Editors Note: This is part 2 of Rose’s series on what the Bible says about women. If you missed last weeks, feel free to check it out before reading this one as it lays some important background.
In the last article of this series, we discussed the very specific creation of Eve; how she was created specifically for Adam, and how they were created equal, but with different roles. Today, we are going to talk about some of the Old Testament law, and how it applied either to women specifically, or how it applied to both genders. I know this is going to be a little bit of a heavier topic than last time, but bear with me, and let us see what God says.
Let us start with the ten commandments since that seems to be a good place to start. The ten commandments were given to the Israelites, and they were given to both men and women. All ten of them are applicable to both genders equally. And God gave them to the children of Israel personally. In chapter 19 of Exodus, God calls Moses, and tells him to set boundaries about Mount Sinai, and tells him not to let anyone pass those boundaries, or they will be put to death. God also tells him to consecrate the people, so that they should be ceremonially clean before God addresses them. God then comes down to Mount Sinai, and gives the people the ten commandments, in chapter 20. These commandments are given equally to both genders of the people, not just to the men, as some have said. This is also carried through to all the Old Testament law, through Leviticus and Deuteronomy as well. The whole of the law was to be obeyed equally by both men and women. This means that all the blessing from obeying God’s law was to be enjoyed equally, but so were the consequences of breaking that law. The ten commandments are just one example of this. Over and over again, through the book of Leviticus, God speaks to Moses and tells him to speak to the children of Israel and to tell them what the law of God is. Just about every chapter of Leviticus begins this way. So, God wanted all of the children of Israel to hear what His law was. All of them. Not just the men. But to all of the people equally. In God’s eyes, men and women are equal and are equally responsible for their sins. This is why we all need Christ Jesus to save us all. Not just men, and not just women. It was not just Adam or just Eve who sinned in the Garden of Eden. They both did.
The Old Testament law also has provisions for women in need. Widows were to be looked after, as well as orphans since they would have no man to look after them. This is one of the reasons why there were so many different offerings that were to be given by the children of Israel so that they could care for the widows and orphans amongst them. In Deuteronomy chapter 26:12-13 talks about a tithe that was given, and that widows and orphans were to partake of some of it as well. Deuteronomy chapter 22 also has verses that show a care to women who have been taken advantage of, and how that was all to be addressed. The provisions for them in those cases are actually quite incredible. In Deuteronomy 22:13-19 details one of these cases. In this instance, a man marries a woman, and after the wedding night, decides he hates her, and so he begins to slander her reputation, and her family proves that her reputation is good, the man is then made to pay her father one hundred shekels of silver, and he is not permitted to divorce her all the days of his life. At the time when Moses was writing this, marriage meant that a woman had a security in that her husband would provide for her. This woman was taken care of all the days of her life because this man decided that he did not like her for some reason, and it was not a good reason, (the only good reason for divorce would have been adultery at this time. God does not like divorce, nor does He condone it.) and tried to ruin her reputation. A woman who was violated also was taken care of in this chapter. Nothing was to be done to her, she would not be killed, but the man who had attacked her and forced her was to be killed. Also, a thing to notice here would be that the punishments for harming the women in these cases are severe. In fact, the punishments for breaking any of God’s laws were severe. God takes sin very seriously, and His whole law in the Old Testament is a testament itself in how seriously God takes disobedience.
Another thing to note, is that the whole of the law applied to all of the people of Israel. Not one person, either because of gender or age was to be left out. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 sums up the whole thing rather beautifully:
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
This verse does not say that a man shall do these things only. Teaching things to children at this time would have been a responsibility for both parents, even as it is in this day. Women were responsible to help teach the children the law so that the children would know the God whom they were to serve. In order to do that, a woman would need to know the law first. Women were not kept in ignorance in Israel at this time. She had to know the law so that she could know what would happen if she violated the laws that God gave, and so that hopefully she could steer clear of the punishments by being obedient to God’s law. And when women are kept in ignorance, they raise children in ignorance. God never meant for women to be kept in ignorance of His law, or of Himself. He meant for women to know Him, and to pass on the gospel to others, whether they are their own children, or to others in general.