Archive for the ‘Patriarchy’ Category

Reading Like an Egalitarian

March 25, 2014

Owen Strachan wrote: “The curse bore down upon Eve’s primary activity, childbearing, showing that her intended sphere of labor and dominion-taking was the home (Genesis 3:16).”

Rachel Held Evans responded: “Classic. Root feminine identity in the curse rather than the redemptive work of Christ… .”

I’d call Evans’ response unfair, if I thought she was smart enough to figure out what Strachan actually meant.

Strachan’s point was simple: each was being cursed in his respective sphere. The curse identifies the spheres, it doesn’t define them. Women were made for childbearing before the curse, but the curse made that a burden to them. And keeping in mind Christ’s redemptive work, the Apostle writes: “she shall be saved in childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15). Female identity is rooted in creation not merely the curse.

The Teacher tells us: “he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (1 Corinthians 11:7-9)

Furthermore, in that state of innocence in the garden, the woman – not the man – was deceived. The Apostle again, now in fuller context:

1 Timothy 2:11-15
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

The curse is not what led to women being responsible for childbearing. The curse is what made childbearing laborious and painful. And redemption doesn’t free women from maternal responsibility, it urges them on to it!

Titus 2:1-6
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.

What Rachel Held Evans has a problem with is God the Father’s creation ordinance of human patriarchy. I’m not sure whether she has the ability to read clearly, so I’m loathe to say that she intentionally misrepresents the Bible. Nevertheless, her unwelcome and illogical teachings do not conform to Scripture.


Limits on Patriarchy – Deborah and other Prophetesses

April 11, 2013

Apparently all but one of the judges that judged Israel were male. The one exception was Deborah. She provides us with an example of a limit on the patriarchy:

Judges 4:4-9
And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, “Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, ‘Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.'”
And Barak said unto her, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.”
And she said, “I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.

Notice that Deborah is described as having “judged” Israel. Moreover, she is also described as a “prophetess.”

We aren’t told much about how she judged Israel. From the context, it appears that she was a prophetess and thus people came to her to hear judgment from God.

Nevertheless, notice that her title is male-defined. She’s not simply “Deborah,” but “Deborah … the wife of Lapidoth.”

Moreover, while she gives orders to Barak (from God), when Barak insists on having her come with him to the battle, God punishes Barak by giving the glory of killing Sisera to a woman.

Deborah is not the only prophetess in Scripture. The prophet Joel prophesied:

Joel 2:32
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.

The Apostle Peter applies these to the extraordinary gifts first given at Pentecost:

Acts 2:14-21
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: for these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; “and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

The only recorded instances of this fulfillment were the daughters of Philip:

Acts 21:8-9
And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

There were also a few other pre-Pentecost prophetesses:

1. Anna

Luke 2:36
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

2. Isaiah’s Wife

Isaiah 8:3
And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz.

3. Huldah

2 Kings 22:14
So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her.
2 Chronicles 34:22
And Hilkiah, and they that the king had appointed, went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college:) and they spake to her to that effect.

4. Miriam

Exodus 15:20
And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.

You will notice that Huldah is “the wife of Shallum,” Isaiah’s wife is his wife, and Miriam is the sister of Aaron and Moses.  The only woman among them who is not defined in large measure by her male relations is Anna, who was a widow.  Widowhood was one way for a woman in a patriarchy to have a measure of autonomy. It is a sad an unnatural thing, of course, but it did happen.

As well as two false prophetesses:

1. Jezebel

Revelation 2:20
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

2. Noadiah

Nehemiah 6:14
My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.

It may simply be coincidence, but it is interesting that neither Revelation’s Jezebel, nor Noahdiah is described in terms of her male relationships.  

To the list of prophetesses, we might also consider adding Elizabeth and Mary.  After all, recall:

Luke 1:41-55
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

We also may consider adding the author of the Song of Solomon, if that work is written to him, rather than by him.   Recall that the book begins:

Song of Solomon 1:1-2
The song of songs, which is Solomon’s. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.

That sounds like a woman speaking to Solomon, rather than Solomon himself speaking.

Finally, to the list above, we may add the “wise woman,” mentioned here:

2 Samuel 20:16
Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you, unto Joab, Come near hither, that I may speak with thee.

