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Women — Were they Considered Just Property in Bible Times?

Someone wrote me with this dubious claim:

Judeo-Christian ethics as laid out in both Testaments is disgustingly patriarchal. Wives and children are considered no more than property.

This statement exposed the writer’s ignorance on the topic. Wives and children were much more than mere property (like a table or an ox) to Hebrew & Christian men in the Old and New Testaments, at least godly ones.

Regarding the latter, Christian men are instructed to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), meaning they are to love their wives in a self-sacrificial manner. Does this remotely sound like women are to be considered mere property? Also consider the proclamation of Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Conclusion: Women were (and are) not to be viewed as mere property, even if that was the cultural norm in the Near East area at the time, and even around the world, generally speaking.

Concerning the Old Testament, Abraham was the progenitor of the Israelites and it was his wife, Sarah, who made the decision to acquire Hagar so Abraham could have children through her since Sarah couldn’t bear offspring at the time (Genesis 16). It was also her decision to exile Hagar & Ishmael (Abraham & Sarah’s child) after she became jealous. Abraham complied with both decisions (Genesis 21). This clearly shows that he didn’t view Sarah as he would a table or an ox; she had the freedom to make life-changing decisions and Abraham willingly abided by them.

Or take the account of Abigail and her oafish husband, Nabal: The latter’s idiotic actions almost caused their huge ranch to be raided by David & his warriors, which would’ve resulted in the deaths of all male adults on the property. Abigail took the initiative and made the wise decision without Nabal’s approval to assuage David’s anger in order to save the ranch and many lives (1 Samuel 25). Abigail was obviously much more than mere property.

It’s true that societies all over the world, including in the Near East, were male-dominated in biblical times and thus women played a smaller role than men; as such, this reality is observed in the Old and New Testaments. The majority of leaders on national, tribal and familial levels were men, which is why the number of important women chronicled in God’s Word is unusual for that time and place. The inclusion of the stories of Hannah, Ruth, Esther and Deborah in the Old Testament, as well as Mary, Elizabeth and Priscilla in the New Testament, offers evidence that the LORD values women more than civilizations did as a whole. Consider when Christ’s disciples, all men, remained in concealment while Mary Magdalene & the mother of James boldly ventured out to investigate Christ’s sepulcher, found his body missing, incredibly encountered the mighty living LORD, and then became the first evangelists of the church (Matthew 28).

Despite all this clear evidence, someone might argue:

But I’ve seen certain devout Christian men and sects regard women in a demeaning manner, as if they were chattel.

While this may be true, it’s not God’s fault nor the fault of God’s instruction manual for humanity, the Bible. Consider, for example, a guy who decides to buy a chainsaw, but he’s inexperienced with the tool. Instead of reading the instruction manual or learning from a trained lumberjack he instead takes the example of Leatherface from that infamous horror movie and proceeds to misuse the chainsaw — harassing and killing people. Is it the instruction manual’s fault that he misused the chainsaw? Was it the chainsaw’s fault that he hurt numerous people with it? Of course not. It was the man’s fault because he ignored the instructions of the manual and the wise examples of people all around him who knew how to properly use the tool; he did this in favor of satisfying his fleshly idiosyncrasies based on some cult flick.

It’s the same thing with “Christian” men or dubious sects that treat women in a demeaning or abusive manner. They’re ignoring the wise instructions of God’s manual for life, not to mention the instructions of the Holy Spirit, our Companion and Helper. Yet, make no mistake, they’ll have to stand before the LORD one day and give an account of their abusive actions, unless they wise up and repent (Matthew 12:36 &  Romans 14:12).

For details on how the Bible in no way, shape or form supports misogyny, see these two articles by David Servant:

The End of Misogyny, Part 1

The End of Misogyny, Part 2

Related Topics:

Bible—Is it Full of Contradictions? Does it Promote Slavery, Tyranny and Discrimination?

Does God have a Feminine side?

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