Movie stars have the Oscar awards, world leaders the Nobel prizes, TV the Emmy awards…and now, possibly for the first time in world history (okay, that’s probably a stretch)…are the 2014 Top 10 Coolest Bible Women awards! Totally subjective, but here are my favorites. Note that their struggles are very 21st century: alcohol abuse addiction by family members, sex industry entrapment, poverty, war, etc.

#10. The Widow of Zarephath: While scavenging to make a fire for her dying son, this poor woman encounters a holy man who asks her for food. Although there is none to spare, she gives the man (unknown to her, he is the prophet Elijah) a meal. Her grain bins miraculously overflow, and her son’s health is restored. Hidden, never-acknowledged fact: Jesus refers to her when he returns from his 40-day wilderness. (1 Kings 17; Luke 4:25)

#9. Abigail: One of the greatest diplomats of all time. Her family is about to be slaughtered because her husband, in a drunken stupor, has loudly and stupidly insulted the young King David. Abigail whips up food and drink for hundreds of David’s troops and successfully negotiates her family’s freedom. Her husband then dies from a heart attack and she marries David. (1 Samuel 25; 2 Samuel 2:2, 3:2; 1 Chronicles 3:1)

#8. Deborah: Picture her on horseback, riding out to battle, leading 10,000 troops, waiting for God’s word.  A judge, prophet, warrior and woman of prayer, she is wise and discerning, brave and beautiful–and she credits other women with helping to win life’s battles. (Judges 4, 5)

#7. Judith: The woman who spoke the most words in the Bible (some 20% of women’s words are from her). A beautiful widow, she saves her people by entering into the enemy camp and slicing off the head of King Holofernes, and then tucking it into her food bag. Really. (The Book of Judith)

#6. Mary of Bethany: She is known for deep listening, but her best contribution was giving Jesus the strength he needed to make the long journey to the cross. She anointed him with lovely precious oil—angering his disciples to no end. And she only says 12 words. I would have liked to have heard many more from her. (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-45; John 12:1-8)

#5. The Bleeding Woman: Imagine having been sick and humiliated for twelve long years–yet, in her search for healing, she did not give up. She found the strength to reach out and touch Jesus’ clothes, and to tell her story when he asked. She’s the first woman to talk in the New Testament, an honor in itself. (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-45)

#4. The Mother of Seven Sons: An almost totally unknown woman, yet incredible in her faith and witness. She watched her sons be tortured to death, one by one in front of her, because of their faith, but urged them not to waver from it. She then joined them in death, also praising God. (2 Maccabees 7; 4 Maccabees 16-18) 616 words.

#3. Mary: Can’t ignore Mary, especially this time of year. And even though she was a scared teenager, the light she shone and the path she chose changed world history–plus, she stayed with Jesus until the end. What if she had said no to Gabriel? What then? (Matthew 1:16-23, 2:11; 12:46-50, 13:54-58; Mark 3:31-35; 6:1-6; Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-52; 8:19-21; John 2:1-12; 19:25-27; Acts 1:12-14.) 191 words.

#2. Rahab: My long-term favorite Bible woman. Without Rahab, a prostitute, the Israelites would have not made it to the Promised Land. In despair, poverty, and from the midst of the sex trade, she found a way to save and protect the people of God, helping them reach their new home. Restoration, redemption, wholeness–herself and others. (Joshua 2, 6).

#1. Mary Magdalene: What would have happened if she had not shown up at the tomb on that dark morning? Jesus rises from the dead…and no one is there? Human history is experiencing the greatest miracle of all time…and she is the one to step forward, to witness it, to be there for her friend and teacher, and to spread the news. Bravo! (Matthew 27:55-61, 28:1-10; Mark 15:40-47, 16:1-11; Luke 8:1-3, 24:1-12; John 19:25, 20:1-18.

Artwork: Mary Madalene, by Karen N. Canton. From The Scarlet Cord: Conversations with God’s Chosen Women, author, Lindsay Hardin Freeman, published 2010