They exemplified courage and ingenuity.

In the face of grave danger they were quick thinking and resourceful. Capable of retaining their composure even whilst operating under great pressure.

They were willing to risk everything. For their faith. For their king. And for their country.

Both were women.

Both remained unnamed.

And both are only briefly referenced in Scripture.

Yet, their compelling narratives illustrate two of the many roles and activities assumed by women in Scripture.[1]

The first woman operated as a liaison in the covert “network of spies for communication that [King] David had put in place” so that critical intelligence could be exchanged quickly and safely.[2]

The second woman dared to protect the lives of two of King David’s spies.

Their remarkable narratives are woven into a larger storyline. A storyline that teems with political unrest, intrigue, reconnaissance, and intelligence operations (2 Samuel 15-17, NRSV).

The narrative begins when Absalom, anxious to wear the crown, rebels and plots to overthrow his father, King David (2 Sam 15).

As the discord intensified between David and Absalom both men constructed secret communication networks and had some of their trusted followers infiltrate each other’s inner circles.[3]

As Absalom conspired to overthrow his father he covertly “sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel” (2 Sam 15:10).

Meanwhile, as David is warned by a messenger about Absalom’s intrigues and flees the city for his safety he leaves two of his priests, Zadok and Abiathar, with their sons, in the city to act as spies for him (2 Sam 15:27-29). He directs them, “See, I will wait at the fords of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me” (2 Sam 15:28).

David also commands Hushai the Archite to return to the city so that through deception he can sabotage Absalom’s plans and “operate in undercover fashion to obtain information” for him.[4]

David tells Hushai that “whatever you hear from the king’s house, tell it to the priests Zadok and Abiathar. Their two sons are with them there, Zadok’s son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan; and by them you shall report to me everything you hear” (2 Sam 15:32-36).

When Hushai is successful at persuading Absalom to adopt his poor counsel and inferior battle strategy he secretly informs the two priests so they could pass the information onto their sons who were waiting at En-Rogel, a small village in nearby Kidron Valley, who would then pass it on to David (2 Sam 17:5-15).

But because the two sons were known as David’s men they could not risk being seen entering the city. This had necessitated them establishing a link in their communication network to ensure their safety and the safe passage of information.[5]

That link was a “young female servant [who] acted as a go-between between the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and Hushai in Jerusalem, and the two sons, Jonathan and Amihaaz in En-Rogel.”[6]  At this point, it seems that she had been surreptitiously passing information along for some time.[7]

It was a shrewd strategy to include the young woman as part of their clandestine communication network. She would have been unlikely to attract attention or raise suspicion as she went to and from the community well, because “young women were frequently sent for the water needed in the household.”[8]

But unfortunately a young lad, likely one of Absalom’s spies, noticed Jonathan and Ahimaaz and quickly relayed this information to Absalom (2 Sam 17:18). The two messengers fled into a courtyard and slipped into an empty cistern. “Recognizing them as David’s people”, the second unnamed woman “quickly [spread] a cloth over the top [of the cistern] as if to dry grain in the sun.”[9]

When Absalom’s soldiers arrived at the woman’s home they demanded that she tell them where they had gone.

The woman re-directed the soldiers, telling them that ‘They have crossed over the brook of water” (2 Sam 17:20).

The soldiers searched, but because they were unable to find the messengers they returned to Jerusalem (2 Sam 17:21).

This woman’s efforts ensured the safety of the two messengers, enabling them to pass on critical information to David, “telling him his location had been discovered and that Absalom was planning on killing him that very night.”[10]  

These two heroic women of faith played pivotal roles in saving King David and his people.[11]

One fearlessly transmitted critical intelligence along the communication network, playing “an important role in securing intelligence from Jerusalem for King David. In a dangerous setting, she discreetly relayed exact information.”[12]

The other woman successfully protected the lives of two men. While exhibiting remarkable composure and quick wit she diverted Absalom’s men, allowing the messengers “to escape and give David information vital to his safety.”[13]

“Without her support, the men hiding in the well could have been killed. The woman and her family could have been slain too. King David could have been murdered, along with his troops.”[14]

But because she was so “devoted to David’s cause with her whole heart, and soul” she risked all to protect David’s men, and thus “saved the cause of David, and likewise the cause of the kingdom.”[15]

These two unnamed women help to stretch and broaden perspectives and views held about biblical women and their roles and contributions in the kingdom narrative.

God chose them. He called them. He relied on their capacity for boldness, bravery, intelligence and resourcefulness to ensure that his grand narrative moved forward.

They valiantly rose to his call. They chose to make a difference. And influenced how events in history unfolded.


[1] Marg Mowczko. Marg Mowczko. 25 Biblical Roles for Biblical Women. September 7, 2013.

[2] Joel B. Green. The Common English Bible. E. T. Lowe Publishing, Nashville, 2013, 497.

[3] J.D. Douglas. New International Bible Dictionary. Zondervan, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1987. 960; 2 Samuel 15:10, 12, 31, 34-37, NRSV. (all Scripture quoted are from the NRSV translation)

[4] Herbert Lockyer. Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nashville, Tennessee, 1986. 1007.

[5] Catherine Clark Kroeger. The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary. Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2002, 180; 2 Samuel 17:17.

[6] Ibid, 497.

[7] 2 Samuel 17:17, NRSV. The wording “… a servant girl used to go and tell them” is the past tense and thus suggests that she had been part of the communication network for some time.

[8] Dorothy Kelley Patterson. The Woman’s Study Bible. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 20016, 418; Carol Meyers. Women in Scripture. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000, 264.

[9] 2 Samuel 17:19-22. “… the house of man at Bahurim, who had a well in in his courtyard; and they went down into it. The man’s wife took a covering, stretched it over the well’s mouth, and spread out grain on it; and nothing was known of it. When Absalom’s servants came to the woman at the house, they said, ‘Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?’ The woman said to them, ‘They have crossed over the brook of water.’ And when they had searched and could not find them, they returned to Jerusalem. After they had gone, the men came up out of the well, and went and told King David. They said to David, ‘Go and cross the water quickly; for thus and so has Ahithophel counselled against you.’ So David and all the people who were with him set out and crossed the Jordan; by daybreak not one was left who had not crossed the Jordan.”

[10] Lindsay Hardin Freeman. Bible Women, All Their Words and Why They Matter. Forward Movement, 2014, 215.

[11] Edith Deen. All The Women of the Bible. Harper Collins Publishers Inc., New York, 1955, 360.

[12] Patterson, 418.

[13] Ibid, 419.

[14] Freeman, 216; Matthew Newkirk. Just Deceivers: An Exploration of the Motif of Deception in the Books of Samuel. Pickwick Publications, Eugene Oregon, 2015, 82.

[15] Herbert Lockyer. All the Women of the Bible. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan,1967, 196