March 26, 2009

Top Ten Babes of the Bible

As a teacher of Scripture, who is also a single guy in his early 30s, the topic of women in the Bible is one that I would like to address in a different light than your typical Liz Curtis Higgs/Beth Moore/Kay Arthur approach. Most discussions of women in the Bible are written by women, to women and for women and usually center on life lessons one can glean from these heroines of the faith (or in the case of Liz's studies, those "bad girls"...or "slightly bad girls"...or if you want to get extreme, those "REALLY bad girls"!).

While studies like that are well and good (except for the ones that take 21st century Western social/political/professional issues and read them back into ancient near east narrative settings...i.e. "business managment lessons from the life of Ruth" or "7 principles of Biblical dating", etc.! In fact, whenever you come across anything titled "__# Principles of Biblical ___", just keep on walking...your bank account as well as your spiritual development will thank you in the long run.) they are usually of very little interest to my demographic. So having realized that there is almost nothing written on women in the Bible from the perspective of us single guys who agree with the extremely self-evident "He who finds a wife finds what is good..." (Pro 18:22 TNIV), I've decided to take a stab at it.

Here is my list of Top Ten Babes of the Bible.

Disclaimer: If for some reason you are offended by or object to the term "babe" in describing a woman, just substitute the Hebrew term יְפַת־מַרְאֶה and that should make it more palatable.

10. Esther
The obligatory choice for any list of Bible babes. She was literally the winner of the greatest Persian beauty contest of all well as savior of the Jews who remained in exile there. She was brave in doing her duty even though it might mean death at the hands of King Ahasuerus (or as he's more popularly known, King Xerxes...yes, that's right, the same King Xerxes from the movie "300"! Picture him from now on when you study Esther in your small group if you want to liven up discussion!). There's no way a list like this could exist without Esther. However, the other babe in that book often gets totally overlooked...

9. Vashti
Not only was Vashti so beautiful that Ahasuerus wanted to parade her in front of a banquet of his drunken buddies (making her literally the ultimate Persian trophy wife!), but she had the self-respect and confidence enough to basically tell the most powerful man on the face of the earth, "Yeah right! Find somebody else, jerk! I'm outta here!" (That's the JMS version of the text. To read it yourself, just flip to Esther 1:10-12)

8. Eve
Now usually Eve gets a bad rap because of the whole eating-of-the-fruit-and-thus-introducing-sin-into-humanity thing. HOWEVER, it should be noted that Adam was right there with her and could've stomped on the snake's head the moment it messed with his lady, like any good husband should do! But blame-game aside, think about it...Eve was literally hand-made by God Himself to be the perfect woman for Adam. You know she was a babe, pre-Fall...and probably post-Fall as well. Plus, she never had to go through any awkward adolescent phase, so she was literally a babe from the moment her life began. That's impressive. As is the fact that two of her three sons mentioned by name turned out to be the epitome of Godliness. Not bad for a woman with absolutely ZERO role models or mentors when it comes to the complexities of being wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother...[continue on for 900 years or so and you get the picture]!

7. Young Rebekah
This isn't an age issue (as you'll see with my #1 pick!), it's just that she ended up being pretty manipulative and destructive to her family later in life. However, that does not take away from the fact that in her early years, Rebekah was literally answered prayer when Abraham's servant was sent to find Isaac the best wife there was. Not only was she quite "fetching" physically...she was quite "fetching" when it came to the all-important ancient near east task of water-provision! Check out Gen 24:15-21 for the full story of this Bible babe.

6. Joanna/Junia
(Luke 8:1/Rom.16:7) If, as some NT scholars have concluded, the Joanna in Luke's Gospel who was the wife of Herod's cupbearer and the Junia of Romans 16 are in fact the same person, then this is indeed one impressive lady who fully deserves Bible babe status! She was not only Judean nobility, but she was also an Apostle whom Paul himself gave props to.

Here's a quick summary of the evidence for linking the two from Ben Witherington's "What Have They Done With Jesus?"

"The Latin name Junia is infact equivalent to the Hebrew Joanna." Page

"First Paul tells us, by calling Junia his “kin,” that she is Jewish, not Roman. Second, Paul reveals that he knows this couple intimately: they had done time together, apparently imprisoned because of their work as ministers and missionaries. This is actually quite unusual. Criminal women were generally not jailed but were put under house arrest, unless they had done something notorious to offend a city’s officials. Paul appears to be suggesting that Junia and her husband were, as he was, ringleaders of the “notorious” Christian sect that was causing so much trouble throughout the empire.

..and most importantly, the couple are said to be “notable [or, depending on the translation, prominent or outstanding] among the apostles.