We may also add the young lady who had the spirit of divination, though she would seem to be a false prophetess who happened to speak the truth:

Acts 16:16-18
And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

In any event, these cases of prophetesses are an exception rather than a rule, and generally even they are under the headship of their husband, betrothed, or father in the patriarchy (the exception being a widow).  Deborah seems to be the one with the most power, since she is identified as a judge, but even in that case it is clear that she was not supposed to be a military leader, like the male judges.

In short, Deborah and the other prophetesses help to emphasize the fact that prophecy is a gift from God given to humans (not simply to males).  It provides a limitation on the patriarchy, in that it shows that God can dispense his gifts to whomever he pleases, not only to males but also to females.


Women Teaching – a Titus 2 Limitation to Patriarchy?

January 15, 2013

We previously considered the case of the daughters of Zelophehad and the limit on the patriarchy seen there (link to discussion).  Some people seem ready to appeal to Titus 2 to invest women with teaching authority in the church – perhaps not in the pulpit, but in the Sunday Schools, Bible Studies, or the like.  But what does Titus 2 actually say?  Does it invest women with a measure of teaching authority?

Titus 2 states:

But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: that

  1. the aged men be
    1. sober,
    2. grave,
    3. temperate,
    4. sound in faith,
    5. in charity,
    6. in patience.
  2. The aged women likewise, that they be
    1. in behaviour as becometh holiness,
    2. not false accusers,
    3. not given to much wine,
    4. teachers of good things; that they may teach
  3. the young women
    1. to be sober,
    2. to love their husbands,
    3. to love their children,
    4. to be discreet,
    5. chaste,
    6. keepers at home,
    7. good,
    8. obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
  4. Young men likewise exhort to be
    1. sober minded.
    2. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works:
    3. in doctrine shewing uncorruptness,
    4. gravity,
    5. sincerity,
    6. sound speech,
    7. that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
  5. Exhort servants
    1. to be obedient unto their own masters, and
    2. to please them well in all things;
    3. not answering again;
    4. not purloining, but
    5. shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

As you can see, Titus 2 is talking about how people should act – the way they should lead their lives. It’s addressing all the major categories of the church: old men, old women, young women, young men, and slaves.  The penultimate paragraph sums it up – we are supposed to live holy lives.

But what about the “teaching” function for old women (in section 2d above).  The King James expresses it as “… teachers of good things; that they may teach … sober” where the literal Greek states “καλοδιδασκάλους, ἵνα σωφρονίζωσιν” (remarkable how three Greek words require nine English words).

One thing to keep in mind is this use of the unique compound word “καλοδιδασκάλους” which is formed from the word “καλός” (good) and the word “διδάσκαλος” (teacher).  In other words, the KJV has accurately rendered it as “teachers of good things.”  The other verb, “σωφρονίζωσιν” is related to the adjective variously translated “sober,” “temperate,” “discrete,” (vs. 5, section 3d, “σώφρονας”) and so forth.  We might consider “sobering the young women to be lovers of their husbands, lovers of their children, … ” as a way of trying to express this idea more closely in English.

But regardless of the precise translation, the emphasis of the text is not on providing doctrinal instruction, but rather on providing a behavioral outcome.  Moreover, in context the primary way by which we would expect to see this instruction is by setting an example.

Perhaps there is room for older women to use a classroom or other formal type mechanism for training the younger women, but that is not mandated or required by the text.  Moreover, as far as the scope of that training goes, the scope is training them in godly behavior, especially in how to love their husbands, love their children, and be discrete, chaste, keepers at home, good, and obedient to their husbands.

It’s not the purpose of this post to explore each of those aspects of behavior.  Nevertheless, since the topic of this post relates to the patriarchy, it should be noted that it is the duty of the older women to promote the patriarchy.  They are not merely supposed to teach the young women to love their husbands and children, but also to be obedient to their husbands, with the particular incentive that this be done “that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

In short, this passage does show that wives are not to receive all their instruction in everything from men, thereby providing a limit on patriarchy.  Nevertheless, that boundary on patriarchy relates to older women teaching younger women godly behavior, particularly love of and obedience to their husbands.


Feminism – Also Contrary to Common Sense

January 14, 2013

I was directed to an interesting video titled, “Fempocalypse,” by a Muslim blog. Here is the video:

The analysis seems to be basically godless (God is not mentioned, but Neanderthals are). The analysis, however, does highlight the fundamental problem that feminism is contrary to natural law – and we’re seeing that in the consequence of feminism.

