LESSON 88

WOMEN PROPHETS OF THE O. T.

715.     When Jeremiah uttered those words, “Send for the wise women [literal rendering] that they may come” (see par. 620), he probably recalled how his father Hilkiah the priest had gone with others to Huldah, the prophetess, to learn whether the roll they had found in the Temple, when cleaning it up, was really the law of God; and how her wisdom and the revelation God gave her for the benefit of the nation, had led to national reform and revival of religion. We read of women prophets in the O. T., Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4; 1 Chronicles 25:8 (compare verse 4); Nehemiah 6:14; Isaiah 8:3; and Ezekiel 13:17, besides the instance of Huldah recorded in 2 Chronicles 34:22.

716.     There is no reason to assume, as the average commentator does, that the wife of a prophet is called a “prophetess” Even of Isaiah’s wife, Nägelsbach, remarks, “Isaiah’s wife is hardly called ‘prophetess’ because she was the wife of a prophet.” Nor is there any reason to assume that women were usually false prophets because such are spoken of or reproved. The fact that they are mentioned and rebuked because false, and never because they prophesied, goes a long way towards proving that women prophets were recognized as a matter of course. On the passage in Ezekiel, Schroeder remarks in his commentary, “Prophecy in Israel was a gift of the Spirit, and already, as being so, had no restriction as to sex. But when it came to be upheld by the Spirit of Christ, in whom there is neither male nor female, this overlooking of all sexual distinctions of necessity still more characterized it.”

717.     We have already (pars. 206-215) treated of the prophesying of women, as predicted in Psalm 68, Isaiah 40, and Joel 2. Now let us turn our attention to a lesson taught in Isaiah 31, 32.

This was a time when Assyria, the first great world power, threatened Palestine. The ten tribes of Israel had been already carried away into captivity (2 Kings 17:6). Isaiah, 36 and 37 describe the political situation:¾

31:1-3 show Judah as warned against appealing to Egypt.

31:4. God is represented, in figure, as a lion and a young lion, holding His prey, Jerusalem, under His paw for judgment (Hosea 5:14), and the “multitude of shepherds,” Assyria and other nations, cannot take the prey from the fearless Lion. But at a future time, it is promised, “the Lord of hosts shall come down to deliver.” The immediate and partial realization of this promise is related in 37:7-8.

718.     31:5. But here the prophet’s eye is centered, in wonder, upon a deliverance which relates to the far future. This promise had only a partial fulfillment in that age.

“Like as flying-birds so will the Lord of hosts cover [protect] Jerusalem; defending also He will deliver it. Passing over, He will preserve it.” This seems to be the literal meaning.

Never but once in the history of Jerusalem, Dec. 9, 1917, has this promise been completely fulfilled. Think for a moment of the tremendous efforts that were put forth to deliver Jerusalem from the Mohammedan. The crusades lasted for 177 years, and involved nearly all Europe in the effort. Hundreds of thousands of lives, of men, women and children, were lost in the task, and then it had to be abandoned.

719.     But why has the Mohammedan had such tremendous power? He has not had it. We think that God, the Lion, has kept Jerusalem under His own power, through all these centuries; and mainly because He would not allow Jerusalem to pass under the rule of any people given to idolatry, He has allowed Mohammedans to rule there. One had only to go to Jerusalem and watch the genuflections to images of so-called “Christian” sects, to see that idols would have filled the place, had the crusades succeeded. God has caused a people who did not make idols to rule there.

But when the Lion lifted His paw, how easily deliverance came! “General Allenby’s report shows that the flying men took a prominent part in delivering Jerusalem, and its deliverance came largely from the air. The promise ‘passing over He will preserve it’ accounts for such a strong position being taken without any injury to any of the sacred places in the city.” (The London Christian, Jan. 10, 1918).

720.      Judging from the connection, soon after this event, the reign of Christ in righteousness begins. See the opening verses of chapter 32. (Yet we must not be too certain on this point.)

32:8. But note the abrupt breaking off, at the end of this verse, in the description of that blessed reign, and that it is resumed at verse 16.

32:9-16. We have introduced these chapters because of the great importance to women of this passage. It was necessary to get its historical setting, to show that the admonition and the warning relate to our time. Will we women cast aside our careless indifference to responsibility, clothe ourselves in the sackcloth of deep repentance, and seek God with all our hearts? This is what the prophet Isaiah demands of us. And the fearful judgments which are impending, he makes it clear, will descend upon those women who do not.

721.     There is an obstruction to Christ’s coming. Joel had before this declared that God’s Spirit was to be poured out upon “all flesh,” bond and free, young and old, women as well as men; and Peter has made it perfectly clear that his prophecy belongs to the present age (Acts 2:16-18). But the Church has contrived, in its sex prejudice, to find reasons why this prophesying is to be done by men alone, and that the world is “to be saved by the foolishness of preaching” by men only.

Such is not the case. The difficulty with the teachings of Paul exists in the minds of men, not in the Word of God. It is a difficulty, largely, of prejudice and egotism; and women must not fear to brook the displeasure of men by an attempt to open their eyes to the fact that their difficulty is with God, rather than with women,¾though few men are willing to admit this, or even to perceive it. They are not so candid as the Rev. James B. Finley, who, in his Autobiography says, concerning the offense of a woman speaking in church, “I . . . quoted the language of St. Paul in regard to women teaching in the Church, and expressed a hope that the Spirit (!) would not move any more to speak on such occasions.” But the Spirit will move women, in spite of the hopes to the contrary.

722.     32:15. The prophet calls upon the women to get ready, “so that [as it might be rendered, in place of “until”] the Spirit may be poured upon us from on high,” and the way made ready for the return of the Lord. That Spirit will not be poured out in fullness until women are ready.

Women had their share of the “former rain” at Pentecost, but soon pagan influence within the Church wrested Paul’s word (2 Peter 3:16), and excluded women from their portion of this witnessing, within the Church. Women have too readily taken advantage of this excusing of women from such service,¾too often because they “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

This prophecy of Isaiah shows that God has not excused where man has, but rather, that a fearful judgment awaits those women who do not hasten to bring about that FULL-fillment of Joel’s prophecy regarding “daughters” and “handmaidens,” and thus make way for that “latter rain” which opens the door for the Lord’s second coming. May God’s own Spirit convict women of their negligence!

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