Famous Daughters in the Bible

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A family is the basic unit of any society, and a daughter is an integral part of that basic unit. On account of some social taboos, daughters in ancient, male-dominated societies were not treated at par with the sons. Their importance, however, is reflected in that almost all the scriptures, including the Bible, have mentioned daughters in an easily understandable manner by the target audience. In order to be effective, communication  cannot simply be to send and receive a message, it rather has to have a built-in system to ensure the effectiveness of the communication. It is, therefore, customary for the communicators to communicate, not at their own level, but to the level of the audience.

1. Michal

Michal lets David escape from the window. A painting by Gustave Doré

Michal was born to the King of Israel, Saul and his queen Ahinoam. She had an older sister, Mereb, and brothers: Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malki-Shua, and Ishbaal. Saul married Michal to David who later became the King of Judah and then the King of the united kingdom of Israel. To marry Michal, David had to fulfill a condition imposed by her father Saul. He fulfilled it at the cost of severe enmity with the Philistines. Since Michal preferred the welfare of David over the will of her father, Saul sent soldiers to capture David whom Michal helped escape through a window. She placed a teraphim, a life-sized clay model of the guardian idol in her bed to trick the soldiers. Having escaped Saul’s reach, David married two other women, so Saul considered the marriage of Michal null and void and married her to Palti. King Saul and most all of Michal’s brothers, except Ishbaal, were killed on the battlefield. David demanded the return of Michal after he became the king, and his order was obeyed.

2. Esther

Queen Esther as imagined by Edwin Long.

Esther is the heroine of the Biblical book of Esther. She was a Jewish Queen of the Persian King Ahasuerus, better known as Xerxes I. The king held a 180-day festival and asked his Queen Vashti to display her beauty before him and his guests, but the queen refused to do so. The courtiers advised King Ahsuerus to find a new queen, and young, beautiful virgins from each province were brought to the palace. Esther, who was raised by her cousin Mordecai, was finally selected as queen. Mordecai exposed the conspiracy of two soldiers whom he heard talking about killing the king. The king was impressed by his loyalty, and the criminals were hanged. A king’s favorite, Haman, was deadly set against the Jews and wanted to get the king’s permission to kill them. Esther intervened; Haman was executed, and Mordecai was honored by the king because he remembered that he had saved his life.

3. Dinah

17th century depiction of the rape of Dinah.

Dinah was the daughter of Jacob and his first wife Leah, and she was the sister of Simeon and Levi. She had been mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in Genesis 34. Dinah went to visit the women of Shechem where her father had purchased land and where her people had erected a tent. The land was owned by King Hamor and his son Shechem who made advances and ‘seized her and lay with her and humbled her.’ King Hamor then visited Jacob and asked for Dinah’s hand for his son Shechem. Jacob agreed, provided that all of Hamor’s men were circumcised. Hamor agreed and fulfilled the condition, whereupon the brothers of Dinah attacked and killed Hamor and his son and all the men of the city the third day after having been circumcised when they were still sore and weak. Jacob expressed his worry to his sons that they might face retaliation from the Hamor’s people who would definitely outnumber them. In response, the sons asked their father if he would have liked his daughter to be treated as a harlot.

4. Zelophehad’s Daughters

The Daughters of Zelophehad,
The Daughters of Zelophehad

Zelophehad belonged to tribe of Manasseh, and he had five daughters: Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, but he had no son. According to the Hebrew Bible, these sisters lived in the time of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. During his wanderings, Zelophehad and his daughters petitioned Moses before the chiefs and Eleazar, the priest, about their right of inheritance. The daughters stated that their father had not taken part in Korah’s rebellion and had died of his own sin. Moses put the case before God, Who told him that they were in the right and should be given the inheritance. Manasseh’s grandson, Gilead, pleaded that the tribe would lose the property in case the girls married someone out of the tribe. God told Moses, that He was just, and that the girls had the right to marry anyone within the tribe of Manasseh.

