Women in the Heart of God (IIb)

The Data From the Pre-Monarchy Literature


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 LEGAL data.

One: The Legal Data from the Pre-monarchy period.

The previous section on historical data had frequent illustrations of legal situations and transactions involving women, but the Law of Moses has a wealth of information that directly reveals God's heart for His daughters. In this section we will look at:

  1. Passages which address women as to cultic responsibilities, offerings, and equal liability before God;

  2. Passages which show equal value, treatment, punishment, and honor for women;

  3. Passages which focus on women's legal rights, property codes, and relationship with the broader legal community; and

  4. Passages which show either stricter requirements/penalties on men, and/or preferential treatment/special protection for women.


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  1. Passages which address women as to cultic responsibilities, offerings, and equal liability before God with men.

  2. Passages which show equal value, treatment, punishment, and honor for women

  3. Passages which focus on women's legal rights, property codes, and relationship with the broader legal community.

  4. Passages which show either stricter requirements/penalties on men, and/or preferential treatment/special protection for women.

    Although the above texts indicated that women were at least EQUAL TO men in most respects before God, there is a surprising number of passages which indicate either stricter standards for men, or preferential treatment by God for His daughters.

Summary:

If we simply list the observations from above, we find quite a significant presence of women in the corpus and design of the Law.

  1. Women are addressed in the law, along with the men. (Ex 20.10; Dt 32.19)
  2. Women offered gifts as wave offerings and freewill offerings. (Ex 35.22,29)
  3. Women performed religious duties and service at the Tent of Meeting. (Ex 38.3)
  4. Women were included in the benefits of the priestly families. (Lev 10.14; Num 18.11,19)
  5. Women could make Nazirite vows. (Num 6)
  6. Head of household women could make un-restricted vows. (Num 30.9)
  7. Even young girls could make religious vows to the Lord. (Num 30.3-5)
  8. Women were expected to travel to celebrate the cultic feasts. (Deut 12.12,18; 16.11,14)
  9. Women were addressed as covenant parties, at the public reading of the Law. (Dt 29.9ff; Dt 31.10ff)
  10. Women were prophetesses and worshipped/prayed in the sanctuary. (Miriam, Deborah, Hannah)
  11. Women inquired of the Lord. (Rebekah)
  12. Mothers were to be equally honored along with Fathers. (Ex 20.12)
  13. Crimes against mothers were of the same severity and punishment as crimes against fathers. (Ex 21.15,17; Lev 20.9; Dt 27.16)
  14. Male and Female slaves were valued equally. (Ex 21.26ff)
  15. Male and Female babies were atoned for with EQUAL sacrifices. (Lev 12.6)
  16. Laws of sexual contact and skin diseases applied equally to men and women. (Lev 13; Lev 15.18; Num 5.1-3)
  17. Men and women were equally punished when they were guilty. (Lev 20.10-12; Lev 20.27)
  18. Women family member of priests were important enough for the priest to become unclean for. (Lev 21.1)
  19. Men and women were expected to make material restitution of equal amounts. (Num 5.6)
  20. Punishment of covenant treason was identical for both men and women. (Dt 13.6ff; 17.2ff; 29.18)
  21. Conditions of commercial sale and release of 6-year slaves were identical for male and female. (Dt 15.12)
  22. Men and women could both be considered 'plunder' in foreign military campaigns. (Deut 20.10)
  23. Religious prostitution was off-limits for both sexes. (Dt 23.17-18)
  24. Wives were not considered property per se, even of male slaves. (Ex 21.2-4)
  25. Unmarried daughters could get inheritance and property.(Num 27.1-7)
  26. A father's daughters had higher inheritance priority than did his brothers. (Num 27.8-9)
  27. Women could be witnesses/agents at the Gate--including for capital crimes. (Deut 21.18; 22.15; 25.5ff)
  28. One woman apparently was a member of the judging assembly at the Gate (Deborah--cf. Jud 5.11f).
  29. Widows, if not accepted for Levirate marriage, had adequate legal rights to effect transfer of inheritance property from a brother-in-law to themselves (by invoking the elders at the Gate in an institutionalized ceremony). (Deut 25.5ff)
  30. Men were reminded more often and more forcefully of their sexual obligations. (Ex 20.17; Ex 22.16; Lev 18; Deut 27; Lev 19.20-22)
  31. Women were protected in the event of being sold into slavery. (Ex 21.7-11)
  32. Virgins were protected and provided for, in case of violation by a man. (Ex 22.16)
  33. Women were allowed extra "time off" if they gave birth to a girl baby. (Lev 12.1ff)
  34. Women had considerable flexibility in the Law relative to their monthly period. (Lev 15.19ff)
  35. God made a law that made it easier for a female slave to buy her freedom. (Lev 27.1ff)
  36. God provided a protection-ceremony to vindicate an accused woman. (Num 5.12ff)
  37. Young women were allowed to make vows to YHWH without having to bear the consequences of rash vows. (Num 30.3ff)
  38. Married women were in structures designed to protect BOTH the man and the wife, from expensive or destructive vows. God built in a 'safety catch.' (Num 30.10ff)
  39. Even captive foreign women were provided protection and humane treatment. (Deut 21.11ff)
  40. God builds laws to protect women and their reputation from evil men. (Deut 22.13-19)
  41. God gives the benefit of the doubt to women, but not to men--in matters of sexual error. (Deut 22.25-27)
  42. God creates some boundaries around capricious divorce. (Deut 24.1)
  43. God is very desirous of a newlywed wife's happiness. (Deut 24.5)
  44. God created both marriage laws, agricultural policies, and financial programs to provide for widows/divorcees (Lev 21.1-3; 22.12; Deut 10.17f; Deut 14.28f; Dt 26.12; Dt 16.9ff; Deut 24.17-21; Deut 27.19).

In general, we see an almost painstaking attention to detail in God's law, to protect the woman in society, to encourage her religious life, and to facilitate her contribution to biblical history. God seeks His daughters to worship Him in spirit and in truth.


The Christian ThinkTank...[http://www.christian-thinktank.com] (Reference Abbreviations)