From the very point of creation, God made no difference between man and woman – both of them were humans, created in His own image, who had to reflect the beauty of heavens on the earth and share their love with the Creator and each other. Both Adam and Eve had to work in the Garden of Eden and take care of it.
Disregarding the fact that Adam was created first, Eve was made as a helper, suitable for him, as a conscious and responsible personality. In the second chapter of the book of Genesis, we read that God gave all commands to Adam only, so he was responsible to retell them to Eve that she could fully understand the will of God and fulfill the commandments properly. She was made for Adam to help him, and apart from all other creatures, was called “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones” (Gen. 2:23); therefore, they both belonged to each other and supplemented each other. Keeping their individuality, Adam and Eve, at the same time, formed a new unity, and this community was so self-valuable, that for its sake “shall a man leave his father and his mother” (Gen. 2:24).
On the other hand, we can see the God’s order in the family: God – man – woman. As a leader in the family, Adam, at the same time, was subordinate to God, and both man and woman were subjected to the sovereign power of Almighty God. And only after their fall, the Lord God made a clear distinction between man and woman: “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen.3:16b). This leading role of man is proven by the fact that Eve had fallen into temptation first, consequently breaking the God’s order on the earth. Yet, man must take the main responsibility. But if the core predestination of man is
“Literary Criticism – Feminism”
work, woman is predetermined to bare children, be a mother, which is bound to pain and sufferings. Being in subordination, which was based on love, the fall of man has shifted it to the dominance of man over woman. But one should remember that it was not a new covenant of God, but rather a direct result of the fall.
Since considering first of all the interests of man, who was permitted to have several wives, in the marriage husband had more freedom, comparing to wife. For example, one of the Ten Commandments claims that “thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife” (Ex. 20:17), for this kind of adultery was interpreted as criminal offence on the property of another man (wife is mentioned in this text between such things as house, ox, servant). Only in Deuteronomy the same text gives wife a separate place in the list of man’s belongings. The consequences for the adultery also differed depending on the social status of woman:
death to man found with a married woman;
trespass offering for maidservant;
marriage or money penalty for a maid.
“Literary Criticism – Feminism”
Such strict regulations were called to prevent divorces; yet the adultery was widespread and was mostly noted in Proverbs. The offering of jealousy (offering of memorial) testified about the male privileges: man could demand this offering if he had the slightest, even groundless, suspicion as to his wife’s behavior (water could either cause the curse or not). Men were not subjected to this test.
Divorce was also a sole prerogative of man. According to Deuteronomy 24:1, he had the right to divorce with his wife, if “he hath found some uncleanness in her”. This regulation assumes a number of interpretations: if in the beginning it was enabled only in cases of wife’s bad behavior, then, in the course of time, the bill of divorcement was given to man if his wife caused the slightest displeasure.
For her whole life, woman was dependant: first from father, later – from husband, and, finally, – from son, with the exception of widows, whose children were under age. This position primarily guaranteed her the sense of security. Disregarding the savage customs (Lot, who was eager to give his two daughters to sodomites – Gen. 19:8, Levite, who gave his concubine to the men of the city – Judges 19:24-26) that were caused by the fall, women in Israel had deserving and full life, they were loved and respected by their men (1-Sam. 1:5,8) and children (Ps. 35:14) and were honored with public acknowledgement and praise (Proverbs 5:18, 12:4, 18:22; Eccl. 9:9).
In Israel, woman held better position, comparing to other Orient nations. Women and maids of the Old Testament could freely and unconstrainedly take part in social affairs and amenities. Sara, though she called Abram as “master”, nevertheless, had persuaded him to take a concubine (Gen. 16:1-4). Rebecca had not veiled herself until she met Isaac (Gen. 24:64). Jacob greeted Rachel with a kiss before the shepherds (Gen. 29:11). Women participated in public celebrations, the songs of Miriam, Deborah, and Hannah (Ex. 15:20, 21;
“Literary Criticism – Feminism”
Judges 5 chapter, 1-Samuel 2:1-10) prove the highly developed intellectual faculties. Israeli women of the Old Testament also held official positions, such as the prophetesses Miriam, Huldah and Noadiah, and Deborah, the prophetess, who judged Israel.
As a wife, mother and mistress, women are depicted in the most attractable manner. Heathenism cannot show the portrait of the woman that is described in Proverbs, chapter 31. Israel was the first one, who was taught by God to look at mother’s heart, as the likeness of God’s heart: “can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Is. 49:15). The Law of Israel had lifted woman from that humbled state she was in heathenism. Yet, along with respect and honor, Bible gives us plain call to beware of foolish (Prov. 14:1), brawling, angry (Prov. 21:9, 19) and fair women without discretion (Prov. 11:22).
First of all, woman was called to carry out duties of mother and mistress of the house. In these issues, man totally relied on her. In the house, woman could work and make decisions independently; she could manage her servants, who could belong directly to her (Gen. 16:1, 6; 29:24, 1-Sam. 25:42). Her primary responsibility was to raise children, at that mother’s covenant was equal to father’s admonitions (Prov. 1:8, 6:20). Women’s wisdom was highly valued and honored (Prov. 14:1, 31:26). Returning to Bethlehem, Naomi had the right to own the property of her husband (Ruth 4:3, 9), just as daughters had a part in father’s inheritance (Numb. 27:1-11), and Shunammite, the widow, was restored her house and field (2 Kings 8:1-6).
In contrast to men, women were not obliged to worship in the tabernacle regularly (Ex. 23:17), however, they brought the instructed sacrifices personally; they participated in celebrations and took portions of offerings. Women from priests’ families could eat offerings of the holy things; women and girls were praising the Lord with their dances and songs (Ex.15:20. Moreover, God gives especial revelations to women: the Lord has revealed the future of her sons to Rebecca – “two nations are in thy womb … and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:22, 23); Manoah’s wife was the first to receive the news about a son – “and the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman” (Judges 13:3); along with prophets, women were used by God to reveal His will to Israel, Miriam was the first mentioned prophetess, and “Deborah, a prophetess, she judged Israel” (Judges 4:4).
So, analyzing all the texts and the mentioned above, we see that there is no single opinion, regulation and voice in Bible verses, regarding to women. Yet, one text gives us clear explanation to this issue: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21: 25). From human side, we had seen the difference in male attitudes towards women: in some cases that were regarded as property, in others, as humans equal or with the same social rights. Sometimes, they were treated like a thing, but, in contrast, women’s wisdom, beauty, love and meekness are considered as the greatest gifts from God to men.
Anyway, in all these texts, it is obvious that “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nether are your ways My ways, saith the Lord” (Is. 55:8). Due to the fall, thoughts and ways of men were perverted and devil is still making everything possible to make them wickeder; therefore, sinless relations between man and woman were totally changed, but God still looks at them the same way – the way they should be. Angels, sent to women first, prophetess, chosen to tell the will of God, offerings, brought by women – prove that God can use them, just like men, and sometimes, women were holding the same positions, even not taking into account that God is looking at Israel, as to His children, disregarding the gender, as the whole community of children of God. Therefore, the sole contrast between men’s and God’s attitude towards women lies in the notion that the fall of man brought the difference in the world and human’s perception of woman’s role in the society.
Holy Bible, King James Version. Plume, 1974.