Book Review: Twelve Extraordinary Women

Twelve Extraordinary Women:  How God Shaped Women of the Bible and What He Wants To Do With You, by John MacArthur

Having read books by the author before [1], I was prepared to like this book.  But I must confess that this book was far better than I expected.  As I an engaged in an extended study of maternal ancestry in the Bible [2], I found this book to be more or less exactly what I was looking for as an example of a gentleman who had some insights on the high regard of the Bible for women.  To be sure, this book is not precisely a work of genealogy, but rather the sort of book that ought to please many women and fair-minded men, and represents the sort of book I like to read about the Bible.  The author has taken an area that is somewhat neglected and presented a biblical view that gives honor to both men and women and that defends the biblical concern with the honor of women as well as their roles within the families of God and men.  I cannot recommend this book enough, not least because I have written about many of these women and have a high degree of regard for them myself [3].

The book is organized rather simply and straightforwardly.  After acknowledgments and a preface and introduction that define the reason for the project as a complement to a previous book (that I have not yet read), the book contains eleven chapters on twelve extraordinary women:  Eve, Sarah, Rahab, Ruth, Hannah, Mary, Anna, the Samaritan woman, Martha and Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Lydia.  In all cases the author does not fail to comment on their extraordinary faith and virtue, the way that they are mentioned in scripture, the outpouring of grace upon flawed human beings, and the way that the stories of this women show the high regard of the Bible for godly women.  The author neither shies away from pointing out the importance of women as wives and mothers nor the way that the faith and insight of women is also a matter of great biblical importance, and he shows some immensely shrewd insights on Boaz that mirror my own understanding of his character and my own [4].  After the main contents of the book, the author includes extensive study questions to help readers think and ponder on the material of the book even more, which is also of value.

Although the author’s focus and my own are different, and although this book gave little in terms of new factors or information, this book was a pleasure to read.  As someone who tends to find myself frequently reading books that have offensive and ungodly worldviews, or that have agendas full of bitterness and resentment to push, this book was a refreshingly straightforward book that took the Bible seriously and wrote to convey a balanced biblical perspective on a matter of interest to many readers.  If I can find a reasonably priced version of this book available, I would happily add it to my own personal library for occasional rereading.  Many books are not worth reading once; this book is worth reading more than once, not least because it provides the material for enjoyable reflection and potential future sermonette messages, something that I always greatly appreciate seeing in any work.  I cannot recommend this pleasant book enough.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

[4] He says, specifically:  “If Boaz had ever been married, Scripture does not mention it.  According to Jewish tradition, he was a lifelong bachelor.  He may have had some physical imperfection or personality quirk that stood in the way of a suitable marriage arrangement.  At the very least, he desperately needed prodding.  Although he obviously took a keen interest in Ruth from the moment he first saw her, it does not seem to have entered his mind to pursue the goel’s role on her behalf.  By his own testimony (Ruth 3:10), he was surprised that Ruth didn’t deem him unsuitable for marriage.

Naomi had sized up the situation correctly, though, and she instructed Ruth on what to do.  Naomi’s scheme was bold and utterly unconventional.  Of course, Ruth, as a foreigner, could always plead ignorance of Jewish custom, but if Naomi’s plan had been known in advance by people in the community, the propriety police certainly would have been up in arms.  Of course, the scheme did not involve any real unrighteousness or indecency.  Naomi certainly would not have asked Ruth to compromise her virtue or relinquish godly modesty.

Still, what Naomi advised Ruth to do was shockingly forward.  (Even to enlightened twenty-first-century minds, it seems surprisingly plucky.)” (80-81)

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Book Reviews, Christianity, History, Maternal Lines and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Book Review: Twelve Extraordinary Women

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