Two Disgraced Women Who Changed the World

| December 24, 2014

The New Testament starts with the story of two pregnancies. Disgrace is part of each of them. In one case, disgrace is removed; in the other, disgrace is imposed. But in each, we see miraculous demonstrations of God’s amazing grace in offering salvation to all men.

First, there’s Elizabeth, the wife of the priest Zechariah (Luke 1:5-25). Though “advanced in years” she became pregnant through God’s miraculous intervention. Her son became John the Baptist.

Understandably, Elizabeth was thrilled. To have a baby after years, perhaps decades, of resigning herself to never becoming a mother would make any woman rejoice. She also could rejoice in knowing her husband’s disappointment at not being a father would become a faded memory. 

But part of Elizabeth’s joy was related to the shame attendant to childlessness in the Jewish culture of her time. 

Shame of Childlessness

The matriarch Rachel was so pained by not having born a child that she said to her husband Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die” (Gen. 30:1). New Testament theologian John Byron writes, “Socially, the position of the childless woman in the Hebrew Bible is ranked among the despised, the poor, the helpless, the widow (Job 24:21) and…

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