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150. In Genesis 21:11 we are told that it was “very grievous” to Abraham to do what Sarah demanded. Did the Lord remind her that she must rather obey him? No; He told Abraham that he must obey Sarah. The authority was vested, not in a “sex,” but in the one who took the right moral view on the question of polygamy. And so it always will be; God is with the right; not the sex. Then recall the case of Abigail (1 Samuel 25.) She knew her husband was a foolish and worthless man, and frankly said so. She did not even consult him when she took “two hundred loaves and two bottles of wine, five sheep ready dressed, five measures of parched corn, a hundred clusters of grapes, and two hundred cakes of figs,” and gave them to David, knowing full well that her husband had just refused to give David anything. Under ordinary conditions, had she had a worthy husband, she would not have done this. Nabal did not measure up to the occasion, and his masculinity counted for nothing, as to authority over a wife wiser than himself. The whole Bible story goes to show that Abigail did the right and prudent thing in going against what she well knew was her husband’s will, to do what she could not have done with his knowledge. She showed moral courage. She averted a dire calamity. David praised her for it, and Scripture shows its approval’—for, “It came to pass that about ten days after, the Lord smote Nabal that he died.”

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147. Rebekah had no child. As often happened in Bible characters, being destined to become the mother of an important personage, (i.e.,—Jacob), no child came until it was conceived of spiritual desire, expressed in prayer (Genesis 25:21),—not merely of natural desire. A few months later, she went to enquire of the Lord concerning a perplexing state of affairs, and was told that she would have twins, and the elder was to serve the younger (Genesis 25:22-23). The elder was Esau and the younger Jacob. Rebekah’s story teaches us: (1) God may reveal His mind, even in matters of greatest moment for both parents, to the mother alone. And hence (2) God does not intend that the husband shall invariably lead, in carrying out His will.

148. But this is quite contrary to the theological fiction as to the import of the “headship” of the husband. For instance: We open a Bible commentary, much in use at the present time, and highly praised in our Christian periodicals for use in the family (that of Jamieson, Faussett and Brown), and read: “As a moon in relation to the sun, so woman shines not so much with light direct from God, as light derived from man.” . . . “In grace much of her knowledge is mediately through man, on whom she naturally depends.” . . . “The woman was made by God mediately through man, who was, as it were, a veil or medium placed between her and God.” . . . “Through him it (the veil) connects her with Christ, the Head of man.” As though Christ were not the Head of believing women! This contradicts 1 Timothy 2:5, where “men” is of common gender.

149. If the Bible commentary tells the truth, why did God send Deborah to show Barak his duty, and not Barak to show Deborah (Judges 4:6)? Why did the angel of the Lord instruct Manoah’s wife about their coming child, rather than send Manoah to his wife with the instructions (Judges 13:2-7)? Why did Hilkiah the priest, and Shaphan the scribe, with several other high dignitaries of the Royal Court, go, at the instance of the king himself, to inquire of Huldah about the Law, instead of going to Huldah’s husband, her “sun?” Or, instead of Huldah being required to go to these “suns,” the priest, the Scribe and the high dignitaries of the Royal Court, to obtain her light about God’s Law (2 Kings 22)? Why were women sent to the apostles to tell them of a risen Lord, instead of their husbands being sent,—from whom, according to the Commentary, these women must have received their light and knowledge? Or, why were not the apostles sent to the women to tell them that Christ was risen, if indeed women must receive their Divine light “mediately” through men? In these cases, and more that might be cited, the “sun” went to the “moon” for light, and got it.

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LESSON 20.

UNSUBJUGATED WIVES.

146. We have much incidental evidence that Jewish women, before the captivity of Babylon especially, enjoyed much liberty, of which they were gradually deprived after that time. This subordination was in accordance, not with Scriptural, but with rabbinical and pagan teaching. So soon as it became necessary for the common people to have their own Scriptures translated and interpreted for them, man began to interpret those writings according to such teaching, to the detriment of woman.[7] Let us cite instances of the freedom and dignity of Old Testament women.

147. Rebekah had no child. As often happened in Bible characters, being destined to become the mother of an important personage, (i.e.,—Jacob), no child came until it was conceived of spiritual desire, expressed in prayer (Genesis 25:21),—not merely of natural desire. A few months later, she went to enquire of the Lord concerning a perplexing state of affairs, and was told that she would have twins, and the elder was to serve the younger (Genesis 25:22-23). The elder was Esau and the younger Jacob. Rebekah’s story teaches us: (1) God may reveal His mind, even in matters of greatest moment for both parents, to the mother alone. And hence (2) God does not intend that the husband shall invariably lead, in carrying out His will.

148. But this is quite contrary to the theological fiction as to the import of the “headship” of the husband. For instance: We open a Bible commentary, much in use at the present time, and highly praised in our Christian periodicals for use in the family (that of Jamieson, Faussett and Brown), and read: “As a moon in relation to the sun, so woman shines not so much with light direct from God, as light derived from man.” . . . “In grace much of her knowledge is mediately through man, on whom she naturally depends.” . . . “The woman was made by God mediately through man, who was, as it were, a veil or medium placed between her and God.” . . . “Through him it (the veil) connects her with Christ, the Head of man.” As though Christ were not the Head of believing women! This contradicts 1 Timothy 2:5, where “men” is of common gender.

