Does God View Women as the (Social/Political) Equals of Men?

Does God View Women as the Social Political Equals of Men(Note: we’re not talking about women’s ontological value – that is, their intrinsic value as human beings. This article is only about the role of women in society and marriage.)

In this 5th article in our marriage series, we’ll focus on the Old Testament, having focused on the New Testament in the previous article.  I would highly recommend you back up and read this marriage series from the beginning, because this article will lean on the previous ones.

But before we look at how women were viewed, I want to look at how God expects them to be treated.

 

How God expects women to be Treated

(Note: all scripture quotations from the NASB unless otherwise noted)

1 Peter 3:7

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

If that verse wasn’t clear enough by itself, the Greek word translated “hindered” is “ἐγκόπτω” (egkoptó) and it means:

1465 egkóptō (from 1722 /en, “in” and 2875 /kóptō, “cut”) – properly, cut into (like blocking off a road); hinder (A-S) by “introducing an obstacle that stands sharply in the way of a moving object” (Souter); (figuratively)sharply impede, by cutting off what is desired or needed; to block (hinder)

So husbands, if you don’t live your wife in an understanding way and honor her, God will basically ignore your prayers.  Don’t mistreat your wife.  Ever.

Period

Regardless of whether women are the (social/political) equals of men, men are still required by God to treat their wives well.  I wanted to make that clear before we got started, which we’ll do now.

(Note: There’s far more so say about a man’s duties to his wife and how he should treat her.  The topic deserves a whole article and will get one in this series  but there’s more context needed before we can have that discussion. Specifically, the 7th article will be crucial for context, and we’ll focus a man’s duties in the 8th article.)

 

In the Old testament, were Women Considered the Property of men?

I bring this up because some people believe that women in the Old Testament were considered the “property” of their husband or father.  They argue that the customs of the day are what God intended, and we should regard women that way now.

If you simply ask “Were Women in the Old testament regarded as the Property of men?“, the answer would be “it depends on whether the woman was a slave or not.“.

The simple fact of the matter is that God allowed slavery in the Old Testament and never specifically prohibits it in the new.  Female slaves are mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament.

Therefore, some women (slaves) were regarded as property.

(I’m planning on writing an article about slavery in the Bible.  God’s idea of “slavery” was more like “servant paid with food/clothes/lodging”.  It functioned as the Jewish bankruptcy system, and had a limited duration of 7 years, after which the ‘slave’ went free with lots of free stuff from their former master. If the master mistreated them, they went free immediately according to God’s command.)

There’s a crucial thing I want to point out: if only some women were regarded as property, then all women weren’t regarded as property.

The logic is simple, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

For example, children are commanded to obey their parents many times in the Bible.  The child has no choice and must obey (unless the parental orders are immoral).  The children were not slaves, but yet they were completely subservient to their parents.

Not being a slave doesn’t mean you weren’t – or couldn’t be – completely subjected to the will of another.

(Jesus wasn’t a slave, yet He was completely subjected to the will of the Father.)

 

Evidence That God Doesn’t View Women as the (Social) Equals of Men

As quick note before we get started, I would HIGHLY recommend you read my article The Why of Submission in Marriage before you go any further.  (or better yet, start from the beginning of this series.) There’s some context there which will make this article make far more sense.

 

Husband = “Master/Owner”

One most convincing pieces of evidence for women not being the social/political equal of men is the Hebrew word for “husband”.  There are two words in Hebrew you could use to say a man was a husband.  The first is “אִישׁ” (ish, pronounced “eesh”) which simply means “man”.  A wife could say “my man”, and it would be understood that she meant her husband.

The second Hebrew word that meant Husband is “בַּעַל” (baal, not to be confused with the pagan god “Ba’al“, which doesn’t have the apostrophe in most modern bibles).  The Hebrew word “baal” (not the pagan god) literally means “Owner/master/husband.  Click the link above to check the definition if you don’t believe me.  (Note: baal can also mean the inhabitants of a city because they are the masters/owners of that city.)

For example, here are two passages that use the Hebrew word baal in the same chapter.

Exodus 21:22

“If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband [baal] may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide

Exodus 21:28-29

28 If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall surely be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner [baal] of the ox shall go unpunished.

