20 Famous Women of the Bible

Heroines and Harlots: Biblical Women Who Impacted Their World

These influential women of the Bible impacted not only the nation of Israel but also eternal history. Some were saints; some were scoundrels. A few were queens, but most were commoners. All played a key role in the spectacular Bible story. Each woman brought her unique character to bear on her situation, and for this, we still remember her centuries later.

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Eve: First Woman Created by God

Adam and Eve
God's Curse by James Tissot. SuperStock / Getty Images

Eve was the first woman, created by God to be a companion and helper for Adam, the first man. Everything was perfect in the Garden of Eden, but when Eve believed the lies of Satan, she influenced Adam to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, breaking God's command.

Eve's lesson was costly. God can be trusted but Satan cannot. Whenever we choose our own selfish desires over those of God, bad consequences will follow.

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Sarah: Mother of the Jewish Nation

Sarah overhears the three visitors confirming she will have a son. Culture Club / Contributor / Getty Images

Sarah received an extraordinary honor from God. As Abraham's wife, her offspring became the nation of Israel, which produced Jesus Christ, Savior of the world. But her impatience led her to influence Abraham to father a child with Hagar, Sarah's Egyptian slave, starting a conflict that continues today.

Finally, at 90, Sarah gave birth to Isaac, through a miracle of God. From Sarah we learn that God's promises always come true, and his timing is always best.

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Rebekah: Intervening Wife of Isaac

Rebekah pours water while Jacob's servant Eliezer looks on. Getty Images

Rebekah was barren when she married Isaac and unable to give birth until Isaac prayed for her. When she delivered twins, Rebekah favored Jacob, the younger, over Esau, the first-born.

Through an elaborate trick, Rebekah helped influence the dying Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of Esau. Like Sarah, her action led to division. Even though Rebekah was a loyal wife and loving mother, her favoritism created problems. Thankfully, God can take our mistakes and make good come from them.

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Rachel: Wife of Jacob and Mother of Joseph

Jacob and Rachel
Jacob declares his love for Rachel. Culture Club / Contributor / Getty Images

Rachel became the wife of Jacob, but only after her father Laban had deceived Jacob into marrying Rachel's sister Leah first. Jacob favored Rachel because she was prettier. Rachel's sons became heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Joseph had the most influence, saving Israel during a famine. Benjamin's tribe produced the apostle Paul, the greatest missionary of ancient times. The love between Rachel and Jacob serves as an example to married couples of God's abiding blessings.

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Leah: Wife of Jacob Through Deceit

Rachel and Leah
Rachel and Leah, painting by James Tissot. SuperStock / Getty Images

Leah became the wife of Jacob through a shameful trick. Jacob had worked seven years to win Leah's younger sister Rachel. On the wedding night, her father Laban substituted Leah instead. Then Jacob worked another seven years for Rachel.

Leah led a heartbreaking life trying to win Jacob's love, but God graced Leah in a special way. Her son Judah led the tribe that produced Jesus Christ, Savior of the world. Leah is a symbol for people who try to earn God's love, which is unconditional and free for the taking.

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Jochebed: Mother of Moses

Jochebed - Moses Mother
SuperStock / Getty Images

Jochebed, the mother of Moses, influenced history by surrendering what she treasured most to the will of God. When the Egyptians began killing the male babies of Hebrew slaves, Jochebed put baby Moses in a waterproof basket and set it adrift on the Nile River.

Pharaoh's daughter found and adopted him as her own son. God arranged it so Jochebed could be the baby's wet nurse. Even though Moses was raised as an Egyptian, God chose him to lead his people to freedom. The faith of Jochebed saved Moses to become Israel's great prophet and lawgiver.

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Miriam: Sister of Moses

Miriam - Sister of Moses
Miriam, Sister of Moses. Buyenlarge / Contributor / Getty Images

Miriam, Moses' sister, played an important role in the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, but her pride got her in trouble. When her baby brother floated down the Nile River in a basket to escape death from the Egyptians, Miriam intervened with Pharaoh's daughter, offering Jochebed as his wet nurse.

