Sexual Inequality In The Old Testament In todays society women are looked upon ignorantly by the male gender. This attitude derived from the nave men of the Old Testament. They did not see women as being an important part of history and therefore hardly spoke of them. When women were mentioned it was usually in a condescending fashion. Even with genealogies in the Old Testament women were not listed as if to show that they were not important and of no concern.
Women in the Old Testament our viewed as being inferior to men, sexual predators, and an item of property. In the first creation story (Genesis 1:27) God is described as creating man, both male and female at the same time. This might be interpreted as implying equality between the two genders. But in the second creation story, (Genesis 2:7) God formed only a man. Realizing that he needed a helper (Genesis 2:18), God marched all of the animals past Adam (Genesis 2:19-20) looking for a suitable animal. Finding none suitable, God created Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs.
The term helper has historically been interpreted as implying an inferior role for Eve. (The Hebrew translated word helper is used twenty-one times in the Old Testament: twenty of these cases refer to help from a superior.)(Coogan 813)Adam later asserts his authority over Eve by naming her. In Genesis 19 the men of Sodom gathered around Lot’s house, and asked that he bring his two guests out so that the men can know them. This in frequently interpreted as a desire to gang rape the visitors, although other interpretations are possible. Lot offers his two virgin daughters to be raped instead.
Yet, even after this despicable act, Lot is still regarded as an honorable man, worth saving from the destruction of the city. Allowing one’s daughters to be sexually assaulted by multiple rapists appears to be treated as a minor transgression, because of the low status of the young women. A man could simultaneously keep numerous concubines. These were sexual partners of an even lower status than a wife was. As implied in Genesis 21:10, she could be dismissed when no longer needed.
Another example of this inferiority to men it is the book of Exodus. In Exodus 20:17 it lists the last of the Ten Commandments. It forbids coveting your neighbor’s house, wife, slaves, animals or anything else that the neighbor owns. The wife is clearly regarded as equivalent to a piece of property and in no way would a piece of property be superior to a man. Also in Exodus 21:22-25 it describes a situation in which two men are fighting and hit a pregnant woman.
If the woman has a miscarriage because of the blow, the men must pay a fine for their act – not to the woman, but to her husband, presumably because he has been deprived of a child. Leviticus 12:1-5 explains that a woman who has given birth to a boy is ritually unclean for 33 days. If the baby is a girl, the mother is unclean for 66 days. It would appear that the act of having a baby is a highly polluting act. To give birth to a girl is twice as polluting as is giving birth to a boy.
In Leviticus 18:20 and 20:10, adultery was defined as a man having sexual intercourse with his neighbor’s wife. Deuteronomy 22:23 extends this prohibition to a man sleeping with a woman who is engaged to be married. If a man has an affair with an unmarried woman, the act is not considered adultery. Although God wanted men to only have one wife, married men on many occasions visited prostitutes and received no punishment for this sin. This was a double standard among the sexes for a woman got severely punished if she committed such a sin.
A man who committed adultery did not commit a wrongful act against his wife, but rather against his male neighbor implying that a woman did not matter. Another example of where the Bible insists that men are more important than women is in Leviticus 27:6. A child aged 1 month to five years of age was worth 5 shekels if a boy and 3 shekels if a girl and in Numbers 3:15 it shows that a census counted only male infants over the age of one month, boys and men. Females were not considered worthy of being included. Women were also thought of as inferior when it came to things such as rituals.
InNumbers 5:11-31 women were forced to perform a magic ritual if their husbands suspected them of having had an affair. A priest prepared a potion composed of holy water mixed with sweepings from the floor of the tabernacle. He proclaimed a curse over the potion and required the woman to drink it. If she were guilty, she would suffer greatly: her abdomen would swell and her thighs would waste away. There was no similar magical test for husbands suspecting of having an affair with another woman. The two genders were treated differently simply because one presumed that the man was superior.
When it came to such things like goods and inheritance the same concept of women being inferior took place again. In Numbers 27:8-11, Moses described the rules of inheritance that God has stated. If a man died, his son inherited the estate; his daughter received nothing. If there was no son, then his daughter inherited. If there were no children, then the estate was given to the man’s brothers; his sister(s) received nothing.The more important people, meaning the men, received everything and the women only got something when there were no men.
Also in Numbers chapter 30 it described that a vow taken by a man was binding. But her father could nullify a vow taken by a woman, if she was still living in her family of origin, or by her husband, if she was married. In the book of Deuteronomy it described how a soldier could marry a woman captive without regard for her wishes (21:10-13). It also required that a woman be a virgin when she was married. If she had had sexual relations while single in her father’s house, then she would be stoned to death.
There were no similar virginity requirements for men (22:13-21). It also required that a virgin woman who had been raped must marry her attacker, no matter what her feelings were towards the rapist (22:28-29). Along with marriage went divorce. In Deuteronomy it described the procedure for obtaining a divorce. This could only be initiated by the husband, …