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Bad Girls of the Bible

And what they can teach us

Few of us have made it our ambition in life to be a Bad Girl. Even Jezebel and Delilah, those hussies from the pages of the Old Testament, probably didn't set their sights on being evil when they were sweet young things.

I grew up in a Good Girl home. Maybe you did, too. Nice town, nice parents, all the right friends, all the right activities. But when I hit my mid-teens, suddenly that charming small town became stifling. Those National Honor Society pals were nerds. Being good was a snooze. I threw caution—and everything else—to the wind, and I pursued a party lifestyle with gusto for a full decade.

In my search for joy, I settled for fun, the kind that came in a bottle, a pill, or the arms of a stranger. Such fun is temporary at best; it's risky, even dangerous, at worst. Not to mention breaking the heart of the One who made us in his image.

Oh, when I think of the shallow relationships, the misspent dollars, the wasted years! I was a woman without hope—a Bad Girl by choice—convinced that if I could just find the "right man," he would save me from my sorrows.

Finally, I understood the depth of my badness and the breadth of God's goodness.

One wintry day in 1982, I met that "right man"—Jesus—who willingly gave up his life to set me free from my own foolishness. Me! Sinful, disobedient, rebellious Liz. My Christian friends who'd shared their hearts, their hugs, and their lives with me now shared the truth with me: I was a sinner in need of a Savior.

Finally, I understood the depth of my badness and the breadth of God's goodness and embraced his gift of grace with both hands. I was a Bad Girl for a season, but—thank God!—not forever.

My life as an FBG—Former Bad Girl—is one reason I've always been intrigued by those "other" women in the Bible. Rather than the Good Girls—Esther, Ruth, Mary, Lydia—it was those Bad Girls I understood best.

Many of them had notorious reputations but no name: Lot's wife. The woman caught in adultery. Potiphar's wife.

That last story—of an Egyptian temptress married to the head of Pharoah's bodyguards—is one tawdry tale. We want our kids to read the Bible, but think twice about starting with Genesis 39 and the story of a wife who decided she could ignore her marriage vows and graze in greener pastures.

Joseph, her husband's Hebrew slave, was indeed "well-built and handsome"—a stud muffin of a guy—but he wisely resisted her provocative invitations, one after another.

Ten points for Joe. Zero for Mrs. P.

What can you learn from a woman like her? How not to get yourself in such a situation. We can't assume that because we're happily married our head won't be turned by the appeal of a muscle-bound delivery guy or a cute carpenter working on our new deck. It happens to Christian women every day—with tragic results.

Those of us who aspire to be Good Girls need to remember these words: "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16).

In other words, when that handsome hunk is building your deck one humid afternoon, don't decide the weather's perfect for parading around in your new shorty-shorts.

Women who want a happy home need to keep the scissors out of reach.

Delilah's another woman who taught me how not to go about developing a healthy, loving relationship. Her boyfriend, Samson, was less like the godly Joseph and more like a biblical Paul Bunyan. The big guy's exploits included tearing apart a lion with his bare hands and carting a heavy city gate on his broad shoulders for 40 miles (Judges 16). That's what I'd call a high-risk boyfriend!

Delilah chose cold silver over warm-hearted romance and turned Samson over to his enemies, the Philistines, for a huge sum of money. For the record, Delilah wasn't the one who cut off his seven braids. My guess is, if Samson awoke mid-snip, Delilah didn't want to be the one caught cutting off his source of power.

I could easily condemn Delilah's manhood-robbing actions if I hadn't done some sadly similar things to my own dear husband, Bill, early in our marriage. Bill had just finished a one-year teaching position and was looking for a new job. I vividly remember stomping in the door after work one day and demanding, "So, have you made any calls? Gone on any appointments? Is this what being the head of our household means to you?"

Heavenly Father, forgive me for being an insensitive ignoramus. Earthly husband, forgive me for. . . well, the same thing.

Here's the lesson I learned from Delilah: Women who want a happy home need to keep the scissors out of reach. How many among us have snip-snip-snipped at our man's sense of worth by undermining him with not-so-gentle jabs at his masculinity:

"If only you could provide more for our family … "

"Well, my father could fix anything … "

"Is that the best you can do?"

The world cuts our men down enough. We should be ready with emotional bricks and mortar to build our men up, since "the wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down" (Proverbs 14:1).

Make no mistake, Jezebel had a lot going for her, but her gifts were surrendered to the false god Baal.

Then there's the baddest babe of them all: Jezebel. Potiphar's wife loved men. Delilah loved money. Jezebel loved power. Not the kind conferred by God, like Samson's. This was power she created herself, the hard way: one dead prophet at a time.

When her husband, King Ahab, couldn't talk his neighbor into selling him his vineyard, Ahab pouted and refused to eat. Soon the king developed a queen-size headache when Jezebel showed up and taunted, "Is this how you act as king over Israel?" (1 Kings 21:7).

All the cosmetics in the world couldn't make up for Jezebel's ugly, manipulative attitude toward her husband. Make no mistake, Jezebel had a lot going for her, but her gifts were surrendered to the false god Baal. She used her bright mind to devise wicked schemes, her courage to commit murder, and her leadership skills to take over the throne. In other words, she was a Queen with Attitude.

Jezebel didn't offer advice or seek it—she simply took control. That's what jezebels do best. Our pastor has counseled many a modern Ahab who's been run over by a domineering wife. While none of us has killed a prophet, more than one woman among us is guilty of slaughtering her spouse's self-confidence with a verbal blow. But could it be our strong-willed nature—and not his weak-willed one—that makes our man appear less than capable?

Jezebel was a gifted woman who had every opportunity for greatness, yet she threw her chances out the window to embrace a god who—when push came to shove—couldn't save one of his most devoted followers from a terrible end (2 Kings 9:33).

These three ancient women were "bad to the bone," yet their stories live in the Bible so we can learn from them, even if it's what not to do.

As for this Former Bad Girl, I rest in the assurance that "no one is good—except God alone" (Mark 10:18). I'll give him my very best—and count on grace for the rest.

Liz Curtis Higgs is a speaker and bestselling author of more than 20 books, including Bad Girls of the Bible (WaterBrook).

Image by Sheila Tostes / Flickr

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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