Courageous and Prophetic Women of Faith—Old Testament
Women have been faithful and courageous champions over the centuries, for the whole history of the people of God. We do not know about as many of them as we could, because the (largely male) history-writers have ignored or minimized their accomplishments. Naturally, another reason we don't know about all the great women of the past is that many of them were restricted from taking leadership. To some extent, this is still the case, which makes women's accomplishments all the more notable.
We are all supposed to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God (see 1 Peter 5:6). By building a culture within the Church of honor and relational authority we can esteem one another across traditional dividing lines because, in Christ, there is no male or female (see Galatians 3:28). The simple fact of the matter is that, in giving His gifts, God does not discriminate because of gender.
"'In the last days,' God says, 'I will pour out My Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out My Spirit even on My servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.'" (Acts 2:17-18 NLT)
With the Scriptures as our guide, let's take a quick look into the courageous and prophetic women in the Old Testament.
Women Called Prophetesses in Old Testament Scripture
Let's start back at the Exodus with Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron. She was known as a spokesperson for God, particularly as a leader in music and dance:
"Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them, 'Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.'" (Exodus 15:20-21)
Moving on through the years, we find Deborah, who is mentioned in an unapologetic way as one of the judges of Israel. As a prophetess and judge, she stood before God on behalf of Israel and she was an advisor to the military leader Barak as recorded in Judges 4. Eventually, because of Deborah's leadership acumen, she was called a "mother in Israel" (see Judges 5:7).
Huldah was another early prophetess in Israel. This prophetess and keeper of the wardrobe sought the prophetic word of the Lord on behalf of the young king Josiah (see 2 Kings 22:14). There were other prophets in Israel at the time, but King Josiah sought her out because of her seasoned and influential ministry as a prophetess.
Then we have the unnamed woman who was Isaiah's wife. Almost nothing was recorded about her, as Isaiah mentioned her only once: "Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son..." (Isaiah 8:3 NKJV). Some scholars have said that she was called "the prophetess" only because she was Mrs. Isaiah. I have personally come to believe that Isaiah and his wife operated as a prophetic team!
Courageous Women in the Old Testament
Some of the women mentioned in the Old Testament were not called prophetesses, but played important and courageous roles in prophetic events. Their example of godly obedience should encourage you to follow in their footsteps, "doing exploits" (see Daniel 11:32).
The prophetess/judge Deborah had told the army commander Barak that he should march against the forces of Sisera, their enemy—specifically saying that he (Barak) would prevail. What she did not say was how this prophetic word would be fulfilled. (The complete story is told in the fourth chapter of the book of Judges.) Barak marched and he did prevail in battle, but the commander, Sisera, fled on foot and escaped. He happened to take refuge in the tent that belonged to a women named Jael, who rose to the occasion. (Photo via Pixabay)
Jael was shrewd and brave. She welcomed the fugitive into her domain and gave him milk to drink. At her invitation, he lay down and fell into an exhausted sleep. Then...
"...Jael, Heber's wife, took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted. So he died. And behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him and said to him, 'Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.' And he entered with her, and behold Sisera was lying dead with the tent peg in his temple." (Judges 4:21-22)
Jael did her valiant part to serve the purposes of God as prophesied by Deborah.
In a later time, we learn from the scriptural account that a woman named Abigail behaved wisely and graciously in the face of an unfortunate conflict that had deadly potential (see 1 Samuel 25).
Her wealthy, "harsh and evil" husband Nabal (who, as she said herself, was "a worthless man") rebuffed the generous assistance of David's men to his men. David, still on the run from King Saul, took offense in turn. Things could have escalated badly. But Abigail intervened, presenting gifts to David and his men and praising him, while apologizing for her husband's actions. Disaster was averted. Within a short time, Nabal died, whereupon David claimed Abigail as his wife.
Another such woman was so heroic that an entire book of the Bible is devoted to her: Queen Esther.
In brief, Esther, a Jewish woman in the harem of the Persian king Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes), in the capital city of Susa, caught wind of a nefarious plot against her fellow Jews. She had kept her own Jewish identity a secret. A nobleman named Haman found an excuse to promote a decree that every one of the Jewish people would be slaughtered across the land.
Tipped off by her guardian and cousin Mordecai, who told her, "Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14b), Esther insightfully deployed a plan to thwart the genocide.
After fasting for three days, she invited the king and Haman to a series of two banquets, and at the second one she revealed what Haman planned to do. He was hanged on the gallows that Haman had erected prematurely for Mordecai and the Jewish population was spared, not only within Susa, but across all one hundred and twenty-seven of King Ahasuerus' provinces.
By her prayer, fasting, courage, and prophetic insight, godly Queen Esther had saved the entire Jewish race.
Before we finish the Old Testament, we would not want to miss the nameless Proverbs 31 woman, who was prophetic in both her insight and her lifestyle. She was an excellent woman and her worth was far above jewels.
"Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: 'Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.' Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates." (Proverbs 31:28-31)
By presenting such a sweeping composite of admirable qualities, the term "Proverbs 31 Woman" signifies all of the best that a woman has to offer in any culture or period of history. (Photo via Piqsels)
Let's not forget that the highest form of being prophetic is not just giftedness, it is your lifestyle!
