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299. The Old Testament sense in which “to be in subjection” is sometimes used, is highly suggestive and instructive. Psalm 62:1 reads in the English, “truly my soul waiteth upon God; from Him cometh my salvation.” At verse 5 of the same Psalm, we read: “My soul, wait thou only upon God.” In Psalm 37:7 we find the words: “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” The words “wait” in the first passages, and the word “rest” in the last are all three represented in the Greek version by the single word hupotasso, “be in subjection,” while the literal sense of the Hebrew original word is “be silent unto.” Compare this with 1 Peter 3:1,2, where wives are exhorted to win unbelieving husbands by “subjection.” Surely Peter is not here exhorting wives to blindly obey unbelievers, for if heathen, they would at once remand them back to the worship of the gods; if Jews, back to Judaism. Rather, they are to win them away from these by their “manner of life,” “without the word,”–actions speaking louder than words. “Coupled with fear,”–such fear of God as would cause these women, so gentle, quite and patient in daily life, to be as adamant in their truth to God; and the husbands so overawed by their quite maintenance of principle, whereas they are so ready to yield to their husbands when principle is not involved, that the husbands dare not try to compel their wives to violate conscience, and thus are themselves gradually led into the Christian faith.

Where “subjection” is spoken of as a woman’s duty, without further immediate specification, it has been too readily assumed that this means subjection to a husband. But many women even from Apostolic days, and certainly an increasing large proportion of women in latter days, have no husbands. In both 1 Corinthians 14:34, “let them be in subjection”; and in 1 Timothy 2:11, “learn in all subjection,” this O. T. idea of waiting on God, or the thought of a spirit of humility towards God, may be all that is intended.

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The Maturing of Sarah

528. … Before ever he [Abraham] obeyed God, and left his own kindred with Sarah, he put her under bonds to represent herself as merely his sister, to save his own life from all risk (Genesis 12:13)…

529. Sarah, at this period, lacked self-respect; and Abraham had insufficient respect for her.

530. Sarah ought not to have agreed to such an arrangement with Abraham, and she would not have done it later in life,¾if we read her character aright, in its unfolding. But not knowing any better, God protected her,

537. The legal requirements of King Hammurabi which Sarah obeyed… Par. 144 says: “He shall not take a concubine” if his wife “has given a maid to her husband;” and Par. 146 says, if “she has given a maid to her husband and she has borne him children [and] that maid has made [should make] herself equal with her mistress,” the mistress may reduce her to servitude again, but may not sell her. This is surely wonderful confirmation that Sarah’s treatment of this whole matter, up to the time of Isaac’s weaning, was precisely in accord with the legal provisions and customs by which the country was governed. But when Isaac was weaned, she took another course, and God, by express revelation to Abraham, confirmed her new departure as in the line of His will.

538. It is worthwhile for us to pause long enough to call attention to these very unjust and humiliating laws, as relates to women, engraven on that stone which records the Code of Hammurabi, …

539. Sarah did go through the form of asking Abraham to bear a son by Hagar, but the act should be judged by the fact that a man had legal right to divorce a childless wife, and she was now past seventy-five years of age. That Sarah had had reason to fear divorcement seems certain, because when Hagar became arrogant in her treatment of Sarah, the latter accuses Abraham of being himself to blame for Hagar’s conduct, in the words: “My wrong be upon thee.” The Septuagint gives the idea conveyed by the words as, “I am wronged by thee.” Sarah is opening her eyes in new self-respect; she tells Abraham he had no right to have ever brought Hagar¾the price of her humiliation¾into the family; and then to have so conducted himself as to have created in her the fear of being divorced, through no fault of her own, but merely because she had not fulfilled for him the promises of God, that he should have a son. This is what we understand by her expression, and she adds: The Lord judge between me and thee,” declaring her confidence that her position was just in God’s sight.

540. And Abraham yielded, which he would not have done so readily had he not felt she was right. Then Sarah did the only thing allowable under the law; she attempted to discipline Hagar, and return her to the position of a handmaiden. Sarah was not willing that her household should be polygamous; the law cut Abraham off from the right of a concubine in the family, since Sarah had given him her maid to bear a child for Sarah (see par. 537). But Hagar would be nothing less than a wife, so she left the house, doubtless thinking Abraham, for the sake of his only child, would divorce Sarah and take her back in Sarah’s place. Sarah made no effort to keep the child, so far as we know, which the law allowed.

545. God cannot always elect,¾that is, select¾persons who are ideal, for they cannot be found. He takes faulty ones, but those capable of development. Such was the condition in which he found Abraham and Sarah. It is simply ludicrous to read some of the attempts that have been made by blundering expositors to explain away all the wrong things Abraham did: “Abraham’s venture was not from laxity as to the sanctity of marriage, or as to his duty to protect his wife: it was from a presumptuous confidence in the wonderful assistance of God,”¾thus speaks Lange’s Commentary. Such men, in their strained efforts to make Abraham appear ideal from the day God called him, leave no place for that most valuable and much-needed lesson, as to the wonderful transformation of character which the grace of God can bring about in the faultiest person who will submit to God’s authority, as Abraham began to do when he left his home in Chaldea.

