She Shall Be Called Woman: Women of the Old Testament
September 2006

“She Shall Be Called Woman: Women of the Old Testament,” Ensign, Sept. 2006, 38–43

She Shall Be Called Woman:

Women of the Old Testament

Leaving the Garden

Leaving the Garden, by Joseph Brickey. Of Eve’s use of her agency to partake of the forbidden fruit, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage. … Our first parents understood the necessity of the Fall.”1

Hagar and Ishmael Expelled

Hagar and Ishmael Expelled, by George Soper. Hagar in Hebrew means “flight.”She was an Egyptian and Sarah’s handmaiden, whom barren Sarah asked Abraham to take as his wife that he might have children. When Hagar’s son, Ishmael, mocked Isaac, Sarah asked Abraham to cast them out, “for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with … Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. And God said unto Abraham, … hearken unto [Sarah’s] voice: for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also for the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar … and the child, and sent her away: and she departed” (Genesis 21:10–14).

Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord?

Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord? by Elspeth Young. Sarah in Hebrew means “princess.” She was of royal lineage, the wife of the prophet Abraham and the mother of Isaac. Abraham and Sarah, his barren wife, were in their old age when the Lord spoke to Abraham saying, “And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations” (Genesis 17:16). They named the promised heir Isaac. Isaac’s son Jacob became known as Israel, and his descendants became the twelve tribes of Israel. Through the house of Israel, the covenants and promises made to Adam and Eve were restored.

Queen Esther

Queen Esther, by Roger W. Otis. Esther in Hebrew means “star.” She was the Jewish queen to Ahasuerus. Esther pleased the king and he chose her as his queen, but he did not know she was Jewish. When a decree went out to kill all the Jews in the kingdom, Queen Esther was afraid to approach the king. Her cousin Mordecai counseled her, “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). After fasting and praying for three days, she put on her royal apparel and arranged a banquet for the king. She said to him, “If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request” (Esther 7:3). The king agreed, and thus the entire Jewish nation was saved.

Waiting for the Promise

Waiting for the Promise, by Elspeth Young. Rahab in Hebrew means “spacious.” She was a harlot in Jericho. She hid the Hebrew spies in her home and “let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall.” They in turn promised to save her and all of her family from the destruction of Jericho (see Joshua 2:12–21). In the painting, Rahab awaits the fulfillment of that promise as Jericho is destroyed. Rahab’s faith is discussed by Paul (see Hebrews 11:31), and her good works by James (see James 2:25). The spies made good on their word: she and her family were the only survivors of the battle of Jericho.

Puah and Shiphrah Defy Pharaoh
The Protector

Puah and Shiphrah Defy Pharaoh, by Sallie Clinton Poet (left). The Protector (Shiphrah), by Elspeth Young (right). Puah and Shiphrah were two Hebrew midwives during the Israelites’ captivity by the Egyptians. The name Puah in Hebrew means “splendid,” and the name Shiphrah means “brightness.” These two faithful midwives secretly refused to carry out the pharaoh’s edict to slay all Hebrew males at birth. Proverbs 14:26 teaches that “the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.” Puah and Shiphrah defied the pharaoh because they feared God more than man. These women were rewarded with descendants, referred to in the scriptures as “houses” (see Exodus 1:21).

Ruth Pledges Loyalty to Naomi

Ruth Pledges Loyalty to Naomi, by Robert T. Barrett. Ruth in Hebrew means “friend.” She was the Moabite ancestress of King David and of Jesus Christ. Naomi in Hebrew means “pleasant.” She was Ruth’s mother-in-law.

But Ruth Clave unto Her

But Ruth Clave unto Her, by Brian Kershisnik. Naomi, her husband, and their two sons went to Moab because of a famine in Bethlehem. Naomi’s husband died there, and eventually her sons married Moabite women—Ruth, who converted to the Israelite way of life, and Orpah. Within 10 years of their marriages, both of Naomi’s sons died. As Naomi was leaving to return to Bethlehem, she told her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah obeyed Naomi’s wishes. Ruth, however, displayed loyalty and selfless concern when she said to her mother-in-law, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and … thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

Rebekah at the Well

Rebekah at the Well, by Michael Deas. Rebekah in Hebrew means “ensnarer.” She was the wife of Isaac and the mother of Esau and Jacob. Rebekah served water to Abraham’s servant Eliezer at the well and later accepted his offer to go to the land of Canaan to marry Abraham’s son Isaac.


Rebekah, by Del Parson. After the long journey, Rebekah met Isaac. When she saw him, Rebekah put on a veil as a sign of her virtue, modesty, respect, and readiness for a covenant marriage. (See Genesis 24:45–65.) Later, when her twins, Esau and Jacob, struggled within her womb, she inquired of the Lord. “And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). This prophecy came to pass symbolically when the adult Esau sold his birthright to his younger brother, Jacob, for “bread and pottage of lentiles” (see Genesis 25:29–34).

A Lamp unto My Feet

A Lamp unto My Feet, by Elspeth Young. Abigail in Hebrew means “father of joy.” She was the wife of Nabal and later of King David. She “was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.” She gathered foodstuffs to take to King David’s army after her husband refused to help them. “Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs. … But she told not her husband Nabal” (1 Samuel 25:3, 18–19). Her act of courage saved the lives of her whole household.

Charity Never Faileth

Charity Never Faileth, by Elspeth Young. The widow of Zarephath’s name is not known. She fed the prophet Elijah the last morsel of her food before feeding her son and herself. Because of her faith, the Lord fed her, her household, and Elijah for many days. “And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: … and the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:15–16).

Elijah Raises the Widow of Zarephath’s Son from Death

Elijah Raises the Widow of Zarephath’s Son from Death, by Robert T. Barrett. Later when the widow’s son fell sick, “that there was no breath left in him,” Elijah “cried unto the Lord and said, … let this child’s soul come into him again.” And the Lord “revived” the child, and Elijah took him “out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth” (1 Kings 17:17, 21–23).


  1. “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 73.

The Formation of Eve, by Gustave Doré. The name Eve in Hebrew means “life.” She was the first woman and the mother of all living. “And I, the Lord God, caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; … and I took one of his ribs … [and] made I a woman. … And Adam said: This I know now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man” (Moses 3:21–23).