The Godliness of Women Exercising Authority Over Men

Some men think women should never exercise authority over men. According to Jesus, they’re wrong:

“The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here.” (Luke 11:31.)

The Queen of Sheba Visits King Solomon, Tintoretto ca. 1555 (Wikipedia)

This isn’t the only instance of the Bible showing a woman exercising godly authority over men, and the fact that in Jesus’ illustration King Solomon was a man and the Queen of Sheba a woman is not an indication that women are still ultimately subject to a man’s authority. This event is not brought up by Jesus because Solomon is the archetype man. Rather, Jesus brings up the meeting of these two monarchs because Solomon is a foreshadow of Jesus and the Queen is a foreshadow of those who come to Jesus in faith. Coming to faith, not the relationship between women and men, is the point of Jesus’ teaching.

Yet some would argue, perhaps, that Jesus is talking about the Queen of Sheba’s example being the condemnation of those who chose not to have faith in Jesus. This argument again takes the verse out of context. Jesus was talking about people who viewed his own actions and teachings and yet rejected his authority, and then compared the Queen of Sheba favorably to himself. He is saying that her actions show her authority to condemn those who did not choose to follow him. Also, even if someone sidelines the Queen of Sheba to their own satisfaction, they then must address Deborah, Priscilla, Huldah, Phoebe, Rahab, Tamar, Abigail, Junia, Zipporah and other Bible women who acted with godly authority over men in a variety of ways (which collectively represent all manner of authority) and try to sideline them as well.

The affirmation of the authority of the Queen of Sheba comes straight from Jesus’ mouth. Who would argue with Jesus? Maybe Pharisees, but I’d rather not follow their example.

I’d rather follow Jesus.

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51 Responses to The Godliness of Women Exercising Authority Over Men

  1. Kitti says:

    She’s an “exception”, rather than the “rule.” So are all the rest of them.

    Or maybe her authority is to condemn little children. Or women. Which is why Jesus used her as his example in front of males because they needed… to, um… use this knowledge by… uh… You know what? Mental gymnastics is hard. I’m going back to bed. XP

  2. Carmen says:

    I think most people will find the mental gymnastics – of trying to see that women are equal to men in the Bible – as taxing. In fact, since the Bible was written BY men FOR men, it is clear to most discerning women that there’s not much in there for them at all. Of course, this comment won’t see the light of day on his blog because even Tim realizes that in order to make most of the Bible stories palatable, he must exercise the most extreme expository gymnastics. Right, Tim? 😉

    • Tim says:

      Your comment is welcome to stay, Carmen. The only person you’ve insulted directly is me and you have been fairly gentle in doing so.

    • Tim says:

      P.S. If you think women like Marg Mowczko and Gail Wallace are undiscerning women because they have a similar view to the Bible as I do, then I think you and I have differing definitions of the word “undiscerning.”

      • Carmen says:

        All the “I think Jesus was the first feminist” rhetoric in the world will not change things for the millions of women who are victims of patriarchal systems. Unfortunately, for every man like yourself there are thousands of others who use the same Bible you read to ‘keep women in their place’. 😦 Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you – and others who think the same way as you – could convince the Religious Right (who’ve managed to take over your present government) that they are wrong in their philosophy?

        Ain’t gonna happen, Tim. Keep in mind that they use the Bible as their inspiration.

        • Tim says:

          And I’m not giving up. There are plenty who think and practice as I do, both women and men. Those who don’t are mistaken but they won;t silence me. In fact, it sounds like you are trying to discourage my efforts to such an extent that you are trying to silence me. Are you?

        • Carmen says:

          No, Tim, I’m not. I happen to think you are a good man with awesome intent. I happen to believe that there should be more men like you. My problem is this: Why can’t more women see that the basic underpinnings of every religion are not female-friendly? Why is it that men must use their voice to try to change things – isn’t that proof that women aren’t at all equal? Why can’t people listen to women? I happen to believe that, at its core, religion is a powerful force that keeps women from achieving their rightful place in the world. I know you don’t, and thankfully my experience in the church was alongside men just like you, but it doesn’t take much – once removed from its influence – to see that religion is one of the most powerful social constructs that, in general, does not support gender equality. I do not understand why more women don’t see this.

    • Carmen–i think that every major doctrine in the bible has been misinterpreted, misunderstood and misused which includes every thing from the deity of jesus, the trinity, heaven and hell—all the way down to the little things like the size of dog a christian should own (yes, bill gothard claimed if Christians had to have a pet it should only be a small dog) — adding to and taking away from bible truths will not change. but over the 2000 years since jesus came to earth, there have been those who have found and walked the narrow road.

