Read SOME MANAGING WOMEN of Fair to Look Upon , free online book, by Mary Belle Freeley, on

The women of the Old Testament always wanted something, and it is a noticeable fact that they always asked for it and got it too.

So the daughters of Zelophehad had a grievance, and they didn’t go among the neighbors bewailing their hard lot, they didn’t sit and wish from morning till night that something would turn up to help them, or sigh their lives away in secret, but they put on their most radiant attire and jauntiest veils and “stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation,” and demanded their father’s possessions, and even argued the question reasonably and logically. There was not any of the St. Paul-women-should-not-speak-in-meeting doctrine about the Biblical women of those elder days.

They didn’t endeavor to persuade Moses’ wife to influence her husband to use his power in their behalf. They did not retain the services of Aaron, the finest orator of the day, to plead their cause, but they did their own talking, and they got what they asked for their father’s possessions and husbands thrown in without extra charge. Being clever as well as ambitious women, they probably foresaw that husbands would follow after the inheritance, and although they would not ask for lords and masters of course, they had their eyes on them just the same. As there were several of them, all unmarried, they were no doubt not “fair to look upon,” so they laid a little plot to secure husbands. And they succeeded and were happy, for marriage was the aim and end of a woman’s existence then, and there was a better market and more of a demand for husbands than in these modern days.

We only catch a glimpse of one woman named Achsah, but that is enough to show us that she possessed the prevailing and prominent characteristic of all the other “holy women.” she wanted something.

After she had married her warrior lover, who conquered Kirpathsepher for her sweet sake, the very first thing we find is that “she moved him to ask of her father a field.” Now naturally a young man would dislike to approach his father-in-law upon such a delicate subject, and so soon too, but she asked him and he obeyed like all the men of the Old Testament.

And even then she was not satisfied; but of course she embraced her father and kissed him, and told him he was the most indulgent father in the whole wide world.

Now Caleb no doubt had had dozens of love affairs, and experience had made him a connoisseur of female character, and understanding all their little scheming ways and little designing tricks, without beating around the bush at all he came to business at once and asked,

“What would’st thou?”

“Give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a south land, give me also springs of water,” she said.

Springs of water were a bonanza in those days something like a gold or silver mine to us moderns but she had requested it and of course he could not refuse, “and he gave her the upper springs and the nether springs.”

And it came to pass that Joshua sent two men, two spies, saying, “Go view the land, even Jericho,” and I suppose they disguised themselves and went by secret ways; anyway they eluded the vigilance of their enemies and entered the city, even Jericho, and let me whisper it in your ear, they went to see a woman named Rahab and she wasn’t a very nice woman either and “lodged there.”

But their visit leaked out, as such things always do and always will, though the stars should pale their fires to shield them, the moon withdraw behind the clouds to hide their shadows, the rain pour and the thunder crash to drown their footsteps. Perhaps the children told the neighbors, perhaps the hired girl whispered to her friend, perhaps some jealous watching lover told of it, but at any rate we read:

“And it was told to the King of Jericho, saying: Behold there came two men in hither to-night of the children of Israel, to search out the country.”

“And the King of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying: Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thy house: for they be come to search all the country.”

Now does one suppose for a moment that she obeyed the mandate of the King? Of course not, if one is a student of the Bible, but if one is not, I’ll just say that she took them up through the skylight and hid them, piling flax over them, and then she said innocently and convincingly to the King’s officers:

“There came two men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.”

Then she went up on the roof and talked to the men like a lawyer. I notice that these old women I mean women of old were all good talkers, and they didn’t speak like meek, passive, submissive girls wrought up to sudden action by wrong, indignation or revenge, but they spoke with a freedom, vigor and fluency that betokened everyday practice.

St. Paul says that woman should “Keep silence,” and that “they are commanded to be under obedience,” but he evidently had some remarkable ideas upon this and other topics. Perhaps he never had read the official records, and we know he was never married, and so we don’t censure him so much for his ignorance of female character, having never had a wife, or, so far as we know, a love affair, for what does a man born blind know about the sunshine, or the lightning’s awful flash, or one born deaf know of the pealing, clashing thunder?

The women of his day were no doubt obstreperous and extravagant, and hence his famous but perfectly ineffectual teaching that they should not “broider their hair, or wear gold or silver or costly array,” and that they shouldn’t talk in meeting, and if they wanted to know anything, ask their husbands, and drink of their intellectual superiority. But to return.