A Culture of Mutual Honor
The Spirit invites us to be all that we can be in Christ Jesus. As men and women of faith, we are equals before Him, co-heirs of His grace and gifts.
My aim and goal is to live out the Kingdom cultural value of "Mutual Honor." What a high calling! Jesus consistently honored women, and after He rose from the dead and ascended, He left behind a growing Church, full of fiery women who proclaimed, "He is not here. He is Risen!"
Women, I invite you to join the courageous and prophetic ranks of those who have gone before you in doing exploits for Christ Jesus!
Men, I invite you to join me in doing those same exploits, while confidently cheering for and encouraging the women champions of our day!
Courageous and Prophetic Women of Faith—New Testament & Beyond
In the New Testament, we find many women who display aspects of every gift of the Spirit whether or not they were aware of it.
For example, take the Samaritan woman at the well, whose name is lost to history (see John 4:7-29). Jesus singled her out and she is considered by many to be the first true evangelist in the Bible. When she told the townspeople the Good News about the Christ, many of them believed.
Consider Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist and cousin of Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus. Both of these devout women were active in prayer, worship, and faithful, waiting on the Lord for the fulfillment of His prophetic promises. The interchange between these God-fearing women resulted in exuberant praises and prophesying concerning the destiny of Mary's Child, the Messiah Jesus. The magnificent prophetic exchange that unfolded is recorded in Luke 1:39-55.
In addition to these prophetic songs of Elizabeth and Mary in the first chapter of Luke, we also see mention of "a prophetess Anna" in the second chapter:
"And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers." (Luke 2:36-37)
In other words, Anna's prophetic ministry was expressed through intercession. Somehow she had come to know about all of the prophetic promises concerning the Messiah, promises that had not yet been fulfilled.
She was on the lookout for this promised Messiah, the Deliverer and hope of Israel. Like Simeon a moment before, Anna's spirit leapt within her when she saw the little bundle in Mary's arms. This was the One! She blessed Him, knowing that all of the words of the prophets were coming to pass. I love Anna, and I know that women who are prophetic intercessors love her even more.
Other Notable Women Mentioned in the New Testament
We must cast a light on Phillip's four daughters. Phillip, known to us as "the Evangelist," had "four virgin daughters who were prophetesses" (Acts 21:9).
Apparently all four of Phillip's unmarried daughters had been acknowledged by the local body of Believers as having prophetic gifts. We do not know any words or actions specifically attributed to them, but surely the term "prophetesses" must have been well deserved.
Sometimes I think that God plays favorites, and Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" were surely among them. Those two women arrived first at the empty tomb, were the first to hear the words, "He is risen," and the first to announce His resurrection (see Matthew 28:1-10). Their unwavering loyalty and faith put them in the forefront of prophetic fulfillment. (Photo via Pixabay)
The Holy Spirit also highlights a distinct woman in the market place. A prominent lady named Lydia, the well-to-do businesswoman from the city of Thyatira in modern-day Turkey, whose conversion outside the Macedonian city of Philippi and subsequent outreach opened the door to the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout Europe (see Acts 16:14-15). She is considered the first convert in Europe, since she lived and worked far to the west and north of the rest of the Middle East and Asia.
Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned in several places in the book of Acts and also in Paul's letters to the Romans, the Corinthians, and to Timothy. Like Paul, they worked as tentmakers, but they were also a husband-and-wife team in another way, evidently explaining the Gospel message with exceptional clarity, moving from Rome to Corinth to Ephesus and elsewhere as the Spirit of God led them. (See Acts 18:1-3,18-19, 24-26; Romans 16:3-4; 1 Corinthians 16:19; and 2 Timothy 4:19.)
Some commentators note the fact that Priscilla's name is almost always mentioned first, which was as unusual then as it is now. This may indicate that she was the most engaging teacher of the pair, the one who brought the Word to life as not many other men or women could do.
Phoebe, an early deaconess in the growing church at Cenchrea, was well known for her servant's heart and her works of mercy (see Romans 16:1). Chloe hosted a church in her home (see 1 Corinthians 1:11). It is difficult to tell if she was simply the homeowner-hostess or actually the pastor of the house church.
The listing of the name Junia—or Junias, as some translators prefer—in Romans 16:7 has caused a lot of controversy over the years. Was this person male or female? If female, was she actually considered an apostle, with all the implications raised by such an unusual role, or was she possibly married to Andronicus, the name listed right before hers, and thus serving along-side him as Priscilla and Aquila did together?
My point in cataloging so many of the women in the Bible is not to declare that all of them were prophetic in the narrowest definition of the term, but rather to highlight the idea that women have always been gifted to serve God's people in the same ways as men.
Prominent Women in Church History
Throughout the history of the Church we know of many women of vibrant faith whose gifts and courage made a difference for the Kingdom in many nations of the earth.
