The society which produced biblical literature was clearly male oriented and misogynistic. The very explanation for the hardships of survival is blamed on a woman in the Hebrew Creation Myth of Genesis 3, and even the Ten Commandments relegated wives to a role equivalent to an item of personal property. The degradation of women and the double standards between the genders are each consistent and common themes within biblical writings, and the fundamental basis for each was apparently derived from an assumed inferiority of the former from the day of their very birth. Hence, the reason that misogyny and the maltreatment of women are both normalized and legalized in biblical literature is that the culture which produced such both devalued and even seems to have disdained the very concept of “femaleness”.
“The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying; she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. 5 But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days.” (Leviticus 12.1-5)
“The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, When a man makes a special vow of persons to the Lord at your valuation, 3 then your valuation of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. 4 If the person is a female, your valuation shall be thirty shekels. 5 If the person is from five years old up to twenty years old, your valuation shall be for a male twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels. 6 If the person is from a month old up to five years old, your valuation shall be for a male five shekels of silver, and for a female your valuation shall be three shekels of silver. 7 And if the person is sixty years old and upward, then your valuation for a male shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels.” (Leviticus 27.1-7)
In the case of the laws regarding childbirth, a woman was considered unclean by the very act itself. The sexism related to such thinking is unmistakeable. The double standard regarding such is transparent and hypocritical. The very notion that a woman is impregnated by a man, and then is regarded as unclean when she delivers the product of the impregnation defies logic and sensitivity. Furthermore, to compound the insult, if a woman delivers a female baby then she is regarded as being twice as unclean. The double standard of such legalized misogyny clearly indicates a disdain for the very concept of femaleness in general.
Then, in a case of put your money where your misogyny is, the laws regarding the value of one’s very being assessed females at a fraction of the worth of a man. The blatant bigotry of male superiority (and thus female inferiority) as written into the laws regarding valuation sacrifices reveal the depth of the feelings which the ancient Hebrew culture which produced the Old Testament had for femaleness in general. Females were thought of as less than worthy in that male dominated society, and hence women were regarded as mere private property of men (cf Exodus 20.17).
That such double standards and degradation of women were ever normalized to the point of being legalized in any culture is a shame and a pity. But then to realize that many contemporary cultures view biblical literature as a social template with regards to patriarchal rule and female subjugation, and the concerns are compounded to the extent that the influences of such should be regarded as ill advised.
(NOTE: All biblical citations are Revised Standard Version; Biblegateway.com)
Next: “Misogyny In The Law Of Moses: The Male Right To Veto The Vow”