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Blog / Wicked Women of the Bible: An Interview with Ann Spangler

Wicked Women of the Bible: An Interview with Ann Spangler

Ann SpanglerWhat can Jezebel, the Bible’s wickedest queen, reveal about God’s holiness and power and even about his sense of humor? What about the Woman at the Well—the one with five husbands and a live-in lover? And what of the prostitute whose tears bathe the feet of Jesus in front of people who despise her?

Bible Gateway interviewed Ann Spangler (@annspangler) about her book Wicked Women of the Bible (Zondervan, 2015).

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[See book excerpts, A Wicked Sorceress: The Story of the Medium of Endor and A Wicked Birthday Party: The Story of Herodias and Salome]

In this book you say you’re reimagining the stories of some of the women of the Bible. What do you mean?

Ann Spangler: The Bible has the curious, and I would say supernatural, ability to transform us. A passage we’ve read many times suddenly jumps off the page and straight into our hearts. How is it that this ancient book can encourage, convict, inspire, and transform people thousands of years after it was written?

Of course the supernatural secret of the Bible is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, who speaks to us through its pages.

Even so, we often find Bible reading challenging. It takes effort to read and understand it, especially since the stories and events are set in a culture that’s radically different from our own.

My hope in writing the book is that it will help readers look at these ancient stories with fresh eyes. When I speak of “reimagining the stories” I’m speaking of interacting with the text imaginatively, painting the scenes by including the cultural context in which they took place and then teasing out the emotional reactions of the characters so that they come alive for us today. Indeed, that’s what good preachers do every week when they expound on a story—they help people “see” what’s going on and then apply it to their own lives.

You’ve included women known to be wicked, such as Jezebel and Herodias. But why do you also include women like Abigail and Esther?

Ann Spangler: “Wicked” is such a juicy word. Oddly, there’s even a kind of glamour to it. But in addition to meaning “evil” or “vicious” or “vile,” it can also be used ironically, as in “cool” or “awesome.” I decided to include a sprinkling of wicked good women in the book to give readers a little rest from all the unrelenting wickedness.

When people hear the title of the book they often point out that there are far more wicked men in the Bible than wicked women. Of course they’re right but not because men are intrinsically more wicked than women. There are simply a lot more male characters in Scripture. Also, because of the times in which they lived, men usually played more public roles, giving the male characters a grander stage on which to parade their wickedness.

The wicked queen Jezebel was one exception. As queen of Israel, she had a pretty big stage to show off just how rotten she could be.

Each chapter includes a section called “The Times.” Explain what this is.

Ann Spangler: “The Times” is a short section that provides interesting background information so that readers can understand the story more completely.

A Jewish archaeologist by the name of Gabi Barkai has said that “every day in Jerusalem is a day of discovery.” Indeed, throughout Israel, there have been so many discoveries in the last half century that we now understand the biblical world far better than we ever did. I wanted to bring a little of that understanding into the book to help people understand Scripture better.

You begin with the story of Eve. Why did you title it “Wicked Lies”?

Ann Spangler: As I was writing the book, I kept asking myself who was the wickedest woman in the Bible. I quickly narrowed the choice to three top contenders: Jezebel, Herodias, and Eve. But why Eve? Because she was the first human being to believe that God could not be trusted. Her original doubts about his goodness unleashed incredible darkness into the world.

It’s interesting that even though Adam and Eve’s failure to trust God enough to obey him, let death loose into the world, Adam calls her “mother of all the living.” There is something both sad and happy about that title. All of us are Eve’s children. Like her we’re tempted to think we’re God. Like her, we sometimes give a willing ear when the enemy whispers that God is not to be trusted.

But Eve is also the “mother of all the living” in the sense that God promised that one of her offspring would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). Certainly we see that promise fulfilled in the life and death of Christ (Rom. 10:9-10). Because of Jesus, those who believe in him will live eternally with God.

Who was the Medium of Endor and why do you include her in the book?

Ann Spangler: You could call her the “Wicked Witch of the East,” though that would be a bit of an overstatement—too much Hollywood. She was a woman who made her living by conjuring the dead as a way of foretelling the future.

In one of the Bible’s most pathetic scenes, King Saul visits her in disguise the night before his death, asking her to call up the prophet Samuel.

Because she’s pictured alone in the story, some commentators believe she may have been a widow. To be an orphan or widow in that day and age was nothing less than catastrophic. A woman with no male relatives to rely on might sell herself into slavery or engage in prostitution simply to survive.

On the other hand, the Medium of Endor may have been seeking hidden spiritual power with which she could manipulate the gods. Or perhaps she was a trickster, fooling gullible people as she raked in the money. In that case she would have been shocked when the deceased prophet Samuel showed up and chided Saul for disturbing his rest. Even though she comes across as kindly during the story, insisting that Saul and his men eat something before they leave her house, she cast her lot with wickedness by involving herself in the occult (Lev. 19:31; 20:6). Deuteronomy 18:9-12 indicates that God considers occult practices an abomination; something his people should shun lest they open themselves to the influence of false gods and demonic powers.

How do you hope readers will be changed by reading this book?

Ann Spangler: I’d be delighted if people would fall in love with the Scriptures a little bit more after reading the book. I want them to know that they will never come up empty if they take a deep dive into the Scriptures, asking God to speak to them as they read and study his Word. Reading the Bible is an interactive process. God is not afraid of our questions and is delighted by our curiosity. As we probe the Scriptures, God probes us.

Several years ago, a reader contacted me to tell me that he and some friends from church had formed a Bible study group called “The Iron Men.” He wanted me to know that they were reading my book Women of the Bible and loving it. Those men knew something important—that the stories of women of the Bible are not only for women. To the men I would say, don’t let anyone rob you of these stories because they’re much too rich to ignore. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for study.” That’s certainly true about the wicked women of the Bible.

Of course I love it when women read and study the stories together. There’s nothing better than being with women who want to draw closer to God and each other by reading and studying the Bible.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Ann Spangler: Bible Gateway is my constant companion and the first place I look whenever I begin to research and write. A great resource for anyone who wants to get to know the Bible better, it offers a huge array of searchable Bibles, an assortment of reading plans, and a rich selection of devotionals. It’s amazing to me that with the App on my phone, I can have 38 translations in my pocket, to say nothing of all the other features Bible Gateway has to offer.

Bio: Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and the author of many bestselling books, including Praying the Names of God, Praying the Names of Jesus, and The One Year Devotions for Women. She’s also coauthor of Women of the Bible and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, and the general editor of the Names of God Bible. Ann’s fascination with and love of Scripture have resulted in books that have opened the Bible to a wide range of readers. She and her two daughters live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Filed under Bible, Books, Interviews, New Testament, Old Testament, Women