You may recognize many of these names; they are some of my favorites:
• Vibia Perpetua (A.D. 181-203)
• Joan of Arc (1412-1431)
• Madame Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717)
• Susanna Wesley (1669-1742)
• Catherine Booth (1829-1890)
• Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)
• Maria Woodworth-Etter (1844-1924)
• Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944)
• Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)
• Lydia Prince (1890-1975)
• Mother (now Saint) Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)
• Basilea Schlink (1904-2001)
If you want examples of prophetic trances (being caught up into a state of ecstasy with prophetic revelation) look no further than the life of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), who revived the Carmelite order of nuns and wrote about her experiences (her books include The Interior Castle, for example), to the lasting benefit of generations of Believers. And we can each add others to this list, right?
In modern times, healing evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman (1907-1976) exercised supernatural gifts and words of knowledge along with gifts of healing and more in her public healing crusades in the United States. And the list goes on and on. (Photo of Kathryn Kuhlman via Wikimedia Commons)
Gwen Shaw (1924-2013), the founder of End-Time Handmaidens and who ministered as a pioneer in China and India, was guided by God's prophetic light and sustained by His Spirit well into her older age. Another one of the women who has impacted my life in a special way is Elizabeth (Beth) Alves, who recently graduated to her heavenly reward. I have referred to Beth as the "Grandma of the Prayer Shield."
How can I forget the fiery prophet Jill Austin of Master Potter Ministries? Then there is a woman in her own category, the endearing Michal Ann Goll, my late wife, founder of Compassion Acts and Women on the Frontlines. They both ascended to the Lord within 4 months of one another. What a lineage and legacy and shadow of Jesus they both cast. Mercy!
Women on the Frontlines Today
Today, preaching the Good News, prophesying and praying as the Spirit directs are many women of great diversity.
Some of these valiant women include Jane Hamon, daughter-in-law of Bill Hamon, and also Sharon Stone of England, both accurate prophets of Christian International.
I must point out the tenacious Bonnie Chavda, prophetic lioness and wife of Mahesh Chavda. Joan Hunter not only carries on the mantle of the Happy Hunters, she carries her own healing grace, raising up women of faith and courage.
Then there is Cindy Jacobs, founder of Generals International and one of the leading prophetic and prayer voices internationally in modern times. Among her many books is Possessing the Gates of the Enemy (available on The Elijah List), which is about prophetic intercession.
In their diverse ways, prophetic leaders are often forerunners who carry a breaker anointing into the various seven cultural mountains of influence. This is especially true concerning my dear friend in ministry, adventuresome and articulate media entrepreneur, Patricia King.
When you add in the mix a woman such as the ecstatic prophetess Stacey Campbell of Canada, you begin to appreciate the immense diversity in giftedness among female prophets today.
Then there is the laid-down lover of Jesus who states, "Have you stopped for the one?" I can just hear Heidi Baker challenging us all right now as the co-founder of Iris Ministries. She has provoked us all to be all we can be in Christ Jesus.
They are so many different woman leaders today and yet each is so effective in their distinct fields of endeavor. Marilyn Hickey. Joyce Meyer. Beth Moore. Jane Jansen. And now we have a new generation coming forth such as Christine Cain, Alex Seeley, Katherine Ruonala, Jennifer Eivaz, Jessi Green and so many more.
Father, we are thankful for all of the progress that has been made over the centuries and decades within the Church to ensure that women can be welcomed to become all they can be in Christ Jesus. We call forth prophetic women to be modern-day Annas, Deborahs, and Priscillas for the sake of this generation and the generations to come. Raise them up! May prophetic women everywhere flourish in a culture of honor to the end that they can influence every sphere of public and church life, helping You to expand Your glorious Kingdom. For Jesus Christ's sake and in His name, amen and amen!
Destined for Greatness Together
Whether male or female, we can be totally secure in our identity as chosen sons and daughters of the King. As the apostle Paul put it, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).
We belong to Him, body, soul, and spirit, and we want Him to use us however He desires.
One of His desires is that we would desire prophetic gifts that will enable us to teach and preach and interpret God's will and purpose for ourselves and others (see 1 Corinthians 14:39).
I think it's time to declare a no competition zone. Why not be cheerleaders for one another instead of critics?
The New Wine is found in the cluster. Right? So let's put aside the pointing of the finger of religious opinion and debate and let's declare that we want each member of the Body of Christ to excel and fulfill God's highest purpose.
Bottom line, not only are we better together, but I believe we are destined for greatness together!
I encourage you, follow the example of these exemplary women of faith and make a difference in the Kingdom of God for Jesus' sake!
Yes, Together, in Christ Jesus, We Make a Great Team!
(This article has been adapted from Chapter 8: "Prophetic Women" in James W. Goll's book, The Prophet: Creating and Sustaining a Life-Giving Prophetic Culture, available on The Elijah List.)
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Dr. James W. Goll
God Encounters Ministries
JAMES W. GOLL¬†is the president of God Encounters Ministries and has traveled around the world sharing the love of Jesus, imparting the power of intercession, prophetic ministry and life in the Spirit. He has recorded numerous classes with corresponding study guides and is the author of more than forty books, including The Seer, The Lost Art of Intercession, The Coming Israel Awakening and The Lifestyle of a Prophet. James is the father of four wonderful children with a growing number of grandchildren, and makes his home in Franklin, TN.
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