Successful Women of the Bible


By Katara Washington Patton

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The second book in a new series that brings the experiences of favorite Bible characters to challenges of contemporary life.

Contemporary “success” is often defined in financial terms or by number of Twitter followers. But for women of faith, success is so much more. And it turns out the timeless qualities of success are exemplified by women on the pages of their favorite book, the Bible. Deborah’s model leadership is just as relevant today as it was in the age of the Hebrew judges. Esther’s courage to stand up for a cause, Miriam’s joyful support of others, Priscilla’s exemplary partnership skill, Lydia’s business acumen, and other characteristics of women in the Bible are embodied in lively storytelling. Busy Christian women — often working and raising a family — crave examples of success. Here are distilled principles they can use to succeed in today’s noisy culture. The lessons of these icons of the faith apply, even in the age of Facebook and Instagram.


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Too many times in the world of Bible study, women are relegated to the corners of the story. The matriarchs of the Old Testament and New Testament are not honored or revered, talked about or preached about like the great patriarchs upon whom our faith is built. They are often seen as only wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, or property of our fathers of the faith. But, when read with a different lens—one looking to hear the voice of women—scripture bursts forth and comes alive with numerous accounts of women who made an impact on the Christian faith. These women were not just side pieces to the Judeo-Christian story; they helped to make the story. Their stories and their lives helped to shape our faith—and their stories and their lives can help us live successfully many centuries later.

It's time we hear from them. It's time we learn from these women how to fashion our lives as women of faith. Successful women are in the Bible, and they are still speaking to us today—if we would only listen. Even with centuries of time between us, we can hear the stories of the women of the Bible and emulate their success. Even with cultural differences, we can find wisdom in their chronicles. Even with different opportunities, experiences, and laws, we can sit at the feet of the women of faith who have gone before us and build our stories on their stories. A cloud of witnesses—whether listed in Hebrews 11 or not—can remind us of the power we have when we operate in faith, trusting and depending on God.

We have been fashioned as women by God. We have been uniquely designed as women by God. We have successful models to follow, right in the Bible. This book only looks at a few powerful and exemplary women, but the Bible is filled with the stories of women—some named, others unnamed. When we read God's Word with a lens that seeks to find the contributions of women and an ear to hear their unique stories, we will see the value women provided from the very beginning. Our God is not a respecter of people. God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female (Genesis 1:27, NCV). I pray the stories of these women—Miriam, Deborah, Hagar, Esther, the daughters of Zelophehad, Mary and Martha, Lois and Eunice, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla, and Lydia—based on their narratives in the Bible as well as my own imagination, will inspire you.

When we women realize our true value to God, we can then know our true worth and be set free to be all we are created to be: leaders, moms, friends, entrepreneurs, help mates, and most of all women of strong and enduring faith in God. May these biblical examples help us live as successful women.


Successful women are joyful supporters and praise leaders.

Then Aaron's sister Miriam, a prophetess, took a tambourine in her hand. All the women followed her, playing tambourines and dancing. Miriam told them:

"Sing to the LORD,

because he is worthy of great honor;

he has thrown the horse and its rider

into the sea."

(Exodus 15:20–21, NCV)

So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.

(Numbers 12:15, NIV)

As women, we generally know our girlfriends pretty well. We know who to call when we need some drama—the extra expression and empathy for our situation. We know who to call when we need a reality check and a dose of wisdom. We know who to call when we need an extra pair of hands—and quickly, without any excuses. We know the friend to call when we just want to have a good time or a good laugh without any extra stress. We know our girlfriends and who fits a particular need at the moment.

But among the many types of friends we have, there's a special one I need in my corner more than a few times. I'm sure you need her too. She's the friend known as the cheerleader, the supporter, the inspirational and upbeat woman who will crash your pity party and bring you back to yourself. This woman always has an uplifting and encouraging word, birthed from her genuine optimistic personality and outlook on life. She's the one whose number I have locked in my favorites and ready to dial in a second when I lose my focus, which causes me to downshift my perspective and see more negative than positive.

To make it through this life successfully, we all need a few cheerleaders in our corner. A mother, a girlfriend, a sister, a mentor, a supporter—someone who reminds us that we can do what we set out to do, especially when things look grim and gray and we feel far less than powerful and accomplished and able. Even as women of faith, we need someone who can remind us where God has brought us from and what God has brought us through—right at the moment when we want to give up and throw in the towel. We all need a reminder sometimes, and we can all use a few relentless cheerleaders in our corner.