For those benighted people who think that patriarchy is just an ancient cultural norm, they really should listen to the video. We Christians don’t hold to patriarchy because of the reasons that the lady in the video points out, but these reasons help to show why the Christian culture (borrowed by Islam) is not just morally right, but societally superior.

Feminism is not just evil and contrary to divinely revealed moral law, it’s stupid and suicide for society. Some of the woman’s complaints are more applicable to the UK than to the US, but the US will head that way, if feminism continues and patriarchy is not restored.

I want to reiterate, the reasons that the woman gives are not the reasons we Biblical Christians hold to patriarchy. We hold to patriarchy because the Bible plainly teaches that the husband is the head, that marriage is for life, and that the purpose of marriage and family is primarily the raising of godly offspring. The Bible plainly teaches patriarchy, not feminism. Therefore, we reject feminism regardless of feminism’s consequences. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see that the light of nature itself shows that feminism is wrong.


The Daughters of Zelophehad and the Limits of Patriarchy

January 4, 2013

The daughters of Zelophehad present one of the first instances we have in Scripture of the limits of patriarchy. In case you have forgotten:

Numbers 26:33
And Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters: and the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

Joshua 17:3
But Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, but daughters: and these are the names of his daughters, Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

1 Chronicles 7:15
And Machir took to wife the sister of Huppim and Shuppim, whose sister’s name was Maachah;) and the name of the second was Zelophehad: and Zelophehad had daughters.

Numbers 27:1-11
Then came the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah.
And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons. Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.”
And Moses brought their cause before the Lord.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, “The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter. And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren. And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father’s brethren. And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it:” and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Obviously, one key point to notice here is that patriarchy is the default, with the case of the daughters of Zelophehad providing an exception to the general rule.

The general rule is that the son inherits, not the daughters. Thus, the inheritance stays within the male-defined family. Nevertheless, if there are no male descendants, if the daughters cannot inherit, the male’s name would be cut off. Thus, similar to the levirate law (for raising up heirs to childless men) the daughters of Zelophehad provision permits daughters to inherit for/from their father when they don’t have any brothers.

The law did not immediately jump to the father’s brethren (although it goes there next), but note that if there are no brethren, it does not go to his sister(s), it goes to his nearest kinsman (which might be the husband of one of his sisters, but it might not be).  In addition to the obvious benefit to the daughters of Zelophehad, this law made levirate marriage unnecessary in the case where men died without male heirs – there was no need to raise up an heir by proxy, because the daughters could be heirs.

However, this provision for women to inherit in certain cases could lead to a potential problem. After all, unlike the levirate law situation, the daughters are not receiving a son via a proxy marriage, instead they are receiving land that will permit them to marry. But what if they marry a non-Israelite or a member of another tribe?  The land could get redistributed away from a tribe, if that were the case.

Thus, in Numbers 36, further clarification came:

Numbers 36:1-13
And the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near, and spake before Moses, and before the princes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel: and they said, “The Lord commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by the Lord to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother unto his daughters. And if they be married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot of our inheritance. And when the jubile of the children of Israel shall be, then shall their inheritance be put unto the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.”
And Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the Lord, saying, “The tribe of the sons of Joseph hath said well. This is the thing which the Lord doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, ‘Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry.’ So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers. Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance.”
Even as the Lord commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad: for Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their fathers brothers’ sons: and they were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father.
These are the commandments and the judgments, which the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.

Thus, the daughters of Zelophehad were generally permitted to marry whomever they wished, but were restricted to marry within their tribe. They ended up marrying their first cousins, which maintained the land within their grandfather’s line.

Notice that the tribal affiliation was determined by the father as the general rule. However, also notice that the rule for the daughters of Zelophehad was not the general rule.

In other words, there was no general requirement that men only give their daughters to their fellow tribesmen.  Thus, we see Elizabeth and Mary in the New Testament being described as related, even though Elizabeth was married to a priest from the tribe of Levi, and Mary was married to Joseph, of the tribe of Judah.  Likewise, women generally were not free to marry whomever they wished.  Thus, we see the daughter of Jephthah mourning her single state in Judges, when her father “sacrifices” her evidently by prohibiting her from marrying anyone at all.

Thus, we should not misinterpret the case of the daughters of Zelophehad as some mandate for “racial purity” or call to near incest: it was about maintaining tribal land within the male-defined tribes.