546. The character of Abraham changed greatly under the moulding influence of divine grace, but we will not occupy the space to describe this transformation, for the reason that, as women, we are more interested in the character of Sarah, who, we hold, has been greatly belittled by the same commentators who will not admit that Abraham ever had many faults. Her character underwent a transformation quite as wonderful as Abraham’s. Think what she was, as the servile female who went, apparently without protest, into the harems of Pharaoh and Abimelech, not knowing that she could ever come out undefiled; accepting polygamy weakly, if not happily. Like almost any Oriental woman of today, her husband’s wish seemed as law, even when it bade her do that which was immoral, and which she may have utterly detested to do. She makes no complaint, but obeys.

547. Now study her character a little later, when she wakes up to resent the way she had been treated by Abraham in the matter of Hagar. She accuses Abraham as in the wrong, and appeals to God to judge between them. There were reasons why she might have been very cowardly at this moment, for Hagar was in the ascendancy just then, and was making the most of her position. Sarah might have reasoned: “I must not offend Abraham now, while Hagar seems so much more in his favor because of the boy.” Doubtless Hagar counted on such a compromise. But Sarah was courageous, and met the situation boldly, calling upon Abraham to defend her in refusing Hagar the right to be a concubine, or a second wife, in the family,¾for Sarah had yielded to the provisions of Hammurabi’s Code on purpose to prevent this. (See par. 537).

548. Then follows the later scene. Ishmael is older now, and Sarah demands that the last vestige of the semblance of polygamy be cleaned out of the household. If she again called on Jehovah to judge between her and Abraham, we do not know, but we do know that when she made the demand, God told Abraham to obey what Sarah said, and it was done. If Abraham improved in character and saw the hatefulness of mixed marriage relations in the sight of God, it was under the joint training of God and Sarah. And later, after the old man had lost Sarah, and mourned deeply, her loss, he married one Keturah (Genesis 25:1). But though the word “concubine” is used in the sixth verse of this chapter, since Abraham did not marry Keturah until after Sarah’s death, the word is not used in its ordinary sense, for, too, Hagar never bore this relation to Abraham.

549. But to return to Sarah: How are we to account for this development of such force of character, as that she has become quite “imperious”? Men usually do not like “imperiousness” in women; they think it “unwomanly” and they criticize Sarah because of this trait. But was it not of God’s own planting and development, in Sarah’s case? God called her “Mine Anointed” and God uses no idle words. He anointed her to be the Prince of the tribe, for God gives no empty titles. God commanded Abraham to cease calling her Sarai: “As for Sarai they wife, thou shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah (prince) shall her name be,”¾Genesis 17:15. The older form “Sarai” meant the same as “Sarah” in Chaldea, but it did not in Canaan, hence the change. Sarah means “prince.” We do not say “princess,” for the reason that the–”ss” has been used as rather a wifely termination among us, signifying the rank of the husband. Abraham was not called “Prince” by God. His name was changed from Abram to Abraham, “father of a multitude.” Sarah was constituted by God a ruler, in her own right; she, not Abraham, was the anointed ruler of the tribe. Not because she was a woman, ¾not at all for that reason; but because she had better views than Abraham on the subject of social purity, and probably on other subjects.[3]

550. God had laid His hand upon a previously pagan family, to make of them a Christian household. He began by checking sensual tendencies in Abraham, taught him the benefits of monogamy, and respect for his wife; wrought upon his instincts of fatherhood, and taught him to aspire to have a progeny that would bless the world, because of its excellencies. Furthermore, in receiving a special revelation as to the right course of dealing with spurious matrimonial relations (Genesis 21:12), Abraham must have learned the lesson that the headship or leadership in a household turned not upon sex, but upon which one, husband or wife, know best what to do. As for Sarah, He taught her He was her Protector and Deliverer from peril; trained her in self-respect; restored her to her place as the recipient of His promises when she had yielded it to another to secure a child for her husband; named her the Prince of her tribe, and anointed her for the office. We have shown that the oldest and most inveterate faults of man are the love of ruling and sensuality. Abraham’s training was to correct these. Sarah’s training was in dignity, authority and self-respect; and both in faith.

LESSON 69.

THE FOUNDING OF A CHRISTIAN FAMILY.

Concluded.

544.      Hagar’s son is past fourteen, and Sarah demands that she and her son go elsewhere to live. Abraham demurs, but God commands him to comply. Nor were Hagar and Ishmael sent away without due provision for their support (Genesis 25:6), though Hagar gave herself up, for the moment, to needless despair, in which the Lord met and comforted her (Genesis 21:14-21). It was hard for Hagar to bear, for being a mere slave, she was not to be held responsible for having borne a child; but now, at any rate, she was emancipated. The setting of wrong conditions to rights made undeserved but unavoidable suffering for Hagar.

