Thoughts on Misunderstood Women (and Men) in the Bible

This past week I’ve posted some stories about misunderstood women of the Bible: Mary Magdalene, Jephthah’s daughter, Bathsheba, and the Woman at the Well.

A friend of mine kindly pointed out that I hadn’t done any posts recently about men in the Bible and that my blog might be more balanced if I included some male characters. I thought he might have a decent point, so I begin to think about what I could say about other stories. But I ran into a few problems… Read more

The Woman at the Well

woman at the well

We know the story in John 4, right? Jesus travels through Samaria and stops at noon by a well in Sychar, where he meets an immoral woman. This woman is so shunned that she comes to the well at the hottest part of the day to avoid interacting with the rest of the inhabitants. Jesus confronts her sinful behavior of “having 5 husbands and living with a man” and offers her “living water.”

But I want to suggest something different from this fairly common retelling. Come along with me for a few moments…

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Misunderstood Women of the Bible


It seems we love scandal, gossip, and all the juicy details of other people’s lives. If this were not the case, shows like the Bachelor would probably disappear forever. Which might not be such a bad thing…but I digress.

When it comes to reading the Bible, we encounter numerous stories of sin and grace. (PTL for grace!) And sometimes, it’s not hard to make them a little more dramatic…it makes for better sermons. Other times, we cater too much to certain traditions and ideas. Or, other times, some stories simply come across to modern readers as sounding different than they really were.

The rest of this week I hope to look at a few of these stories, which I think tend to be overdramatized or misunderstood in their retelling.

Many could make the list, but here are a few examples:

  • Mary Magdalene often gets referred to as a prostitute with little to no evidence to suggest this.
  • Bathsheba gets referred to as a woman who seduced King David into an affair instead of a victim who was raped by a powerful king.
  • The woman at the well is often called immoral instead of a virtuous woman respected by her town.
  • We say Jephthah sacrificed his daughter on an alter instead of saying that she was dedicated to temple service for the rest of her life.

Stick around!