Likewise, we should not misinterpret the case of the daughters of Zelophehad as suggesting that the general rule was that daughters married whoever they wanted. It is abundantly clear from the remainder of the law that the ordinary situation was that the father of daughters decided who they would marry.

The daughters of Zelophehad presented a unique case because their immediate patriarchy had, in God’s providence, been destroyed. They had no father and no brother.

It is interesting to note that in this case, however, the daughters of Zelophehad were not simply handed over the trusteeship of their nearest kinsman. Rather, the death of their father and the absence of any brethren left them independent until marriage, like a widow or divorced woman was.

Thus, while patriarchy is a very important and central aspect of the administration of Israel, it is not absolute. Women were always under the rule of the male elders (in terms of tribal rule), but within the context of family rule, they were not always under the rule of men.


Rights of Women and Slaves in the Old Testament Law

November 27, 2012

Turretinfan asks “What makes you think that a wife has greater rights than a slave?” I found myself quoted that way in the comment box of a blog. Unfortunately, the question was taken out of context, and some of the readers naturally arrived at some odd conclusions. For example, a woman going ironically by the handle “Mara” (Hebrew for bitterness, see Ruth 1:20) wrote:

What compels Turrentinfan to decide to believe that a wife is on the level of a slave. I smell a bitter man looking to gain control over (a female) someone else and trying to use the Bible as his club to beat that someone back into his control, er I mean under submission to him.
And so many want to believe that deep bitterness is mostly a female problem.

And again:

Yes, fortunately Steve is able to give a good answer. I’d just be like, “Dude, are you going through an ugly divorce? Or was your mother some sort of psycho? Why are you hating on women so much that you gotta use God and the Bible to reduce them down to slavehood?”

The question was clearly read as meaning that I place women and slaves on the same level, which I don’t. Since this confusion is natural given the acontextual quotation, perhaps some clarification is in order.


First, the context of the question was what was the status of a wife under the law of Moses (not what is the status of a wife in general or what is the status of a wife in western societies or in any other particular situation). Steve’s argument depended on a theory that wives had greater rights under the law of Moses than slaves did. I was asking Steve to demonstrate that. I don’t think Steve has, not that it matters for the purposes of this post.

Problem of Anachronism

The idea of “rights” as such is somewhat anachronistic. That’s not how the Mosaic law operated. When we analyze the Mosaic law in terms of “rights,” we need to be aware of the fact that we are analyzing it through a foreign paradigm.

Lack of Uniformity – Vagueness of Rights-based Analysis

One problem with the question (and with Steve’s claim) is that the bundle of “rights” is not easily defined. Rights are not like money in the bank. Moreover, the legal protections provided to wives and slaves do not line up. For example, the Torah itself does not usually say, “For a slave do this, but for a wife do that.” But we can consider some examples.

Right to Contract

Wives in the Torah had a limited right to contract, and the same rule applied to unmarried women/girls living with their fathers. Numbers 30 provides the details:

And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded.
If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.
If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth; and her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her; then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.
And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; and her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the Lord shall forgive her.
But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.
And if she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath; and her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. but if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard them; then whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made them void; and the Lord shall forgive her.
Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void. but if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them.
But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity.
These are the statutes, which the Lord commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yet in her youth in her father’s house.

Notice that males generally were permitted to contract (make binding vows) but females could only do this if they were widowed or divorced. Unmarried women were under their fathers and married women were under their husbands. They could make binding vows, but those binding vows were conditional on the non-opposition of their husbands/fathers.
Notice that this principle makes no distinction between bond and free. Thus, with respect to the issue of making binding vows, a male slave had more “rights” than a wife had (although female slaves were treated the same as free women with respect to this provision).
Indeed, you may recall that one of the binding vows that a slave could make was the vow of perpetual servitude. As Exodus 21:1-6 explains:

Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

(By the way, note that male Hebrew slaves by default were only subject to their masters for a maximum of six years, whereas wives were married for life, assuming no divorce.)
Female slaves received a different treatment (Exodus 21:7):

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

On the other hand, wives obtained freedom on the death of their husband. Paul explains (Romans 7:3):

So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

We also saw above how divorced and widowed women were free to make binding vows.