545.     God cannot always elect,¾that is, select¾persons who are ideal, for they cannot be found. He takes faulty ones, but those capable of development. Such was the condition in which he found Abraham and Sarah. It is simply ludicrous to read some of the attempts that have been made by blundering expositors to explain away all the wrong things Abraham did: “Abraham’s venture was not from laxity as to the sanctity of marriage, or as to his duty to protect his wife: it was from a presumptuous confidence in the wonderful assistance of God,”¾thus speaks Lange’s Commentary. Such men, in their strained efforts to make Abraham appear ideal from the day God called him, leave no place for that most valuable and much-needed lesson, as to the wonderful transformation of character which the grace of God can bring about in the faultiest person who will submit to God’s authority, as Abraham began to do when he left his home in Chaldea.

546.     The character of Abraham changed greatly under the moulding influence of divine grace, but we will not occupy the space to describe this transformation, for the reason that, as women, we are more interested in the character of Sarah, who, we hold, has been greatly belittled by the same commentators who will not admit that Abraham ever had many faults. Her character underwent a transformation quite as wonderful as Abraham’s. Think what she was, as the servile female who went, apparently without protest, into the harems of Pharaoh and Abimelech, not knowing that she could ever come out undefiled; accepting polygamy weakly, if not happily. Like almost any Oriental woman of today, her husband’s wish seemed as law, even when it bade her do that which was immoral, and which she may have utterly detested to do. She makes no complaint, but obeys.

547.     Now study her character a little later, when she wakes up to resent the way she had been treated by Abraham in the matter of Hagar. She accuses Abraham as in the wrong, and appeals to God to judge between them. There were reasons why she might have been very cowardly at this moment, for Hagar was in the ascendancy just then, and was making the most of her position. Sarah might have reasoned: “I must not offend Abraham now, while Hagar seems so much more in his favor because of the boy.” Doubtless Hagar counted on such a compromise. But Sarah was courageous, and met the situation boldly, calling upon Abraham to defend her in refusing Hagar the right to be a concubine, or a second wife, in the family,¾for Sarah had yielded to the provisions of Hammurabi’s Code on purpose to prevent this. (See par. 537).

548.     Then follows the later scene. Ishmael is older now, and Sarah demands that the last vestige of the semblance of polygamy be cleaned out of the household. If she again called on Jehovah to judge between her and Abraham, we do not know, but we do know that when she made the demand, God told Abraham to obey what Sarah said, and it was done. If Abraham improved in character and saw the hatefulness of mixed marriage relations in the sight of God, it was under the joint training of God and Sarah. And later, after the old man had lost Sarah, and mourned deeply, her loss, he married one Keturah (Genesis 25:1). But though the word “concubine” is used in the sixth verse of this chapter, since Abraham did not marry Keturah until after Sarah’s death, the word is not used in its ordinary sense, for, too, Hagar never bore this relation to Abraham.

549.     But to return to Sarah: How are we to account for this development of such force of character, as that she has become quite “imperious”? Men usually do not like “imperiousness” in women; they think it “unwomanly” and they criticize Sarah because of this trait. But was it not of God’s own planting and development, in Sarah’s case? God called her “Mine Anointed” and God uses no idle words. He anointed her to be the Prince of the tribe, for God gives no empty titles. God commanded Abraham to cease calling her Sarai: “As for Sarai they wife, thou shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah (prince) shall her name be,”¾Genesis 17:15. The older form “Sarai” meant the same as “Sarah” in Chaldea, but it did not in Canaan, hence the change. Sarah means “prince.” We do not say “princess,” for the reason that the–“ss” has been used as rather a wifely termination among us, signifying the rank of the husband. Abraham was not called “Prince” by God. His name was changed from Abram to Abraham, “father of a multitude.” Sarah was constituted by God a ruler, in her own right; she, not Abraham, was the anointed ruler of the tribe. Not because she was a woman, ¾not at all for that reason; but because she had better views than Abraham on the subject of social purity, and probably on other subjects.[3]

550.     God had laid His hand upon a previously pagan family, to make of them a Christian household. He began by checking sensual tendencies in Abraham, taught him the benefits of monogamy, and respect for his wife; wrought upon his instincts of fatherhood, and taught him to aspire to have a progeny that would bless the world, because of its excellencies. Furthermore, in receiving a special revelation as to the right course of dealing with spurious matrimonial relations (Genesis 21:12), Abraham must have learned the lesson that the headship or leadership in a household turned not upon sex, but upon which one, husband or wife, know best what to do. As for Sarah, He taught her He was her Protector and Deliverer from peril; trained her in self-respect; restored her to her place as the recipient of His promises when she had yielded it to another to secure a child for her husband; named her the Prince of her tribe, and anointed her for the office. We have shown that the oldest and most inveterate faults of man are the love of ruling and sensuality. Abraham’s training was to correct these. Sarah’s training was in dignity, authority and self-respect; and both in faith.

