For Such a Time: Chosen Women of the Bible

by Ed Dickerson
Published by Pacific Press in April 2017, 143 pages

“I wanted to take an honest look at the question: ‘How did God respond when women took the lead?’ . . . . I wanted to know how God responded to women who, ‘when thwarted by the male world or when they find it lacking in moral insight or practical initiative, do not hesitate to take their destiny, or the nation’s, into their own hands.’”

It is this question that led author Ed Dickerson to investigate over a dozen Bible women who took the initiative in certain situations. Tamar (Judah’s daughter-in-law), Jochebed, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, Hannah, Abigail, Bathsheba, Woman of Shunem, Esther, Mary of Nazareth, The Woman at the Well, The Bleeding Woman, The Syrophoenician Woman, Mary of Bethany, and Mary of Magdala each have a chapter that looks at their actions and how God responded to these actions.

Ed has a high view of Scripture and he has immersed himself in the biblical narratives where these enterprising women appear. He highlights elements in the text and explains them without adding to the stories; he doesn’t embellish the stories with fiction. Through Ed’s writing, I learned many new things and my understanding of these women—and how God worked through them and blessed them—has been enriched.

As with most books, I don’t completely agree with everything it contains, but the few points where I have a different view are very few. Also, there is no denominational bias in the writing.

One thing that stood out to me, though, was that Ed regards women, to some degree, as “mysterious” and that they may use “feminine wiles.” As a woman reading the Bible, I’ve never felt that the female characters, in general, are more inscrutable than the male characters. And I’ve never felt that any of the women in Ed’s book use especially feminine methods to achieve their purposes, if we exclude motherhood. Ed’s honest admissions about the differences he sees between men and women are thought-provoking.

Ed ends each chapter by comparing the featured woman with a male Bible character. For the most part, I didn’t find the comparisons compelling. I asked Ed about this and he explained, “I wanted to pre-empt any notion on the part of the reader that ‘she did well, for a woman.’ I wanted to point out that these women did well by any measure, often overcoming greater obstacles than the men did.”

In the final chapter, Ed relates what he has discovered by studying the women’s stories. Here is a snippet of one of his findings.

“These stories not only defy the stereotypes of their culture but they refute those of our time. In fact I increasingly realized that none of the standard approaches to women’s roles, in the past or in contemporary culture, explained what I saw in Scripture.”

For Such a Time is well-written and conversational in style, and aimed at the average reader, especially American readers. (There are several analogies used in the book about American institutions such as the Oval Office and Pony Express.) I am glad I read it. It is a short yet worthwhile book for anyone wanting to learn more about these Bible women, their part in the history of God’s people, and the implications of God’s responses to their actions. For Such a Time is available on Amazon here.

Ed Dickerson holds a master’s degree in religious education from Andrews University (in Michigan), a Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher education, and he is executive director of Grounds for Belief, a ministry devoted to retaining and empowering young adults. Ed mailed me a copy of his book with no obligation on my part to review it. I’m glad to recommend his book.

More book reviews here.
Articles on women in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) here.
Articles on women in the Gospels here.