Right of Expectation

On the other hand, a wife generally had a right to expect certain things from her husband. For example, the first wife to bear a son was entitled to have her son treated as her husband’s firstborn, whether or not she was his most favored wife (Deuteronomy 21:15-17):

If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: but he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

There was no corresponding right that slaves had of their masters to expect anything from them. There is an exception for slaves who were also wives. Slaves who were also wives actually had either equal or greater protections of their expectations than ordinary wives (Deuteronomy 21:10-14):

When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; and she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.

This was also similarly true of Hebrew slave wives (Exodus 21:7-11):

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

As a result, you may recall that Samuel’s mother, Hannah, received more favorable treatment than her rival wife, Peninnah (1 Samuel 1:4-5):

And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: but unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb.


Wives and slaves are not on “the same level” in the Torah. Indeed, they are overlapping categories, such a slave could also be a wife. Even if, in some senses, a male slave may have had more “rights” than a wife, that may be misleading. For example, a husband has a greater moral obligation to his wife than a master has to his slave. A husband is called to sacrifice himself for his wife, as Christ did for the church. While masters are also called to a love of their slaves, it’s not the same love. Thus, even if legally a male slave had more “rights,” morally a wife has more “rights.”
More importantly, it would be foolishness for a man who hated women to seize on the legal inferiority of women as an excuse or weapon for his hatred. That would be very similar to an adult picking on the legal inferiority of children and using that as an excuse for hating them. I’ll add as well that the rules about slaves can be misused by people who hate other races. None of that misuse of Scripture is warranted.
I don’t blame “Mara” for misunderstanding, but I do think it is worth clarifying. Hopefully this post does help to clarify both the legal status and the difference between moral and legal status. Male and female are both in the image of God. Bond and free are both in the image of God. Even within the church men and women are not equals. Yet the clear-thinking reader will distinguish between the moral and legal statuses.


No Women Pastors

July 28, 2009

It is crystal clear in Scripture that pastors must be men. It is totally unequivocal. Yet we still hear folks attempting to get around this:

1) Objection: The Scriptures are Culturally Conditioned

The reason given for women not teaching in the church goes back to the garden of Eden. That’s not something culturally conditioned.

2) Objection: What if the woman is really edifying?

Given that Scripture clearly prohibits it, the answer is still “no,” even if the woman is the best preacher since Spurgeon or Whitfield. We don’t break God’s commands because we think it’s practical.

If one would permit one’s wife or daughter to be a preacher on that ground, one might as well permit one’s wife or daughter to be a harlot on the ground that it will permit her to evangelize more men that desperately need it. Surely there are few folks with consciences so seared that think that an acceptable mode of proceeding. The only reason then that people find Objection 2 persuasive is because they don’t take God’s prohibition on women pastors as seriously as they take the 7th commandment.

3) Objection: Not enough Bible verses say it!

How many times does God have to tell you something for you to believe it? All the objections are bad, but this one has to be the worst.


>Biblical Model of Family Should be Avoided??

July 7, 2009

>I came across this conclusion to a post seemingly against the Biblical mandate of patriarchy for family government:

Patriarchy is the result of man’s sinful desire to control and dominate and should be, by God’s grace, avoided at all costs.


I realize that there are many feminists (of both sexes) out there, but it is absolutely ridiculous to the point of absurdity to suggest that Christians should seek to rebel against God’s mandate of patriarchy. The article that concludes with the comment above shows a lack of sense so profound that, at first, I figured that the author must be joking.

The article is wrong on so many levels it is tough to summarize them.

1) Patriarchy is Not the Result of the Fall

Yes, the specific statement that Adam would rule over Eve was given upon the fall, but Eve was created under Adam’s headship: a help meet for him, from his rib. It was in Adam’s sin that mankind fell (not in Adam’s and Eve’s sin).

2) Human Government Necessary Because of Fall

However, further, human government is necessary because of sin. If men were angels, we would not need a government. This is true in all spheres of authority: it is necessary for children to have parents, for wives to have husbands, for servants to have masters, for citizens to have kings, and for the church to have elders.

3) The Powers that be are Ordained by God

This, again, is true in all spheres of authority. Parents are ordained over their children – husbands over their wives – masters over their servants – kings over their subjects – and the elders over the church.