      • Carmen says:

        Hmmm . . . let’s see . . .should I bring up the fact that the Bible has been translated from its original language and then subjected to many other translations . . . the fact that the early ‘fathers’ decided to omit certain stories (because?) . . . or the suggestion that Jesus might well be a myth? 😉 Oh, and don’t even get me started on that scumbag BG (among many other perverts hidden in plain sight within the confines of patriarchy).
        I’m sure Tim doesn’t want me derailing his post.

        • note to carmen –actually i value people who think out things and do not follow blindly just because someone throws a sandal at them (monthy python movies made some pinpoint observations about religion) i value input that does not agree with what i believe because it makes me think and not get stodgy AND I understand your anger . yes, the bible has been translated into many languages -it had to because not everyone speaks aramaic or greek. (frank turek has 1 minute videos on how we can know stuff about god and the bible including its accuracy today from the earliest manuscripts and why certain things were changed or left out…………….. i too have been a victim of patriarchy. At the first church my husband was employed at to lead music, etc the pastory told me as soon as we arrived the RULES—i was told to 1. wear dresses at ALL times because of my husband’s position 2. highly suggested i get rid of my pet cats because of how it might look 3. never to invite any black people to the church (we had come from an integrated church) and 4. this really took the cake my husband refused to stand before the whole church and apologize for his “wayward wife” because i rode my horse to church ??????????? we were there only a few months. And even though the things i did were not sin we chose to leave when we heard there was going to be a church split that involved people going against the pastor. We longer attend church because of other things that happened to us but we realize it was not god but people and only a few certain people that ran things thinking they were doing god’s work. but i am so glad i do not live in a communist country because of what those people have to face (prison, death, etc) just because they believe in god, any god.

        • Carmen says:

          Hi Susan,
          I am sorry you had to go through that at your church. My over-40-year experience, after serving on just about every committee there was to serve on, was very positive. I have nothing negative to say about the denomination of which I was a member. In fact, I am very glad I had my experience in a welcoming, diverse group of people (the denomination I belonged to has a (famous) atheist minister) . . . wait, maybe I should have said, ‘infamous’. She’s a gem.
          Anyway, my leaving the church had nothing to do with anything negative. You could say I studied my way out of belief in the supernatural. (it took awhile).
          All the best!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Hmmm . . . let’s see . . .should I bring up the fact that the Bible has been translated from its original language…

          Kynge Jaymes Englyshe?

  3. Kevin says:

    Context is rule #1 or good biblical exegesis. Followed by asking the questions: Who is speaking? Who is being spoken to? Why this message? What is the setting? I suspect your hermeneutics in error regarding this passage and you slipped more into eisegesis to reach your ideas in this case. (FYI… Your opening sentence is a straw man and the use of Luke 11:31 is not related to your statement.) Reading the additional passage provides proper context. Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees who wanted to see a miraculous sign as evidence to prove his authority. Jesus used two examples, Jonah and the Queen of Sheba. Repentance is the theme of the passage and condemnation for those who do not repent. The Ninevites repented and the queen of Sheba who came to hear the wisdom of Solomon and understood that Solomon’s God was the true God. (Her authority was not the issue) The reason they will condemn “this current generation” is because this current generation saw the Messiah and then rejected him, refusing to repent whereas the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba did. The mention of the other women of the Bible is a non sequitur. I know you wanted to address the issue of women having authority over men but this passage is not the proper passage to refute or support that topic.

    Below is the Luke 11:29-32 and a parallel passage from Matthew 12:38-42. (NLT Version)

    The Sign of Jonah
    29 As the crowd pressed in on Jesus, he said, “This evil generation keeps asking me to show them a miraculous sign. But the only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah. 30 What happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son of Man[i] will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God.

    31 “The queen of Sheba[j] will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen. 32 The people of Nineveh will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.

    The Sign of Jonah
    38 One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.”

    39 But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

    41 “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. 42 The queen of Sheba[e] will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen.

    • Tim says:

      You say the passage shows the Queen of Sheba repented? Perhaps she did, but her visit to Solomon is not the event that exemplifies repentance. As you say, sometimes an agenda can drive an interpretation.

      • Kevin says:

        Good catch. You are correct that the cited passages do not say she repented. 1 Kings 10:1-13 state her visit and response to Solomon. She certainly was impressed and recognized God’s favor on Solomon.

        Verse nine specifically states, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.”

