Misogyny In The Law Of Moses: The Patriarchal Privilege To Veto The Vow

“When a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. 3 Or when a woman vows a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father’s house, in her youth, 4 and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself, and says nothing to her; then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. 5 But if her father expresses disapproval to her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself, shall stand; and the Lord will forgive her, because her father opposed her. 6 And if she is married to a husband, while under her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, 7 and her husband hears of it, and says nothing to her on the day that he hears; then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. 8 But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he expresses disapproval, then he shall make void her vow which was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips, by which she bound herself; and the Lord will forgive her.” (Numbers 30.2-8; emphasis mine, DLH)

There is hardly a concept more personal and privileged than one’s own thoughts. The impenetrable fortress of the intellect is a natural private domain. Yet in the ancient Hebrew culture which produced biblical literature, patriarchy trumped privacy, even with regards to a female’s deliberated determinations and personal commitments.

The patriarchal privilege and power to veto a woman’s personal vow is one of the most intrusive of all violations of privacy and is a most presumptuous form of misogyny. Though a seemingly subtle authority in that such neither violates one’s physical being nor exploits one’s services, nonetheless the right to regulate another individual’s personal commitments is a most substantive exercise of assumed hierarchy and usurped privilege.

The right of the Father and then later the Husband to veto the vow of the woman is not only a matter of patriarchal rule, but likewise upholds the principle of male property rights with regards to the woman. The Tenth Commandment clearly regards wives as the personal property of their husbands, and the fact that the patriarchal right to veto the woman’s vow passes from the Father to the Husband is an evident indicator that the ownership of the woman is transferred from the former to the latter at the point of marriage.

The disregard for the intellect of the woman was clearly deep rooted in a variety of ancient cultures, including that which produced the Bible. Hebrew mythology blamed the hardships of humanity on an independent woman who dared think for herself with regards to her choice of edibles, much as Gnostic mythology blamed an independent female deity who chose to reproduce without consulting her consort for the deficiencies of our earthly domain. And unfortunately, such backward and bigoted thinking was incorporated into the doctrine of the Church, as women are to learn in silence and subjection, and leave the teaching to the men.

Regardless of one’s religiosity, surely it is evident that the conventional and orthodox doctrines of the Church have been based upon backwards thinking and bigoted views towards women which originated in an ancient male oriented culture. Whereas it seems unfortunate that such blatant sexism was ever normalized and legalized in any ancient society, it is surely a shame that such thinking has been incorporated into any aspect of modern, civilized society.

(Next: “Misogyny In The Law Of Moses: The Patriarchal Rule Of The Father”)

Adam and Eve: A Myth About Reality

Myths are a fascinating form of communication. Not only do myths teach and reveal certain very basic truths, but they can also be quite revealing as to the way the narrator thinks. This in turn can and oftentimes does offer the reader a glimpse into the world in which the narrator lived. The clues as to such are in the details, and the details are that which; to me, make myths such a fascinating form of communication.

Take as an example the myth of Adam and Eve. Undoubtedly, one of the best known myths of our era. The myth of Adam and Eve of course relates the story about the original couple, who the narrator portrays as having lived together once upon a time in a paradise known as the Garden of Eden. Per the myth, Adam and Eve unfortunately failed to live up to the standards of God, who had made the effort to plant the garden on behalf of the charter couple. Thus, they were expelled from the garden, into the real world, where they lived….. Well, unlike many myths, which conclude with the words “and they lived happily ever after”, no such concept is presented in the myth of the original couple. Rather, they merely lived. And such is actually the most basic lesson that I myself take from the myth of Adam and Eve.

For once you get past human beings springing forth from soil and surgeries, forbidden fruit trees, and talking Serpents, this myth is reduced to a most fundamental truth based upon a rudimentary reality. That reality being that life is a constant struggle against one’s immediate elements, and then we decay, and then we die. Such is life. And that is actually the point, for if nothing else; the myth of Adam and Eve is a commentary on life. And so how ironic that the myth begins in Paradise, for actually this myth is not only about life, but more specifically life in the real world.

And it is at this point in the myth that I personally feel comfortable to analyze the content, even though the banishment into the real world somewhat concludes that which is commonly regarded as “the creation account”. In my studies, the analysis begins at that point for the simple reason that this is where the myth gets real. I cannot relate to magically produced men, and women that spring forth from a side splitting surgery. Nor can I relate to magic trees and talking serpents. But I can relate to the struggles of everyday life, working “by the sweat of the brow” in order to make a living and pay bills. And I can relate to physical hardships. Furthermore; having witnessed the birth of my three children, I even have an abstract appreciation for the hardships of my feminine sisters in the family of humanity. The struggles of the human experience. Such is what life is. Such is what the described curse upon Adam and Eve is all about. And so I relate on an existential level to the curse of the hardships of the human experience as described in Genesis 3. Thus, it is at this point of continuity with the narrator that I am able to analyze the myth itself, and thereby ascertain the message so revealed.

