Scripture for another two weeks.

I’ve done this plenty of times in my life: found something in Scripture I didn’t understand, tried to learn or gather information for more context, and ultimately walked away overwhelmed or confused, unable (or unwilling) to make sense of certain events—or of God himself.

The problem with walking away this time? I was in the middle of writing devotions for The One Year Bible for Women.

There are some dreadful passages, even dreadful laws and practices, that women of the Bible had to deal with—and we question: What are the implications for women today?

Our hair sets aflame over things like:

  • Troubling ways Old Testament women became brides
  • Measures taken against women suspected of adultery
  • Questions about women speaking in church or (gasp!) teaching
  • Instructions about what we can wear or do with our hair
  • Jesus even calling one woman a dog!

Though there are good explanations for each concerning passage—like broader contexts, historical significance, cultural norms—we sometimes can’t even get that far to consider. And if our patience allows us to go deeper enough to learn the why, those explanations can still bring frustration and pain.

Adding insult to injury, we have endured modern-day misinterpretations and misapplications, even well-meaning ones, of Holy Scripture. And dare I say it: We have been gaslit by those with ulterior motives. Many of us have complied, questioning ourselves rather than questioning if the teaching was actually God’s truth.

To be clear, I would not suggest that men, as a group, are to blame. Rather, as individuals, some of us humans, men and women, have mis-wielded Scripture for selfish gain, even to the subjugation of women.

Wanting to serve God, many of us unwittingly embraced that subjugation until we finally made a different choice: the choice to read and understand God’s Word for ourselves. We began asking our own questions. We investigated. We invited the Holy Spirit to speak to us directly. And we became brave enough to stand on our own two feet and share what we were learning.

Cheers and more cheers for such brave pioneers. (The daughters of Zelophehad come to mind, as recorded in Numbers 27.)

God has been speaking to women from the very beginning of womankind. When we ask God to open our eyes to see more clearly, his truth comes out of the shadows of tainted words to shine hope and a clear vision of his love for us. Think of Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah. Think of women prophets like Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna. Think of the women first to receive the Good News of the risen Jesus, first to see him and touch him!

Slamming my Bible shut and walking away is exactly opposite of the direction I want to go. When shocked by troubling texts, I want to open my Bible all the more. It is true that slamming may provide a much-needed break or reset in the short term—but in order to learn, it is incumbent upon me to dive deeper. To study supplemental texts. To pray and seek. To bring my own eyes and ears, my own open heart. To become that fertile soil for God’s Word to take root and come alive in me—and speak his truth to me.

One of the best gifts I received from my assignment—to write devotions for The One Year Bible for Women—was the gift of obligation.

When I felt troubled or overwhelmed with questions, there were deadlines to meet.

Sure, I could walk away. Slam it shut and get some distance. And I did.

But not for long. Two weeks was my maximum. And I needed every minute of that time to pray and wrestle with God in the interim. To protest and then ask him to meet me in the heart. That he might teach me and open my eyes to see more clearly.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”(Ephesians 1:18)

Answers came. And far better than that, spiritual awakening came.

When it becomes necessary for us to step away and reset, how might we implement boundaries so that we always return? Bible study groups are helpful, providing timelines for our learning so we stay on track and talk about our findings with others. We get to hear from others about what they are discovering. Even recurring check-ins with a best friend can help us stay on track in our Scripture reading, motivating us to keep seeking answers and sharing with one another so that we will continue to strengthen and solidify our faith, trusting God in his Word.

The answers are there if we want them.

May we forever pursue him first and trust that the answers will come.

NLT The One Year Bible for Women

Read through the Bible in one year in as little as 15 minutes a day.

The One Year Bible for Women combines the bestselling daily Bible reading format with two-minute daily devotionals written just for women to create a one-of-a-kind devotional Bible that women of all ages will love.

This Bible in the bestselling One Year collection is designed specifically for women. This beautifully designed women’s devotional Bible features the clear and trusted New Living Translation. Women can follow along each day through the designated readings and finish the entire Bible in one year in as little as 15 minutes a day.

The One Year Bible for Women can be paired with the One Year Bible for Men, making these Bibles a great resource for couples’ devotional experiences.