  4. Carmen says:

    Speaking of extreme expository gymnastics. . . 🙂

    • Tim says:

      Did you mean this in response to another comment? Perhaps you can repost there to make it clear.

      • Carmen says:

        I was referring to Kevin’s response. No doubt there are thousands of other interpretations, as well. Just like the thousands of ‘flavours’ of christianity. . . 🙂

        • Kevin says:

          There might be thousands of [personal/individual] interpretations but there is only one intended meaning/interpretation. Thanks to post-modernism, words and sentences no longer have a single specific meaning. God intended one meaning of his Word and one understanding of Christianity. Man’s sinful nature has distorted God’s words from the beginning and nothing has changed.

        • Carmen says:

          Kevin, you and I are from diametrically opposed philosophies.
          In my opinion (even when I was a churchgoer) there’s NO such thing as sin. We are people and we make mistakes – it’s the human condition. ‘Sin’ is a religious word I do not use (along with ‘evil’).

        • Lea says:

          “God intended one meaning of his Word and one understanding of Christianity.”

          But it is pure hubris Kevin to assert that you know these things for certain when even Paul said we see through a mirror darkly.

  5. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    Tim, this is a challenging passage. The whole chapter is challenging – so much going on. Do you think that Jesus was speaking specifically to the Pharisees here as Kevin says? Luke doesn’t state that (he just says “When the crowds were increasing, he began to say…”) but Matthew in his version says Jesus’ words were directly in response to the Pharisees looking for miraculous signs.

    I wonder how the average person would have taken the Queen of Sheba example vs. how the Pharisees would have taken it.

    • Tim says:

      If speaking directly to the Pharisees while others listened in, the implication is startling. It means he was telling those in authority that a woman held authority over them. Wow.

      • Jeannie Prinsen says:

        Yes, I can imagine they’d have taken umbrage at that on several levels! BTW your post inspired me to put on a recording of Handel’s “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba,” which would put anyone in a good mood – so thanks! 🙂

      • Tim says:

        And as a real person who is fully human and fully God he would not have been subject to those societal limitations. Your beliefs do not encompass that possibility, I realize.

        • Carmen says:

          Beliefs, Tim. . . and one can believe just about anything. They’re called fairy tales. Of course, your beliefs do not encompass this possibility, either.

        • Tim says:

          Carmen, you are welcome to comment on what you believe. You are not welcome to denigrate the beliefs of others. You have violated the comment policy and need to stop.

        • Carmen says:

          I see, Tim. Your beliefs are sacrosanct. My beliefs are denigrating. Got that. ‘Lurkers’ – take note! 🙂

        • Tim says:

          Your beliefs are not denigrating. Calling the beliefs of others “fairy tales” is denigrating.

        • Carmen says:

          Belief without evidence is just faith, Tim. Perhaps I should have used the term ‘faith tales’. I encourage all to read the tales in the Bible – they rival even the Grimm Brothers. In fact, ‘fairy’ tales is probably a gentle term. 🙂 That anyone would use it for a source of inspiration and ‘truth’ is a complete head shaker. (No doubt this comment will get me sent to the Tim cooler, for sure!) 🙂

        • Tim says:

          No it won’t, Carmen, because it states disagreement respectfully.

        • Carmen says:

          As you may have noticed, I tend to call things as I see ’em. 😉

        • Tim says:

          Feel free. Just don’t be mean as you do so. That’s the central point of the comment policy on the blog. Click the comment policy link at the top of the page.

        • Carmen says:

          Hey! If you think it’s mean to point out the obvious . . .

        • Tim says:

          No, I think it’s mean to denigrate, be dismissive, get personal, etc. Those who have been around this blog for a while know my standards. You do too.

  6. Carmen says:

    Tim, I’d appreciate being spoken to as another adult. I am not a child. In fact, I can tell by your picture that I’m older than you are. I think if you dig down deep, what you are accusing me of – being MEAN – is actually a petulant reaction to my views, with which you don’t agree. You are a grown man; start behaving like one. Surely you must interact with others who operate within a rational, sensible, logical framework. Keep in mind that you are the one who believes that there’s something where there’s obviously nothing. You know there is no difference between the invisible and the non-existent.

    • Tim says:

      Carmen, this blog’s comment section is a place for constructive discussion whether in agreement or disagreement. Comments should be written in a way to build up those in the conversation and those merely reading.

    • Tim says:

      If you’d like to comment further about the policy, please feel free to do so on the comment page linked at the top.

      • Carmen says:

        In other words, you’d prefer an echo chamber. 🙂 Just keep in mind – that which makes us uncomfortable just might contain the seeds of truth. You know, those pesky things like FACTS.