551.     We may not do more than merely refer briefly to what a source of misfortune to the Israelites, God’s people, the descendants of Ishmael always were. The Bible recurs to this again and again. The lesson of it all was summed up by Paul in the words: “He who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise . . . as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now” (Galatians 4:23, 29).

552.      Abraham, in his waiting for the son of Sarah, became a notable instance (cited in Hebrews 6:12) of “them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” But few expositors have paused to consider the part of Sarah in the fulfillment of these same promises. She laughed at the possibility, when she first heard the promise, and made a remark (Genesis 18:12) which was given a sensuous turn in our translation, which is open to criticism. The expression is one common in the Orient today among women, and refers wholly to the “pleasure” of having a child, very much desired, as the angel’s own words show, for it puts the expression into plain words. “Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?” Sarah was very old; she had also been barren all her lifetime. By faith Abraham waited patiently to receive the promise. Through faith Sarah rose above her age and her infirmity as well, and became, before the eyes of Abraham, the living embodiment of those promises fulfilled. “Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged Him faithful Who had promised,”¾Hebrews 11:11. Abraham had the faith to expect and receive a child; Sarah, the faith to expect and conceive a child.

LESSON 68.

THE FOUNDING OF A CHRISTIAN FAMILY.

(Continued.)

537. The legal requirements of King Hammurabi which Sarah obeyed read: “If a man has married a wife, and she has not granted him children, that woman has gone [shall go] to her fate [is to be divorced], if her father-in-law has returned him the dowry that that man brought to the house of his father-in-law,” etc. (par. 168). Par. 138 of the same Code describes the conditions under which a man may “put away his bride who has not borne him children.” Par. 144 says: “He shall not take a concubine” if his wife “has given a maid to her husband;” and Par. 146 says, if “she has given a maid to her husband and she has borne him children [and] that maid has made [should make] herself equal with her mistress,” the mistress may reduce her to servitude again, but may not sell her. This is surely wonderful confirmation that Sarah’s treatment of this whole matter, up to the time of Isaac’s weaning, was precisely in accord with the legal provisions and customs by which the country was governed. But when Isaac was weaned, she took another course, and God, by express revelation to Abraham, confirmed her new departure as in the line of His will.

538. It is worthwhile for us to pause long enough to call attention to these very unjust and humiliating laws, as relates to women, engraven on that stone which records the Code of Hammurabi, especially as that very Code is being commended by rationalists of the present time as more enlightened and more humane than the Mosaic Code,¾which latter is often represented as a mere attempt to imitate the excellencies of the older Code. But women will prefer the Code of Moses, when once they enlighten themselves as to the vastly superior marriage laws of the latter. (See Additional Note at the end of this lesson.)

539. Sarah did go through the form of asking Abraham to bear a son by Hagar, but the act should be judged by the fact that a man had legal right to divorce a childless wife, and she was now past seventy-five years of age. That Sarah had had reason to fear divorcement seems certain, because when Hagar became arrogant in her treatment of Sarah, the latter accuses Abraham of being himself to blame for Hagar’s conduct, in the words: “My wrong be upon thee.” The Septuagint gives the idea conveyed by the words as, “I am wronged by thee.” Sarah is opening her eyes in new self-respect; she tells Abraham he had no right to have ever brought Hagar¾the price of her humiliation¾into the family; and then to have so conducted himself as to have created in her the fear of being divorced, through no fault of her own, but merely because she had not fulfilled for him the promises of God, that he should have a son. This is what we understand by her expression, and she adds: “The Lord judge between me and thee,” declaring her confidence that her position was just in God’s sight.

540. And Abraham yielded, which he would not have done so readily had he not felt she was right. Then Sarah did the only thing allowable under the law; she attempted to discipline Hagar, and return her to the position of a handmaiden. Sarah was not willing that her household should be polygamous; the law cut Abraham off from the right of a concubine in the family, since Sarah had given him her maid to bear a child for Sarah (see par. 537). But Hagar would be nothing less than a wife, so she left the house, doubtless thinking Abraham, for the sake of his only child, would divorce Sarah and take her back in Sarah’s place. Sarah made no effort to keep the child, so far as we know, which the law allowed.

541. The situation was hard for both Sarah and Hagar. Through fear that law and custom would set her adrift, because a childless wife, she had yielded to the requirements of Hammurabi’s legislative enactments, and provided a maid by whom to secure a son for Abraham; and Hagar had taken advantage of Sarah’s humiliated position,¾to assume the position in the family of another wife. Now Sarah begins to think, and that, on the laws by which women are governed; and she charges upon Abraham with the words: “I am wronged of THEE . . . God judge between me and thee.” Doubtless Abraham, like many another man, wished his wife would stop dwelling upon the injustice of the laws which govern women; and quit accusing him of wrong, if he merely observed them.

