While there is a good deal of fascination in an understanding of the majority of named women of the Bible, its nameless women, many of whom hold a conspicuous place in sacred history, are often neglected by many writers of female biography. A somewhat baffling question is: “Why are these women associated with well-known men, and with outstanding events not named? What is the reason behind their anonymity?” For instance, we have the names of the sons of Noah, but not those of his wife and daughters-in-law. We have a full portrait of “righteous Lot,” but silence prevails as to the names of his wife and two daughters. The three daughters of Job are named but we have no clue as to the identity of his wife or sons. Scripture gives us the name of the natural brothers of Jesus, but not His sisters. The two sisters at Bethany whom Jesus loved, have well-known names, but of His own sisters silence reigns as to how they were known. Peter “the big fisherman,” occupies a large niche in the portrait gallery of the New Testament, but all that is said of his dear partner is that she was his wife. Do you never wonder what her name was, and also that of her mother? Because of the close fellowship existing between Christ and the Twelve, the wives of the latter, if they were all married, must have been known both to the Master and to a large circle of disciples, yet the Bible is silent as to their existence and to the names they bore. Why did Paul not give us the given name of his own sister according to the flesh?
There is no satisfactory answer to the silence of Scripture regarding the identity of its nameless women. George Eliot once remarked that, “The happiest women, like the happiest nations, have no history.” But many of the happy—and unhappy &--;unknown Bible women left their impact upon history. They played their part in important events, but their signatures are not attached to their service. Surely, it was not the oversight of Bible writers to omit the names of those in female biography whose deeds are published. What many of them did is history, but history without a title page. Could it be that they willed the reticence as to who they were? Certainly, many of these unnamed female characters were far from being righteous, such as the sensual, faithless wife of Potiphar, and of the woman of Samaria. The historians may have felt that they were unworthy of being named. In other cases, perhaps the male members of a family are mentioned because of what they became and achieved, while the female members are not designated by name seeing they accomplished nothing of any merit warranting the use of their names. The brothers and sisters of Jesus did not believe in His divine mission, but as the result of the cross His brothers came to accept Him as Messiah, and two of them are numbered among the apostles (Matthew 13:55, 56; Galatians 1:19; Jude 1). Nothing is said of the surrender of His sisters to His claims.
In the Bible, humanity’s intensely biographical volume, we have vivid sketches of a goodly company of saintly women who are “only remembered by what they have done.” Their deeds are undying, and their characters glow in the sacred page, but the recording angel above alone knows who they were. Sir John Suckling gave us the lines—
Like the Milky Way is the sky,
A meeting of gentle lights without a name.
As we are to see in the chapter before us, there are many “gentle lights without a name” in the Bible, as, of course, there are in world history. The Scripture gallery of unlabelled portraits well repays repeated visits, for these unknown ones have, like beauty, their own excuse for being. Although for some inscrutable reason the names of so many noble women have been withheld from us, yet they themselves have something of the immortality Rupert Hughes most impressively wrote about—
Sometimes at night within a wooded park,
Like an ocean cavern, fathoms deep in gloom,
Sweets scents, like hymns, from hidden flowers fume,
And make the wanderer happy; though the dark
Obscure their tint, their name, their shapely bloom.
So in the thick-set chronicles of fame,
There hover deathless feats of souls unknown;
They linger as the fragrant smoke-wreaths blown
From liberal sacrifices. Gone face and name!
The deeds like homeless ghosts, live on alone.
Plutarch, the ancient Greek biographer, once said that he “would not write the lives of bad men,” but the divine Author of the Bible saw fit to delineate, not only good men and good women, but likewise the bad and corrupt. If we want to know what human nature actually is in the ungodly or godly, all we have to do is to study the biographies the Bible revolves around. This is why we have endeavored to set forth all the anonymous women so that we can learn lessons from the vices of the bad, as well as the virtues of the righteous. As can be seen, we have dealt with these nameless women in chronological order. We believe that in such a way they can be easily traced, and likewise found to be wonderfully woven into the texture of a divine and progressive revelation—which the Bible is! Edgar Allan Poe has the lines—
Sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and beautiful maiden,
Whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.
Whatever names the unidentified godly women of the Bible may have in heaven, they must remain “Nameless here for evermore.”
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