29 If, however, an ox was previously in the habit of goring and its owner [baal] has been warned, yet he does not confine it and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner [baal] also shall be put to death

The meaning seems clear, especially where there’s another way to say husband.  I’d like to point out that it’s God issuing the law here; not a man.  God could’ve chosen the other way to say husband (“the woman’s man”), but He didn’t.

That’s not the only place He didn’t either.

Let’s look at Proverbs 31: (I won’t quote the whole thing as most people are familiar with it, merely the verses that use our English word ‘husband’)

Proverbs 31:10-11, 23, 28-29

10 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.

11 The heart of her husband [baal] trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain.

23 Her husband [baal] is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.

28 Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband [baal] also, and he praises her, saying:

29 “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.”

How many times have you heard that part of Proverbs 31 taught? (I’m guessing not much)  The almost master/servant connotation of the Hebrew word is backed up by Peter’s teaching later:

1 Peter 3:1

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives

Notice Peter starts with “in the same way“.  the natural question is “in the same way as what?”  If you back up a few verses you’ll see…

1 Peter 2:18-20

18  Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.

19  For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.

20  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

Again, we see a relationship that’s almost master/servant here, and it’s commanded by God Himself.

 

But won’t that will end?

There is a verse that shows a (possible) future change in this relationship (at least between God and man). Christian feminists (a contradiction in terms) use this single verse to try and override everything else the Bible says.

Let’s  take a look.

Hosea 2:16-18

16 “It will come about in that day,” declares the LORD,
“That you will call Me Ishi (“my man” meaning husband.)
And will no longer call Me Baali. (“my master” meaning husband.)

17 “For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, (a clever bit of wordplay here, with the Pagan God Baal contrasted with the Hebrew word for husband/master)
So that they will be mentioned by their names no more.

18 In that day I will also make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
The birds of the sky
And the creeping things of the ground.
And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land,
And will make them lie down in safety.

First, this verse isn’t about husbands and wives.  It’s about the relationship between God and His people. Applying to the husband/wife relationships is dubious at best, and twisting scripture at worst.

When war is abolished from the land, then maybe the master/servant relationship in marriage will change (maybe).  However, “that day” hasn’t arrived yet.  And until “that day” comes, God decreed a different arrangement.

Moving on.

 

The 10th Commandment

Exodus 20:17

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

The ownership – or at least mastery – component here is fairly clear.  Some translations have “anything else that belongs to your neighbor“, which makes it even more clear.

Again, this is God Himself speaking, not a human.

 

A father/husband can annul their daughter’s/wife’s vows

That’s exactly what God – not man, but God – gave fathers the right to do with their daughters vows.

Numbers 30:3-5

3 “Also if a woman makes a vow to the LORD, and binds herself by an obligation in her father’s house in her youth,

4 and her father hears her vow and her obligation by which she has bound herself, and her father says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand and every obligation by which she has bound herself shall stand.

5 “But if her father should forbid her on the day he hears of it, none of her vows or her obligations by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the LORD will forgive her because her father had forbidden her.

The exact same power was given to husbands over their wives by God Himself.

Numbers 30:6-8, 13

6 “However, if she should marry while under her vows or the rash statement of her lips by which she has bound herself,

7 and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her on the day he hears it, then her vows shall stand and her obligations by which she has bound herself shall stand.

8But if on the day her husband hears of it, he forbids her, then he shall annul her vow which she is under and the rash statement of her lips by which she has bound herself; and the LORD will forgive her.

13Every vow and every binding oath to humble herself, her husband may confirm it or her husband may annul it.

What if that were the case in America today? Imagine if a husband could annul any contract or vow his wife made; how would society change? Apparently, God thought that was a good idea.

Also, this isn’t the ceremonial part of the law that Jesus abolished when He died but neither do we necessarily have to obey it. The ceremonial law chiefly concerned sacrifice, the temple, and ritual cleanness/uncleanness.

God also set down moral law (example: “thou shall not murder”), and cultural/civil law (what we’ve been discussing).  While the moral law has never changed, the cultural law is less certain. I don’t advocate following the Mosaic Law (I’ve read Galatians 3) but the cultural law God set forth does give us some insight into how God thinks a society should be run.