Many years later, after the Jews crossed the Red Sea, Miriam was there, leading them in celebration. However, her role as prophet led her to complain about Moses' Cushite wife. God cursed her with leprosy but healed her after Moses' prayers.

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Rahab: Unlikely Ancestor of Jesus

Rahab and the Two Spies
Public Domain

Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. When the Hebrews began to conquer Canaan, Rahab harbored their spies in her house in exchange for her family's safety. Rahab recognized the True God. After the walls of Jericho fell, the Israelite army kept their promise, protecting Rahab's house.

Rahab became the ancestress of King David, and from David's line came Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Rahab played a key role in God's plan of salvation for the world.

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Deborah: Influential Female Judge

Culture Club / Contributor / Getty Images

Deborah played a unique role in Israel's history, serving as the only female judge in a lawless period before the country got its first king. In this male-dominated culture, she enlisted the help of a mighty warrior named Barak to defeat the oppressive general Sisera.

Deborah's wisdom and faith in God inspired the people. Thanks to her leadership, Israel enjoyed peace for 40 years.

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Delilah: Bad Influence on Samson

Samson and Delilah
Samson and Delilah by James Tissot. SuperStock / Getty Images

Delilah used her beauty and sex appeal to influence the strong man Samson, preying on his runaway lust. Samson, a judge over Israel, was also a warrior who killed many Philistines, which fueled their desire for revenge. They used Delilah to discover the secret of Samson's strength: his long hair.

Samson returned to God but his death was tragic. The story of Samson and Delilah tells how lack of self-control can lead to a person's downfall.

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Ruth: Virtuous Ancestor of Jesus

Ruth in the Bible
Ruth Takes Away the Barley by James J. Tissot. SuperStock / Getty Images

Ruth was a virtuous young widow, so upright in character that her love story is one of the favorite accounts in the entire Bible. When her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi returned to Israel from Moab after a famine, Ruth pledged to follow Naomi and worship her God.

Boaz exercised his right as kinsman-redeemer, married Ruth, and rescued both women from poverty. According to Matthew, Ruth was an ancestor of King David, whose descendant was Jesus Christ.

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Hannah: Mother of Samuel

Hannah - Mother of Samuel
Hannah Taking Samuel to Eli. Culture Club / Contributor / Getty Images

Hannah was an example of perseverance in prayer. Barren for many years, she prayed unceasingly for a child until God granted her request. She gave birth to a son and named him Samuel.

What's more, she honored her promise by giving him back to God. Samuel eventually became the last of Israel's judges, a prophet, and counselor to kings Saul and David. We learn from Hannah that when your greatest desire is to give glory to God, he will grant that request.

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Bathsheba: Mother of Solomon

Bathsheba - Mother of Solomon
Bathsheba oil painting on canvas by Willem Drost (1654). Public Domain

Bathsheba had an adulterous affair with King David, and with God's help, turned it to good. David slept with Bathsheba when her husband Uriah was off to war. When David learned Bathsheba was pregnant, he arranged for her husband to be killed in battle.

Nathan the prophet confronted David, forcing him to confess his sin. Although the baby died, Bathsheba later bore Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. Bathsheba showed that God can restore sinners who come back to him.

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Jezebel: Vengeful Queen of Israel

Jezebel - Vengeful Queen of Israel
Jezebel Advises Ahab by James Tissot.

SuperStock / Getty Images

Jezebel earned such a reputation for wickedness that even today her name is used to describe a deceitful woman. As wife of King Ahab, she persecuted the prophets of God, especially Elijah. Her Baal worship and murderous schemes brought divine wrath down on her.

When God raised a man named Jehu to destroy idolatry, Jezebel's eunuchs threw her off a balcony, where she was trampled by Jehu's horse. Dogs ate her corpse, just as Elijah had foretold.

