Manners & Customs: Women
Women in the Ancient World
Children's Respect for Their Mother
Position of the mother in relation to the children. Children in the East show nearly the same respect toward the mother as they do toward the father. The mother is believed to be entitled to honor and to have authority from GOD. Actually, the father and mother are looked at, as being the representatives of GOD in the matter of authority. They are considered as having this position no matter how poorly they fulfill their obligations.
Hebrew children in general held their mothers in great respect, even when they became adults. This may be illustrated by the great influence exerted by queen mothers on the kings of Judah and Israel (I Kings 2:19; II Kings 11:1; 24:12, etc.).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Divorce in the Ancient World
DIVORCE IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES
For centuries it has been possible for a husband in Arab lands, to divorce his wife by a spoken word. The wife thus divorced is entitled to all her wearing apparel, and the husband cannot take from her anything she has upon her own person. For this reason, coins on the headgear, and rings and necklaces, become important wealth in the hour of the divorced woman's great need. This is one reason why there is so much interest in the bride's personal adornment in Eastern countries. Such customs of divorce were no doubt prevalent in Gentile lands in Old Testament times. It was for this reason that the Law of Moses limited the power of the husband to divorce his wife, by requiring that he must give her a written bill of divorcement (Deuteronomy 24:1). Thus the Jewish custom of divorce was superior to the Arabic.
It is important to remember that the sin of adultery did not have anything to do with the matter of divorce under the Jewish law. That sin was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), and that by stoning. If a husband found any unseemly thing in his wife, he could give her a written bill of divorcement, which made it possible for her to marry another man (Deuteronomy 24:2).
A man guilty of unfaithfulness was considered to be a criminal only in that he had invaded the rights of another man. A woman was not allowed to divorce her husband. The prophet Malachi taught that GOD hated "putting away" and condemned severely any man who dealt treacherously with the wife of his covenant (Malachi 2:14-16). Such was the attitude of the Hebrew people on the subject of divorce.4
The LORD JESUS swept away all grounds for divorce under the Law, and made unfaithfulness the lone grounds for divorce under the Christian dispensation (Matthew 5:31, 32).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Position of Jewish women superior to that of heathen women. The degradation of women in the Orient is a matter of common knowledge. In many cases she is more like a drudge, or a slave, or a plaything for the man, than she is the man's companion, as in the West. This situation has been in existence for centuries. But the position of Hebrew women was far superior to that of heathen women, long before Christianity had its origin among them.
Concerning this superiority in relation to the Arabs, Dr. Thomson testifies: The position of women among them was far higher than with the Arabs, and the character of Hebrew women must have been, on the whole, such as to command and sustain this higher position. The Arabs can show no list of pious and illustrious ladies like those who adorn the history of the Hebrews. No Bedouin mother ever taught, or could teach, such a "prophecy" as King Lemuel learned from his; nor could the picture of "a virtuous woman," given in the last chapter of Proverbs, have been copied by an Arab. The conception by him of such a character was a moral impossibility. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Negotiating the Dowry
CONDUCTING NEGOTIATIONS TO SECURE A WIFE
The customs of the Arabs in certain sections of Bible lands when they negotiate to secure a bride for their son, illustrate in many respects Biblical practices. If a young man has acquired
sufficient means to make it possible for him to provide a marriage dowry, then his parents select the girl and the negotiations begin.
The father calls in a man who acts as a deputy for him and the son. This deputy is called, "the friend of the bridegroom" by John the Baptist (John 3:29). This man is fully informed as to the dowry the young man is willing to pay for his bride. Then, together with the young man's father, or some other male relative, or both, he goes to the home of the young woman. The father announces that the deputy will speak for the party, and then the bride's father will appoint a deputy to represent him.
Before the negotiations begin, a drink of coffee is offered the visiting group, but they refuse to drink until the mission is completed. Thus Abraham's servant, when offered food by the parents of Rebekah, said, "I will not eat, until I have told mine errand" (Genesis 24:33).
When the two deputies face each other, then the negotiations begin in earnest. There must be consent for the hand of the young woman and agreement on the amount of dowry to be paid for her. When these are agreed upon, the deputies rise and their congratulations are exchanged, and then coffee is brought in, and they all drink of it as a seal of the covenant thus entered into. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Parents Select the Bride
CHOICE OF A WIFE THE PARENTS' PREROGATIVE
It is well known that in the East the parents of a young man select a bride for him. This custom goes back to early Old Testament times. When Esau married against the wishes of his parents, he caused ill-favor (Genesis 26:34, 35).