Mr. Wade Burleson’s idea of trying to undermine the headship of husbands on the grounds of his misconception that this headship is the result of the fall is tragic and at the same time outlandish. Until the modern times, virtually every society on Earth has remained aware of the propriety of husbands ruling over their wives – the mythical race of the Amazons has to be discovered. That men are to be the rulers over their wives is something so clear that one might think Scriptural revelation unnecessary, because the general revelation in the light of nature is so clear. But sadly, its opponents are unafraid to publish their criticism of it.

Remember this, however: the Husband/Wife motif is one of the illustration of Christ’s role to us, believers. To the extent that you seek to undermine the husband’s headship role, you are (at least implicitly) undermining its analogy. If you think it bad for the husband to rule over the wife, you are questioning the model of Christ’s headship over the church. I doubt many of these egalitarian Christians would actually seek to dethrone Jesus from his rightful headship, but they do not realize that their opposition to Biblical patriarchy accomplishes that end, not only be opposing the explicit teaching of Scripture, but by demolishing the image of our relationship to our Groom, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Voddie vs. Feminism

September 9, 2008

I found the presentation provided by Pastor Voddie T. Baucham, Jr. to be solid. Later, I found this link to more information about him (link).

The presentation follows:

One gospel preacher pitted against Kyra Phillips (of CNN’s Newsroom) and Margaret Feinberg (an “evangelical speaker”). One does not envy his position. Nevertheless, Pastor Baucham wisely stuck to advocating Scripture.


Children Punished for a Parent’s Sins

August 24, 2008


Some folks who hold to a nearly dogmatic form of rugged individualism do not like the idea of federal headship, especially when it comes to punishments. I much more rarely hear people complain that they will be judged righteous for the deeds of their federal head. It is when guilt and punishment are concerned that the objections seem to come in. There are several rebuttals.

1. General Revelation – Nature Itself

a. Nourishment

The general revelation of nature should make it apparent that the children receive what comes from their parents, as a general rule. An unborn child (fetus, if you will, though that sounds so dehumanizing) obtains nourishment from its mother via the marvelously designed placenta. The infant obtains nourishment from the mother’s breast. The children generally eat the grown/hunted/gathered or purchased by their parents even once they could hypothetically fend for themselves.

b. Class

Children of poor parents are usually also poor, and children of rich parents are usually well off. To describe it in statistical terms, there is a high correlation between the state of a child and the state of a child’s parents – not only socioeconomically, but genetically. A child of two short parents is unlikely to be tall, and a child of two tall parents is unlikely to be short.

c. Human Justice

The laws of men too bare testimony to the fact that children are punished for their parents’ sins. Most societies have laws whereby evildoers are punished in their persons or property. If a father is imprisoned or fined for a crime, his children generally suffer financially: even more so if justice is rendered against the father in a capital case. It is not that the law sets out to punish the children of law-breakers: it just happens that way.

d. Fornication / Adultery

When men and women engage in extramarital sexual relationships, it often results in procreation. The children of such unions are often stigmatized, but even more significantly they often come into the world without a father to provide for them, or without a mother that wants them. In ancient Rome, such children were sometimes murdered through exposure to the elements after birth. In modern societies, such children are often murdered by their mothers in ways that sicken at least this author. Even if a child survives birth, its a statistical observation that such children tend to have a more difficult time in life.

2. Special Revelation – Scripture

a. Examples of Children being punished for the sins of their parents.

(i) The Great Deluge

We are not specifically told that there were any infants in Noah’s day, but God brought the Flood on account of the sinfulness of the world 120 years prior to the Flood. Men lived longer in those days, but they did have children, and they did not give up their usual marital relations in view of Noah’s preaching.

Luke 17:27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

Genesis 6:1-7
1And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. 5And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

(ii) Sodom and Gomorrah

Especially considering the form of sexual immorality for which Sodom is famous, we cannot be absolutely sure that there were young infants in the city, nevertheless, there is no particular reason to suppose that they had been so exclusively consumed by illicit lust that there were none. The fire God sent against the city, however, did not discriminate according to age.

Genesis 19:24
24Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

(iii) Firstborn of Egypt – 10th Plague

You may recall that the tenth plague, the plague that permitted the Israelites not only to leave but to plunder the Egyptians, was the death of the firstborn of all the Egyptians. This plague is couched in such universal terms that we may safely assume that it included infants and not only the firstborn that had grown somewhat.

Exodus 11:4-6
4And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 5And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. 6And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more.