542. Sarah’s attempts to obey custom and law had borne heavily upon a poor woman slave, too; and at first Sarah perhaps did not see this; she “dealt hardly,” that is, sternly¾not likely abusively¾with Hagar, to reduce her to her former position in the family; but Hagar fled with her child, rather than become a subordinate again. As God protected Sarah, when Abraham left her in peril in the harems of Pharaoh and Abimelech, so now He appears for the protection of Hagar’s interests (Genesis16:7-13). He gives her promises as to her progeny, but, encumbered as she is with her own and Abraham’s child, as well as far from her own native land, God tells her to return and submit as a servant to Sarah. God certainly knew Sarah would not ill-use her; and Hagar had a right to shelter and support, since the child was Abraham’s to support. The lesson for women to learn, from Sarah’s conduct in seeking a son for Abraham by such a method, is this: Women who have superior advantages cannot yield to enactments that are unjust to themselves without bringing greater injustice upon other women in less fortunate circumstances. Sarah yielded to a wrong to herself as a childless wife; the result was a worse wrong to Hagar.

543. And furthermore, a wrong position of affairs can seldom be put right without suffering to the innocent, or at least without causing more suffering to others than really deserved. The further incidents show this. When Isaac was weaned, a feast was given, at which Sarah saw Hagar’s son “playing.” Some suppose we must understand this to mean “mocking,” and so the A.V. translates (Genesis 21:9). This is not necessary. Sarah was neither angered nor jealous of a rival’s child. Had this been the case, it is impossible that God should have endorsed, as He did, her conduct that day. Sarah had advanced greatly in character by this time, for we are told that “through faith Sarah received strength to conceive seed” (Hebrews 11:11), and this implies no mean state of grace, for a woman barren from youth, and now past ninety. Sarah had become so enlightened that she revolted at any appearance of polygamy in her household, where Isaac was to be brought up,¾for he had been given them to train for a very definite and holy purpose. Such surroundings were neither wholesome for Isaac nor Ishmael.

Additional Note: The Code of Hammurabi.

Beginning with Lesson 71, we discussed the Mosaic laws, which at best were not ideal. But they were far superior to Hammurabi’s in dealing with women. As an illustration we name the following:

Paragraphs 117 and 119 of Hammurabi’s Code provide for the selling of wives and daughters for debt.

Par. 132 reads: “If the finger has been pointed at the wife of a man because of another man, and she has not been taken in lying with another man, for her husband’s sake she shall throw herself into the water.” Contrast with this the much-slandered Trial of Jealousy (Numbers 5), which allowed the suspected wife the protection of the Tabernacle until by voluntary confession, or an express miracle of God the suspected unchastity was revealed (if it ever was revealed by miracle¾see pars. 585, 586). Exodus 21:22-25 provides that when, under certain circumstances, a woman is injured by a man, the penalty is “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” etc., that is, a woman’s eye was worth what a man’s was; the sexes were to be held of equal value. But under similar conditions, Hammurabi provides that the injurer was to pay (whatever the injury short of death) 10 shekels of silver to the woman’s father; and in case of the woman’s death, then a daughter of the murderer was to be put to death (Par. 209).

This shows how completely daughters were reckoned as the chattels of their father’s; and there was an express provision for sisters to become the property of brothers, after the father’s death, in Hammurabi’s Code, and these brothers could sell them for concubines.

A wife who became afflicted with disease could not be divorced, according to Hammurabi, but the husband could bring another wife into the house. Presently we shall show that, although polygamy prevailed to some extent among the Israelites, the Mosaic law did not provide for it, though garbled translations of one or two passages in our English and other versions seem to point the other way.

When rationalists contend for the superiority of Hammurabi’s Code over Moses’ we may feel sure that they are ignorant of their Bibles, whatever they may know of Hammurabi.

LESSON 67.

THE FOUNDING OF A CHRISTIAN FAMILY.

(Continued.)

528. But to return to that first household of faith: With all Abraham’s wishes and prayers, as to a prospective heir, he had no mind to take any risk of his life to preserve Sarah, his wife. Before ever He obeyed God, and left his own kindred with Sarah, he put her under bonds to represent herself as merely his sister, to save his own life from all risk (Genesis 12:13), although, as his wife, she had already taken the risk of her own life for Abraham’s sake and for the sake of children,¾the risk that every woman takes who marries.