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Esther: Influential Persian Queen

Queen Esther
Esther feasts with the king by James Tissot. Culture Club / Contributor / Getty Images

Esther saved the Jewish people from destruction, protecting the line of the future Savior, Jesus Christ. She was selected in a beauty pageant to become queen to the Persian King Xerxes. However, a wicked court official, Haman, plotted to have all the Jews murdered.

Esther's uncle Mordecai convinced her to approach the king and tell him the truth. The tables quickly turned when Haman was hanged on the gallows meant for Mordecai. The royal order was overridden, and Mordecai won Haman's job. Esther stepped out in courage, proving God can save his people even when the odds seem impossible.

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Mary: Obedient Mother of Jesus

Mary and Jesus
Passion of Jesus Christ with Mary Looking On.

Pascal Deloche / Getty Images

Mary was a touching example in the Bible of total surrender to the will of God. An angel told her she would become the mother of the Savior, through the Holy Spirit. Despite the potential shame, she submitted and gave birth to Jesus. She and Joseph married, serving as parents to the Son of God.

During her life, Mary bore much sorrow, including watching her son crucified on Calvary. But she also saw him raised from the dead. Mary is revered as a loving influence on Jesus, a devoted servant who honored God by saying "yes."

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Elizabeth: Mother of John the Baptist

Elizabeth - Mother of John the Baptist
The Visitation by Carl Heinrich Bloch. SuperStock / Getty Images

Elizabeth, another barren woman in the Bible, was singled out by God for a special honor. When God caused her to conceive at an old age, her son grew up to become John the Baptist, the mighty prophet who heralded the coming of the Messiah. Elizabeth's story is much like Hannah's, her faith just as strong.

Through her steadfast belief in God's goodness, she played a role in God's plan of salvation. Elizabeth teaches us God can step into a hopeless situation and turn it upside down in an instant.

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Martha: Anxious Sister of Lazarus

Martha and Mary
Buyenlarge / Contributor / Getty Images

Martha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary, often opened her home to Jesus and his apostles, providing much-needed food and rest. She is best remembered for an incident when she lost her temper because her sister was paying attention to Jesus rather than helping with the meal.

However, Martha showed rare understanding of Jesus' mission. At the death of Lazarus, she told Jesus, “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

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Mary of Bethany: Loving Follower of Jesus

Mary Anoints Jesus
SuperStock / Getty Images

Mary of Bethany and her sister Martha often hosted Jesus and his apostles at the home of their brother Lazarus. Mary was reflective, contrasted with her action-oriented sister. On one visit, Mary sat at Jesus' feet listening, while Martha struggled to fix the meal. Listening to Jesus is always wise.

Mary was one of several women who supported Jesus in his ministry, both with their talents and money. Her lasting example teaches that the Christian church still needs the support and involvement of believers to carry on the mission of Christ.

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Mary Magdalene: Unwavering Disciple of Jesus

Mary Magdalene - Disciple of Jesus
Mary Magdalene and the Holy Women at the Tomb by James Tissot. Public Domain

Mary Magdalene stayed loyal to Jesus even after his death. Jesus had cast seven demons out of her, earning her lifelong love. Over the centuries, many unfounded stories have been invented about Mary Magdalene. Only the Bible's account of her is true.

Mary stayed with Jesus during his crucifixion when all but the apostle John fled. She went to his tomb to anoint his body. Jesus loved Mary Magdalene so much she was the first person he appeared to after he rose from the dead.

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Fairchild, Mary. "20 Famous Women of the Bible." Learn Religions, Aug. 2, 2021, learnreligions.com/influential-women-of-the-bible-4023025. Fairchild, Mary. (2021, August 2). 20 Famous Women of the Bible. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/influential-women-of-the-bible-4023025 Fairchild, Mary. "20 Famous Women of the Bible." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/influential-women-of-the-bible-4023025 (accessed June 3, 2023).