Recently I had a woman write me who was troubled by some Bible texts that seemed to indicate that God preferred men. I felt that the questions she posed and the answers I provided would be good to put on line in case there are other women out there who also have been troubled by these same questions.
Question: I have been struggling with a question for the past several weeks. Do I as a woman, have less worth in God’s eyes than a man does? Given that Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law…I was (and still am) struggling with several scriptures where women are concerned and the seemingly “double-standard.” I could not fathom why in Leviticus there is a law that states that women who give birth to male children would only be unclean for 33 days, but if they give birth to female children they would be unclean for 66 days.
Answer: Regarding the seemingly “double-standard” of the unclean period for a woman when she bears a girl which is double the period of the unclean period for a boy, it is not altogether clear why God created a different time period, but because of His character revealed throughout the Scriptures showing His love and justice, we can know that He will not be unjust towards women. Romans 2:11 tells us this clearly.
Romans 2:11 For there is no partiality with God.
So why is there a difference with baby girls? The Bible isn’t clear why the extra time period for uncleanness for the mother after the birth of a daughter, but there have been some suggestions by commentaries:
The reason she was unclean for a longer period for a girl is not stated, but perhaps a postnatal discharge lasted longer in the case of a girl…
The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures. Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary.
(3) the fact that the blood discharges after the birth of a female last longer or have greater toxicity than they do after the birth of a male
Vol. 3A: Leviticus The New American Commentary (183). Rooker, M. F. (2001)
Why the more extended time of uncleanness after the birth of the female child? Given the obsession with seeking male offspring, the regulation may have been to protect the wife from an overzealous husband. He might be inclined to resume marital relations too soon after the birth of a female to the physical discomfort and possible jeopardy of the wife.The Pentateuch (2nd ed.) Smith, J. E. (1993)
The important thing that we should note is that the child was not considered unclean, it was only the mother. So while we do not know the biological influences on the mother’s body that resulted in her needing extra time for healing and for being considered “clean” from her discharge, we do know that God has promised us that He is not partial with people. Because of this promise we can know that He is not discriminating against female babies.
Question: Also, the issue of rape in the law. If a woman was raped, all the man need do was pay her bride price and marry her. What woman in what world would want to marry her rapist???
Answer: It is important to understand the culture of that day. The culture was based on shame and honor just as the Muslim nations carry that same culture of shame and honor today. A woman was required to be a virgin at her marriage so if she had been raped no man would want her because she was no longer a virgin. God’s law about rape protected the woman. It required the man who raped her to take her as his wife and provide for her as well as for the child that may be a result from that rape. The biggest stipulation was that although divorce was allowed in marriages, the man who was forced to marry the woman that he had violated was required to support her for the rest of his life because he could not divorce her. This would have been a deterrent to rape and it provided for the woman who would not have been able to be married as a virgin bride. The Bible Knowledge commentary puts it well by saying:
A man who raped an unbetrothed virgin was forced to marry her (after paying the bride-price of 50 shekels to her father) and had to forfeit the right of divorce. This protected, to a degree, the girl’s honor and assured her (and her child if she became pregnant from the rape) permanent support. This stipulation may also have served as a deterrent against rape since the man would have to live with that woman for the rest of his life. The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary
Question: Another issue that irks me: why was David silent when Tamar was raped by her brother?
Answer: Amnon was Davd’s first born son. David favored his sons even though they did evil things but this was not the only issue. The law said that Amnon was to be forced to marry Tamar and provide for her the rest of her life without any possibility of divorce but there is another law that conflicts with this one. Tamar states that Amnon’s rejection of her after the rape is worse than the rape itself since his rejection means that she will never be able to be married. The issue of David’s lack of forcing the issue is said to be a lack of responsibility:
David … was very angry. Fury and indignation were David’s reactions to the report of the rape (Gen. 34:7). Because he did not punish Amnon for his crime, he abdicated his responsibility both as king and as father. The lack of justice in the land would come back to haunt David in a future day (15:4).The MacArthur Study Bible, MacArthur, J. J. (1997).
David somehow heard what had happened, and though he was furious he did not invoke the penalty prescribed by the Law. Perhaps this was because Amnon was his oldest son. But Absalom … hated Amnon.The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures. Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary.
There is another serious issue that caused quite a dilemma. While the law was to be used to force the man who raped a woman to marry her, there was also a law that forbade a brother and sister to marry.
Absalom and Tamar were children of David by his wife Maacah. Polygamy was an accepted social arrangement in those days, but its evil consequences revealed it not to be the will of God for his people. Children of the same father were not supposed to marry (Lev. 18:9). This and other of God’s laws were often broken, always with serious consequences. The teacher’s Bible commentary, Paschall, F. H., & Hobbs, H. H. (1972)
So it seemed that the law conflicted here in this situation. David would have been in a quandary because the law both required the marriage and forbade the marriage because they were sibblings. As you can see from the culture, the woman’s virginity was of great value and a rape changed a woman’s life forever. In the middle east countries even now, if a Muslim girl is raped she may be killed by her family for the shame that this brought on them and some girls have been put into jail.
In the Old Testament law, God made sure that the woman who has been raped was taken care of which is a very kind thing to do for women. God’s concern was for the welfare of the woman. How did the law treat the rapist? The life of the rapist depended on the status and welfare of the woman. The law was that if a man raped a woman who was a virgin but who was engaged to a man, the rapist had to die. But if a man raped a woman who was a virgin but who not engaged (technically belonged to another man), the who who sinned against the woman must provide for her for the rest of her life.
It is obvious to me that God is looking out for the welfare of the woman who would be left without the possibility of a husband and without the ability to provide for herself. The law made sure that rapists understood the seriousness of raping and knowing that they would be stuck with her for life would be a deterrent . In this case the woman was always provided for because of God’s law.