Full Text for The Place of Woman in The Old Testament (Text)
THE SPRINGFIELDER March 1970 Volume 33, Number 4 The Place of Woman in The Old Testament ~;:Xj-'Sls f\FOlt\lt, ITS; IXEIIDEIS that riolnm is a special G ~1-ciitio11 of Gd [Gcn 1 :26-27; 2: 18-24). Like Adam, ~1 E\TC, the. mothcr of :ill living people, is depicted as superior to the aninl;iI \iorltl that Gocl had brought into being by fiat command. ~h~ 12il,lic.;11 tc\t stares: "So God created man in his image, in the illlag- of God crt-ittcci he him; inak and female created he them" (Gcn. I : 27 ,:. "\\'bile higher criticism and cvolution discredit the ~ihli~al rccorcf of \vom;in's formation from the rib of man (Gen. 3 : 3 1 -24 :. t ht* p;lsstgtb emphasi/cs most profoundly, the inseparable [Init!. ancl fc4lu\\s.;hil> of a \\.onlan's life with that of man's."' \\!oman crc;ttccl to bc. rn,~ll's he1pc.r (Gen. 2 : 18) as lvell as his corn- pi~nion. :lcc.or-cli n g to the IZibf ical account Adam had priority in crea- tion o\.t.r 1:t.c. Thc Sc\\ Testa~nent contains important informa- ti(~11 concerning the relationship of Adam to Eve. In I Cor. 11: 7-9 I'aul statctl: ''For a xnan o~~ght 1101 to co\.cr his head since he is the image. ancl $or\ of God; but \\oman is the glory of man. For man \\.as not ~nadt. t'rom \\-oman, but twinan from man. Neither was man crc;ttccl for \\.olnsn, hut woman for man." In I Timothy 2 : 13-14 (lt.S.\'.) 111a11 is il~~ribt'd a superioritv in the \\-orship senrices, be- cause. "L-\clarn \\.as forrnrd first, then EV;; and Adam was not deceived, but the \\.otn;in \\-as dccti\.ed and became a transgressor." The \Toman hiis hcr origin ancl purpose in life in man. In I Cor. I1 Paul argues that "the insubordination of woman in refusing to acknowledge the i~uthorit! of thcir husbands xould offend the angels who, under Gcd, guard the created uni\.rrse (Cf. Col. 1: 16; Eph. 1:21), and kno\\- no insuburtlin~tion."~ 111 forbidding noman either to assume Jcaclcrship or the teaching office in the church. Paul cites the order of creittio11, 3s cstablishini ~nan's natural leadership.:' In Ephesians 5: 2 1-32 Paul calls upon nomen to be subject to their husbands as unto the Lord. "For the husband is the head ot the wife as Christ is thc head of the church, his bodv, and is him- svlf its Sa\.ior. As the church is subjcct to Christ, so Iet wives also bc suhjvct in c\-cr\-thing to thcir husbands" (22-21 R.S.V.). As Lcrbst \\-rote: The Inert. fact that in this wries of sentences St. Pauj includes also Christ. \\hose Head is God, guards against such a mis- c.onccsption, (i.e. something humiliating and dishonorable-) Fver!onc hrs hi\ "head." i.r. errrvonr has thr God-given duty of rendering okdidirncc in that poiition to which God assigned him through creation or redemption. ' Schlatter wrote: I Even as the Christ is Lord through obedicncc. 50 man becojnes a servant of Gad through obedience renclcrctl unto Clhrist, so also woman achieves the sams tlistinctian IN sul>mitting herself to man and living for him.5 ,\.Ian needed a human companion and thus lah\\.t.h gave I:ve to Adam and told them to be fruitful and multipl!. and replc.nis]l the earth. Both were to be m~~tuall! depcntlcnt upon onc another. However, by virtue of their creation. Inall and woman differ from each other physiologically ant1 ti~mpcrnmcntal~ . Sori~li I.ofts, in her vo~umi. \lio?7le~l ill the Old ?-e.~tclltleilt, pointcct out that \vorncn are the \veaker rneinbcrs of thc human racc i~ncl "ilmong thesc \veakcr nlembers a11 \\;omen-if the!. arc. pcrforn~in~ thc natural functions of \\-oman-must n.ill!,-nill\ ritrih tlrenrselr c:s at onc tinir or another."" This holds true cspcciallv \\.lie11 ir \\urnan bears ,I child; there is a time n-hen a child-bcarinrr \\.onian usualli- ntleds tl thc help of a man or others in thc co~nrnun~t\.. ;Is thc rnotlkr of a number of children the wornall gcner:tll!