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Have you ever read some of the stories of women in Scripture and thought that the traditional interpretation of their narratives just didn’t seem quite right? Eve bears the blame for all sin? Bathsheba complicit in David’s adultery? Mary DeMuth takes a look at the Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible, redeeming and reclaiming their stories from bad interpretations. Recently, I caught up with Mary to talk about the book.
The Conversation | Mary DeMuth
Josh Olds: Now, I’m very interested in the title, the title is very clear, you know what you’re getting into right from the beginning, but give me a little bit more than that—give the listeners sort of an overview of what this book is about.
Mary DeMuth: So a couple of years ago, I went through a kind of a valley of misunderstanding with a friend, and it was so painful. And I realized, as I shared, you know, just with a close circle of friends that a lot of people have had that same experience throughout their lives. We’ve all been misunderstood. And then a couple of years ago, I started reading the Bible rapidly every two or three months. And I was realizing that a lot of these women in the Bible I had heard sermons about, but they were different from just a boring, plain reading of Scripture. And so I combined the two ideas of the idea of being misunderstood and then misunderstanding these women, both in their context, but also in history. I put on my fiction hat, because I’m also a novelist, and I wrote their stories as close to the biblical narrative as I could with good research. And then I unpack those stories for the readers who have been walking through misunderstanding like we all have.
Josh Olds: Why do you think the value is in the fictional aspects? How does that help the reader gauge the cultural—all of the context that goes along with that—that you might miss out, if you’re just reading something that’s nonfiction?
Mary MeMuth: I think part of that is just as a storyteller, the question that I ask is, “What is it like to be in the sandals of that person?” And so placing the reader in the sandals of that person through the power of a story helps them to empathize a little bit more, and to actually ask some good questions that a story would bring up, versus just me telling you this is the story…
Josh Olds: Can you give us some examples of some of the figures that you’re talking about?
Mary DeMuth: Yeah, so obviously, Eve is a really important one. She’s kind of the groundbreaking one. And we often think that everything rests on her shoulders. And actually, if you look at the narrative, it’s equally placed upon hers and Adam’s shoulders for the fall of humankind. So she was just like a, you know, a linchpin, you have to talk about her. But there were more, there were several sexual abuse victims, one of which was Bathsheba, and then jumping to the New Testament, Mary of Magdala. She has long been misunderstood in historical context as a prostitute. But she’s actually a woman who is demonized and delivered from demons. But there’s, it’s a…it’s a pope error. One of the earlier Popes said that she was the same woman that put her hair on Jesus and washed his feet, but there’s not a good case for that. But that has been going on for years and years and years, people still believe it. And then, you know, just some of the one of the ones I thought was interesting was Naomi, who she doesn’t get a lot of play in the book of Ruth. Ruth is like the heroine of that book, but I wanted to look and see what it’s like to be a grieving person. And to give my readers permission that grieving is okay, and you can be sad and mad and all those things.
The Book | The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible
Understanding Isn’t Overrated.
Ask any woman—most of us know what it’s like to be misheard, mischaracterized, or misrepresented by family, friends, or strangers. Few of us feel deeply known and understood all the time. Worse, many of us have endured long, painful seasons of misunderstanding in which the people around us have questioned—or worse, judged—our motives and actions. We have asked ourselves, How do I correct these misperceptions? Do I try to defend myself—or does that only make me look guilty? How can I recover my joy even if someone believes something about me that isn’t true?
This problem—and your feelings and questions about it—is nothing new. In fact, women have faced it since the dawn of time. In this engaging book, Mary DeMuth tells the tales of ten women in the Bible who were misunderstood in their own time and often still are—bringing to each of them a deep humanity that makes her, and her problems, more relatable to twenty-first-century you. If you are struggling with feeling misunderstood, let these stories inspire you to grow and remind you that you are not alone. And remember: There is always One who understands you perfectly and stands ready to comfort, strengthen, and defend you through every situation you face.
The Author | Mary DeMuth
Mary DeMuth is an international speaker, literary agent, podcaster, and she’s the novelist and non-fiction author of over forty books, including Pray Every Day (Harvest House Publishers 2020). She loves to help people re-story their lives. She lives in Texas with her husband of 30 years and is the mom to three adult children. Find out more at marydemuth.com. Be prayed for on her daily prayer podcast with over one million downloads: prayeveryday.show. For sexual abuse resources, visit wetoo.org. For cards, prints, and artsy fun go to marydemuth.com/art. Find out what she’s looking for as a literary agent at https://www.booksandsuch.com/our-agents/meet-mary-demuth/.