Misogyny In The Law Of Moses: Femaleness Devalued And Disdained

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”

Misogyny In The Ten Commandments

The society which produced biblical literature was male oriented and misogynistic as to their thinking. Although most ancient cultures envisioned female deities in their tales and myths, the Hebrew world which produced the Old Testament usually identified God as a singular, male being. One particular Hebrew Creation Myth explains patriarchal rule as the divine order. It seems that once upon a time there was a woman who ate fruit from a tree which had been labeled as off limits by her male God. Naturally, as the narrative explained, that wanton act of rebellion subjected that particular woman to a life of patriarchal rule. Over the course of time, the basic interpretation of that myth became “what’s good enough for Adam is good enough for me”, hence all women of the ancient Hebrew culture were subjected to that same treatment. Thus, Eve’s punishment came to be regarded as a divine order of sorts. More reasonably, the writer responsible for the myth itself probably revealed the actual male oriented values of his day by way of this creative tale.

In fact, the ancient Hebrew culture which produced the biblical literature known as the Old
Testament was so male oriented that misogyny and the maltreatment of women were both normalized and legalized. Indeed, the hallowed Ten Commandments themselves were by no means exempt from the sexism which so characterized ancient Hebrew ideology:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20.17)

For this Tenth Commandment clearly documents that which so many Old Testament passages and accounts confirm; namely that the women of that society were regarded as mere male property. In other words, every good Hebrew male was lawfully bound to have the respect to refrain himself from coveting a fellow male’s personal possessions, among which included his wife.

This patriarchal dictate then was somewhat of a good old boys code of ethical conduct, yet there is no wording within the passage which would bind women to show the same respect to each other with relationship to their husbands. Thus, there was a loophole in this sexist commandment which allowed husbands to freely consort with concubines and prostitutes, but which certainly permitted no such liberties to wives.

The degradation of women and the double standard for men so dictated by this Tenth Commandment are clear indicators that the society which produced biblical literature both normalized and legalized misogyny and sexism. It is my personal view that ancient patriarchal standards should be left to the past, and that it is furthermore a shame that such were ever normalized and legalized in any setting.

(Next: “Females A Fraction Of The Worth, Yet Twice As Unclean”)

The Misogyny Of Moses

And so the killing began. Siblings watched as their brothers were executed. And then the remaining brothers themselves were executed. Mothers watched as their sons were executed. And then they themselves were executed. Children watched as their Mothers were executed. And then the sons themselves were executed. From young teen boys whose voices had barely begun to crack, to toddler boys barely able to walk, to baby boys in the clutches of their Mother’s arms. All the males and all the Mothers were executed.

As ordered by Moses.

It must have all been a bloody mess when the killing was done. The on the scene Priest even reminded the collective killers of their sanitation duties under the circumstances, as dictated by Hebraic Law. They were even reminded to sanitize the sex slaves that each of them had claimed.

For such was the fate of the virgin daughters of the Midianites. Their Fathers killed in battle. Their Mothers and their Brothers murdered before their very eyes. And then, as if to add insult to the most injurious of sinister circumstances, each of these young ladies was taken captive and forced to live the remainder of their lives as the sex slave of one of the Israelis soldiers who had murdered their family.

As ordered by Moses.

The trauma for these young ladies must have been inconceivable. It is hard to imagine that they ever recovered from the experience.

Sad to say, but such is the final legacy of one of the great names of biblical literature. The fact that the writer of this narrative would envision Moses himself as being the person who actually ordered the executions of the Midianite women and who arranged for sex slaves for each of the Israeli soldiers involved is unfortunate, while at the same time quite revealing. For according to this tale, among the final notable deeds of Moses were orders of the mass execution of women who he blamed for the shortcomings of his fellow Israeli males (typical “blame it on the woman” theme), the likewise execution of the male children of those same women, and the capture of young Midianite girls so they would live the remainder of their lives as sex slaves of the very Israeli soldiers who had already killed their family. This incident as described is a dreary and despicable affair, and the writer of such envisioned Moses himself as being the man who ordered and organized the entire affair.