- is ccnnoniic;ill~ clcpcndent on a man, the father. Alrs. 1-ofts claims that "upon this fact and upon an inferior equiprnt.nt of musclc. and I>ra\\n the long storv of woman's subjugation is rooted."' DOWII through thc ages some \i.ornen haw excelled men in man! rcspccts. ot'tcn ha\.e sur- passed men in the manner in \\.hich t11c.y hale cndureil suffering, sorrow and pain and separation. Throughout history man has often Ijccn guilty of n~istrcat- 113ent of woman, caused by pride, ignorance, moral pt.r\crsion. Sonic men haire at times treated women as chattel its is still the toda\- among pagan tribes, n-here women ha1.c. no rights \\-hattwr. It is generally agreed by historians that in the u.orld of antiquit!. \\.alnan occupied a lo\vly and inferior position. In contrast to the ancient world the position and treatment of woman in Israel \\;as much higher. Thc. Oltl Tcstamcnt Hcbrc.\\s had received a revelation from Yahweh through 3loscs about worn- an's endo\\-ments and concerning hcr place in the fi~mily and in the congregation. IJoses received a nurn ber of dirccti\.c.s from l'ah- ~veh guaranteeing to \\omen certajn rights arlcl frccdonls (Dcut. 2 1 : 10-14; 22: 13; 22: 28). Ho~v did the Jei1.s treat their \vonirn; Did the Hebrews share the same lo\\- vie\\. found in antiquit!.': Jlrs. Lofts responds: From such a test the Jtbn-s of the Old Tcstamcnt cniergc hon- orabl~,. The \cry fact that one can sit doivn totlay and stud! the lkes and characters of these Old Testament women proies that while the! were alive the\ were regarded as hu~tlan k- ings in their own right, not as mere appurtenenccs of mcn.' The names, idiosyncracies and deeds, of many women are re- corded on the pages of the Old Testament. Two hks of the Old T~ZL I'lu~~vl~r~t of \\'omen in Thc Old Testament -- - - - - - - --. - - 2 9 / -- 'rcstanlcnt cilnorl are named aktt-r \\-omen, namely, Ruth and Esther. 1j numhckr of \\.onlcn ;ire portrii!cc\ as playing lnore important roles than tlicl thcir 11usl)antls in Old Testament histor?. Deborah \\.as n;arrictl to I.;~pi Iiicn \\hi, for trivial reasons \vouitl divorce tlwir \\-i\,cr (1)c~lt. 74: 1-4 . :\ man \\as not required to take his \life to court in ortlckr to tli\r,rcc. her, but simpI\- ;tnnounced: "She i5 not 11i\ \\it'cs. ncitl1c.l- ,1111 I hcr husband" '~osea 2 : 2). \\'hen tliih occurr-cbcl thc' cl~\orcc.~l \vorii;rr~ \\-ould return to her parental home ant1 hat1 tlic. r.iqlit to rcl1j,irl-\.. In contrast to the Olcl Testament position, lc,s~ls 1)1.ornul:~itctl t he, ill- dissolubilit, of the niarriagc rcI,~tionlii~~ ant1 ,15scrtc-(l tliat tllc, rljo- nagamous union itas 3 s\~~hol (A' the LI~IOII hc,t\\cc.n C'llri5t alitl tl,~ bc.lit.\-er. In the Old ~cstanlcnt the l>l-c~phct> ~r\c~l 111c~ 111o1io<,ll~loilr ~irr~r-riagc. as the 4ynibol of tllc rcl;1tio11sl1il~ t)~bt\\ c.c.11 )',rli\\ 1.11 ;lrlt! Israel (Is. 54: 5: Jcr. 3: 14; 3 1 : 12: 1105. 2: 19; . Tl~c. \c.i\ -1 (,kt;;- ~iicnt rcprvscnts .I clitfc.rcnt posit ion rcl,~ti\ c. to 11:11\ slrn!. t h;tri t!o~., the* Old Testanlent. for in tl~c \;c\\. Te\tnlilc.nt it is not c-crtitIonc\l or. permitted for the hclic\c.r-. In tfic 1x-t.-3tosaic pcriotl the father of' tllc hot~~c.l~oItl I\ Ilrrt- trayed as the fanljl\ priest (!oh 1 :5::. .\brahnri1. Is;i,~c. icr~cl l;lcoh built altars, offcrccl up sacrifices and c o1isecr-:1tc~tl rhc~~ii~c.l\.e~ ;inti their husbands (Ccn. 12:7; 13:lS: 13h:25. 35:I. 21). \\o~iicti art. not depictecl as acting in thC c;ipacit\ ot' 11ou.4~' l:ric.\t>. 111 111c 3losaic period l'ah\\;ch instituted thc high pric.\tl\ ;rlicl tllc. pl-ic.