Apparently, God thinks it’s a good idea if a father/husband can annul their daughter’s/wife’s vows. (I have an explanation for why that might be in the first article of this series.  It’s titled: How getting Marriage ‘Wrong” Destroyed Every Great Civilization in World History)

 

Pay the Father for seducing a virgin daughter?

In Exodus 22, God lists various rules for private property rights.  In verses 1 – 15  He deals with things like stealing and property damage.  Then comes this little command (directly from God Himself).

Exodus 22:16-17 (ESV)

16  “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife.

17  If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.

One thing before we continue: this law was for the protection of the virgin. In those days, it was nearly impossible for a woman to get a husband unless she was a virgin.  This law protected a woman who had sinned (by intentionally having sex outside of marriage) by making sure she could still have a husband.  A woman without a husband was destitute, so every woman needed one.

Anyway

What’s important in this verse is to whom the bride-price was paid. The bride price was paid by the groom to the father of the bride.  I want to make this point crystal clear: the groom paid the bride price to get permission to marry the bride.

Actually, it’s worse than that.

The word for “bride-price” in this passage is “מָהַר” (mahar, the verb form of mohar.)  The definitions of those words are literally:

mahar: to acquire by paying a purchase price

mohar: purchase price (of a wife)

 

Check the links if you don’t believe me.  Here’s a fuller, longer definition from BibleStudyTools.com:

mohar; i.e., price paid for a wife, Genesis 34:12 ; Exodus 22:17 ; 1 Samuel 18:25 ), a nuptial present; some gift, as a sum of money, which the bridegroom offers to the father of his bride as a satisfaction before he can receive her. Jacob had no dowry to give for his wife, but he gave his services (Genesis 29:18 ; 30:20 ; 34:12)

(emphasis added)

 

This verse is basically saying: “If a man seduces a woman, he must buy her from her father. If the father won’t give her in marriage, the man must pay for her anyway.”  If it sounds like women were literally purchased to be wives, that’s because that’s almost what was happening…  but not quite.

I need to remind you that the context here is about property damage (verses 1-15).  Regardless of whether the seducing man marries the woman, he still has to pay for her.  I hate to be so crude, but it’s the “You break it you bought it” principle here.

(Remember, Proverbs and 1 Peter are clear about the value of women and how they should be treated.  Even if women were considered property – and I’d argue they weren’t – then they’re like a car aficionado’s prized vintage sports car.  Yes he owns it, but he it’s precious to him and he won’t let any harm befall it.)

And remember, this law was for the virgin’s well-being.

Remember, marriageable age for women back then was 14-16.  An impressionable age where a young, innocent girl could easily be seduced.  The Bride price could be added to her dowry (money from the bride’s family to the groom) to encourage someone to marry her anyway, even though she wasn’t a virgin.  If she didn’t marry, she could become destitute.

This law was to ensure the virgin could marry.

(Yes, God cares.)

Please also notice that – according to God’s command – the woman had no say in this whole process. (other than allowing herself to be seduced; cases of rape were dealt with elsewhere in the law.)

Most importantly: notice God gave the father the final say in who his daughter married.

According to God’s command, neither the daughter nor the mother had any say; only the girl’s father.  I’m sure they could try to convince her father, but the final decision rested with the father alone according to God’s command.  God didn’t even give the daughter a choice in the matter. (See the first article in this marriage series for more on why I suspect that was.  Further, a future article in this series will focus on what women actually pick in men; turns out women are biologically programmed to pick “bad boys”.  Perhaps that’s why God didn’t let them pick. )

 

Marrying and Given in Marriage

A corollary of the verse above is revealed by the Bible’s language regarding marriage.  Virtually every place marriage is discussed, one of two phrases is used.  It’s typically either, “give our daughters in marriage to them” or “take their daughters in marriage for us“.  Jesus also uses the similar phrase “marrying and given in marriage.”

Matthew 24:38 (Jesus speaking)

38  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark

Notice too, this phrasing of “giving daughters” and “taking daughters” in marriage is used throughout the Old Testament.

Genesis 34:9

9  “Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves.

Deuteronomy 7:3 (Deuteronomy 6:1 reveals this is Moses giving God’s commands to Israel before entering the promise land)

3 Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.

