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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Women's Rights

In the Old Testament (specifically, the Pentateuch), God covers a lot of situations with His laws. He covers homosexual behavior (Lev 18:22) and bestiality (Lev 18:23) and divorce (Deut 24:1-4) and even polygamy (Exo 21:10-11). Now, be careful here. When God says, "If you do this act, you need to follow these rules", this cannot be understood to be a tacit approval of an act. For instance, that passage in Deuteronomy explains the rules of divorce, but Jesus clarifies, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." (Matt 19:8) That is, "Here are the rules of divorce ... but if you do it you do it out of a hard heart. God did not intend that."

There is, here, an interesting lesson, however, to be drawn from the polygamy verses. No, not about polygamy. Clearly God's ideal was monogamy (which, by the way, means "one spouse", not the modern "one sex partner"). Note, for instance, that Adam (God's original design) had one wife, Eve. Note that kings were prohibited from acquiring multiple wives (Deut 17:17). In the New Testament, a prerequisite for leadership in the church is "the husband of one wife" (1 Tim 3:2). And, of course, Christ has only one Bride (Eph 5:31-32). The correct version, then, is clearly monogamy, not multiple marriages. So, if we're not going for polygamy, what can we learn from a verse about polygamy? Take a look.
If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. (Exo 21:10)
Yeah, I know, I can hear it now. "Oooo, Stan, really ... helpful." But wait. Look at this. It tells all husbands their expected responsibilities toward their wives. He is expected to provide for his wife food, clothing, and "marital rights". (I'm sure you understand the euphemism there.)

Did you know that, husbands? Did you know that God prescribes that husbands are required to fill her pantry and her closet? Did you know that God considers that your basic minimum requirements? (Trust me; there are more.) Oh, and her "marital rights". Don't forget that.

Actually, that last one is a bit dicey. One set of people argue that it simply means you have to give her a place to live.The word appears only here and is basically translated "cohabitation", so, they argue, it's just a place to live. That doesn't really seem to hold water, since it entirely dismisses the "co" of "cohabitation". Paul tells the Corinthian church that "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights ..." (1 Cor 7:3). Same concept. But "cohabitation" might mean "living in the same place at the same time" or "the state of living together and having a sexual relationship". You choose. Most of Christendom has fallen on the side of the latter and understand both Paul's reference to the Corinthians and God's reference to the Jews as a command for sexual relations.

Now, hold on a minute. The language of the text (Exo 21:10) sounds like these things are her right. She has the right to food, clothing, and marital rights -- sex. Now isn't that odd? At least in today's world? Because I think there are actually a relatively large number of women in this world (or, at least, in this country) who do not want their "marital rights". In fact, sex typically ranks high on the list of reasons for divorce. So what's up with that? Apparently there has been a disconnect between then and now. In biblical times women longed for children and considered it a curse if they failed to produce them. There was never a question of "Should we have kids?" Yes, yes indeed. It was the fulfillment of the woman. Children were a good thing. They were not "in the way", "an impediment to a career", "too much trouble", "too expensive", or whatever other popular objection you'll find today. In those days a woman's "greatest achievement" was her children.

It begs the question. Have we progressed to something better, or have we progressed to something worse? Many, even Christians, will tell you, "It's better now." We no longer need to "be fruitful and fill the earth" (Gen 1:28). Check that off the human race's bucket list. Others point to careers, self-fulfillment, even environment. You know, "too many people means a dying planet." But if this is true, apparently God's Word does not remain (Matt 5:18) because the Scriptures are replete with praises for having kids (e.g., Prov 17:6; Psa 113:9; Psa 127:3-5; 1 Tim 2:15). So I'm thinking that it could be that the reason "marital rights" is no longer on the top of what many women demand from their husbands anymore is that we've diminished children, child-bearing, procreation, and the joy God promises for having kids. If that was still the view, I would think that "marital rights" would be included on their list of "must haves". This does not seem like progress. Yes, we've come a long way, baby ... just not in the right direction.


Stan said...

This, of course, is silliness. It is not the husband's responsibility to provide food, clothing, or "marital rights" to his wife. To read the Scriptures in this way is childish. Guys, you have no obligation to provide for your wife. We live in the 21st century and she's perfectly capable of providing for herself. In fact, if you're lucky, she might provide for you. And this whole "children are a blessing" thing is a lie, drummed up first by those darned Old Testament folk who only knew an agrarian society where kids were important then and is now falsely perpetuated by some outlandish so-called "Christians" who read that kind of stuff in the Bible and, childishly, assume it is true.

Relax. We know better today. No kids is a good thing. Whatever you want is a good thing. All those marital instructions in the Old and New Testaments are obsolete because, just like homosexuality, the writers of the Bible had no notion of today's new and improved marriage and relationships. Have we progressed to something better? You bet we have. We've improved all over the place on God and His original design. To suggest otherwise is to close your eyes to progress and see the Bible through the eyes of a child. Grow up! Remember, the best interpreter of the Holy Bible is you and your modern mindset and don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise.[End sarcasm]

Craig said...

It's just a bunch of mythic Bronze Age revenge fantasies, or something...

Stan said...

Only a small-minded person would allow a large-minded God determine reality.