>tl! offices. In humhcrs 16: 5 \loses hi15 furnishctl Wit)licnl rc.;~c\chr\ \\-ith the kc) to the Old Tcstarnent ideri of thc pricstl~ootl. The Old Tvstarncnt priesthooct \\ ;is c~tat)li~hc.tl /I\ Ciotl to maintain fcllo\vship bct\vcc.n Himself as thc. flr,l\ 011c. ;111tl ;I >ilituI nation. The tribc of tc\.i \\.as ;~ppointctl h\ Gotf to t'urrli3h priClrt4 \vho ivoulrl rcccive the pcoplc's gifts. n.hilv nlcrcs ,inti s;rI\;ltivn as gifts fro~n God ~~.crc. bcsto\\ccl b\ thc s;~rlic I~I~I~ ;I\ 111ciii~lto~ ht1- t\\,c.cn Goct and the Israclitc corlgrcyatioll. Ihc hcI(-c.tir)~~ of pricsrh \\as limitctf to onc f;i~liil\. nanlcl!. th;tt of .\aron, \\-it11 other- 111eril- bcrs of the trihc of J2cb\.i designatctl iis assirt;l~its to tl\cb pric>t?. - \\'omen had no part in thc public scr\-icc of the tribe' of I.c.\i rIur- ing the cntil-c tinic that sacrifices ucrc offcrctl in thcb tat~c~rnaclc. or in the Solonlonic tcniplc as \\ell i1.4 ill tllc ~>ohtcxilic. tc'nil~lc~ of Zerubbabel. It \\.-as also rl function of thcsc 13rit.bt\ to gi\c in\tr11~.- tion to thcx people, in the la\\- of thc. 1,ortl. In the Old -PCstanlcnt there see111 to h3j.c been thrci, cl;i.;\c. of religious menl priests, prophets ant/ \\-isc. Illen (Cf. 1t.r. 18: 1 S :;. The prophetic institution was pro\.itlcd for in the J.a\i. I)cutcronc~~i~~~ 18: 16-22 refers to a succe~~ion of propl-lets to ;lrise \\ho \voultl be active from %loses to Christ, running parallel with the kingcloln of Israel. The Old Testament docs not portraj an unbroLc~i scrie3 of prol~hclt~. l~i\cI~ IVIINN \\.as inductcd jnto ofice b! his prc.c]ecca.;- sors, csccl~t in the cirscs of Joshua and Elisha, who were rcspectjvel\. inductcbO I>\ \lose\ ;il~tI 1:lii;ih. -Phc, propllcts arc. represented as ri- cc.i\.i~~s thc,ir- I~~oJ~IIc~~c~~I office cfirc.ctl!; from Gocf and \\.ere not toll- c.t.rnctl \\it11 ;in! hllrnan hcing conferring this office upon them. The l"OI~}i~tu~tt~~~ ~~~-oc.l;~rmctl the \\.ill of Gtxl in the davs of apostasv. (fc.floc.tio~1 .t11(1 rc*ligiotls crisc>. \\hilt t1lc.r~ i> no c\ itlencc \\,hatc\;c,r that \\.omen \\,ere per- rnittccl to stLr\c in thc tc111pic as priests or their assistants, the Old -lest;~m~~,t kno\\ s of ;I numbcr of \vomc.n 11-ho arose to positions of pron>il~cnc.c. ;I> " ~lrc~l~hetcs\c:~." lliriam, the sister of >loses is called a prophc~tc*~~ \\-ho Ictl :L choral dancc. in celebration of Israel's de- lii.c.r;lncc from I g! ilt ( I:.\. 15 : 20:. Iliriarn, moti\ atctl hv jealous!, later clircctccl a rcbcllion against her brother, for \vhich she \\-as puni>hc.cl \\ it11 Icilroz\ ancl banishctl froni the camp of Israel for a \\,ec.k. 1)c.bor:ifi. ;I ~~lothcr in Isracl (judg. 5: 7,>, inspired Barak and scr\-ecI i1.4 :JcIcI~c' for it ti111e. Huldaf~, li\ing in the se\,enth century, the kec.per of the ro)al \\-artlrohc, is calld a prophetess and was con- s~lltccl b\. losiiih coriccrning 1'ahivch.s \\.ill after the "book of the la~v" \\-it; hund in thc temple (2 &iings 22: 14). loadiah, a proph- c.tess, i> ~nc.ntionccI as joining those \vho wanted to intimidate Sehe- miah and prclcnt him from completing the rebuilding of the \valls. Fri>n~ E/ckit.l 1 3 : 1 T infer that there n.ere also false prophetesses ;is \vcI1 as false proj~hets acti\.e in Judah in the sixth century B.C. The OIrl -Testament does not indicate to what extent proph- ctcsscs Ivct-c. acti\-c. in the religious life of the Hcbrelv people. All six- teen prophetic-'11 hooks arc. attributed to prophets but none to a prophetess. The \\isdom litcruturc~ of the Old Testament is believed to ha\c come from "the \vise men." Books like Job, Proverbs, Ecclesi- astes ancl ccrtilin clidactic psal~~is \\ere written by \vise men. There is no rccorrl of Biblical materials having been