529. Sarah, at this period, lacked self-respect; and Abraham had insufficient respect for her. He had also, as yet, little faith in God, who, since He had sent them forth to a distant land, would have protected them both. We wonder if Abraham would have represented himself as her “natural protector?” We think so; for he says: “Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake” (Genesis 12:13). In other words, “Please, Sarah, protect me from all risk to my life, in order that your ‘natural protector’ may survive to protect you.” The “protector” was protected by his wife, and he survived, at the risk of the loss of both wife and heir. See Genesis 12 and 20. We see something of this sort of “protection” in our own day. God was Sarah’s only protector; women would do well to learn that “cursed is the man that trusteth in man” (Jeremiah 17:5), but “they that trust in the Lord shall be like Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever.”

530. Sarah ought not to have agreed to such an arrangement with Abraham, and she would not have done it later in life,¾if we read her character aright, in its unfolding. But not knowing any better, God protected her, and incidentally to that protection, she was given as high a name as could be bestowed upon a human being¾“messiah,” “anointed”¾given to Sarah who lived ages before the great Messiah. 1 Chronicles 16:22 and Psalm 105:15 read, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” The Hebrew-form “mine-anointed” is generally taken as plural (“mine anointed ones,” as it is translated in the R. V.), but nevertheless it has special application to Sarah and Rebekah. To Sarah, since it was regarding her that God gave commandment to Abimelech, and said, “I suffered thee not to touch her” (Genesis 20:6). And to Rebekah, included with Isaac, in a later Abimelech’s[1] command not to touch them, given doubtless under God’s pressure (Genesis 26:11). Of no other persons is the same word spoken by God, at this early period in history.

531. Before God answered Abraham’s real, but as yet selfish desires, and gave him a son, He had one more lesson to teach him, by a not trivial operation upon a man of ninety-nine (Genesis 17:11), though not decrepit, as a man of those years would be in our day. It was likewise to be performed upon every male of his household; and after that operation, not before, they were in covenant relations with God. This was the act of circumcision. In Abraham’s case, at least. “It was the fit symbol of that removal of the old man, and that renewal of nature which qualified Abraham to be the parent of the holy seed” (Murphy). It is significant that whereas other nations and peoples have practiced and taught the circumcision of women also, this was not required by God, nor ever practiced among the Jews, among whom it signified entrance into covenant relations with God. The reason is not far to seek: long previously to this time woman had been entered into God’s covenant, as progenitress of the coming Christ, in His declaration: “I will put enmity between thee [Satan] and the woman; and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise they head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

532. Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, even Rahab and Ruth, not to mention other women of blood foreign to the descendants of Abraham, enter, without ceremony, into the list of ancestors of Jesus Christ. But no male enters that list, save on two conditions: (1) He must be a descendant of Abraham, and (2), like Abraham himself, must have passed through that mysterious ceremony which signified “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (Col. 2:11).

533. For an additional explanation of this exemption of women, we go back to the first chapters of Genesis, and what we have emphasized at the beginning. The sins longest indulged have the most tyranny over us. Adam desired to be “as God.” Ambition and lust first of human sins controlled the human race, ambition to rule finding an entrance through Adam, and lust, in addition, through descendants of Cain. Before Abraham could become the father of a chosen race, these sins needed to be extirpated from his character.

534. We have shown the special dealings as to sensuality with Abraham, to perfect his character. Now as to his domineering qualities: He had only pagan ideas of marriage at first, and by this time only scraps of that early dignity of womanhood remained. Without scruple, though a worshipper, of a sort, of the true God, he let Sarah be taken into Pharaoh’s harem (Genesis12:14-20). Doubtless he thought those promises of an abundant seed could be as well fulfilled through any other woman; the promise had been made to him, and he did not think it included Sarah, or he could hardly have been so easy about disposing of her. And more than this, Abraham seems to have thought her his chattel. Making no effort to rescue her from captivity in Pharaoh’s harem, he “received many presents” in exchange for her; for Pharao“entreated Abram well for her sake; and he had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she-asses, and camels . . . And Abram went up out of Egypt . . . very rich.” And all this at the cost of Sarah’s moral well-being and risk of virtue, until Pharaoh restored her to him (Genesis 12:16; 13:1).

535. It was here probably at Sarah’s cost that Hagar was obtained; and Hagar was a source of sorrow to the family, and of grievous sin. A childless wife, in the Orient, is set aside after a few years; and the only means of escape from such a fate must be obtained by the childless wife herself; because she could not present her lord with an heir, she must present him with a woman servant who could bear him an heir,¾to be reckoned as the lawful wife’s child. Books on the “Duties of Women,” among the Chinese are embellished with instances of such wifely devotion as this, which is reckoned to be exceedingly “womanly.”[2] The same is the case in India. One of the most vivid accounts of the ceremony, from a native standpoint, will be found under the title, Uma Himavutee, in a book by Mrs. Flora Annie Steel, called In The Permanent Way. Every woman who wishes to understand Sarah should read it.

