Pushback....

...."Weren't women considered property in the OT, like cows or something? Didn't the Law say a father could even SELL his daughter?!!"


[Note: This is a simple summary of the detailed data in the syllabus. Refer there for sources/discussion. Updated: 01/02/97]
This is a very common question, and frankly, one I find amazing. It shows up in many, many Christian and non-Christian writings (even scholarly pieces!). Yet the evidence AGAINST this assertion is quite definitive.

The normal reason that people assume this, is that the OT makes a statement that 'slaves' are property (Lev 25.45f):

You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
And then they use the "selling a daughter" passage in Lev 21:7:
"If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do.
So, I guess they conclude that women were considered property thereby. [Also, I have heard it mentioned that women were 'deeded' along with land, as in the case of Naomi and Ruth, but the fact that Naomi had to 'sell the land' indicates that this conclusion is not that easy to reach.]

And the problem is...

First, the "property" passage ONLY APPLIES TO NON-ISRAELITES (see the end of the passage). Any buying and selling of Hebrew persons was more of an indentured servant relationship, that could only last for 6 years (cf. Ex 21.2: "If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything."). These "servants" are NEVER called "property" in the OT.

Secondly, a man could ALSO sell his son (Neh 5.5: Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery.) and sell HIMSELF (Lev 25.39: "`If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. 40 He is to be treated as a hired worker or a temporary resident among you; he is to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. 41 Then he and his children are to be released, and he will go back to his own clan and to the property of his forefathers. 42 Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. 43 Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.).

What this obviously means is that this 'selling' relationship HAD NOTHING TO DO with gender! [Other than the possible conclusion we might draw from the fact that the man is nowhere allowed to sell his WIFE! (grin)...]

Thirdly, it should be noted that the passage used in the objection (the 'selling a daughter' one) is actually a 'protection passage' for the woman--there are severe abuse-restrictions placed on THAT transaction, that do NOT occur in the descriptions of selling sons or self. God built some protection clauses in for His daughters.

Fourthly, who ever heard of "property OWNING property"?!

Yet women in the OT...


Sounds more like they were 'own-ers' than 'own-ees' to me!

Finally, notice that a woman could sell HERSELF--indicating that she was NOT someone else's property.

If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free.
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The data above seems clear: (1) "selling" and "property" passages had no gender-specific elements; and (2) the data of the OT is quite clear that women were NOT property, as illustrated by their ability to wield property themselves.
The Christian ThinkTank...[http://www.christian-thinktank.com] (Reference Abbreviations)