Jeremiah 29:6 (about the captivity in Babylon)

6 Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.

The phrasing is consistent from before the flood, right on up to Jesus’ day.

  • Daughters don’t “marry”; they are “given in marriage”.
  • Sons marry by “taking” a wife who has been “given in marriage”.

The language is clear; sons marry while daughters are given in marriage (by their father).  According to God’s command (to the Israelites) this is the way it’s supposed to be.

And this custom survives up until this very day.

To this very day, the father “gives away” the bride at a wedding.

Remember that according to God’s command in Numbers 30, a father could nullify his daughter’s vows… 

including marriage vows?

Consider: if a father could annul his daughter’s vows “on the day he hears of it”, (like we’ve already discussed) then doesn’t that include marriage vows?

If not, why not?

Let’s look at it again.

Numbers 30:3-5

3 “Also if a woman makes a vow to the LORD, and binds herself by an obligation in her father’s house in her youth,

4 and her father hears her vow and her obligation by which she has bound herself, and her father says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand and every obligation by which she has bound herself shall stand.

5 “But if her father should forbid her on the day he hears of it, none of her vows or her obligations by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the LORD will forgive her because her father had forbidden her.

The only way out of this is saying this verse applies only to “vows to the LORD” but that’s a somewhat dubious claim.

Didn’t God ordain marriage?

When you enter into marriage, aren’t you vowing to keep what God has decreed?  Therefore, wouldn’t marriage be considered a “vow to the LORD”? (as well as your spouse)

Further, verse 5 says that if the father forbids it, “none of her vows” shall stand.  I see no reason to exclude marriage vows from that statement.

Additionally, this perfectly explain why daughters are always described as being “given in marriage”.

If the father doesn’t “give” his daughter in the marriage, he can annul the daughter’s vows and thus dissolve the marriage.  And as we’ve already seen, fathers had the right to deny marriage to their daughters even when the daughter sleeps with a man out of wedlock.

No, we don’t have to obey the Mosaic Law.

However, Jesus only abolished the ceremonial law (regarding sacrifices, circumcision, feasts, ritual cleanliness, etc). God’s moral law has never changed.  God’s cultural law – while we don’t necessarily have to follow it – gives great insight into how God Himself thinks a culture should be run.

 

Adultery = Crime against the Husband?

I don’t have conclusive proof of this.  However, it came up so often in my research that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it.  To be clear, I’m not stating it as a fact or my belief.  I’m merely mentioning it for the sake of completeness.

First, I must mention the definition of adultery.

Copy/pasted below is the definition of adultery from Easton’s Bible Dictionary, which I spend a lot of time proving in my article What Jesus meant by Adultery in Matthew Chapters 5 & 19.

conjugal infidelity. An adulterer was a man who had illicit intercourse with a married or a betrothed woman, and such a woman was an adulteress. Intercourse between a married man and an unmarried woman was fornication. Adultery was regarded as a great social wrong, as well as a great sin.

I need to be 100% clear on this point: if a married man sleeps with a unmarried woman, the sin committed (though serious) is not adultery. A man could only commit adultery if he slept with a married/betrothed woman.  If a married man slept with an unmarried woman that was fornication – a serious sin – but not the specific sin of adultery. (Again, check out my article on What Jesus meant by Adultery in Matthew Chapters 5 & 19 for proof of this.)

Anyway

Many sources say that adultery wasn’t a sin against the wife; it was a sin against the husband’s “property/sexual” rights over his wife.

I don’t have proof of this, and don’t necessarily agree.

I only mention it for completeness.

Most of the sources I read while researching this article argued that adultery constituted a crime against the husband’s property/reproductive rights over his wife, not against the woman herself.

According to My Jewish Learning:

Indeed, legislative concerns about women’s sexual activity primarily have to do with relations between men. A man is executed for having intercourse with another’s wife (Leviticus 20:10), because he has committed a crime of theft against a man; but a man who seduces or rapes a virgin pays a brideprice to her father and marries her (Deuteronomy 22:28). This is not a crime in the same sense at all, not because of a dissimilarity in what the man did but because of the difference in who “owned” the right to the women’s sexuality.

To be clear, the arguments are cultural, not scriptural.

Again, I only mention this for completeness because it came up so often in my research.

