previous
next

Hebrew Scriptures.

In the Hebrew Scriptures from the account given in the first or Elohistic record of the creation of the primal pair, it is evident that the perfect equality of the sexes is plainly taught.

“God said ‘Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness,


  ― 4 ―
and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.”

And in the second or Jahvehistic record, although man is represented as being first created, the expressed purpose of the creation of woman was that she might be a helpmeet—meet-helper or comrade—for man, which clearly implies equality in rank and endowments.

In the account given of the Temptation and Fall of humanity, the man and the woman are represented as perfectly equal in the eye of their Creator as recipients of His law and in their obligation to obedience. In the conversation between the woman and the Tempter, the Tempter asks: “Yea, hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ ” and the woman replied, “God hath said, ‘Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’ ” The sentence upon the woman for being first in the transgression was, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

The only fragment of antediluvian poetry which has been preserved is the song of Lamech, which has been rendered:—

“Adah and Zillah! hear my voice,
Ye wives of Lamech! give ear unto my speech;
For a man had I slain for smiting me,
And a youth for wounding me;
Surely seven-fold shall Cain be avenged,
But Lamech seventy and seven.”

This, whether a dirge over slain enemies, a sonnet of confession, or an ode at the invention of the sword by his son Tubal-Cain, is addressed by Lamech to his two wives, showing that he held them to be worthy of his confidence and fit to hear and judge of the matter to which the words refer.

In the Patriarchal times Sarah and Rebekah stand out as prominent figures in the public and domestic life of Abraham and Isaac; and from Sarah's triumph in the matter of Hagar, and Rebekah's in the matter of Jacob, it is safe to conclude that the claim of woman's rights was not in any degree minished or brought low in their hands.

“The position of women in the Hebrew Commonwealth,” says an erudite writer, “was high and honourable. They played no inconsiderable part in public celebrations. Miriam headed a band of women who commemorated with song and dance the overthrow of the Egyptians at the Red Sea; Jephthah's daughter gave her father a triumphal reception; women fêted Saul and David on their return from the defeat of the Philistines with singing and dancing. The odes of Deborah and of Hannah exhibit a degree of intellectual culture which is in itself a proof of the position of the sex in that period. Women also held public offices, particularly that of prophetess or inspired teacher, as instanced in Miriam, Huldah, Noadiah, Anna, and, above all, Deborah, who applied her prophetical gift to the administration of public affairs, and


  ― 5 ―
was so entitled to be styled a Judge in Israel. The inhospitable and cruel deed of Jael and the treacherous blandishments of Delilah were wrought by patriot women. The active part taken by Jezebel in the government of Israel, and the usurpation of the throne of Judah by Athaliah, further attest the latitude to women in public life.”

previous
next