…the context suggests that by “apostle” Paul means the same thing here that he means when he applies the term to himself, since he is describing itinerant missionaries who did time with him courtesy of the Roman system of jurisprudence." Page 19

"In sum, Paul is writing about a Jewish woman called Junia (but presumably named Joanna in Hebrew) who was an early, close, and prominent follower of Jesus, who witnessed Jesus’s resurrection, and who then boldly spread the gospel. Might she be the Joanna of Luke’s gospel? I believe she is. One could ask, “But what happened to
Chuza?” I suspect that he divorced Joanna and she then remarried a Christian named Andronicus, with whom she undertook missionary work that took her to the heart of the empire (and, at least once, to jail). It’s easy to see why Chuza would have divorced a woman who was using his money to chase after a radical prophet who had insulted his boss. In the honor-and-shame culture in which they lived, Herod Antipas would hardly have retained Chuza as an estate agent if Chuza had retained Joanna as his wife! The divorce might also explain why Joanna was free to follow Jesus to Jerusalem for Passover in the year 30.
I admit it takes a certain amount of detective work to connect Joanna with Junia. Nevertheless, the links are plausible. They are strengthened by the fact that Junia must have been part of the original circle of followers of Jesus in Jerusalem if indeed she was “in Christ” before Paul’s conversion in A.D. 34-35. This was before there was a mission outside of Israel, never mind a mission to Gentiles. Furthermore, Luke presents Joanna as a bold and prominent disciple, and Paul’s Junia is similarly characterized." Page 20

5. Abigail
In addition to being a good looking lady, Abigail also had a quick wit and an excellent sense of humor. In 1Samuel 25 we find her story...and it's a good one. First of all, she's the trophy wife of this rich moron named Nabal. He's the epitome of the spoiled rich kid all grown up. His name also happens to literally mean "moron/fool"! (Why do girls always fall for the worst guys, you ask? I don't know...but it's nothing new apparently.)
So Nabal ends up turning up his nose at King David and unknowingly signing his own death warrant at the hands of David's men. But Abigail steps in and prevents David from doing something rash by basically saying about Nabal, "Bless his heart"...which any of you know what that means if you're from the south. (1Sa 25:24-25) After saving Nabal's behind from David, she goes home and tells him what she did and he's so embarrassed that he becomes comatose and dies ten days later. David hears about it and asks Abigail to marry him, which she does. The only downfall is once again, she has married a rich jerk! (He was already married when he asked her...which is a strict no-no according to Deuteronomy 12:12)

4. Jael
I can't speak for every guy, but there's nothing more attractive than a woman who can take care of herself...and "take care of" a bad guy if the need arises (after all, how else can you explain the popularity of shows like "Alias", "Dark Angel", "Tomb Raider" video games among the 18-35 yr old male population, right?). And of all the Babes in the Bible who could do this, none did it better, or more shrewdly than Jael. (Jdg 4:17-22)

3.The woman of Shullam
Number 3 on the list belongs to a woman so amazing that she gets an entire book devoted to her...and written primarily from HER perspective. The woman in the Song of Songs is never named. All we know is that she is from Shullam, or a Shullammite--but even this tells us nothing because we don't exactly know what this means (every commentator pretty much is forced to make an educated guess about it along with MANY other things in the Song...don't let them fool you into thinking otherwise!).
We also know that she is not the classical beauty, but rather the everyday variety of beauty. She's the ultimate girl next door! Don't believe me? Check out Song of Songs 1:5-6. And in addition to all that, she has a fully robust and healthy view of God's greatest gift to humanity besides His Son, sexual intimacy as it's supposed to be enjoyed. That's all I can say without making the Dojo into an "adult content" site for the moment; so if you want all the details, read the song for yourself...just make sure you have a good commentary and/or Bible dictionary handy so you can catch all the innuendo and euphamism found in its pages...

Despite an extremely unfortunate sounding name by modern standards, Abishag was definitely a babe in the Bible. When old King David was fading in health, his advisors knew exactly what had always got David's engine revving in the past and decided that this would be the perfect remedy--find the best looking young lady in the kingdom and have her lay in bed with him and keep him warm and tend to his needs. (But given David's notorious relationships in the past with beautiful women, can you really blame them for thinking otherwise??)
The winner of this jackpot of creepiness was Abishag. But what makes her really attractive is that she did her job WITHOUT having to compromise her purity with the ancient near east Hugh Hefner! (1Ki 1:2-4) Well done, Abishag; well done indeed!

