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5 Wicked Women of the Bible You Probably Don’t Know

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Most of us are familiar with the stories of many of the bad boys of the Bible. We remember Cain, who had the dual distinction of being the first boy and first murderer. Samson possessed incredible strength and had a temper to match. David was both Israel’s greatest king and a man who abused his power by bumping off Bathsheba’s husband after summoning her to his bed and getting her pregnant. And who could forget Judas, the treacherous disciple who betrayed Jesus with a kiss? Sure, the Bible’s bad boys far outnumber its bad girls, but there are still plenty of wicked women populating its pages. Though Eve was called “mother of all the living,” her first bite of forbidden fruit ushered death into the world. And there’s also Jezebel, the wickedest of all queens who learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to fight with God. Anyone arguing for the veracity of the Bible might note the fact that it seems not the least bit interested in whitewashing its characters. Even many of its heroes (think Abraham, Sarah, David, and Paul, to name a few) are exposed as flawed human beings, people whose hearts were a mixture of darkness and light. Why focus on the negative by looking at nefarious female figures in the Bible? Paul’s disciple Timothy wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). That’s one reason a person of faith may want to plumb the depths of these stories. In that spirit, here are five wicked women of the Bible who might be unfamiliar to you: 1. Lot’s daughters (See Genesis 19:30-38) You remember Lot, right? He was Abraham’s nephew, a guy who made the mistake of settling in Sodom, one of the world’s wickedest cities. His wife made an even worse mistake by turning back when an angel warned Lot and his family to flee because God was about to destroy the city. She became a pillar of salt when burning sulfur rained down on the city. After that, Lot and his two daughters made their home in a cave nestled in the mountains. But because the whole city was destroyed (including Lot’s two sons-in-law), there were no men for his daughters to marry. Desperate to bear children and carry on the family line, Lot’s older daughter conspired with her younger sister to ply their father with wine on two successive nights and then sleep with him. Lot became so drunk he didn’t remember a thing. Each of the daughters gave birth to sons — one of whom was the progenitor of the Moabites and the other of the Ammonites — groups who later became Israel’s enemies. 2. Peninnah (See 1 Samuel 1-2:10) A flyweight on the scale of evil, Peninnah had a wicked sharp tongue that she pulled out whenever her own heart was hurting. Caught in a painful love triangle, she found it galling that her husband, Elkanah, loved his other wife Hannah more than he loved her. Every year, on the occasion of a family pilgrimage, Peninnah made a point of reminding Hannah of her barrenness, a condition that would have shamed a woman in that culture. How fortunate, she would say, that Elkanah had taken a second wife to perform the duty his first could not. Truly, she would say, God knows every heart — whom to bless and whom to curse. How wonderful that she, Peninnah, was so good at getting pregnant and giving birth. Poor, small-hearted Peninnah had no idea what God was about to do for Hannah. Desperate for children, Hannah prayed for a son and God gave her Samuel, who became one of Israel’s greatest prophets. After his birth, Hannah started winning the fertility race by giving birth to five more children. Surely Hannah was thinking of her sharp-tongued rival when she exulted in God’s faithfulness, saying, “My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance . . . ” (1 Samuel 2:1) 3. Maacah (See 1 Kings 15:1-13) There were several Maacahs in the Bible, but the wicked one was sandwiched between an evil husband (Rehoboam — Solomon’s foolish son) and a wicked son, Abijah, who was one of many very bad, no good kings of Judah. Under Abijah, Maacah took on a leadership role (she was called the Queen Mother) and reinforced the people’s tendency to worship a variety of gods. Maacah even erected an image for the goddess Asherah. But after Abijah died, his son Asa reversed course by chasing away the male shrine prostitutes and tearing down the idols his father (and grandmother) had introduced. In his zeal to clean house, he even gave the boot to his wicked grandmother by deposing Maacah from her lofty position. 4. Athaliah (See 2 Kings 11:1-16) Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab, one of Israel’s worst kings, and was probably also the daughter of Jezebel, the wickedest queen in the Bible. A Jezebel knock off, Athaliah carried on the family tradition of spreading idolatry throughout the land. She was married to one of Judah’s kings, and became queen by slaughtering the rest of the royal family, including her own grandchildren, after her husband and son died. Her stepdaughter Jehosheba hatched a conspiracy right under the queen’s nose by hiding one of Athaliah’s grandsons in the temple. (Apparently the queen had forgotten about that little baby). When the boy turned seven, a coup was launched and he was crowned king. When this vilest of queens discovered the plot, she screamed, “Treason! Treason!” But it was too late. No one paid any attention to her. She was executed outside the gate of the temple in Jerusalem. 5. Sapphira (See Acts 5:1-11) Married to Ananias, Sapphira and her husband were early converts in the Jerusalem church at a time when Christians held everything in common. While the others were selling off their entire properties, Ananias sold a portion of his, and, keeping some for himself, offered part of the proceeds to the apostle Peter. When Peter discovered the lie (the Holy Spirit told him about it), he accused Ananias of attempting to deceive God. Then Ananias fell dead at his feet. Three hours later, his wife, who was complicit in the lie but ignorant of what had happened to her husband, came in. When Peter asked whether the price Ananias had quoted was full and accurate, she confirmed it. The apostle declared, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” With that, Sapphira fell at his feet and died. Peter made it clear that the couple could have done whatever they wanted with their money. The problem was not about pocketing the money, but about lying to God and trying to deceive his people. Not surprisingly, the dramatic deaths of this couple inspired great fear and awe throughout the early church. There you have it — five stories of little-known wicked women of the Bible. Now start impressing your friends by doing a little name dropping and challenging them to recognize even one of the names on the list.

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1 Valerie Crawford = "great"
2 Hoho Shikhu = "Great"