"This is why a man is to leave his father and mother and stick with his wife, and they are to be one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Concerning Women

a still from the Alef Beta teaching on acquiring a wife.a still from the Alef Beta teaching on acquiring a wife.

 

I have heard some strange things said about the position of women in Bible times; the latest being that it was permissible to divorce ones wife if she was childless.

Some views about the low status of Jewish women make me wonder if people are attributing Islamic practices to the Jews, and how many Christian commentaries are coloured by anti-Jewish stereotypes?

Early books of the Bible do tend to show women being treated as possessions, but some factors need to be borne in mind.

In Genesis, Woman was created to be a suitable companion for man, and marriages appear to have been undertaken from this point of view.

Some deplorable things happened to women in the book of Judges, but we must remember that the overview of those times was that people "did what was right in their own eyes." The Bible records both the good and the bad and expects us to learn from both - what to emulate and what to avoid. This is specially true of the treatment of women in some stories.

What happens when we look at times long ago through twenty first century spectacles?

Arranged marriages seem so archaic and unromantic, seen from our time. But what is so good about our present day western culture of falling in love (or lust) and moving in together; with or without a big showy wedding?

Answer: a fifty percent divorcee rate and a high proportion of children growing up without a father. An arranged marriage, demands that the couple be committed to making the marriage work, as opposed to what appears to be happening in our day; people walking away from their marriage when the warm and fuzzy feelings wear off.

See Weddings for more on Jewish practice.

What are the effects of viewing marriage in the Hebrew scriptures through spectacles of a century of feminism?

The Jewish scriptures and traditional practices were certainly not feminist friendly, but that does not make them bad. Right from the beginning we see woman created from man to be a partner, and to bear children, and not to have the same role as man.

Genesis 2:20    So the person gave names to all the livestock, to the birds in the air and to every wild animal. But for Adam there was not found a companion suitable for helping him. Then God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the person; and while he was sleeping, he took one of his ribs and closed up the place from which he took it with flesh. The rib which Adonai, God, had taken from the person, he made a woman-person; and he brought her to the man-person.

The man-person said, "At last! This is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She is to be called Woman [ Hebrew: ishah ], because she was taken out of Man [ Hebrew: ish ]." This is why a man is to leave his father and mother and stick with his wife, and they are to be one flesh.

After the fall (Genesis 3) man is cursed to labour to provide for himself and his family, while the woman is cursed to bear children in pain and be subject to her husband.

Genesis 3:16    To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pain in childbirth. You will bring forth children in pain. Your desire will be toward your husband, but he will rule over you." To Adam he said, "Because you listened to what your wife said and ate from the tree about which I gave you the order, 'You are not to eat from it,' the ground cursed on your account; you will work hard to eat from it as long as you live. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat field plants. You will eat bread by the sweat of your forehead till you return to the ground-for you were taken out of it: you are dust, and you will return to dust." The man called his wife Havah [ life ], because she was the mother of all living.

Women proved, in two world wars, that they were able to take up many of the roles that their menfolk had left to go and fight. But that does not make man and woman the same, and that they should have the same roles in God's plans. There seems to be an implication that men and women being of equal worth is the same as being the same. It should be recognised that there is a cost in pursuing sameness in the world of work, and that it is not possible for a woman to "have it all." Poor rearing of children can all too easily be the cost, with children being raised by professionals.

Divorce

One feature of Jewish wedding practice is the Ketubah, that is a marriage contract.

The Get or Gett is the corresponding docket of termination of marriage. Some things said about the Get appears to have more to do with Islamic divorce than Jewish practice.

Grounds for divorce?

Pharisees quizzed Yeshua about divorce and the Torah

Mark 10:2    Some P'rushim came up and tried to trap him by asking him, "Does the Torah permit a man to divorce his wife?" He replied, "What did Moshe command you?" Read to verse 12

People study this passage concerning remarriage; but it is about divorce and how God hates it.

Matthew 5:31   "It was said, 'Whoever divorces his wife must give her a get.'

Matthew 19:7   They said to him, "Then why did Moshe give the commandment that a man should hand his wife a get and divorce her?"

Yeshua said, Matthew 5:31    "It was said, 'Whoever divorces his wife must give her a get.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and that anyone who marries a divorcee commits adultery.

According to Wikipedia, A get or gett is a divorce document in Jewish religious law, which must be presented by a husband to his wife to effectuate their divorce. The essential part of the get is very short: the text states "You are hereby permitted to all men", which means that the woman is no longer married and that the laws of adultery no longer apply. The get also returns to the wife the legal rights that a husband holds in regard to her in a Jewish marriage.

This statement "You are hereby permitted to all men" would appear to be an example of the religious leaders devising laws that actually go against God's intentions. As Yeshua quoted Isaiah on one occasion when he clashed with the religious leaders.