There is no concrete scriptural proof for this idea, other than possibly Psalm 51:4.  There, David says he sinned only against God in the matter of Uriah/Bathsheba.  The theory goes that while David sinned against Uriah, he was dead when David wrote Psalm 51.  David said he sinned against God alone, which would exclude Bathsheba who was still alive (and outlived King David).  Therefore, the crime was against her husband (and God), not Bathsheba herself.

It’s not a strong argument, but that’s the case they make.

Again, I only mention this for completeness because it came up so often in my research.

 

Husbands could divorce wives; wives couldn’t divorce their husbands

In the Old Testament, God provides a specific legal framework for men to divorce their wives.

Deuteronomy 24:1

1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house,

God said a man could divorce his wife if he “found some indecency in her”.  The word translated “indecency” is the Hebrew word “עֶרְוָה” (ervah) which implies some type of sexual misconduct. (The exact nature of the sin is debated, but it stops short of adultery, because adultery was punished by death.)

If a husband “found some indecency” in his wife, he could divorce her by:

  1. Writing a bill of divorce
  2. Putting the bill of divorce in her hand (In Rabbinic tradition, this had to be done in front of witnesses)
  3. Sending her away from his house.

A fairly simple process, but it required some type of sexual misconduct on the wife’s part before the husband could divorce her.

However, there is no provision in the Old Testament for wives to divorce their husbands.

None whatsoever.

I don’t think that’s accidental or that God forgot.

In the New Testament, Paul tells wives not to divorce their husbands.  But we must remember that 1st century Rome was VERY different than Israel in the Old Testament.  Women were the full legal and cultural equals of men in 1st Century Rome (Proof in the previous article in this series: The Bible on Authority and Submission in Marriage).  That was Roman culture though, and they were a very immoral society.

Plus – as we saw in the article on the “why” of submission in marriage – God created women to ensure man wouldn’t be alone.  Allowing women to divorce their husbands means they are leaving them alone, which runs contrary to the purpose of their creation.

And if that wasn’t bad enough…

If you’ve read the first article in this marriage series, you’ll remember that women file for divorce far more than men. You’ll also remember that societies are destroyed by fatherless homes, which are caused by divorce and out-of-wedlock births, and those always accompany equal rights for women.  Equal rights for women is prerequisite for women being able to divorce their husbands.

However, God didn’t decree equal rights to women.

Quite the opposite in fact.

God gave husbands/fathers the authority to annul their wives/daughters vows, which includes marriage vows.  Under God’s system, women were required to obey their husbands like servants obey their master.  This was true in the New Testament too. (see the previous article in this series.)

Any other arrangement requires equal rights for women, which eventually causes fatherless homes to rot a society from the inside out. 

Further – as we saw in the previous article in this series – women have a “moral obligation” to be under male authority (1 Cor 11:9-10, when properly translated).  Giving them the ability to divorce their husbands allows them to shirk their moral obligation to be under male authority.

That’s a bad idea.

(I should add the Jews allowed a woman to get a divorce if her husband wouldn’t provide for her, wouldn’t have sex with her, or seriously abused her.  This was based on Exodus 21:10-11 and Exodus 21:26-27 respectively, and you could certainly make the case that’s what God intended.  I would, but this article is already too long.)

 

A Daughter’s Status Determined by Husband/Father

In Leviticus 22:1-9, God lays out who may eat the “holy gifts”.  i.e. the portions of the sacrifices that God allowed the Priests to eat.  Basically, priests who are sick or unclean can’t eat of them until they are clean.  That’s followed by this instruction.

Leviticus 22:10

10‘No layman, however, is to eat the holy gift; a sojourner with the priest or a hired man shall not eat of the holy gift.

Again, only the priests (and their families as other verses make clear) who are ceremonially clean may eat of it.  That’s directly followed by laws concerning slaves.

Leviticus 22:11

11  ‘But if a priest buys a slave as his property with his money, that one may eat of it, and those who are born in his house may eat of his food.

Notice, only those who “belong” to the priest – i.e. family members and a slaves – are allowed to eat of it.

Now, please notice the instruction regarding the daughters of priests.

Leviticus 22:12-13

12  ‘If a priest’s daughter is married to a layman, she shall not eat of the offering of the gifts.