149. If the Bible commentary tells the truth, why did God send Deborah to show Barak his duty, and not Barak to show Deborah (Judges 4:6)? Why did the angel of the Lord instruct Manoah’s wife about their coming child, rather than send Manoah to his wife with the instructions (Judges 13:2-7)? Why did Hilkiah the priest, and Shaphan the scribe, with several other high dignitaries of the Royal Court, go, at the instance of the king himself, to inquire of Huldah about the Law, instead of going to Huldah’s husband, her “sun?” Or, instead of Huldah being required to go to these “suns,” the priest, the Scribe and the high dignitaries of the Royal Court, to obtain her light about God’s Law (2 Kings 22)? Why were women sent to the apostles to tell them of a risen Lord, instead of their husbands being sent,—from whom, according to the Commentary, these women must have received their light and knowledge? Or, why were not the apostles sent to the women to tell them that Christ was risen, if indeed women must receive their Divine light “mediately” through men? In these cases, and more that might be cited, the “sun” went to the “moon” for light, and got it.

150. In Genesis 21:11 we are told that it was “very grievous” to Abraham to do what Sarah demanded. Did the Lord remind her that she must rather obey him? No; He told Abraham that he must obey Sarah. The authority was vested, not in a “sex,” but in the one who took the right moral view on the question of polygamy. And so it always will be; God is with the right; not the sex. Then recall the case of Abigail (1 Samuel 25.) She knew her husband was a foolish and worthless man, and frankly said so. She did not even consult him when she took “two hundred loaves and two bottles of wine, five sheep ready dressed, five measures of parched corn, a hundred clusters of grapes, and two hundred cakes of figs,” and gave them to David, knowing full well that her husband had just refused to give David anything. Under ordinary conditions, had she had a worthy husband, she would not have done this. Nabal did not measure up to the occasion, and his masculinity counted for nothing, as to authority over a wife wiser than himself. The whole Bible story goes to show that Abigail did the right and prudent thing in going against what she well knew was her husband’s will, to do what she could not have done with his knowledge. She showed moral courage. She averted a dire calamity. David praised her for it, and Scripture shows its approval’—for, “It came to pass that about ten days after, the Lord smote Nabal that he died.”

151. As we have said, It is rabbinism—Judaism commingled with paganism, born in the “days of mingling” (par. 86),—which placed the badge of inferiority and servility upon woman. Let us give an illustration:

Originally woman had her place in the regular Tabernacle services, either as priestess or Levite. This is now conceded by Bible scholars, as proved by the technical term used in Exodus 38:8 and 1 Samuel 2:22, translated “serving women.” Now this term was altered to “fasting women” by the translators of the Septuagint Greek, and the phrase in 1 Samuel containing the words entirely dropped. To use the words of Prof. Margoliouth of Oxford, “The idea of women in attendance at the Tabernacle is so odious that it has to be got rid of.” The other ancient versions followed suit in purposely mistranslating the word as “prayed,” “thronged,” “assembled” there. Our A. V. renders “assembled,” but the R.V.rightly renders it “served.”

152. After a close line of reasoning, unsuitable for this place, but which we produce in later lessons, Prof. Margoliouth proves this charge which he makes.[8] He concludes, “It is evident that by the time when the Septuagint translation was made, the idea of women ministering at the door of the Tabernacle had become so odious that it was wilfully mistranslated.”

“Wilfully mistranslated” is very strong language to use, since that mistranslation has remained in the versions of the Bible until our Revisers corrected it. We prefer that such a statement should stand in the language of an eminent male scholar, rather than in our own words; therefore we quote him.

153. Occasionally a Bible expositor comments on the seemingly narrower sphere allotted to women under the Gospel than was accorded them under the law. Kalisch says: “The New Testament is . . . even more rigorous than the Old; for whilst it commands the woman ‘to learn in silence with all subjection, but not to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence,’ she was in the Old Testament admitted to the highest office of teaching, that of prophets, as Miriam, Deborah and Huldah.”

154. But we may well suspect such an interpretation of the Bible as makes the Gospel appear less kindly, less liberal, more contemptuous toward women than the Old Testament law, and which represents women as less able, by grace, to conquer the vices of the sex and rise above them, than the law enabled them to do. There must be something wrong in such a representation. We should constantly bear in mind; in studying these Lessons, the point we have made: It was during the “days of mingling,” especially, that the teaching got hold of the mind of the Jew, that his wife, merely because of her sex, was his inferior. It was during these days that the first translation of the Bible—the Septuagint Greek version—was made. This version, in some places, incorporated in its renderings the idea of woman’s inferiority; and all other versions since have followed suit, more or less. “Men only need,” says Dr. Beard, “to bring to the Bible sufficiently strong prepossessions, sufficiently fixed opinions, to have them reflected back in all the glamour of infallible authority” (Beard’s Hibbert Lectures, p. 192).

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