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Biblical women

Lydia dealer in purple goods by Geraldine Wheeler
OVER THIRTY years ago I began to study the stories of women told in the Bible.

I was not the first.

In the nineteenth century Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the American classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin, wrote Woman in Sacred History.

Nor will I be the last, as each generation seeks to understand how various women have played a role in God’s history with the human race.

I sought not only to study these women in their own contexts but to visualise them, sometimes in their own setting, and sometimes in a contemporary setting.

This led to my doing a series of gouache stencil prints.

So far I have pictured about 18 of them, which are on display at the Brookfield Centre for Spirituality in Brisbane’s west,
until 20 June.

In the Old Testament there are women such as Sarah, the mother of the nation of Israel (with Abraham as the father)
and Hagar, the rejected one, the mother of a gentile nation whose father is also Abraham.

Other mothers whose stories are told include Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and Ruth the great grandmother of King David.

The women are not only mothers.

There is Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, who danced and sang after the crossing of the sea.

Described as a prophet, her song is recorded in Exodus 15:20- 21.

Deborah was one of the judges and led the army to victory (Judges 4-5).

Queen Esther played a crucial diplomatic role in saving her people.

The book of Proverbs has a strong feminine note with the wisdom of God personified as a woman and the picture of the
wise woman (Ch. 31:10 ff ) as a very capable economic manager for her household.

In the New Testament many women are named.

Apart from Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, there are the women who followed Jesus, particularly Mary Magdalene, Martha and Mary.
Women also feature in the story of the early church, several of them working with and respected by Paul.

A married couple, Priscilla and Aquila, shared in ministry with Paul (Acts 18) and in Philippi there was Lydia (Acts 16:11-15) who was the fi rst believer in that congregation of which Paul was so fond.

Lydia is described as a dealer in purple goods (the cloth worn by society leaders), thus a business woman in her own right and head of her household.

“The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.” (Acts 16:14)

She and her household were baptised and she invited Paul and his companions to stay in her home.

These women fit no stereotype, but have played diverse roles in the purposes of God with humanity.

Photo : Lydia dealer in purple goods by Geraldine Wheeler