536. Much has been said in depreciation of Sarah’s character because she gave Hagar her maid to Abraham (Genesis 16:2). We now know that the land of Canaan was, at this time, a dependency of the land from whence they came, the entire region being governed by Hammurabi (Amraphel, of Genesis 14:1). In 1901 a stone slab was discovered at Sura, upon which is engraved his code of laws. He ruled in the days of Abraham over all Mesopotamia, from the mouth of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates to the Mediterranean Coast, and Sarah but yielded to the requirements of the laws of her country in that which she did.

(To be continued.)

303. To sum up: It seems clear that Jesus Christ MEANT WHAT HE SAID in the words, “No one CAN serve two masters.” It amounts to an impossibility, and God never demands the impossible. Mutual respect, honor, humility, meekness, forbearance, and the yielding of one’s preferences, are incumbent upon all believers, to be exercised under all circumstances short of making allegiance with man such as one owes to God only. Sarah made a greater declaration than her limited intelligence in that age could have fully grasped, but God ordered Abraham to act in accordance with its inexorable law: “The SON of the bondwoman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” Let us pass over the circumstances that led to that decision in the Household of Faith,–and an utterance on Sarah’s part that has been misunderstood and misjudged, but we have not space to enter into it now,–and learn the lesson of the words themselves. God establishes no covenant relations with one in bondage. Moses words to Pharaoh knew no variation: “Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may SERVE ME.” They could not BOTH serve the Egyptians as bondsmen, and God. “No one CAN serve two masters.” God would not take them into full covenant relations with Himself until they were FREE.  It is so today. Thousands of Christians, held in bondage by human companions, are crying out for a clearer realization of covenant relations with God, and God’s demand is ever the same: “Let my people go, that they may serve me.” God may remember His covenant with our fathers, but nevertheless we are NEVER in full covenant relations with Him until FREE. And this applies to women as well as men. The freedom or bondage of the mother, moreover, both Sarah and St. Paul declare, shall determine the status of the son. No son of a bondwoman, because of her spirit in him, can, as such, enter into full covenant relations with God. Fathers of sons, who hold their wives in sensual bondage, doom those sons to a personal sensual bondage. It is God’s own law then, that one sex cannot get free and the other sex remain in bondage. It is impossible to understand the enormous extent to which all Christendom has been morally crippled in its progress by the attempt to keep the female sex in bondage, especially to the husband’s sensuality.

305….

they would have, rather, the recently uttered sayings of our Lord, standing out to their minds with startling clearness, because so unlike their Gentile teachings: “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them: and they that exercise authority over them are called benefactors, But ye shall not be so.” They were not to look upon this exercise of authority as a benevolent thing, but quite the contrary. “No one can serve two masters,” then how could a woman “serve” her husband and her God? And how could her husband be a “benefactor” to her, while exercising authority over her? “Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ . . . Neither be ye called Masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased.” What a totally different sense have such words as these! And these are the teachings which would be much in the mind and thought of those early Christians, because so recently uttered by their Divine Master.

MUST WOMEN OBEY?

LESSON 39.

MUST WOMEN OBEY?

300. The word “obedience,” hupakoe, is quite different from the word “subjection.” Its corresponding verb, from which it comes, is hupakouo, and means literally, “to listen to,” with the derived sense of “to obey.” It has always been translated “obey” in the New Testament excepting at one place, Acts 12:13, where Rhoda comes “to listen to” Peter’s knocking. This word has been used nowhere in respect to the wife’s duty to her husband, with one safe exception, in an illustration. In 1 Peter 3:6 the Apostle points women to the example of Sarah, who “obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord,” or “Sir,” as the same is often translated (Matthew 13:27; John 12:21, etc.). So did Jacob call Esau “lord,” though it was God’s revealed will that Jacob should hold the place of superiority; and Aaron called Moses, his younger brother, “lord,” and Moses called the striving Egyptians “lords” (Genesis 33:8,14; Exodus 32:22; Acts 7:26). There was a rabbinical saying which Peter may have known and quoted, here: “The wife of Abraham reverenced him and called him lord.” It is to be noted that Peter’s admonition is “subjection;” his illustration is subjection carried to the point of obedience. When giving a pattern for incitement we are very apt to take an extreme case, “Be unworldly; as Francis of Assisi, a wealthy young man, who renounced all his inheritance, and lived on alms.” By these words the spirit of Francis is the point urged, not the literal copying of his acts. So with Peter’s words here. And that spirit becomes all Christians alike. “In honor preferring one another.”

301. As far as Abraham and Sarah are concerned, we are left in no doubt as to this relation of obedience and respect being mutual and reciprocal; God commanded Abraham to call Sarah by the very respectful name of “Princess,” Genesis 17:15; and the strongest passage in the Bible seeming to enjoin obedience, as between husband and wife, is at Genesis 21:12, “And God said unto Abraham. . . . in all that Sarah saith unto thee, obey her voice.” The Hebrew verb used here, translated into the English, “hearken unto,” is the same word translated “obey” at Genesis 22:18. It means “to listen to,” as does the Greek word “to obey,” but it has been translated “obey” in 89 places in the Old Testament, and carries the sense “obey” as proved by the context, in scores of other places, just as it does in this passage, concerning which there is no doubt that Abraham was to obey in what Sarah told him to do,–“Cast out the bondwoman and her child.”

