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”)

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”