Mark 7:7 'Their worship of me is useless, because they teach man-made rules as if they were doctrines.' "You depart from God's command and hold onto human tradition.'

If women are supposed to be virgins when they marry, how can a document restore that state of virginity?

Yeshua's teaching appears to be improving upon tradition, in the same way as he widened out murder to including holding hatred.

We are told, "God hates divorce" quoting Malachi

Malachi 2:16  says "For I hate divorce," says Adonai the God of Isra'el, "and him who covers his clothing with violence," says Adonai-Tzva'ot. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and don't break faith.

But, remember the word translated as "hate" comes up in several places and is always problematical.

We read that God loved Jacob, but “hated” Esau (Malachi 1:3). However, we can see that God actually blessed Esau greatly

We also read that Jacob “hated” his first wife Leah. Upon closer reading, however, it becomes clear that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (Gen.29:31).

Yeshua's spoke of hating one's father and mother - a violation of the fifth commandment if taken too literally.

The key to resolving this difficulty is hidden in the ancient meaning of the Hebrew word soneh - being inaccurately translated as “hate”. It appears that, in Biblical Hebrew, soneh meant “loving someone/something less”.

If we read that that God “soneh” divorce (Malachi 2:16), it tells us that God sees divorce as being a second best solution to a painful situation. Torah protects people from needing to continue in an abusive marriage

 

The Get is not a husbands' charter for capriciously getting rid of their wives

chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/560110/jewish/The-Husbands-Grounds-for-Divorce.htm is an interesting and balanced outline of Jewish perspective.

The conclusion of this article is,

"The very notion of a get procedure is to fore-stall the instantaneous termination of a marriage. The Rabbinical Court will deliberate, and the first point of deliberation will be to see if outstanding issues between the couple can or cannot be corrected."

The word on divorce in the Torah appears to be

Deuteronomy 24  "Suppose a man marries a woman and consummates the marriage but later finds her displeasing, because he has found her offensive in some respect. He writes her a divorce document, gives it to her and sends her away from his house. She leaves his house, goes and becomes another man's wife; but the second husband dislikes her and writes her a get, gives it to her and sends her away from his house; or the second husband whom she married dies. In such a case her first husband, who sent her away, may not take her again as his wife, because she is now defiled. It would be detestable to Adonai, and you are not to bring about sin in the land Adonai your God is giving you as your inheritance.

The acceptable grounds appear to be finding her offensive in some way; presumably concerning her behaviour.

There may well have been men who divorced their wives on account of childlessness, but there appears to be no grounds for saying that Jewish law sanctioned this.

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/divorce-in-the-bible/ includes this passage.

Yet there were qualifications, important because the rabbis who interpreted biblical law for later generations built the legal structure on them.

1 The husband had to write a bill of divorce and present it to his wife before sending her away ( Deuteronomy 24: 1-3; Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8). This served as protection for her, as a delaying mechanism so that in a fit of anger a husband could not simply pronounce a declaration of divorce and be done with her.

2 It was deduced from the biblical law on the accusation of premarital sexual experience that a husband was required to pay some kind of alimony settlement upon divorce. (It was this payment that the accusing husband sought to get out of; he had nothing else to gain from the procedure as he could divorce his wife at will.)

3 There were two specific instances recorded in the Bible in which a man could never divorce his wife: if he had falsely accused her of premarital sex or if she was a virgin he had raped and was forced to marry. (This law, which appears to us crude, was designed for the protection of the woman who, having lost her virginity through no fault of her own, would be otherwise unmarriageable.)

The Chabad article quoted above does say that a husband may ask for a divorce on account of childlessness; not that he may just issue a get and divorce her. Also, remember that the article does not inform us about Torah, but about present day religious law in one branch of Judaism.

Childlessness features in some scriptural stories and involved consider pain, but not divorce.

Rabbi Dr Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, quoted below, commented in his essay on the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well, that one of the reasons for having had four husbands could have been that she had been divorced for childlessness. But he does not cite any sources for this opinion.

Perhaps our society's struggle with marriage stems from not comprehending God's design for man and woman.

Some say (on the internet) that a Jew could divorce his wife by merely saying, "I divorce thee" three times. Others say that this is practiced in Islam. This seems to be an unsubstantiated opinion concerning the Jews and a misunderstanding of Islamic law. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_in_Islam

Properly understood, many things in the Torah that appear harsh and unacceptable, within today's frame of reference, were actually big steps forward from the prevailing practices of the time. The instructions about slavery provided a safety net for the poorest in society and prevented the ownership and abuse of fellow human beings.

Video studies by Rabbi David Fohrman of AlefBeta include some that throw light on the place of women in the Jewish scriptures.

These videos seek to help people get to the heart of what Torah is all about. Through a willingness to question and take a deeper look at our sources, Aleph Beta helps people find their place in stories that have been told for thousands of years.

Does man "Acquire"woman ??

It seems troubling that in a Jewish marriage, a man 'acquires' a woman - is Judaism really so archaic? In this lecture, Rabbi David Fohrman explores this question in the context of God's creation of Eve, the first woman, and shows that true acquisition is not about control, it's about completeness of the self.

https://jewinthecity.com/2017/10/aleph-beta-on-parshas-bereishis-does-man-acquire-woman/

Can a man sell his daughter?

https://www.alephbeta.org/course/lecture/mishpatim-female-servitude-wait-what

This study of Female Servitude in the Torah by Rabbi David Fohrman is very helpful.

When a man was forced by poverty to sell his daughter into servitude, it was not into slavery as we understand slavery, but giving her the chance to move upwards socially through marriage. The daughter was protected by the terms of the Torah instructions.

The pain of childlessnesss

Rabbi Fohrman also throws light on other issues concerning women, including childlessness, by looking at the story of Hannah.

https://www.alephbeta.org/course/lecture/closeness-is-separateness

From Hannah's prayers to God, we may draw challenging lessons of closeness to a distant God.

Scandal in the story of Ruth?

Another helpful teaching looks at the stranger aspects of the story of Ruth, by examining the scandalous backstory.

https://www.alephbeta.org/course/lecture/ruth-and-the-yibum-connection

Was Paul anti-women ?

One of the areas where the Bible finds itself apparently at odds with the twenty first century is Paul's perceived down on women.

I would not wish to step in to this minefield, just to urge people to see if they have an issue with Paul or with God.

Was Paul urging practices that would enable the church to function well in the culture in which it was found, or was there an eternal principle at stake? And are we properly understanding what Paul was saying?

Was Paul Right About Women?

Rabbi DR. ELI LIZORKIN-EYZENBERG wrote this essay. It caused some dismay when I shared it with friends, but I believe we should weigh these teachings and check that we are not adhering to the traditions of men when we put forth interpretations of what scripture says.

israelbiblecenter.com/paul-right-women/

In 1 Corinthians 14:34 the Apostle Paul's letter states: " . . . the women should keep silent in the assemblies. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says." There are several major problems with this statement.

First, nowhere does the Jewish Law forbid women to speak in public gatherings. Paul, being a well-educated Jew, certainly would have known this. In fact, there was a law on the books that did forbid women to speak, vote and exercise authority over men by holding public office. It was not a Jewish, but a Roman law. These words would sound far more credible if someone else, other than the Jewish Apostle Paul, had written them.

Second, on numerous occasions throughout his travels and letters, the Apostle Paul affirmed the ministry of women (Rom 16:3-4; 1 Cor. 16:19; cf. Acts 16:11-40; 18:26). The centrality of the Shemah - the Oneness of Israel's God, informed Paul's theology when he wrote that in Christ-following assemblies there was no place for segregation or discrimination:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28)

In 1 Corinthians 11:5, he wrote that a woman's head must be covered while she is engaged in speaking in tongues or prophesying in a public assembly. The question was not, therefore, if a woman could speak and teach, but how it should be done in a way that would be right before God, angels and the people of Corinth.

When we read Paul's letters we need to keep in mind that 1 Corinthians was not the beginning of this correspondence. Paul wrote at least one letter to the Corinthians prior to this (1 Cor. 5:9) and the Corinthian leadership had also written to him (1 Cor. 7:1). It is therefore highly probable that the statement in 1 Cor. 14:34-35 is a quotation from a letter that the Corinthian male leadership had addressed to Paul. It was their proposal on how to bring order into the disruptive practice of some women in the congregation as they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Paul, however, disagreed.

If this text is viewed as a quotation, then the challenge in 1 Cor. 14:36 that Paul brings to the male leadership makes perfect sense:

"Was it from you (masculine) that the word of God first went forth?! Or has it come to you (masculine) only?!"

The all-male leadership of the Corinthian congregation was not to forbid (women) to speak in tongues and themselves were to be encouraged to prophecy just as the women among them already were doing:

"Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner." (1 Cor. 14:39-40)

Paul's solution, therefore, was not to exclude half of the congregation from exercising the gifts of the Spirit, but rather to make sure that it was done in a respectful, proper and orderly fashion.

Was Paul right about women? Absolutely! His Corinthian opponents were not.

From Dr Eli's new book, JEWISH INSIGHT INTO SCRIPTURE

See also his essay "What did Jesus teach about divorce?"

Polygamy

A man having more than one wife is obviously not what God intended at creation (the two become one flesh), yet we see it several times among the patriarchs. As with much in the Hebrew scriptures, its inclusion does not condone the practice, but honestly records what happened.

Polygamy obviously took place, and one might argue that it was preferable at that time for a woman to share a husband than to be alone, without support or offspring to support her in her old age. But scripture honestly records the problems with polygamy.

The king was told not to take many wives, as was presumably the general practice at that time. (Think of how Esther came to displace Vashti as queen) Collecting many wives and concubines was Solomon's downfall, as they took his heart away to their foreign gods.

There appears to be a link between extra wives and childlessness. Remember the wrangling that ensued when Abraham and Sarah attempted to solve the problem of Sarah's childlessness. Check out the stress between Rachel and Leah, when the loved wife was childless. Consider Hannah and her pain over the taunting from her rival, Pinina. Had Elkannah, maybe, taken a second wife because Hannah could not give him an heir?

Levirate marriage

Levirate marriage is the obligation of a surviving brother to marry the widow of his brother if he died without having sired children ( Deuteronomy 25:5-6).

The closest relative, referred to as the kinsman redeemer in the story of Ruth, had the first obligation to perform this commandment.

The explicit purpose of this commandment was for the surviving brother enable the widow to produce an heir to perpetuate the name of his dead brother, so that it would not "be blotted out of Israel." It also served to keep property within the family line.

The institution of levirate marriage also served to protect the wife. In numerous verses, the Torah lumps widows with orphans and strangers as the disenfranchised members of society to whom special kindness must be shown. The situation of a widow without children was especially dire, for she had no one to care for her and provide material support. The levirate law guaranteed her a new family, enhanced status, and financial resources.

The most famous stories about levirate marriage in the Bible are those of Tamar and Ruth. See the AlefBeta videos mentioned above.

Acknowledgments to https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/levirate-marriage-and-halitzah/

Concubines

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/concubine

concubine A sexual partner, especially a woman, to whom one is not or cannot be married. A woman who lives with a man, but who is not a wife.

ancient-origins.net/human-origins.../secret-life-ancient-concubine

The practice of taking a concubine goes back thousands of years to the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia and Babylonia where the elite members of society took concubines , many of whom were slaves, however, the first wife always retained a place of primacy in the family.

Helpful article from gotquestions.org/concubine-concubines

Question: "What is a concubine? Why did God allow men to have concubines in the Bible?"

Concubines in the patriarchal age and beyond did not have equal status with a wife. A concubine could not marry her master because of her slave status, although, for her, the relationship was exclusive and ongoing. Sometimes concubines were used to bear children for men whose wives were barren. Concubines in Israel possessed many of the same rights as legitimate wives, without the same respect.

Although it's true the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns concubinage, a condemnation can be found implicitly from the beginning of time.

As a matter of fact, a study of the lives of men like King David and King Solomon (who had 300 concubines; 1 Kings 11:3) reveals that many of their problems stemmed from polygamous relationships ( 2 Samuel 11:2-4).

The Bible never explains why God allowed men to have concubines. He allowed divorce and polygamy, too, although neither was part of His original plan for marriage. Jesus said God allowed divorce because of the hardness of men's hearts ( Matthew 19:8). We can assume the same hardness of heart led to polygamy and concubinage.

We can also surmise a reason based on the culture of the day. Unmarried women in ancient times were completely dependent on their family members, such as their fathers, brothers, etc. If for some reason a woman had no family members or her husband had died or divorced her, she would be left with few options for survival.

more https://www.gotquestions.org/concubine-concubines.html

Perhaps, if we understood what God is saying to us in his Torah, instead of judging it by our limited, world influenced, traditional perspective, our society would have better marriages with relationships as God intended them to be.

Remember what Paul and Peter taught about men and women.

Galatians 3:28    there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for in union with the Messiah Yeshua, you are all one.

Paul was not saying that men and women are the same, but that we have equal standing in Christ as God's loved children. We retain our identity, as do Jews and Gentiles.

Notice too that the above verse starts part way through a sentence and should be read in context.

Yeshua (and Paul) built on the Hebrew scriptures for many teachings, including the roles of men and women (husbands and wives)

Ephesians 5:28   This is how husbands ought to love their wives like their own bodies; for the man who loves his wife is loving himself.

Colossians 3:18   Wives, subject yourselves to your husbands, as is appropriate in the Lord.

Colossians 3:19   Husbands, love your wives and don't treat them harshly.

1Peter 3:1   In the same way, wives, submit to your husbands; so that even if some of them do not believe the Word, they will be won over by your conduct, without your saying anything,

1Peter 3:7   You husbands, likewise, conduct your married lives with understanding. Although your wife may be weaker physically, you should respect her as a fellow-heir of the gift of Life. If you don't, your prayers will be blocked.

And most telling of all, notice what a high calling there is on men as to how they treat their wives.....

Ephesians 5:24   Just as the Messianic Community submits to the Messiah, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  As for husbands, love your wives, just as the Messiah loved the Messianic Community, indeed, gave himself up on its behalf,

 

"I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, they are far superior and always have been." William Golding

Posted 30/09/18

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