(iv) Ham’s Mockery

As you may recall, our grandfather Noah got drunk and lay naked in his tent. His son Ham found him in this inebriated condition and mocked him, calling his brothers Shem and Japheth. They, however, did not join his mockery but took a sheet with them and walked backwards into the tent covering Noah in the process. When Noah discovered what had happened, he cursed Ham, but especially Ham’s son, Canaan.

Genesis 9:24-27
24And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. 27God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

(v) The Unborn Child of the Middianitish Woman

You may recall that the women of Moab were a temptation to the men of Israel. So much so that they began to go after the false gods of Moab. God was angry against Israel for this unfaithfulness to Him, and smote them with a plague. But what stopped the plague was the action of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, who killed one of the most open philanderers with a javelin. He skewered the man and the woman – in her case, the Bible specifies that it was through her belly, from which may infer that she had a belly – i.e. was pregnant.

Numbers 25:1-9
1And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. 2And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. 3And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. 4And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. 5And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor. 6And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 7And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; 8And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. 9And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

(vi) Achan’s Theft

You may recall Achan. He was passing through the wreckage and rubble of Jericho, a city that was cursed by God. He decided that despite God’s specific prohibition, he would take several items of value that he found in Jericho. He took the items and hid them in his tent. God then defeated Israel at the hands of the tiny forces of Ai.

The fact that others were punished for Achan’s sin became a sort of by-word among Israel, at least for a time:

Joshua 22:20 Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.

More to the point, however, when Joshua had discovered that Achan the son of Zerah had disobeyed God, the punishment was his death, but not only his death. Also executed were his family, and even his cattle.

Joshua 7:24-26
24And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. 25And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

His children were killed with him, though we are not explicitly told that any of them were infants.

(vii) Solomon’s Older Brother

Solomon’s older brother is not named in Scripture. He is the child of the adultery of David with Bathsheba. As you may recall, David’s seduction of Bathsheba and murder of her husband greatly displeased God, and God punished David for this. God spared David’s own life, but he cursed David’s line, such the sword would not depart from it, and more relevant to the point of this article, he slew David’s infant son.

2 Samuel 12:7-23
7And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. 14Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. 15And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. 16David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. 17And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. 18And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? 19But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. 20Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. 21Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. 22And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? 23But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

This list of examples is not exhaustive. For example, we could also add Korah (Numbers 16), Saul’s sons (2 Samuel 21), or Jericho both a first (Joshua 6) and a second time (1 Kings 16), but perhaps the seven examples above suffice to prove the point.

b. God’s Own Self-Description

God does not hesitate to describe himself as a God who punishes the fathers by also punishing their children. We may subsume within that description of course the specific instances where God killed or had killed the children of those who sinned, for the sins of their fathers.

On top of those, we may list the four times God specifically states that he visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children:

(i) Exodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

(ii) Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

(iii) Numbers 14:18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

(iv) Deuteronomy 5:9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,

3. General Revelation 2 – Conscience, Culture, and Reason

Perhaps this is a bit redundant, but children generally feel responsible for their parent’s failures. Some children respond to this by working twice as hard to avoid doing what their parents did, and other children respond to this by fatalistically resigning themselves to follow in their parents’ footsteps. While the latter approach is wrong, both approaches implicitly recognize a principle of the children being in some way held responsible for what their parents have done.

Culture to a degree reinforces this. The sometimes popular “reparations” movement among descendants of former slaves in America has it its roots a view that the descendants of slave owners should be responsible for what their ancestors did. Slavery itself (in many cultures the result of some personal failure) was passed on to children in many places. Likewise, a degree of cultural opposition to Jews (especially religious Jews) is based on (in some places and at some times in history) on the fact that their ancestors killed Christ (who, in fact, did call down God’s wrath on themselves and their children, Matthew 27:25).

Furthermore, Reason applying itself to culture commends the same. For culture generally permits inheritances of goods to children (as Scripture confirms to be proper). Reason, favoring symmetry, suggests that not only positive things but negative things should be transmitted from parents to children, thus favoring the idea that guilt too may be inherited.


For all these reasons, it should be clear that it is just for children to be punished for their parents’ sins. It may violate the principles on which modern pluralistic society is built – specifically the value of rugged individualism – but it is Scriptural, it is in accordance with the light of nature, and it is in accordance with the light of conscience and reason. Thus, we properly affirm it.


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