3 Treatment of the Women
in the Old Testament as Inferiors
...just a few examples...
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-a Women seen as Property
Now Sarai, Abram's wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.
So Sarai said to Abram, "Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife.
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
"If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23"But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life,
eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
'But if they are from a month even up to five years old, then your valuation shall be five shekels of silver for the male, and for the female your valuation shall be three shekels of silver.
"When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive, 11
and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, 12
then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. 13 "She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.
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-b Women seen as below the status of all others
Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter;5
and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them." 6
But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, 7
and said, "Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. 8
"Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof."
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: 'When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. 3
'On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4
'Then she shall remain in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed. 5
'But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean for two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall remain in the blood of her purification for sixty-six days.
"Number the sons of Levi by their fathers' households, by their families; every male from a month old and upward you shall number."
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
12"Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'If any man's wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him,
and a man has intercourse with her and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband and she is undetected, although she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act,
if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has defiled herself, or if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has not defiled herself,
the man shall then bring his wife to the priest, and shall bring as an offering for her one-tenth of an ephah of barley meal; he shall not pour oil on it nor put frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of memorial, a reminder of iniquity.
'Then the priest shall bring her near and have her stand before the LORD,
and the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel; and he shall take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water.
'The priest shall then have the woman stand before the LORD and let the hair of the woman's head go loose, and place the grain offering of memorial in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy, and in the hand of the priest is to be the water of bitterness that brings a curse.
'The priest shall have her take an oath and shall say to the woman, "If no man has lain with you and if you have not gone astray into uncleanness, being under the authority of your husband, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings a curse;
if you, however, have gone astray, being under the authority of your husband, and if you have defiled yourself and a man other than your husband has had intercourse with you"
(then the priest shall have the woman swear with the oath of the curse, and the priest shall say to the woman), "the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people by the LORD'S making your thigh waste away and your abdomen swell;
and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away." And the woman shall say, "Amen. Amen."
'The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall wash them off into the water of bitterness.
'Then he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings a curse, so that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness.
25 'The priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy from the woman's hand, and he shall wave the grain offering before the LORD and bring it to the altar;
and the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering as its memorial offering and offer it up in smoke on the altar, and afterward he shall make the woman drink the water.
'When he has made her drink the water, then it shall come about, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness, and her abdomen will swell and her thigh will waste away, and the woman will become a curse among her people.
'But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, she will then be free and conceive children.
'This is the law of jealousy: when a wife, being under the authority of her husband, goes astray and defiles herself,
or when a spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife, he shall then make the woman stand before the LORD, and the priest shall apply all this law to her.
'Moreover, the man will be free from guilt, but that woman shall bear her guilt.' "
"If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her,
and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, 'I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,'
then the girl's father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl's virginity to the elders of the city at the gate.
16"The girl's father shall say to the elders, 'I gave my daughter to this man for a wife, but he turned against her;
and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, "I did not find your daughter a virgin." But this is the evidence of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city.
18"So the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him,
and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl's father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel. And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days.
20"But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin,
then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father's house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.
2 Chronicles 36:23
"Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!' "
*(the Second Temple was constructed after some of the Jews returned from exile in Babylon. It was rebuilt by Herod late in the 1st century BCE. One of its features was women's court, considered the least sacred area. Next was the court of the Israelites (reserved for males), then the court of the Priests, and finally the Temple itself. The courts were laid out in this order to separate the women as far as possible from the Temple. )
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-c Men as Polygamists
Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah.
Therefore she said to Abraham, "Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac."
So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac;
and Esau went to Ishmael, and married, besides the wives that he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebaiothc.
1 Kings 11:1-3
1Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, "You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods." Solomon held fast to these in love. 3He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away.
2 Samuel 5:12-13
12And David realized that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel. 13 Meanwhile David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron; and more sons and daughters were born to David.