When I read the narrator’s description of the curses that God put upon Adam and Eve, I am immediately aware that the writer is like myself: A working man who endures each day of life as a means to survive, and just doing his best in the process. A man who struggles everyday to survive. A man who wanders why life has to be so tough, but a man who has no time to overthink the situation which is the human experience because he has to remain kinetic just to stay above ground so to speak. Like Bob Seger, he is running against the wind. Like Bob Dylan, he is a rolling stone who cannot afford to take a day to rest. And like Robert Frost, he would like to stop and take it all in, except he has promises to keep, and miles to go before he sleeps. Indeed, the curse of God upon the charter couple of humanity is the reality of the myth of Adam and Eve which navigates this tale from fantasy to reality. And as is always the case, reality is that which unites all humanity, for reality; such as it is, is all that any of us has ever known.

Now there is another internal detail relative to the myth of Adam and Eve which I suggest offers clear insight as to the gender of the narrator. It seems obvious to me that that the narrator is a male. Not that this question has ever been debated. I merely suggest that the gender of the narrator is evident by the internal details, and therefore does not have to be accepted merely as a matter of tradition. Now the reason I am so certain that the narrator is a man is that I find it hard to believe that any woman would throw her sister Eve under the bus to take the blame throughout all Hebrew history for the hardships which are natural to the human experience. But frankly, I can see a man doing so. I truly can. Sad to say, but it is an all too often male thing to do. “Blame it on Eve” is an all too prevalent pattern of male behaviour which seeks to transfer blame for perceived failures as a means to process the frustrations of the hardships of the daily experience of the human predicament. It is therefore no stretch of the imagination to picture the narrator of the myth doing the same either cognizantly or subconsciously.

And inasmuch as the narrator did indeed take the low road by blaming the woman in the story for all the natural hardships of the entire human experience; nonetheless the poor guy was likely a product of his environment. Not that such justifies his literary blame shift, but no doubt his patriarchal perspective was a conditioned experience. In fact there are two clear internal indicators in the myth which are revealing as to the extent of the patriarchy of his day. One such indicator is that the setting of the sinful deed involves the doings of an independent woman. The second such factor is that she did so while separate from an inattentive man. Now, when I say independent woman, I do not mean that she was not an individual with a mind of her own and who had the freedom to express her will and explore her world on her own, for such I believe to have been her natural right. However; I daresay that the society of the narrator would by no means maintain such an open mind as to her rights of individuality. And when I say inattentive man, I do not mean he did not bring her flowers or failed to say ‘I love you’ to the woman enough. Rather I mean that in the eyes of the narrator’s society, Adam would have been deficient in keeping an eye on her activities and maintaining control over her comings and goings. Now, such thinking is limited, antiquated and stifling. And certainly unacceptable by the standards of a society which has been socially enlightened as to the reality of the equality of the genders. Nonetheless; I do not doubt that the world in which the narrator lived would have judged Adam as deficient in his social duties as a man due to his being inattentive as to the comings and goings of Eve, while at the same time would have judged Eve as defiant and deficient in her social obligations as a woman due to the fact that she actually dared to think and function for herself. Hence, the narrator portrays a scenario which I suggest both reveals him not only as a man, but likewise as a man who was a product of a patriarchal society.

The myth of Adam and Eve being the literary creation of a man who was the product of a patriarchal environment, then the qualifying of an act of autonomous volition by an independent woman as an explanation for all the natural hardships of the human experience is somewhat to be expected, if not outright predictable. But by no means justifiable.

The fallout of such limited thinking of course has been the ongoing subjugation of the female in societies so influenced by this ancient myth. And aside from the clear cut moral deficiency of patriarchal thinking and sexist ideology, the shame of the situation is that such ruins the effect of and misses the most fundamental point of that which to my way of thinking is a most profound and practical literary creation of the human imagination. For the myth of Adam and Eve is simply an astounding literary commentary on the existential reality that life is no paradise, and that ultimately the human experience is that of incessant drudgery, unavoidable decay, and an inevitable death. And I personally have no doubts that the creator (no pun intended) of the myth of Adam and Eve was struggling with that very reality. And so he responded with a literary tale truly representative of his times. And thereby blamed Eve for all the natural hardships of the human experience. Well, I suppose everyone has to cope with the human predicament on their own terms.

For the fundamentalist Christian copes with the realities of the hardship of the human experience by aspiring to an eternal existence with Jesus in the sweet by and by.

And many of the early Christians (and a few of the contemporary ones) coped with such by envisioning returning to a loving, merciful, and sweet heavenly Father who sent Jesus to earth to deliver them from the evil Creator God Jehovah.

Then there are the earth bound humanist types of philosophies which rationalize life as an experience to be lived, and death as simply a part of that process.

As for myself, I am an earth bound humanist type who qualifies as an Atheist and who reasons as an Epicuran. I rationalize life as an unavoidable experience, friendship and fellowship with my familiars as the most viable means of security and satisfaction, and death as release from suffering and a return of my elements to the earth to be recirculated into some other form of natural existence.

Life is no paradise, and speaking for myself I do not anticipate such after I expire.

But then, who knows?

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas