Women in the Heart of God (IIa)

The Data From the Pre-Monarchy Literature


(updated 10/08/96)
In this period, we have THREE sources of primary data: the historical data in the narratives before the institution of the Kingship in I Samuel 8, the legal data from the Law of Moses, and the literary data of the biblical text itself. In this section, we will focus on the HISTORICAL data.

One: The Historical Data from the Pre-monarchy narratives.

  1. Passages in which God is an agent


  2. Passages in which Women participate in the religious life/cult


  3. Passages in which Women participate in favorable or equal social/legal transactions

  4. Passages in which Women manifest social, familial, and cultural power.

    There are three specific types of texts that show this dimension of women's experience in the OT: the interactions of the wife with the husband, the exhibition of Sage-like behaviors in historically important events, and the appearance of hero-type figures in the narratives.

    So, the narrative data indicates a rather wide range of role models, heroes, community agents, and influence-wielders among the women population of the time.

Summary:
If we simply list some of the above observations, we get a surprisingly robust picture of Israelite women:

  1. They were necessary to make the universe "good" (Gen 1.26-28)
  2. They shared joint responsibility with man to rule/fill the earth. (Gen 1.26-28)
  3. God judged people who sinned against females. (Gen 12.17; Gen 20.1-6)
  4. God spoke directly with females. (Gen 16.17ff; Gen 21.17-19;Judg 13.2)
  5. God listened to females and answered their prayers. (Gen 16.17ff; Gen 30.17; I Sam 1.27)
  6. God makes promises to females. (Gen 16.17ff; Gen 21.17-19)
  7. The first appearance of the Angel of YHWH was to a female. (Gen 16.17ff)
  8. God blessed Sarah at the same level and in the same covenant-forms as Abraham. (Gen 18.9ff)
  9. God includes females and their issues in His discussions with males. (Gen 18.9f; 19.12f)
  10. God is gracious and faithful to females. (Gen 21.1f; Gen 29.31; Gen 30.17)
  11. God tells males to pay attention to their wives! (Gen 21.12)
  12. God imparts insight/wisdom to women.(Gen 21.17-19)
  13. Women could inquire of God formally. (Gen 25.2f)
  14. Women were the first to 'inquire' of God in scripture. (Gen 25.2ff)
  15. God delivered prophecies directly to women. (Gen 25.2ff)
  16. Women recognized God's goodness and so bore witness in their children's'` names. (Gen 29.32f; 30.18ff)
  17. God killed people for not protecting/providing for women's needs. (Gen 38.8)
  18. God included women in the core functions of the first Passover. (Ex 4.22ff)
  19. God honored 'civil' disobedience on the part of wise and committed women. (Ex 1.20-21)
  20. God 'took the side' of women in some major legal disputations/decisions. (Num 27.1ff)
  21. God gave military victory/honor to women. (Judg 4.4)
  22. Women publicly declared that God answered their prayers. (Judg 5)
  23. Women were involved in public exposition/reading of the Law. (Jos 8.34-35)
  24. Women could dedicate gifts and offerings to YHWH. (Judg 17.3)
  25. Women had access to the pre-Temple sanctuary. (I Sam 1,2)
  26. Women could make vows without husband approval. (I Sam 1,2)
  27. Women served the Lord at the Tent of Meeting. (I Sam 2.22)
  28. Women served as prophetesses. (Miriam--Ex 15.20; Deborah--Judg 4.4; among Abe, Moses, Aaron, Samuel)
  29. Women had legal rights to name children, without husband involvement. (Gen 4.25; 29,30; 35.19; I Sam 1)
  30. Women had recognized legal rights, which also generate 'duties' for males (Gen 20.14ff; 38.8).
  31. Women show up in all sorts of genealogies (except military enrollments). (Gen 5; 46:5; 46.15; 46.17; Num 26.33; 26:46; I Chron)
  32. Marriage required the approval of the woman. (Gen 24.6ff; 24:57f)
  33. Women show up as joint-agents with husbands in a wide range of authority-type activities.(Gen 26.11; 26:34-35)
  34. Mothers had considerable influence and legal authority over adult male sons.(Gen 27; 37.9-10)
  35. Wives/women could own property. (Gen 29.24,29)
  36. Unmarried daughters could own property. (Num 27)
  37. Wives co-owned property with their husband. (Gen 29.31.16)
  38. Childless widows could own and sell property. (Ruth 4.9)
  39. Women were consistently loved and blessed by their relatives. (Gen 23.2; 25.59; 25.21; Gen 31.48ff; 31.55; 48.7)
  40. Women were sought for counsel by males. (Gen 31.4ff)
  41. Women were called 'noble' and 'better' in public by males. (Gen 38.26; Gen 34.7.31; Ruth 3.10)
  42. Women's interactions with their husbands indicate a strong 'uppity' character. (Gen 16.1ff; 16.5; 27.46; 30.1; 30.16; Ex 4.24)
  43. Women typically manifest sage-like behavior, argumentation, functions, and results. (above 'uppity' passages; Gen 21.11; Gen 27-the 'trickery of Reb'; Gen 38-Tamar; Gen 31.4ff; Midwives, Zipporah, Judg 4.17ff)
  44. Women are sometimes pictured as 'correcting' the mistakes of male authority figures (Rebekah, midwives, Jael, Rahab).
  45. Women contributions to the history of the chosen people (apart from giving birth to all of the participants!) were substantial and critical to the success of biblical history:
  46. Men leaders officially declare women as vindicated or ethically superior. (Gen 38.26; 20.14ff)
  47. The only known exception to God's exclusion of Moabites from His assembly (Dt 23.3) is for a female--Ruth, who also becomes an ancestor of David and Jesus (cf. Ruth 4.21 and Matt 1.5).
  48. Several women heroes show up in the narrative (the Matriarchs, Sherah, the midwives, Miriam, daughters of Zelophehad, Rahab, Deborah, Hannah(?), Ruth)
  49. One woman actually 'sat' in the assembly of the elders in the 'gate' (Jud 5.11f).
  50. These role models came from every strata of society--leadership, wealthy families, foreigners, ordinary folk, prostitutes.
  51. One woman held the highest political office of the day.

The historical data in the narratives of pre-monarchical Israel reveal a rather important level of influence of women on the historical unfolding of Israel, as well as indications of special care from the heart of God for His daughters.


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