5. Bath-Sheba

Bathsheba at Bath
Bathsheba at Bath

Bath-Sheba, with various meanings as: ‘daughter of abundance,’ ‘daughter of an oath,’ ‘daughter of seven,’ and ‘daughter of crying,’ was a biblical woman. She was the daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah. David committed adultery with her and consequently a son was born to them who died. After her husband was killed, she married David, and Solomon was born to them. She contributed towards Solomon’s succession to the throne.

6. Abigail

David and Abigail by Antonio Molinari.

Next only to the other three, Sarah, Rahab, and Esther, Abigail was the most beautiful woman in Jewish history. Abigail was the wife of Nabal, who lived in the city of Maon and owned vast lands in Carmel. He also owned many sheep and goats which were voluntarily protected by David and his men. David was said to be an outlaw by King Saul and roamed in the wilderness before becoming king. At the time of  the sheep shearing, David sent his men to Nabal to remind him that David’s protection of his sheep had contributed to bringing him wealth. Nabal mistreated the messengers, and David decided to attack him with 200 men. Abigail handled the situation and offered gifts to calm David down. After the death of Nabal, she married David.

7. Jezebel

Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard Giclee. Print by Sir Frank Dicksee.

In the Hebrew Book of Kings, Jezebel is identified as the daughter of Ethbaal, King of Tyre. She was the wife of Ahab, King of the northern tribes of Israel. Influenced by her, Ahab allowed the temples of Baal to operate in Israel. Jezebel’s sons, Ahaziaha and Jehoram, acceded to the throne. A servant of the prophet Elisha anointed Jehu to overthrow the house of Ahab and killed Jehoram in a hot pursuit. Jehu confronted Jezebel in Jezreel and incited the courtiers to kill the Queen by throwing her outside the window, leaving her body to be consumed by dogs. Just before her death, her finery and use of cosmetics associated her with prostitutes.

8. Mahalath

Francesco Hayez: Esau and Jacob reconcile
Francesco Hayez: Esau and Jacob reconcile.

Mahalath was the daughter of Ishmael, sister of Nebajoth, and the third wife of Esau. He took her from the house of Ishmael after he found out that his father and mother, Isaac and Rebekah, were very displeased with his Canaanite wives. Another view is that there was a negative notion behind this marriage. According to this viewpoint, Esau married the daughter of Ishmael to enact his plot to Jacob so he could inherit from both families. This negative attitude is supported by the fact that he did not divorce his Canaanite wives even after marrying Mahalath, which should have been the case had he really desired to please his parents.

9.  Salome

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist by Titian
Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, by Titian

Salome was the daughter of Herodias and the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas. Although her name is derived from the root slm, meaning ‘peace,’ yet her name is iconic to dangerous female seductiveness. Herodias had a grudge against John the Baptist because he had declared that her marriage to Herod was unlawful. On his birthday, Herod hosted a grand feast, and Salome danced before him and his guests. Pleased with her seductive dancing, King Herod said to Salome ‘Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt and I will give it thee.’ Salome asked the head of John the Baptist after asking her mother. The king fulfilled his oath, and John the Baptist was beheaded in the prison and his head was given to Salome.

10. Zipporah

Moses takes his leave of Jethro by Jan Victors
Moses takes his leave of Jethro, by Jan Victors

Zipporah was one of the seven daughters of Reuel, the priest of Midan. He is named  Jethro in the Book of Exodus and as Hobab in Judges. During the captivity in Egypt, Moses saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, whereupon Moses killed him and fled to Midan. While he was sitting near a well, the daughters of Reuel came to fetch water but found it difficult in the presence of the other sheep and goat herders. Moses helped her. On returning to their home, they narrated the story to their father who married his daughter Zipporah to Moses.


At times one gets the impression that daughters are treated in the Bible as a commodity for sale, whereas, in fact, customs like ‘Mohr’ are not equivalent to a price. Scanning a scripture only superficially and emphasizing the literal meanings in isolation is just like trying a cosmetic treatment to achieve skin-deep beauty. Daughters are sometimes symbolic for an ‘outcome,’ for example, in the proverb ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ ‘Daughter’ stands for the bad followers of the land of Canaan considered the mother.


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