produced by wise women. In the Old *Tc.stament it-omen foilnd their most important func- tion as mothcrs of families. There are constant references to mothers in thc biographies of successi\.e kings indicating the important part they pla!;ctl in deternlining the life attitudes of their sons. The Book of Proverbs refers to "the law of thy mother" (1 : S; 6: 20), and holds up for c-mulation her teaching, authority and esanlple (Prov. 14126; 20:21). The La\\- of the Old Testament required children to honor + their mothers equaflv nith their fathers (Ex. 20: 12). A dreadful punishment n-as to c;)~ne upon those who cursed their mothers (Lev. 20: 9). During infancv arld thc wars of ear11 childhood the mother c0nseit.n tiauslv \\.atched o\.er he-r children. he love of a mother is uwd to dekribe GwI's love for His people (Is. 49: 5 Proverbs 30: 10-3 1, an acrostic poem, is replete with praise for the virtuous mother. It was from a woman that ultimately God's Son was to he born and that the promise given in Eden to mankind's first 13ar- ents was to be fulfilled (Gen. 3 : 1 5 ). In the theocracy of Israel the woman had the same religious rights as the man. \Vomen were equally respot~sible for keeping the Mosaic law (Deut. 3 1 : 12); (Seh. 8 : 12 1. According to Numbers 30:6-8, a husband could cancel a vow made bv his wife. This reg- ulation was probably enacted because of the welfare of the farnil\ since it might be affected by a wife's vow. Similar regulations also existed relative to the daughter's vow prior to niarriage. Only the male members of the Israelite congregation were required to attend the three annual festivals (Ex. 23 : 15). but the fact that this obli- gation was not enjoined upon women was probably out of a hu- mane concession due to chiIdbirth and the \voman'\ dut) to take care of her children. \\'omen could attend the ftrsti\ als nith full rights of participation. During the Babylonian exile there developed the institution known as the synagogue. R. H. Pfeiffer and others belie\,t.d that th~ synagogue may have originated in Ezekiel's addresses to the Babv- Ionian exiles. Such gatherings may have taken place in ~zekicl's house (Ezek. 8: 1; 20: 1-3). In the time of Christ "teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath" was already a ~vel1 established institu- tion. The "ruler of the synagogue" had charge of thc external order of \\lorship and supervision of the concerns of the s\nagogue. Eli- dence available seems to indicate that women \\.ere not involvctl in the conduct of the synagogue senices nor as teaching rabbis. - - Following Old Testanlent precedent, Christ onl! chose men 2s apostles and the Holv Spirit's qualifications for the bishop or pl-c.5- byter only mention men. Thus the precedent of the Old Testamen: where women were not the leaders in the regular public ~vorship of the Old Testament congregation was continucd in the Kew. FOOTNOTES 1. Herbert Lockyer, The Women of the Bihlc (Grand Rapids: Zondcr\an Publishing House, 1967), p. 13. 2. S. Lewis Johnson, "I Corinthians," in The Wyclific Rihle Conz~wcrrtar?. Pfeiffer and Harrison, (eds.) (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 1219. 3. R. C. H. Lenski, Interpretation of Colossians, Thescalonians, Timoth? nd Titus (Columbus: Lutheran Book Conccrn, 193 7), pp- 574-575, 4. Fritz Zerbst, The Office of the Woman in the Church, Translated by Albert G. Merkens (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955j, p. 32. 5. -4. Schlatter, Erlaiiterungen zum Ncucn Tcstn~rrent. Die Briefc, rrlr tflc Gnlnter und Epheser) Stuttgart: CaIwer Vcrlag, 1920, pp. 308-309. 6. Nordh Lofts, Women in the Old Testamerrt (New York: The Macmillar: Company, !950), p. 1. 7. Ibid., p. 1. 8. Ibid., p. 1.