The strong feelings of animosity which the writer of this tale feels for non-Jews is clear and evident, as are his assumptions of patriarchal entitlement. His xenophobic inclinations towards the Midianites is ironic in that the Midianites were allegedly distant cousins to the Hebrews, yet in the context of religious bigotry, the writer’s radical feelings are predictable. For as the Midianite women had supposedly once been a bad influence over the Hebrew men by encouraging them to worship other gods, the writer seems to have felt justified to see the whole lot of them executed. And their sons.

But not their virgin daughters.

As it is, the entire account was quite likely mythical. There seems to be more symbolism to the tale than realism, especially the claim that not a single Israeli soldier was killed in a battle that allegedly entailed the death of every male enemy combatant, including five kings. However; this narrative nonetheless reflects the unfavorable values of a vile and violent culture which both normalized and legalized murder and misogyny.

References: Numbers 31, Numbers 25

Next: “Misogyny In The Law Of Moses”

Patriarchy In The Bible

It is my view that Patriarchy is the most fundamental of all illegitimate forms of authority. As the family is most likely the original organized collective in the history of humanity, then the concept of male rule would seem to have developed in that very context. Then, by the time societies had developed into municipalities and conceived of the ideology of monotheism, misogyny appears to have become both normalized and legalized. At least such was the case for certain cultures, namely the ancient Hebrews. For although the origin of sexist ideology is uncertain, the concept was clearly embedded into the Hebrew culture by the time their Bible was written some 2800 years ago.

In fact, from the opening Creation myths to the final apocalyptic assertions, sexism and misogyny are presented throughout biblical literature as normal and acceptable. Misogyny within the Hebrew Bible ranged from conditioning and commanding women to accept a subjective and submissive role towards the man, to the legalized maltreatment and merciless murder of women.

In the light of the import of such archaic values into modern society, and the detrimental influence of such even to this day, I am embarking upon a personal study and written assessment of the topic of Misogyny in the Bible. It is neither my intent to attack any of the three monotheistic faiths whose doctrines developed from the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament), nor to malign the Bible itself, but rather to assess such from a secular, sensible, and hopefully sensitive point of view. In so doing, I shall endeavor to be as fair to the original writers and to people of faith as I am fervent in subjecting the archaic ideology and illegitimate authority of Patriarchy to a rational and critical assessment.

(NEXT: “Misogyny in the Hebrew Creation Myths”)

The Bible as a Guide for Morals and Ethics?

The Bible as a guide for morals and ethics:

-Teaches the Master to be a good Master, and teaches the Slave to be a good Slave.

-Teaches the Master to screw his slave to have a baby if his wife is barren.

-Teaches the Father to kill his son if he hears a voice that tells him to do so.

-Teaches the Father to offer his daughters to be gangraped in order to save his friends.

-Teaches that women are commodities, and that men are the kings of their castle.

-Teaches the Soldier to slaughter men, women, children, babies, and animals indiscriminately.

-Teaches the Soldier to take sex slaves after killing young ladies’ parents and brothers.

-Teaches that those who are not faithful followers of God should be killed.

-Teaches that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. Big deal. Do you think that if the principle of social reciprocity was not taught in the Bible that people would not how to treat each other? Do you think that if the principle of social reciprocity was not taught in the Bible that the Mother would not know to teach such to her children? Every society teaches the principle of social reciprocity. Every religion teaches the principle of social reciprocity. Every parent teaches the principle of social reciprocity. 500 years before Jesus taught such Confucius taught the principle of social reciprocity.

The Bible as a guide for morals and ethics?

To each their own I suppose. But as for me, I cannot think of a single good moral and/or ethical principle that the Bible teaches; that I could not have figured out on my own based upon the natural sense of care and compassion which is apparently inherent to humanity. On the other hand, I can think of several principles of social conduct that are taught in the Bible; which if I put into practice, would make me a real jerk and a lousy person.

Choose ye this day the guide for your moral and ethical conduct.

As for me, I think I will just “wing it” with my natural sense of care and compassion.

Dave Henderson