That cheerleader in the Bible is Miriam. She's the successful woman from the Bible that I'd want in my corner. Miriam is known as the praise and worship leader and the supportive sister of Moses and Aaron. Her name is sprinkled throughout the Old Testament as her service to Israel is recorded.

Praise Leader

In Exodus 15:20–21, we see that Miriam grabs her tambourine, breaks out in dance, and leads the women of Israel in praise. This prophetess summons the women to forget about themselves and focus on God. She encourages them to sing to God and to lift his name up because of the mighty things he has done. She reminds them to have a great time, praising God for his marvelous works.

This particular praise break led by Miriam comes right after God has performed yet another miracle for the people of Israel. Miriam ushers in this praise service right after the long and dangerous and torturous reign of the ruthless pharaoh in Egypt (Exodus 14). Miriam's people had been in slavery for many years. They had worked hard for the Egyptians and had been treated brutally. Their newborn boys had been marked because the pharaoh feared they'd grow into a stronger nation and rebel against his evil practices (evil always fears strength!). But God had provided the Israelites favor through the midwives who refused to kill the male children—even though they had been ordered to (Exodus 1:8–22).

The Israelites had moaned and groaned and cried out the Lord for help, for relief—and God had heard them. God sent Moses and Aaron to demand that the pharaoh release the people from bondage. Of course, the pharaoh was hardheaded, agreeing to release the people time and time again but then going back on his word. The Israelites had felt hopeless and forgotten.

Then when the Israelites were finally actually released from the Egyptians (after a series of awful and deadly plagues), they faced yet another colossal hurdle: They had to cross a huge body of water known as the Red Sea. And just as they approached the water without a ship, a paddle, or life jackets, the pharaoh was on their trail. He had decided he really didn't want to let the slaves go—who else would do all of that hard work? So just days after being freed from brutal slavery, the Israelites stood between the sea and their enemies. The people had been free for only a few moments, and they heard the chariots and horses of the mighty troops of Egypt behind them.

They felt trapped between water and slavery, between a sea that could drown them and a pharaoh who would work them to death. They didn't want to go back to where they'd come from, but they were afraid to move forward because of the dangerous water in front of them. They felt stuck and paralyzed—unable to go back or move forward. What they knew was behind them was deadly and brutal; what they saw ahead of them was uncertain and seemingly impossible. They faced a tough choice.

But God…

But God commanded Moses to use his staff and stretch it out over the sea; with this one act, God gave Moses the ability to part the sea. The Israelites had a clear path of dry land to walk upon and cross over to the other side. And when the Egyptians followed them, God told Moses to stretch out his hand again and the waters closed back up, causing the pharaoh and his army to drown.

This was a historic event, and Miriam had been a front-row witness to this miracle. She had stood right there with the people—fearful, uncertain, feeling defeated, depressed, frustrated, and hopeless. But God stepped in and did the impossible yet again. Miriam knew this, and she needed the people to remember these details vividly as they faced a new mountain and a new phase in life.

Praise leaders are like that. Praise leaders have great memories, often photographic memories. They remind us of all God has done for us and continues to do for us. With one word or phrase or song, our encouragers can remind us to change our perspective when facing a huge task or a fearful moment; they can remind us of the last time God had to part a sea and make a path, or a way out of no way.

The Miriams in our lives are not just full of hot air and exuberant optimism that's not based on anything sound. The true Miriams in our lives know our story. They are women who will always remain our friends—because they know way too much about us to not be our friends. The Miriams know our secrets. The Miriams know the skeletons in our closets. The Miriams know our praise reports, intimately. They were right there with us through our trials, and they are front-row witnesses in our lives. They've handed us tissues, hugged us tight, held the phone for hours upon hours, and been there during our darkest times. Therefore, their encouragement is real. It is based on what they know God has done for us. They can remind us and paint a picture that pushes us back into a praise moment.

We need to be reminded. We're just like the Israelites. We have short memories. Yes, God just parted the Red Sea in front of our very eyes and did the impossible. Yes, God just brought us through the craziest events of our lifetime and we survived. We didn't know how we were going to make it through that situation, yet we've come out better than we expected—even better than we were before.

