“The women proclaiming the good news are a large army.”—PS. 68:11.
1, 2. (a) What gifts did God give Adam? (b) Why did God provide a wife for Adam? (See opening image.)
JEHOVAH created the earth for a purpose. He “formed it to be inhabited.” (Isa. 45:18) His first human creation, Adam, was perfect, and God gave him a wonderful home—the garden of Eden. How Adam enjoyed its stately trees, its trickling streams, its frolicking animals! But he lacked something very important. Jehovah indicated what that was when he declared: “It is not good for the man to continue to be alone. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.” God then caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, took one of his ribs, and “built the rib . . . into a woman.” When Adam woke up, how happy he was! “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” said Adam. “This one will be called Woman, because from man she was taken.”—Gen. 2:18-23.
2 God’s gift of a woman was unique in that she was to be the man’s perfect helper. She would also have the special privilege of bearing children. In fact, “Adam named his wife Eve, because she was to become the mother of everyone living.” (Gen. 3:20; ftn.) What an amazing gift God gave that first human couple! They had the ability to produce other perfect humans. By this means, the earth would eventually become a paradise populated by perfect people who would have other living things in subjection.—Gen. 1:27, 28.
3. (a) To be blessed by God, what did Adam and Eve need to do, but what happened? (b) What questions will we consider?
3 To receive the blessings set before them, Adam and Eve would have to obey Jehovah and acknowledge his rulership. (Gen. 2:15-17) Only under those circumstances could they fulfill God’s purpose for them. Sadly, though, they were influenced by “the original serpent,” Satan, and sinned against God. (Rev. 12:9; Gen. 3:1-6) How has this rebellion affected women? What was accomplished by godly women of the past? Why can present-day Christian women be referred to as “a large army”?—Ps. 68:11.
WHAT REBELLION HAS MEANT
4. Who was held responsible for the sin of the first human couple?
4 When called to account for his rebellion, Adam offered this lame excuse: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate.” (Gen. 3:12) Adam not only failed to accept responsibility for his sin but also tried to place the blame on the woman God had given him—and on the loving Giver! Both Adam and Eve sinned, but Adam was held responsible for their wrongdoing. Hence, the apostle Paul wrote that “through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin.”—Rom. 5:12.
5. What has been proved by God’s allowing rule independent of him to continue for a time?
5 The first human pair were led to think that they did not need Jehovah as their Ruler. That raised this vital question of sovereignty: Who has the right to rule? To provide an answer for all eternity, God allowed rule independent of him to continue for a time. He knew that experience would prove that rule independent of him would fail. Over the centuries, such rulership has plunged human society into one calamity after another. In the past century alone, about 100,000,000 people died in wars—and that includes millions of innocent men, women, and children. So there already is mounting evidence that “it does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jer. 10:23) Realizing that fact, we acknowledge Jehovah as our Ruler.—Read Proverbs 3:5, 6.
6. In many lands, how are females treated?
6 Both men and women have experienced mistreatment in this world that lies in the power of Satan. (Eccl. 8:9; 1 John 5:19) Some of the worst atrocities have involved the abuse of women. Worldwide, about 30 percent of women report having been assaulted by a male partner. Males are favored in some societies because it is thought that they will grow up to continue the family line and care for their aging parents and grandparents. In certain lands, females are considered undesirable children, and far more baby girls than baby boys are aborted.
7. What kind of start did God give both men and women?
7 The mistreatment of women certainly does not please God. He treats women justly and respects them. Jehovah’s regard for women is evident from the fact that Eve was created perfect and with characteristics that made her, not a slave, but a wonderful complement of Adam. That is one reason why, at the end of the sixth creative day, God “saw everything he had made, and look! it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31) Yes, “everything” Jehovah made was “very good.” He gave both men and women a very good start!
WOMEN WHO HAD JEHOVAH’S BACKING
8. (a) Describe the behavior of people in general. (b) Throughout history, to whom has God shown favor?
8 The behavior of men and women in general deteriorated after the rebellion in Eden, and during the past century, it has become worse than ever before. The Bible foretold that wicked conduct would prevail in “the last days.” Human wrongdoing has become so widespread that these truly are “critical times.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Throughout mankind’s history, however, the “Sovereign Lord Jehovah” has shown favor to men and women who have trusted in him, have obeyed his laws, and have submitted to him as their Ruler.—Read Psalm 71:5.
9. How many people survived the Flood, and why?
9 When God destroyed the violent ancient world by means of the Flood in the days of Noah, very few humans survived. If Noah’s brothers and sisters were still alive at that time, they too died in the floodwaters. (Gen. 5:30) But as many women as men survived the Deluge. The survivors were Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives. They were preserved because they feared God and did his will. The billions of humans now living descended from those eight individuals who had Jehovah’s backing.—Gen. 7:7; 1 Pet. 3:20.
10. Why did God-fearing wives of faithful patriarchs have Jehovah’s backing?
10 Years later, the God-fearing wives of faithful patriarchs also had God’s backing. That would not have been the case had they been complainers about their lot in life. (Jude 16) It is hard to imagine that serious cries of complaint would have come from the lips of Abraham’s respectful wife, Sarah, when they left the comforts of Ur and became temporary residents living in tents in another land. Instead, “Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” (1 Pet. 3:6) Consider also Rebekah, who was a blessed gift from Jehovah and became an excellent wife. It is no surprise that her husband, Isaac, “fell in love with her, and . . . found comfort after the loss of his mother.” (Gen. 24:67) And how glad we are today that we have in our midst godly women who are like Sarah and Rebekah!