302. The question naturally is asked: “But in the unique relation existing within the marriage bond, is not the wife bound to unquestioning obedience?” We do not so read the Bible. Turn to Leviticus 20:18, where exists a commandment to prevent unhygienic conduct within the marriage relation. There is no question here but that God held both man and woman equally responsible for trampling upon this hygienic law; and this could not have been the case had the wife been bound to unquestioning obedience to her husband in this matter. In both the Greek and the Catholic Church, we understand that in the marriage service the conditions laid upon the bride and bridegroom are identical. In the United States the word “obey” is seldom used in the marriage ceremony. If, under the Mosaic law, the obligations and responsibilities of the matrimonial relation were identical for man and woman, as the passage cited from Leviticus seems to prove, it is exceedingly difficult to believe that the Gospel message is meant to place women on a lower plane of moral responsibility than the Mosaic law did. (See more on this subject in paragraphs 110, 111.)

303. To sum up: It seems clear that Jesus Christ MEANT WHAT HE SAID in the words, “No one CAN serve two masters.” It amounts to an impossibility, and God never demands the impossible. Mutual respect, honor, humility, meekness, forbearance, and the yielding of one’s preferences, are incumbent upon all believers, to be exercised under all circumstances short of making allegiance with man such as one owes to God only. Sarah made a greater declaration than her limited intelligence in that age could have fully grasped, but God ordered Abraham to act in accordance with its inexorable law: “The SON of the bondwoman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” Let us pass over the circumstances that led to that decision in the Household of Faith,–and an utterance on Sarah’s part that has been misunderstood and misjudged, but we have not space to enter into it now,–and learn the lesson of the words themselves. God establishes no covenant relations with one in bondage. Moses words to Pharaoh knew no variation: “Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may SERVE ME.” They could not BOTH serve the Egyptians as bondsmen, and God. “No one CAN serve two masters.” God would not take them into full covenant relations with Himself until they were FREE.  It is so today. Thousands of Christians, held in bondage by human companions, are crying out for a clearer realization of covenant relations with God, and God’s demand is ever the same: “Let my people go, that they may serve me.” God may remember His covenant with our fathers, but nevertheless we are NEVER in full covenant relations with Him until FREE. And this applies to women as well as men. The freedom or bondage of the mother, moreover, both Sarah and St. Paul declare, shall determine the status of the son. No son of a bondwoman, because of her spirit in him, can, as such, enter into full covenant relations with God. Fathers of sons, who hold their wives in sensual bondage, doom those sons to a personal sensual bondage. It is God’s own law then, that one sex cannot get free and the other sex remain in bondage. It is impossible to understand the enormous extent to which all Christendom has been morally crippled in its progress by the attempt to keep the female sex in bondage, especially to the husband’s sensuality.

304. Let us remind ourselves again that when the women of apostolic times, who labored with Paul in the Gospel, either listened to, read, or taught others from the text, Genesis 3:16, they must have understood and taught it as meaning, “Thou art turning away to thy husband, and he will rule over thee,”–for this is the reading of the Septuagint version, which they universally used, and this is the way early Church Fathers invariably quote the verse. These women would not have read, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Now without this verse, translated as we have it, and used as an index to Paul’s meaning when he talks on the “woman question,” we may well inquire how these women would have interpreted his words. What sense would Paul’s language about women have conveyed to women who had not been taught “the curse of Eve?” To women who never knew that Genesis taught (?) that God subordinated woman to man at the time of the Fall? To women who had never heard that the Bible taught the wife to obey the husband, because Eve brought sin into the world? Or to a woman who had never heard that, according to the Bible, her “desire” must be under her husband’s control? Such was the condition of mind of the Gentile women, at least, who heard Paul’s letters read. They knew that their heathen religions taught that woman was her husband’s subordinate. But they did not have this teaching from Genesis 3:16, and if not from there, then they found it nowhere in the Old Testament. How differently they must, therefore, have construed Paul’s language!

305. In place of such teachings as this about woman’s “desire,” they would have, rather, the recently uttered sayings of our Lord, standing out to their minds with startling clearness, because so unlike their Gentile teachings: “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them: and they that exercise authority over them are called benefactors, But ye shall not be so.” They were not to look upon this exercise of authority as a benevolent thing, but quite the contrary. “No one can serve two masters,” then how could a woman “serve” her husband and her God? And how could her husband be a “benefactor” to her, while exercising authority over her? “Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ . . . Neither be ye called Masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased.” What a totally different sense have such words as these! And these are the teachings which would be much in the mind and thought of those early Christians, because so recently uttered by their Divine Master.