From the opening chapter of Genesis to the closing words of Revelation, the Bible bears witness to the importance of names. In creation, God names Day and Night, Sky and Seas and Earth. In the last chapter of Revelation, Jesus gives his own names as the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star.
The book of Numbers lists all the people of Israel by family name. Paul’s letter to the Romans ends with greetings to various Christians by name. Throughout the Bible, people often receive names that express their personality or the events surrounding their birth. The names of places are carefully explained.
Given this wealth of names recorded in the Bible, it’s all the more striking to discover how many names are missing from its pages, particularly the names of women. In the biblical genealogies, for example, women were regularly omitted as part of the patriarchal tradition. In other places, women are mentioned but unnamed. Like Lot’s wife, some of these unnamed women of the Bible played a relatively small part in the biblical story. Like the poor widow at the temple treasury, some women were never identified to the biblical writers.
Like many of these unnamed women of the Bible, many of us today will remain unnamed in the history books written about our own age. And many of us may feel unnamed in the life situations we face. We are the youngest daughter or so-and-so’s wife or so-and-so’s mother or the office secretary or the grade-five teacher or the family doctor or the woman in red who wants a refund at the department store counter.
Sometimes we might find it easier to remain anonymous. We may not feel the need to identify ourselves completely to everyone we meet. But sometimes it can be wearing, even demeaning, to be identified always by our relationship to someone or something else. Sometimes being unnamed can make us feel unloved, unwanted, unworthy. We feel ourselves shrinking in significance to God and to other people.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth. As God called our biblical foremothers to a life of faith, so God also calls us. As God loved them and knew their names, so God also loves and names us. We too make a difference in the world around us. We too have our own stories to tell.
[This post is part of my Retro Series of (slightly revised) excerpts from Remember Lot’s Wife and Other Unnamed Women of the Bible. In the following blog posts, I invite you to meet some of the unnamed women of the Bible and to connect their stories with your own. I hope you enjoy this blog series, and please leave a comment if you’d like to enter the draw for a free copy.]
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20 thoughts on “Remember Lot’s Wife and Other Unnamed Women of the Bible”
Ooh, I’d love a copy!
I notice who the people are that call me by name. My mother had a special name for me and when she used it, I knew that I was well loved. Thank you for helping us make connections with the largely overlooked unnamed women in scripture. At times I have found myself relating strongly with the woman at the well and at others, with the Jewish slave girl in Naaman’s household.
Thanks for mentioning the woman at the well and the slave girl in Naaman’s household–they’re both in the book!
What! A month without any update on your blog? Don’t know if I can survive. I guess I’ll have to soldier on!
ha, Art, that would be too long for me too! Fortunately with the WordPress scheduling system, I can be on my blogging break, and you can still get regular updates. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work! So every Monday, you should see my Retro Series on unnamed women in the Bible plus regular Wednesday posts too. Comments will be slower though since I won’t be online as much (I hope!).
Love reading about women of the Bible!
This sounds very interesting. I’d love to read it!
Would love a copy!
Yo! Hit me with some book love!
Count me in for your draw! Your writing reminds me of what I appreciate most about Scripture. I’ll miss your daily verses on twitter – but enjoy your extended social media Sabbath. (Heather Block)
Thanks, Heather – I’ve scheduled verses on Twitter, so you shouldn’t notice any difference there thanks to HootSuite (which I never thought I would use, but I’m finding it a great tool).
this book sounds amazing, I would love to read it, and a free copy would be icing on the cake!
This is a great idea, April! And now I’m adding my bonus entry here. Thanks for doing this 🙂
I would love a copy of the book. I went to a seminar on a similar topic and found it very interesting.
I’m grateful to hear about this project. I continue to wake up to the deeper realities of imbalance, inequity, and disconnection between men and women, and the deep and often unnoticed effects of gender stereotypes and expectations. I have benefited from imaginative, empowering readings of the woman at the well, the Syro-Phoenician woman, the woman in Luke 7 who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and in the past couple of years, Hagar (who though she is named, seems to stand as a symbol of intersecting racial, economic, and gender oppressions…and who herself names God! Love it). Thank you for your work on this! I hope to read more! Peace.
(just added you to my circles on Google+…. btw, I believe you spoke at an AMBS graduation while I was in seminary…maybe 2007?? Be well!)
Hi Samantha – yes! you have a good memory – it was 2007 and a great privilege for me to speak at the graduation. I’m glad to see you here, and I love your comment about Hagar!