11. How did two Hebrew midwives display courage?
11 During their years of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites increased greatly in number, and Pharaoh decreed that all Hebrew male babies were to be destroyed at birth. However, consider the Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah, who likely headed the midwife profession. Because they had reverential fear of Jehovah, they courageously refused to practice infanticide. He therefore rewarded them with their own families.—Ex. 1:15-21.
12. What was remarkable about Deborah and Jael?
12 In the days of Israel’s judges, one woman who had God’s backing was the prophetess Deborah. She encouraged Judge Barak and played a part in helping the Israelites to rid themselves of oppression, but she foretold that glory for victory over the Canaanites would not go to Barak. Instead, it would be “into the hand of a woman” that God would give the Canaanite army chief Sisera. That is what happened when the non-Israelite woman Jael killed him.—Judg. 4:4-9, 17-22.
13. What does the Bible tell us about Abigail?
13 Abigail was a noteworthy woman who lived in the 11th century B.C.E. She had discernment, whereas her husband, Nabal, was harsh, worthless, and senseless. (1 Sam. 25:2, 3, 25) David and his men protected Nabal’s possessions for a time, but when they asked for provisions, he “screamed insults at them” and gave them nothing. This angered David so much that he planned to do away with Nabal and his men. Hearing about this, Abigail took food and drink to David and his men, thereby preventing bloodshed. (1 Sam. 25:8-18) David later said to her: “Praise Jehovah the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me!” (1 Sam. 25:32) After the death of Nabal, David married Abigail.—1 Sam. 25:37-42.
14. The daughters of Shallum took part in what work, and how are Christian women doing something similar today?
14 Many men, women, and children died when the Babylonian forces destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in 607 B.C.E. The city’s walls were rebuilt in 455 B.C.E. under Nehemiah’s supervision. Among those who helped to repair the walls were the daughters of Shallum, a prince of half the district of Jerusalem. (Neh. 3:12) They willingly did menial work. How we appreciate the many Christian women who joyfully support theocratic building projects in various ways today!
GODLY WOMEN OF THE FIRST CENTURY
15. God gave what privilege to one woman named Mary?
15 Somewhat before and during the first century C.E., Jehovah blessed a number of women with fine privileges. Among them was a virgin named Mary. While engaged to Joseph, she miraculously conceived a child by holy spirit. Why did God choose her to become the mother of Jesus? No doubt because she had the spiritual qualities needed to help nurture her perfect son through childhood to maturity. What a privilege it was to be the mother of the greatest man ever to live on earth!—Matt. 1:18-25.
16. Give an example showing Jesus’ attitude toward women.
16 Jesus was very kind to women. For example, consider a woman who had a flow of blood for 12 years. From behind, she approached Jesus in a crowd and touched his garment. Instead of rebuking her, Jesus kindly said: “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed from your grievous sickness.”—Mark 5:25-34.
17. What miraculous event occurred at Pentecost 33 C.E.?
17 Some women who were Jesus’ disciples ministered to him and his apostles. (Luke 8:1-3) And at Pentecost 33 C.E., about 120 men as well as women received God’s spirit in a special way. (Read Acts 2:1-4.) That outpouring of holy spirit was foretold in the words: “I [Jehovah] will pour out my spirit on every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy . . . And even on my male slaves and female slaves I will pour out my spirit.” (Joel 2:28, 29) By means of that miraculous event on the day of Pentecost, God showed that he had transferred his backing from apostate Israel to “the Israel of God,” made up of both men and women. (Gal. 3:28; 6:15, 16) Among the Christian women who shared in the ministry in the first century were the four daughters of Philip the evangelizer.—Acts 21:8, 9.
“A LARGE ARMY” OF WOMEN
18, 19. (a) With regard to true worship, what privilege has God given to both men and women? (b) How does the psalmist refer to women who declare the good news?
18 In the late 1800’s, a few men and women showed keen interest in true worship. They were forerunners of those who now share in the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words: “This good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”—Matt. 24:14.
19 The small group of Bible Students has grown to some 8,000,000 Witnesses of Jehovah today. More than 11,000,000 other individuals show interest in the Bible and our work by attending the annual Memorial of Jesus’ death. In most lands, the majority of those present are women. Also, women make up the greater number of over 1,000,000 full-time Kingdom proclaimers worldwide. God has indeed granted faithful women the privilege of participating in the fulfillment of the psalmist’s words: “Jehovah gives the command; the women proclaiming the good news are a large army.”—Ps. 68:11.
GRAND BLESSINGS AHEAD FOR GODLY WOMEN
20. What study projects merit our consideration?
20 Space does not permit us to discuss the many faithful women of Bible record. But all of us can read about them in God’s Word and in articles published in our literature. For instance, we can meditate on the loyalty of Ruth. (Ruth 1:16, 17) Reading the Bible book named after Queen Esther and articles about her may well strengthen our faith. We can benefit from study projects of this kind that can be planned for Family Worship evenings. If we live alone, we can consider such subjects when we do our personal study.
21. How have godly women shown their devotion to Jehovah in difficult times?
21 Jehovah undeniably blesses the preaching work of Christian women and supports them in times of trial. With his help, for example, godly women maintained their integrity under Nazi and Communist rule when many of them suffered and some even lost their lives because of their obedience to God. (Acts 5:29) Today as in the past, our sisters and all their fellow worshippers uphold God’s sovereignty. In effect, as in the case of the ancient Israelites, Jehovah grasps their right hand and says: “Do not be afraid. I will help you.”—Isa. 41:10-13.
22. We can look forward to what future privileges?
22 In the near future, godly men and women will transform the earth into a paradise and help millions of resurrected ones to learn about Jehovah’s purposes. Until then, whether male or female, let us cherish our privilege of serving him “shoulder to shoulder.”—Zeph. 3:9.