The depiction of Women in the Old Testament The Bible never says that women are evil, sexually wanton or inferior to men; instead, it says a lot of good things regarding women. In the Old Testament/ Hebrew Scriptures, most women are described as enterprising, resourceful, intelligent as well as, courageous. However, there are some many stories in the Old Testament that involve demeaning treatment of certain women. For instance, women were restricted to roles of no authority as well as, not allowed to testify in court. In summary, this paper will discuss on the depiction of Women in the Old Testament using two sources; Bible Harper Collins Study Bible and the Encountering Ancient Voices by Corrine Carvalho.
In Leviticus 12:1-5, a woman who gives birth to a boy is considered to be ritually unclean for 7 days. However, if the woman gives birth to a girl, the mother is unclean for 14 days. “If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days…But if she bears a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks…” Conversely, Exodus 21:22-25 describes a scenario where two men fought and one hit a pregnant woman, in this case if the woman miscarries, then the man would be punished as well as, pays a fine for his misdeed presumably because he has been deprived of a child. Exodus 21:22: “…he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.”
The Old Testament depicts a woman as a being of three distinct obediences; that is, at her youth she must obey her father, at marriage she must obey her husband and incase she becomes a widow, she must obey her son. For example, Leah and Rachel subservience to Laban their father, Sarah to her husband Abraham and thirdly of Rebecca to Laban (Willis, 1995).
Early books of the old testament including Genesis postulates a wife as a legal property of the husband upon payment of her bride price and is enjoined in number as ox and oxen and children. (Exodus 21:3, 22 Deut 22:22) hence we see a woman as a commercial exploit of the husband and his relation, consequently any damage to her person is seen as a depreciation of value and must be compensated according to the set rules as had earlier been discussed (Carvalho, 2006).
In Leviticus 18:20 adultery was defined as a man having sexual intercourse with his neighbor’s wife. Leviticus 20:10 as well as, Deuteronomy 22:23 extend this prohibition to a man sleeping with a woman who is engaged to be married. If a man has an affair with an unmarried woman, the act is not considered adultery (Willis, 1995). Married men were free to visit prostitutes. A man who committed adultery did not commit a wrongful act against his own wife, but rather against his male neighbor. In this we can conclude that women were of a lower stature compared to her male counterpart and was never accorded the same respect in society (Carvalho, 2006).
Numbers 5:11-31 describes a lengthy magical ritual that women were forced to perform if their husbands suspected them of having had an affair. A priest prepared a potion composed of holy water mixed with sweepings from the floor of the tabernacle. He proclaimed a curse over the potion and required the woman to drink it. There is no similar magical test for husbands suspected of having an affair with another woman. Divorce was as well a preserve decision of husbands and woman consent was never necessary (Carvalho, 2006).
Carvalho, C. (2006). Encountering Ancient Voices. A Guide to Reading the Old Testament Second Edition. Retrieved September 24, 2014, from http://www.anselmacademic.org/Excerpts/EncounteringAncientVoicessampler.pdfWillis, M. (1995). The Role of Women As Revealed In the Old Testament. The Role of Women As Revealed In the Old Testament. Retrieved September 24, 2014, from http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume39/GOT039034.html