Honorable Mention: Apochryphal Babes!
Before we get to number 1 on the list, I want to pause to give a shout-out to my Catholic friends by noting some of the amazing women found in the Apochrypa. The Apochrypha (or Deutero-canonical) books are those books with weird names (Bel and the Dragon??) that are found in Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, or secular academic Bibles. It's unfortunate that more protestants don't read them because they are actually really good books and contain a tremendous amount of historical and cultural knowledge that brings to light much of the New Testament, as well as Judaism in general (ever heard of Hanukkah??). They are all books written originally by Jews in the Greek language during the time between the last OT Hebrew book (Malachi or Chronicles) and the birth of John the Baptist. They have numerous stories of women doing really cool, clever or heroic things and I'll just point out 3 of them...well, 2.5 actually! You'll see...

Susanna 1:1-63 tells the brief account of how Susanna was so much of a babe that two elders tried to blackmail her into sleeping with them. She knew that they could lie and sentence her to death, but she chose to face death rather than to sin against God sleeping with them. Eventually the elders are discovered to be lying by Daniel, who interrogates them, and Susanna's prayer to God for justice and vindication is answered dramatically.

Judith is the Jael of the Apochrypha. Here story is found in the book of (surprise!) Judith. I don't want to spoil the story for those who haven't read it, but the jist of it is that Judith the beautiful widow is able to bring down a mighty Assyrian in a way that would make Angelina Jolie's character in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" proud! (The heart of the story if found in Judith chs. 8-14)

Okay, so even though she's not technically an actual woman, Lady Wisdom is described briefly in the OT (Pro 9:1-6), and more fully in the Apochryphal book "The Wisdom of Solomon" as the Babe of all Babes. Here's a sample:

12 Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
13 She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
14 One who rises early
to seek her will have no difficulty,

for she will be found sitting at the gate.
(Wis 6:12-14)

24 For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;
because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates
all things.
25 For she is a breath of the power of God,

and a pure emanation of the glory of the

therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
26 For she is a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
27 Although she is but one, she can do all things,

and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
28 for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.
29 She is more beautiful than the sun,

and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
30 for it is succeeded by the night,

but against wisdom evil does not prevail.
8:1 She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,

and she orders all things well.
2 I loved her and sought her from my youth;

I desired to take her for my bride,
and became enamored of her beauty.
(Wis 7:24-8:2)

And finally, the title of number 1 Babe in the Bible goes to...

Now I know what you're thinking..."Sarah? As in Abraham's wife?? She was like 90 years old! How can she be number 1??" But rest assured, Sarah was the most gorgeous 90 year old you'll ever meet! Seriously, she was so much of a babe that not once, BUT TWICE, she was noticed and desired by foreign kings! Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world at the time, desired her and took her for his wife becasue he thought she was Abraham's sister...a plan that Abraham himself had come up with because he knew how much of a babe Sarah was and that kings would literally kill him for her. (Gen 12:14-16) Years later, he still had not learned his lesson...and Sarah was STILL a babe who caught the eye of King Abimelek. (Gen 20:1-3)
Yes, Sarah indeed deserves the title number 1 babe in the Bible. For, like Racquel Welch or Vanna White, she remained a babe no matter how many years went by!

So there you go. That's my top 10. Fellas, I'd be interested to hear your feedback and if you have anyone I missed or would like to dispute any of my choices.

Ladies, I'd be interested to hear your feedback as well...unless it's complaining about the impropriety or irrelevance of such a list in a Christian setting. If that's the case, I have a number of blog sites I'd be happy to direct you to that were started for the sole purpose of bashing other Christians whom they disagree with... ;)

Always having fun in the Dojo,


Anonymous said...

Judith is so BA.

Funny list, JM.


JMS said...

Yeah, she's definitely not one to mess with! :) Too bad we never heard about her growing up. She would've been the perfect girlfriend for Samson or Ehud in a line of Bible action figures!

Anonymous said...

JMS, we will miss you but are glad to hear you are pursuing your dreams. God Speed! --Ben Stuck

JMS said...

Thanks Ben. I'll still be around GS though until I hear otherwise from on high. So you won't miss me for a while at least. :)

Rachel said...


A. of all, this list is awesome.

B. of all, for Abigail's little blip, you referred to Deut. 12:12 when you said it wasn't okay for David to ask her to marry him when he already had a wife. I think I'm missing something, because I don't see that in my little NIV translation of that verse. What am I missing? Sometimes I'm slow.

C. of all, teach me Hebrew. :)

Andy D's Friend who posted this on Facebook said...

So are you saying V. White is not a babe anymore? She's still got it!

JMS said...

Thanks for catching my goof. I meant to say Deut 17:17, not 12:12. (They look so much alike, those 2's and 7's, don't they?!)

As for Hebrew, I'm always available for tutoring...for a price! $$$ :)

And for the record, yes, Vanna, along with Racquel, is still a babe...and always will be!

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