So Rahab made the spies swear that when the doom of destruction fell upon Jericho, she and her father and mother and all her relations-in-law should be saved, and then she let them down from the window of her house, which was very conveniently built upon the town wall, with a scarlet rope.

So you see, by deceit, strategy, disobedience and a succession of neat little lies, she thwarted the King, betrayed the city, and saved her own precious self all at one fell swoop.

When the walls of Jericho fell and childhood in its innocence, ambitious manhood, fiery youth, despairing maidens and loving mothers, were swept by maddening flames and glittering swords into the oblivion called death, from whose silent gloom no smile or tear, no laughter or wail, ever yet has come, then Rahab and all that she had was saved. She had asked it, and schemed for it, and of course she did not fail.

Next we come to Deborah, a prophetess, who judged Israel at that time, and from the little that is said of her husband, we infer she was the head of the house and ruled him besides attending to her professional duties.

Well, Deborah sent for Barak and commanded him to meet “Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army,” in battle array. But he was afraid, and to inspire him by her courageous example she went with him to the field of battle, and every man of Jabin’s host “fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.” But Sisera “fled away on his feet” to Jael, the wife of his friend. Sisera, like another defeated general, had lost his horse.

And she went out to meet him, and gained his entire confidence by smiles and deception, and took him into her tent and gave him milk to drink, covered him with a mantle, and said in her sweetest tones, “Fear not.” Then when he slept the sleep of perfect exhaustion, defeat and despair, she “took a nail of the tent, and a hammer in her hand,” and softly, with bated breath and step that often paused and ear that bent to listen, she approached him, and then quicker than the lightning’s flash or tiger’s spring “she smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: and he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.”

Nice way for a woman to treat her husband’s friend, wasn’t it?

Abimelech killed seventy of his brothers to become King, and after wars and battles too numerous to mention he came to “Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it.” But there was a strong and mighty tower in the city and a thousand men and women, stained with blood, expecting no mercy, but defiant to the last, fled there for a few hours of safety.

“And Abimelech came unto the tower and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire.”

And all the men stood aghast, helpless and despairing, waiting a terrible death. Then a woman with a vision of blood and moans, dying men and ravished women before her, with a courage born of desperation and a wit sharpened with intense fear, boldly stepped to the window ledge, and in the glare of bursting flames and the sound of dying groans “cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to break his skull.”

“Then he called hastily unto the young man his armour-bearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew me. And his young man thrust him through, and he died,” as a man naturally would who had been hit on the head with a millstone and pierced through with a sword; and every one in the tower was saved.

I’m not telling you this to harrow up your feelings, but just to show you that the holy women of old were not such nonentities as some of us have supposed.

And time, undelayed by the roses of June or the snows of winter, by sunshine or starshine, by laughter or sighs, by birth or death, hurried on and the Jews fought and triumphed, bled and died “and did evil, and the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines.” And after a while Samson was born, and what do you suppose he did just as soon as he became a man? Why he went down to Timnath and fell deeply, desperately, madly, in love with a Philistine girl, and he went straight home and told his father and mother about it and they did not approve of it they never do, it seems but he was determined to have her, for there was not another female for him in the whole wide world they all think that for the time being and of course he married her. Then he made a seven-day feast, and unfortunately he amused the company with a riddle. Of course his wife was dying to know the answer, and her people threatened her if she did not find it out, and altogether it was a lively discussion, and she made his life a burden and a delusion and she wept before him and said:

“Thou dost but hate me and lovest me not; thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people and hast not told it to me.” And Samson declared he hadn’t told it to his father or mother or any living soul and swore he would not tell her but he did. For “she wept before him the seven days while the feast lasted,” and on the seventh day, exhausted by her upbraidings, deluged by her tears and wearied by her everlasting persistence, he whispered it in her ear, and she told the children of her people.

It is safe to conclude that Samson was angry, and the wedding feast broke up in confusion and dismay, and he went and killed thirty people, and the woman who had “pleased him well” he repudiated with such dispatch that it suggests Idaho and the modern man, and “Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as a friend.” The views we get of married life and the domestic relations in the Old Testament make us almost think that marriage was a failure in those days.

Then Samson, after a little affair which I do not care to dwell upon with a woman of Gaza, who was no better than she should have been, fell blindly in love with Delilah. And, being in love, he profited not by his late experience (what man or woman ever does who is in love?) and again he told the dearest secret of his heart to a woman, because, forsooth, “she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death.” And then with her fine arms around his neck and her kisses on his lips, he fell asleep on her knees and she betrayed him.