13  ‘But if a priest’s daughter becomes a widow or divorced, and has no child and returns to her father’s house as in her youth, she shall eat of her father’s food; but no layman shall eat of it.

Notice, the daughter has no standing by herself.  Her standing is not determined by her parentage, but by the family she belongs to.  If she belongs to a non-priest husband, she can’t eat.  If she belongs to a priest husband, she can eat.  If she returns to her father house as in her youth after being widowed or divorced, then she can eat.

My point is that – by God’s command – a woman had no standing by herself.  Her standing was determined by the family she belonged to.  In this case, “belong” might be more literal than our English word would normally suggest.

(This might be part of the reason a woman – but not a man – changes her last name when she gets married.  It seems that – according to God – her status is not determine by herself, but rather the man/family she “belongs” to.)

 

Circumcision marked men; but no mark on women

This is similar to the point directly above, indicating a woman’s status wasn’t determined by herself; it was determined by the man she “belonged” to.   Circumcision was the mark that God commanded to identify the Jews as His people.  If you were circumscribed, you could belong to God; if not, you couldn’t.

However, you can’t circumcise a woman

She simply lacks the required anatomy to get circumcised.  Again, could this be because the women belonged to their father or husband’s house.  Therefore, their status was determined by their… baal? (owner/master/husband; not to be confused with the pagan god)

 

Census Numbers = Males Only

This point is further reinforced by God’s required census taking.  Every time there is a census taken in the Old Testament by God’s command, only the men are counted.  The women are never counted, just the men.

Numbers 3:14-15

14  Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying,

15  “Number the sons of Levi by their fathers’ households, by their families; every male from a month old and upward you shall number.”

Numbers 26:1-2

1  Then it came about after the plague, that the LORD spoke to Moses and to Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying,

2  “Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel from twenty years old and upward, by their fathers’ households, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel.”

It seems in God’s eyes, the women didn’t merit counting.  Again, this might be because they “belonged” to their father or husband’s house, and were therefore counted with them.

 

Sin and Nature Passed Through Men; Not Women

Romans 5:12

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned

1 Corinthians 15:22

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive

I’ve always found this interesting because Eve ate the fruit first, but sin came through Adam.  But there’s yet another verse that’s often completely overlooked that touches on this too.

Genesis 5:3

3 When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.

Notice, Adam’s son was in Adam’s image and likeness, not Eve’s.  Seth inherited his father’s nature, not his mother’s nature.  (Obviously Eve’s DNA was part of Seth’s genetic makeup. However, on a very fundamental level Seth took on the nature of his father; not his mother.)

Genesis says the son took on the “image and likeness” of the father, leaving out the mother.  Romans says that sin entered through though Adam, even though Eve sinned first.  Therefore, it seems the nature (the image and likeness) of the child is determined by the father, not the mother.

This actually makes a lot of sense if you think about Jesus. 

I’m sure Mary was a righteous woman.  Out of all the women in world history, God picked her to carry His Son, so she must have been special but she still sinned.  Therefore, if  sin came through the woman – or through both parents – Jesus might’ve had a sin problem. Sin passing through the male makes a lot of sense in solving this conundrum.

It actually solves the problem.

Further, the way sex is portrayed in the Bible makes sense with this understanding too.  In the Bible, a man’s semen/sperm is called “seed”.  For example:

Leviticus 15;16

‘Now if a man has a seminal emission, he shall bathe all his body in water and be unclean until evening.

The word translated “seminal” is the Hebrew word “זֶרַע” (zera), which literally means a “seed you sow”, often with the connotation of a descendant.  The Greek word for “seed” (like the kind you sow in a field) is “σπέρμα” (sperma), which is the root of our English word “sperm”. Even to this day, “seed” is still a slang term for a man’s semen/sperm, though it’s less common as we’ve shifted away from an agrarian society.

If a man’s contribution is “seed”, then the woman is analogous to the “field” in which the seed is planted.  (Even today, “plowing her field” is a vulgar term for having sex with a woman.)  Clearly the field contributes a lot to the seed.  Good, fertile soil is essential for growing the seed.

However, anyone who’s planted something knows it’s the seed – not the field – that determines what crops grow.

Please think about that.

