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The Strongest (And Craftiest) Women In The Bible

Updated September 23, 2021 12.7k votes 2.4k voters 83.6k views12 items

List RulesVote up the women whose badness is truly biblical.

When it comes to strong and crafty women, the Bible has many to choose from. Judith snuck into the tent of an enemy general and sliced off his head. Miriam danced on the graves of the Egyptians who had enslaved and slaughtered her people. And then there's Lilith, the maybe-apocryphal first wife of Adam who sprouted wings and turned into a demon, not unlike the biblical stories of violent archangels.

What makes a Biblical woman strong? Some acted as leaders, like Deborah, who led the Israelites to victory against their enemies. Others used their craftiness to protect their people and save lives. And both Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary supported Jesus with their strength. For their brilliance and their craftiness, these women hold a special place in the Bible.

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    One of the oldest texts in the Old Testament tells the story of Deborah, a judge, leader, and prophet. As Judges 4:4 explains, Deborah "was leading Israel" and acting as a judge. As leader of the Israelites, Deborah ordered her military commander, Barak, to lead an army against the Canaanites under Sisera's command.

    Barak respected Deborah's leadership and power; he replied, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go."

    Deborah agreed, but warned Barak, "The honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman."

    And Deborah's prophecy soon came true - Jael, the wife of a Canaanite ally, assassinated the commander in his sleep.

    Is she a strong woman?
  • Photo: James Tissot / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Rahab was a sex worker who used her cunning to protect two Hebrew spies and help them capture the city of Jericho. When the spies visited Rahab's inn, the king of Jericho soon heard rumors they were planning to overthrow his city.

    As Joshua 2 describes, the king ordered Rahab to hand over the men, who would have certainly been killed. "Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land," the king demanded.

    Instead, Rahab hid the spies, risking her life to protect them. Rahab told the king's men that the spies had just left, encouraging the men to hurry after them.

    Rahab convinced the spies to protect her and her family during the invasion, saying, "Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you." Her craftiness and courage saved her life.

    Is she a strong woman?
  • Photo: Sandro Botticelli / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain


    The Virgin Mary is known as one of the world's most powerful women. Some credit her for Jesus's first miracle, which he performed after Mary told him the wedding at Cana had run out of wine.

    When the angel Gabriel visited the young Mary to tell her she would bear Jesus, Mary gave a simple answer: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord."

    Professor Amy-Jill Levine describes Mary as a complex and strong figure, saying, "She can be the grieving mother, the young virgin, the goddess figure. Just as Jesus is the ideal man, Mary is the ideal woman."

    Mary knew from the moment of her son's birth that he would be sacrificed. She watched his crucifixion. And through it all, Mary showed her strength.

    Is she a strong woman?
  • Photo: Artemisia Gentileschi / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain


    The Book of Judith, part of the Roman Catholic canon, describes Judith as eloquent and beautiful - but she was also incredibly crafty. Along with her maid, Judith traveled into the camp of Israel's enemies, the Assyrians, to visit the tent of their leader, Holofernes. After saying a quick prayer, Judith pulled out a sword and cut off Holofernes's head.

    She covered up her crime by hiding the body and smuggling the head out of the enemy camp. As soon as Judith reached the gates of Bethulia, a Jewish town threatened by Holofernes's troops, she pulled out the head and declared Holofernes dead. The courageous act left the Assyrians without a leader and protected Israel from invasion.

    Is she a strong woman?