LEADERSHIP Certification Program Level 1 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Womens Ministries Department www.adventistwomensministries.org Conditions
of Women in Bible Times by Jean Sequeira Updated by Ardis Stenbakken (2014) Leadership Certification Program - Level 1 The Original Condition
"An understanding of the customs of those who lived in Bible times, of the location and time of events, is practical knowledge; for it aids in making clear the figures of the Bible and in bringing out the force of Christ's lessons." Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, p. 518. The Original Condition In New Testament times the
status of women had improved slightly as a result of Greek and Roman culture which granted women a few more rights, but it was during this time that we find the famous rabbinic prayer: The Original Condition "A man is bound to say the following three
blessings daily: '[Blessed art thou...] who hast not made me a heathen,' '...who hast not made me a woman;' and 'who hast not made me a brutish man.'" Eli Cashdan, Menahoth (London: The Soncino Press, 1948) The Original Condition "Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the
Universe, for not having made me a Gentile. "Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a slave. Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman. The Complete Artscroll Sidur, Mesorah Publications, Ltd., 1984. Its a Girl!
Probably one of the must concepts to keep in mind in regard to women in the Bible is the great regard and respect God always showed to them in spite of what might have been expected in their culture. Its a Girl!
One of the prime examples is that of Zelophehads daughters. Their story was so important to the Bible writers that it is repeated three times (Numbers 27, 36, and Joshua 17). Its a Girl! So Zelophehads daughters did as the Lord
commanded Moses. Zelophehads daughters Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milkah and Noah married their cousins on their fathers side. They married within the clans of the descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in their fathers tribe and clan. Numbers 36:10-12 Its a Girl!
A woman of Bible times was considered property of her father until she married, and then she was the property of her husband. She could not even make a religious vow without their agreement (Num. 30:3-13). Women were really second class citizens.
Its a Girl! There is one class of women we might be tempted to think had it better: the royal wives. But for the most part to be married to a king or to be part of the royal family brought few privileges and many duties and many disappointments. Its a Girl! Royal wives were often pawns, given and
married for geopolitical reasons, and then soon became a part of a harem. The story of David and Michal is one of the saddest stories regarding royal daughters and wivesDavid demanded her back from her second husband only for political reasons, not love. Marriage (and Divorce) for Everyone After a girl was betrothed, there was a waiting period,
but as we know from the story of Mary and Joseph before the birth of Christ, the engagement period was considered much like being married and could only be broken by adultery. A man was free from military service during this time so he could prepare a home for his bride (Deut. 20:7). Marriage (and Divorce) for Everyone Rape was considered to be an offense
against the father, for it deprived him of the bride price. If a betrothed girl was raped in town, both she and the rapist were to be stoned to death because she did not scream for help. Marriage (and Divorce) for Everyone The wedding itself was primarily a non-religious ceremony of
blessing. The groom and friends went in a procession to the brides home to claim her. The bride was veiled and part of the veil was placed on the grooms shoulder signifying his protection over her. Marriage (and Divorce) for Everyone Then followed a procession to the new
home. In the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah, we find two other customs: the eldest had to be married first, and the bride was either heavily veiled and/or led to the bridal bed in silence and darkness. Marriage (and Divorce) for Everyone The law of Moses allowed for divorce which was very easily
obtained by the manhe just had to give her a written statement of divorce (Deut. 24:1, 3; Isa. 50:1; Matt. 5:31). Anything that displeased him could be a basis for this action. Marriage (and Divorce) for Everyone However, if the man falsely
accused her of not being a virgin, he could not divorce her; again, the penalty was paid to her father, not her. If the charge was true, she would simply be stoned to death. Marriage (and Divorce) for Everyone A man was allowed to marry a captive if he
thought she was beautiful. She was taken to his home, there to have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. What Bible Women Wanted A woman considered herself a failure if she was unable to produce children. Proverbs 30:15-16 says, There are three things that are never
satisfied, four that never say, Enough! the grave, the barren womb, and Psalm 113:9 says that the Lord settles the barren woman in her home, as a happy mother of children. What Bible Women Wanted Babies were born at home whenever possible; the Egyptians used birthing stools
and it may be that the Hebrew women did the same. What Bible Women Wanted In the story of Leah and Rachel, Rachel gives her servant Bilhah as a wife or concubine so that she can bear children for me and through her I too can build a family (Gen. 30:3). Some translations and footnotes indicate for me as being on my
knees. Some suggest that this was a physical posture in which the birthing mother was supported on the knees of the adopting woman. What Bible Women Wanted Child birth was dangerous as we see in the story of Rachel, and infant mortality was high. When something was painful or bad, the simile pain like that of a woman in labor was used. It is used frequently in Jeremiah and
Isaiah and other references as well. Jeremiah uses the expression nine times. (see Jeremiah 6:24 and also 4:31; Isaiah. 13:8; 21:3 and 26:17). What Bible Women Wanted Mothers in the Bible were greatly respected. We see this by the number of kings mothers who are named in spite of the fact that nothing else is told about them. An interesting text is Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and
have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! (Isa. 49:15). God likens Himself to a motherhigh praise indeed and one certainly appreciated by the burdened mothers of Bible times. Polygamy, Wives, and Concubines Polygamy was a fact of life for the Old Testament woman, and it seldom worked out well for our cast of
Bible characters. Take for example Rachel and Leah, Sarah and Hagar, Hannah and Peninnah, David and his five named wives plus other wives and concubines, and certainly Solomon with 700 wives and 300 concubines. God had warned the kings against taking many wives (Deut. 17:17), and instituted safeguards for multiple wives in the laws of Moses (Ex. 21:10). Widows, Orphans, and Slaves
Widows and slaves were the most unfortunate class of women in the ancient world, and orphans were usually listed with them. So were prostitutes, as women who had no husband or son often had to turn to prostitution such as we find in the story of Tamar and Judah (Gen. 38). Widows, Orphans, and Slaves
Exodus 22:22 cautioned, Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. There are dozens and dozens of texts mandating care of the widows and even more condemning Israel and Judah and the surrounding countries for their lack of care of widows and orphans. Jesus reached out to widows such as the Widow of Nain and the widow who gave all she had, and other women who may have been widows.