In a metaphorical sense, a man “plants” his “seed” in the “field” of a woman through sex.  She grows his “seed” in her womb, and the resulting child shares his father’s nature (at least as far as sin is concerned, and  apparently his “image and likeness too”).

We know a child gets DNA from both parents and both parents greatly influence the child.  Likewise the field and seed both contribute greatly to the plant’s development.  But regardless of how great the field’s contribution (and it’s a massive controbution) the “identity” of the plant is still determined by the seed; not the field.   Likewise, scripturally speaking the child’s nature (image and likeness) is passed through the man; not the woman.

(There’s an interesting argument there for a child belonging more to the father than the mother.  But that’s a topic for another day.)

 

The Second Sin Committed in the Bible

Everyone knows the first sin was Eve eating from the tree.  However, I’ve never heard anyone talk about the second sin committed in the Bible, which was Adam’s first sin.  (You know, the one that doomed us all to struggle with sin because – as we just saw – sin is passed through the male.)

Let’s see what God said it was

Genesis 3:17

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.

I suppose you *could* read this as only one sin, but that’s not what is says.  You’d need to twist the verse to make that interpretation.

Suppose a father tells his underage daughter “because you snuck out of your room and went clubbing with your friends, you’re grounded.”  You would understand that sneaking out of the room was a punishable offense.  Not as serious as the other, but still an offense; a sin.

It’s the same with Adam.  God seems clear he committed two sins:

  1. Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    • And
  2. have eaten from the tree

This is even more clear if you understand the definition of the original word translated “listen”.  It’s the  Hebrew word “שָׁמַע” (shema), which primarily means to “hear”.  However, it also means to “listen” in the sense of “obeying what is heard”.  In fact, there is no specific Hebrew word for “obey” and “shema” was used for that purpose, as the video below explain perfectly. (only 3:25 long)

So, shema is the Hebrew word used for “obey”.

That mean’s Adam’s first sin was obeying (listening to) the voice of his wife.

Now, I don’t think it’s bad or wrong to take your wife’s council or advice.  That’s not what I’m saying at all.  In fact, Proverbs 31:11 says of a good wife that “The heart of her husband trusts in her“.  And in verse 26 it says “she opens her mouth in wisdom“.  But listening to advice from someone is very different than obeying them.

Adam “obeyed” the voice of his wife, and God called that a sin.  It was Adam’s first sin, and therefore the sin that condemned the entire world to struggle with sin.

Think about that for a moment.

Really think about it.

The sin that condemned mankind wasn’t Adam eating the fruit in violation of God’s command.  The sin that condemned mankind was Adam “obeying” his wife in violation of God’s created order.

Wouldn’t the world be different with that perspective?  How many “she’s the boss” jokes would you hear if Christians understood this?

Women are required to obey men (wives obey husbands; daughters obey fathers); but husbands “obeying” their wives is a sin.

That doesn’t sound like God’s in favor of equal rights to me.

 

Conclusion

Given all the above – especially that last point – God doesn’t appear to view women as the social/political equals of men.  This is even more clear if you’ve read the previous article in this series: The Bible on Authority and Submission in Marriage.

There’s a reason for this, and I explain in detail in my article on How Getting Marriage ‘Wrong’ Destroyed Every Great Civilization in World History. It will also make more sense if you read my article on The Why of Submission in Marriage.  God designed the world to work in a very specific way.  When we cooperate with His plan, things turn out well.

When we don’t

I realize these ideas aren’t popular and they certainly aren’t politically correct.  However, Peter and Paul instructing Christian women to submit to their husbands in egalitarian 1st century Rome wasn’t politically correct either.

Truth often isn’t popular.

That doesn’t make it less true.

 

In the next article in this series, we’ll examine what the Bible says about the role of women in society.  It’s much broader – and more freeing – than you might think, but has a clear, primary focus.

 

Marriage Series Index:

  1. How Getting Marriage 'Wrong' Destroyed Every Great Civilization in World History
  2. Gender Differences and the Biology of leadership
  3. The “Why” Behind God Telling Wives to Submit to their Husbands in Marriage
  4. The Bible on Authority & Submission in Marriage
  5. Does God View Women as the (Social/Political) Equals of Men?
  6. Follow up articles coming...

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