Women In Religion Essay, Research Paper
Women in the Old Testament There is no question that if women were not created, men would have never been able to exist and prosper like they do today. Since the beginning of time, women have been looked upon as our |companionsX. But what is the reality of that statement? Are they really our |companionsX, or are they just man+s|helpersX? The basis of my research deals with this topic. This essay will discuss women+s position in society around the time of the Old Testament and will go in depth to areas such as the creation of the woman, the woman in the social and economic life of society, and women+s roles in other parts of the community. The first reference to the creation of woman comes at 2:18 in the book of Genesis. God states |It is not good for the man to be aloneX, despite the fact that man was living in an idyllic environment at the time (Bible Commentary 62). During God+s creation of the earth, we know that he had created animals as companions for man and that they were fully under human authority, but that would still not fully satisfy man+s desire for an equal. Therefore, God goes forth with the creation of the first woman. We then read of how God puts Adam to sleep and takes out one of his ribs to later form it into the shape of a woman. I believe that the symbol of the rib is very significant in sense that it represents equality. The woman was not created from the man+s head to top him, nor out of his feet so the woman would be inferior to him, but out of his side to be equal with him (Bible Commentary 62). God wants to form unity and equality between man and woman and does so by the way he creates her. Nevertheless, there are many instances in the book of Genesis that indicate that the word |wifeX simply represents the idea of |woman belonging to manX. From this we can understand that even though God is trying to form an equality between the two sexes, there is somewhat of an authority over the woman by man. As time progresses, we further understand the importance of women in the society. Her principal functions in life are to be accomplished through the roles of both wife and mother. As a wife, she must be available to her husband sexually to heighten his pleasure and for reproductive purposes. Basically, if not for the woman, the human species could not exist. In the role of being a mother, she must provide a loving and nurturing environment for her children. She also has the responsibility of doing various tasks around the living quarters like making bread, making clothes and cleaning, along with many other chores that would further increase the well being of her family (Harper 821). As a mother, she would also have the special role in educating her daughters in the way they must act and what was expected of them when they would get married in the future. After researching heavily into this particular area of the women+s position in the Old Testament, I was amazed at how significant of a role she played in the structure of the household.
Women were also active in the social and economic life of society. Outside their household, their lives were centered on two types of work; assistance in the basic tasks of production and specialized professions and services (Anchor 955). They were sometimes involved in harvesting and in tending flocks, but their main source of labor came from clothing. Women would sometimes sell linen garments (Prov. 31:24) and it would sometimes lead into a minor business. There were also some specialized professions by women. Some were employed by the palace and were involved in services such as perfumers, cooks and bakers (1 Sam. 8:13). Contrary to popular belief, women were more involved with the arts of dancing and singing than men were. This mostly occurred during social and religious occasions. An example of this type of situation is when Miriam was singing and dancing when they were celebrating the Israelites escape from Egypt. We can conclude from this that women were not ostracized when it came to celebrations. They participated fully in the great festivals of the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles (Interpreter+s 866). This proves that women were able to become a part of the religious life of that society. We also know that they were given distinct ritual attention following their menstruation and childbirth in attempt for purification (Lev. 15:25-30). These rituals ultimately barred a woman from becoming a priest. A very important issue to discuss when writing about the topic of women in the Old Testament would have to be about women+s legal rights and disabilities. Fortunately, Hebrew law treated men and women as equals. For example, death is demanded for both sexes in cases of incest and for committing adultery (Lev. 20:10-11). |Although wives, together with children, slaves, and livestock, were counted among a man+s possessions, neither wives nor children were understood as propertyX(Anchor 956). But there also is somewhat of an inferior status placed upon the women. A daughter is less desirable than a son and she could be sold as a prostitute by her father (Judg. 19:24). Also, only the man had the right of divorce, not the woman. Without a doubt, women played a large role in the function of society during the Old Testament. They were the adults who nurtured and raised the children to become adults and well-mannered citizens. When bringing up the topic of either |companionX or |helperX, I could not choose between the two, but rather make a statement on it. As woman grows older, she gains more influence and authority along with a greater sense of freedom, but in no way can it be compared to the dominant presence of the males in the society.