A Womans Work is Never Done Despite the fact that women had little power outside the home, she had a great deal of authority in the home. Most things used in the home were homemade and the woman was responsible for most of them.
A Womans Work is Never Done First there was the matter of clothing. The women, especially the young girls, were shepherdesses as well as the men. We see examples of this in the stories of Rachel and Zipporah. A Womans Work Is Never Done The women were also
responsible for preparing the food; this might begin in the harvest field, especially the grinding of the grain, such as the mention we find in Matthew 24:41. A Womans Work is Never Done Two women will be
grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Matthew 24:41 A Womans Work is Never Done Another womans job was drawing water. In the story of Isaac and Rebecca, Genesis
24:11 tells us, It was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water. A Womans Work is Never Done Another responsibility of a woman was to act as hostess; being a hostess was different
than it is now. One task was to wash the feet of the visitor. A Womans Work is Never Done It makes one wonder what would have happened in the upper room at the time of the Last Supper if women had been
present. The women did not eat with the guests if the guests were menthe women ate in the womens tent. A Womans Work Is Never Done Other work in addition to home duties of Bible women included being a political leader, as surprising as that
may be, but there was Athaliah, (2 Kings 11) and Jezebel (1 Kings 21), as well as Esther and Deborah (Judges 4 and 5). Women also were involved in business: Lydia (Acts 16), Priscilla (Acts 18), and Sapphira (Acts 5). A Womans Work Is Never Done And in ministry: Hulda (2 Chron. 34), Junia (Rom. 16:7),
Phoebe (Rom. 16:1), Priscilla (Acts 18), the Samaritan woman (John 4), and Tabitha or Dorcas (Acts 9:36-43). And some served as prophetesses; these will be listed later. And of course there were the prostitutes; was Rahab a prostitute or an inn keeper? The authorities dont know. And slaves: Naamans wifes slave girl and the slave girl who followed Paul and Silas (Acts 16:16-21) among others. A Womans Work is Never Done
In spite of that, whenever the Bible wife went out with her husband, culture indicates that she walked beside their donkey, while he rode, unlike the Christmas cards showing Mary riding and Joseph walking. At the Temple
The Hebrew women did not go to the temple often; the men were required to attend certain temple/tabernacle services each year, but the women were not; they were exempted but not excluded. At the Temple Modern observant Jewish women light the
Shabbat candles 18 minutes before the Sabbath begins, but there is no biblical injunction to do this even though it is a very nice ritual. Perhaps it started because they were not to light a fire on Sabbath and so they lit candles before the Sabbath. At the Temple Jewish tradition says it began with Sarah
as a miracle that lasted from Friday to Friday. The Jewish woman undoubtedly looked forward to the Sabbath as the Sabbath commandment specifically protected women from work on the Sabbath just as it did men. What to Wear Wool and linen were the
most common clothing fabrics. The Egyptians were known for their fine linen clothing, and the Israelites no doubt learned how to make the fine fabric. What to Wear The laws of Moses said they were not to
weave wool and linen together (Deut. 22:11) or to wear them together. One aspect of clothing that is mentioned in the Bible and often seen in pictures and engravings is that their cloaks and other garments were fringedthe wealthier the owner, the longer the fringe. What to Wear
In New Testament times Peter wrote, Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 1 Peter 3:3, 4 What to Wear Lydia was a successful business woman who
dealt in purple, a colored fabric associated with high rank and great wealth as it was difficult to produce. It was also difficult to produce pure white fabric, so when the Bible refers to Christ as dressed in white linen it was meaningful. Probably Jesus did not wear white clothing here on earth. Those New Testament Women
Things were not much different for New Testament women than for Old Testament women; the people of Jerusalem and Judea were stricter in their keeping the law as the rabbis interpreted it than were the people of Galilee, and we see more resistance to Jesus in Judea than in Galilee. It was still a patriarchal society. Conclusion
When reading the stories of women in the Bible, it is important to read what is really there and not believe and share what we have heard or seen in a picture. Read carefully. Conclusion
The Adventist publishing houses have also printed a number of excellent biographical studies of Bible women; while the authors have used their imaginations to fill in much of the stories, they give an excellent understanding of the position of women of Bible times and their cultures.
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