        • Tim says:

          I’m sorry you think that way, because it’s not true. If you want to discuss this post, do it here. If you want to discuss the comment policy, do it there.

    • Jeannie Prinsen says:

      Carmen, you talk about “shaking heads,” and I am shaking mine over how you’ve hijacked this post. I’m not quite sure what you hope to accomplish, but your comments are neither constructive or conducive to good discussion. When you say the Bible is full of fairy tales, okay: that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. But when you say you’re just “stating the obvious,” you’re going further and implying that those who do not see your points as “obvious” are stupid. When you say “Give your head(s) a shake,” the implication is “You people are idiots.” When you refer to “pesky things like facts,” the implication is “You people are deluded.” You are being disrespectful to Tim and his other visitors, and I’m frankly amazed at his forbearance in not shutting you down hours ago.

      You have a lot to say; why don’t you start your own blog for those who want to hear your opinions? It would make more sense than barging into someone’s home, taking cheap shots at their taste in furniture and the food they serve and the way they decorate and the guests they host, and then getting huffy when they object. You’ve gone through this routine before here at Tim’s blog awhile ago as I recall, and it’s very unpleasant.

      • Tim says:

        Thanks, Jeannie. I feel like someone found their way into my yard and is upset I’m asking them not to bang on my windows.

      • Carmen says:

        Yet another disgruntled, yes, deluded individual who doesn’t like to hear an opposing opinion. Like I’ve said to Tim – surely you must be around rational, sensible, intelligent people in your life?? And yes, I am shaking my head. I will continue to do so until believers – in superstitious NONSENSE – take their blinders off and take the fingers out of their ears.
        No worries though, folks. I thought I had unsubscribed from this blog long ago. For some reason, Tim’s latest two posts came through. I had time on my hands today (I don’t, usually) and figured what the hell. . . . 🙂 Your personal indignation is nothing compared to the many who are being affected – daily – by the religious in your country. You know, the ones who are now in power and undermining public schooling, women’s rights, and rights for the LGBTQ. Take a look outside this ‘living room’ folks.

      • Jeannie Prinsen says:

        Goodbye, Carmen, all the best to you.

  7. Carmen,
    I am sorry that you are not tolerant of people who don’t agree with you. I even had threats made against me after responding yes to God when He called me into pastoral ministry. But I just kept my focus on the One who called me. To get my MDiv. and be Ordained were a dream come true after 7 years of prep. as well as pastoring 2 congregations. I’ve been in ministry for over 20 years now and love it, the last 10-1/2 as Hospice Chaplain (and yes, I’ve even worked with atheists such as yourself). Keep an open mind Carmen. The problem of your not seeing that Jesus leveled the playing field (see Galations 3:28) is out of context interpretations of Scripture. Just as in Real Estate its location, location, location, in Bible interpretation it’s context, context, context.

    BG’s message was simple “All have sinned, Christ came, through Him we can find love forgiveness and grace & reconnect with God. (John 3:16-17) He got condemned by churches for integrated seating and condemned by a lot of religious folk who, like yourself, couldn’t tolerate Rev. Graham not behaving exactly like they did. True Christian faith Carmen, is not about religion. That’s a human construct. No, true Christian faith is about relationship. God is a Community of Persons who created us out of their overflowing Love. We were created with love, by love for Community, with God, with other human beings, and with our creation around us. We were created for Community and for relationship.

    I Praise God to be a Woman in Ministry, serving in relationship with our LIVING Triune God! And I serve Human Beings, regardless of what political affiliation, conservative, liberal, religious or non religious- they are all just human beings. Do I wish all were Christian and headed for Heaven? With all my heart, Yes. But I’m not the judge of that. God is. The Scriptures are clear that not everyone will make it to Heaven.

    So I serve all human beings as my Lord and God commands and leave that stuff to Him. When the Spirit urges me to share the Gospel openly I do and actually get an invite from the person I’m visiting with. Jesus didn’t shove the Gospel down peoples’ throats so I don’t. I wait to be invited to share. Again Carmen, it comes down to relationships. People should be able to see Christ in me, without me saying a word.

    Blessings, Rev. Carlene.
    P.S. I pray that God will open your heart to be able to learn tolerance. Don’t be like the hypocrites who get up on their soapbox preaching tolerance, but yet are the most intolerant people you could ever meet.

  8. JYJames says:

    Thanks for the post and lively discussion, Tim.

  9. zechariahzavid says:

    Good food for thought as always Tim. I have never considered the Queen of Sheba before so even more arguments against patriarchy.

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