The layoff? The breakup? The financial crisis? The test? God got you through it. But now—just a few moments later—there is another issue in our lives and it feels big and insurmountable and problematic. It feels like it can take us out. It makes us want to stop and give up. It's too much to handle. It's the pressing issue on our minds.

It's pretty human to focus on our issues, to complain and let our emotions take us on a rocky path to misery. But Miriam reminds us of what God did yesterday. Miriam comes over to our house with tambourine in hand to remind us of the last time we had a big issue. She refocuses our attention on God's past deliverances instead of on our current issue. She reviews the history for us until we can stand up with her, grab our own tambourine, and do a dance. Oh, how we need the Miriams in our lives. We need them to show up right when doubt creeps in.

Pity Party Interrupter

We all need a good friend like Miriam. She reminds us to take off our garment of heaviness and sadness and halt our laments. She interrupts our pity parties and enters with her tambourine. At first she can get on your nerves. You don't always feel like praising God or remembering all that God has done. Sometimes your present circumstances can trump past miracles, ushering in more sadness than joy, more worry than hope. You don't always feel like looking on the bright side—that takes energy and a memory and discipline to refocus your mind and outlook. Sometimes things are just tough and hard and you want to stew in your misery and use any energy you have left to complain and lament and cry. But that friend who is like Miriam has a way of painting a picture and reminding you of all God has done: Don't you remember the time we were…? Don't you remember the one who got away? Don't you remember the time we did this and should have…? Girl, why are you so worried? Don't you remember what God did last time? Weren't you the one sick and barely able to breathe? Remember that accident? Remember that time…?

Miriam will paint the picture and make you give God a shout, a praise, a clap, your own cheer. Whatever your pleasure, however you praise him, Miriam is right there helping you recall all that God has brought you through. She's the perfect guest to invite to the pity party. She won't let you complain too long. She won't let your attitude get too bad. Why? Because she knows your story, she knows her story, and she knows that God has been and is right by your side.

She Has Two Sides

But just like every human I know, Miriam does have another side. The praise and worship leader is complex, more than a storyteller and a reminder of where God has brought us. She's more than a cheerful presence focusing our attention on God's hand all over every part of our lives. When she's focused on recalling God's blessings, she is at her best. When she is remembering the goodness of God and ushering in his presence, she is the girl we need. But what happens when the praise and worship leader takes her eyes off God? What happens when she lets her mind wander, as we're often prone to do? What happens when she lets just a bit of her humanity take over and relaxes her mind to think of something other than God's goodness?

You know very well what happens. It happens to the best of us. While we know what God can do and has done, when we take our focus off God, evil creeps in and can take us down a trail we know we don't want to follow. Look at what happens to Miriam in Numbers 12:1–16, when she forgets about the many miracles of God for just a moment; see what happens to her when she is not surrounded by others who can encourage her and refocus her to recall God's benefits. She gets sidetracked, and it can lead down a dangerous path.

Miriam grumbles against Moses. Miriam questions Moses' authority, although she has witnessed from his birth his rise as God's chosen leader. Miriam knows the history, but when she takes her mind off God and God's amazing hand in her history, she starts to grumble. She and Aaron sit down and they begin to talk about Moses. Their conversation isn't focused on how good God has been or how God has been with Israel every step of their journey, from Abraham's covenant to Joseph's favor, from slavery days to freedom, from Egypt to the Red Sea. They don't talk about how Moses has been a strong and courageous and humble and fearless leader. They don't talk about how God has used Aaron to speak for Moses and Miriam to usher in the praise. No, their conversation shifts to Moses' wife. Why did he marry that girl—a foreigner? And once they get sidetracked talking about Moses' wife, their conversation continues to downshift, and Miriam asks: Has the Lord only spoken to Moses? Doesn't he speak to us too?


On Sale
Aug 23, 2016
Page Count
160 pages

Katara Washington Patton

About the Author

Katara Washington Patton has written and edited Christian books for children, teens, and adults and created supplemental materials for books by T.D. Jakes, Beth Moore, and Joyce Meyer. She served as general editor and writer of Aspire: The New Women of Color Study Bible. She holds a M.Div. from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

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