Are gender roles Biblically set? Is there flexibility in the defined roles? Let’s see what the Bible says…
Heads of Household: Exodus 20:10 — what is LACKING here is any direction to men over the ruling of their wives. They are instructed to not let anyone under their roof, menservants, maidservants, animals, strangers, but interestingly not wives. In fact, there is no reference that this is directed to men either, just the Israelites in general.
Also notably missing in Exodus 21 is laws regarding domestic violence – if a man hits his wife. The only exception is if he hits a pregnant woman and the consequences if she loses the baby. One can only assume hitting women is included in v. 12-13.
Land owners: Numbers 27:1-8 deals with women being allowed to inherit if there are no sons. Clearly God was okay with women owning land after that discussion.
National Leader & Prophet: Judges 4:4 speaks of the judge, Deborah. She was married, did you know? Her husband was Lapidoth. Clearly she wasn’t constantly at home running the household because she was gone to war at least some of the time — Judges 4-5 — and prophesying and directing the military leaders.
Assassin: Judges 4:9, 17-22 tells us of the story of Jael who was responsible for killing Sisera when he came into her camp.
Field workers/family providers: Ruth 2:2-9, 21-22 tells the story of Ruth working the fields of Boaz … along side the young women working in his fields.
Decision Makers for the family: 1 Samuel 1:22-24 shows that it is Hannah who decides Samuel’s future, not Elkanah.
Respected Household Leader: 1 Samuel 25:18-42 tells the story of how Abigail over-rules her husbands instructions… and the servants immediately and quickly obey her – showing her authority in the home.
National Leader / Queen: 2 Chronicles 9 – The Queen of Sheba didn’t bring her husband to visit Solomon and Solomon didn’t demand to only work with her husband. He treated her respectfully and with the authority she carried. (I realize many may dismiss her because she wasn’t Jewish, but this woman was the literal, authoritative head of her country!)
Queen/Political Adviser: Esther – Yeah, she was chosen for her beauty, but she challenged her kingly husbands and corrected him when he made a very bad, uninformed decision. She needed encouragement because in their society women were just supposed to be appreciated for their beauty and not expected to have brains.
Authority: Proverbs 12:4: The wife is the crown of her husband… How does that relate to 1 Corinthians 11:3 where it states “man is the head of the woman”? He’s the head, shes’ the crown… the crown signifies authority… I’ll let you mull that over.
Entrepreneur / She Does Everything: Proverbs 31… this woman makes me tired.
Increases Husbands wealth: v. 31 – he trusts her so HE will have no lack of gain
Buying and Production: v. 13 – she seeks wool and flax and works with her hands
Shipping (Exporting): v. 14, 15
Real Estate and Farming: v. 16
Exercises: v. 17
Merchant: v. 18
Fashion, Cloth & clothing: v. 19
Donating, Caring for Poor: v. 20 — this is the same instructions given to the deacons in Romans 12:13
Makes Tapestries – Design, Artwork: v. 22
Production and Sales – v. 24
Household management – v. 27
Never Sleeps – vs. 15 & 18… She’s up late into the night and awake before the rest of the household in the morning.
Respected by City Elders: v. 31 — The fruit of her labour, the work of her hands, the success of her household brings praise in the gates — where her husband sits. (What did he do again?)
**As an aside here, if you rely on Proverbs 31, women today will be overworked, exhausted and physically, emotionally and mentally worn out. Clearly this woman had a household of servants and was the head of them all – essentially she was the boss of a cloth/clothing manufacturing empire. She could not have done all of that herself. Fortunately, she appears to need very little sleep.
Prophetess: Luke 2:36-38 – Anna never left the temple. She lived there, ate there and slept there. She prophesied over the baby Jesus without anyone trying to silence her for it.
Clothing Manufacturer / Philandropist: Acts 9:36-39 Dorcas was greatly loved. Not only did she create beautiful clothing, but she took care of the less fortunate. That takes some wealth!
Merchant / Head of Household / Apostle: Acts 15:14-15 Lydia was clearly the head of her household and was a successful seller of purple – she sold to houses of royalty!
Business Partner / Manufacturer / Bible Teacher: Acts 18:2-3, v. 26 Aquila and Priscilla were equal partners, and together they corrected Apollo when they heard he was teaching incorrect theology.
Not too much there that screams restrictive to me…. I haven’t even touch historical figures, this is just my quick search of Biblical examples of “women’s roles”. There is so much more to explore!
What are your thoughts? Should women be restricted in their calling by God? Or should we recognize that God calls men and women to serve him in every possible way?