Reason for this parental privilege. Why did parents usually insist on their right to select a bride for their son? The new bride was to become a member of the bridegroom's clan, and therefore, the whole family was interested in knowing if she would be suitable. There is evidence that at least sometimes the son or daughter was consulted. Rebekah was asked if she was willing to go and become the wife of Isaac (Genesis 24:58). But the parents felt they had a right to make the choice.
Love after marriage. Orientals look at the love between husband and wife very much as Occidentals would look at love between a brother and a sister. It is indicated that the former should love each other because GOD chose them for each other. Orientals would say that husband and wife love each other, because GOD through the parents, selected them for each other. In other words, the usual Oriental idea is that love comes after marriage.
When Isaac and Rebekah were married, they had never seen each other before. Yet the Sacred Record says, "Isaac brought her into his mother's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her" (Genesis 24:67).
Love before marriage. Although it is true that most Oriental couples have no opportunity for love before marriage, yet the Bible gives some examples of that sort of love, that are worthy of note. The case of Jacob and Rachel is the most noted illustration of this. With him it was love at first sight (Genesis 29:10-18). Genesis describes his love for her with these memorable words: "And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her" (verse 20). Other examples of love before marriage would include Samson who loved "a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines" (Judges 14:2), and "Michal, Saul's daughter, who loved David," and afterwards became his wife (I Samuel 18:20).
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Polygamy in the Ancient World
POLYGAMY IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES
THE MOSAIC LAW allowed polygamy among the Hebrew people. Wives were given certain protections against abuses and there were various regulations regarding such marriages. There was, however, among the Israelites, a marked tendency toward monogamy. No doubt the main reason for this was that the custom of more than one wife was too expensive for most of the people.
The law did forbid the multiplication of wives by the kings of Israel (Deuteronomy 17:17). The cause of much of the trouble, in the lives of David and Solomon, as well as Ahab, was because of their following the example of the kings of their day in taking many, and especially heathen wives, rather than obeying GOD's law.
Old Testament influence in favor of monogamy is seen in two ways. First, pictures are painted of unhappy homes because of more than one wife in them. Trouble between rival wives, as in the case of Leah and Rachel (Genesis 30) and also Hannah and Peninnah (I Samuel 1:1-6) argues strongly in favor of monogamy. Second, monogamy among religious leaders and certain outstanding characters, sets the right example for the masses. Men like Adam, Noah, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, and Job, had but one wife. Also the high priest (Leviticus 21:14), and the prophets were, as far as we know, monogamous. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Position of the wife in relation to the husband. The wife held a subordinate position to that of her husband, at least in office, if not in nature. The ancient Hebrew women did not have unrestrained freedom as the modern women of the Occident have. In the Orient, social intercourse between the sexes is marked by a degree of reserve that is unknown elsewhere. Dr. Thomson says, "Oriental women are never regarded or treated as equals by the men." They never eat with the men, but the husband and brothers are first served, and the wife, mother, and sisters wait and take what is 1eft; in a walk the women never go arm in arm with the men, but follow at a respectful distance; the woman is, as a rule, kept closely confined, and watched with jealousy; when she goes out she is closely veiled from head to foot. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Watering the Flocks
CARING FOR THE GOATS BY THE GIRLS
Among the Beduin Arabs where camels engage the attention of the men folks, the task of caring for the goats is assigned to the young women of the home. These shepherdesses sometimes have a difficult time in watering their flocks, if perchance the camel herders come in from one of their five-day waterless periods of grazing. These girls are not apt to get much consideration from these men. The Sacred Record tells how Moses befriended Jethro's daughters when they had to fight for an opportunity to give water to their flocks. One of these girls afterwards became the wife of Moses (Exodus 2:15-21). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
But while these things are true, it must be understood that the Old Testament does not picture the wife as a mere slave of her husband. She is seen to exert tremendous influence for good or ill over her husband. And he showed great respect for her in most cases. Sarah was treated by Abraham as a queen, and in matters of the household: she ruled in many ways. Abraham said to her, concerning Hagar, who had given birth to Ishmael, "Behold thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee" (Genesis 16:6). The tribute to a Hebrew wife and mother in the Book of Proverbs indicates she was a person of great influence with her husband: "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her" (Proverbs 31:11). "She openeth her mouth with wisdom" (Proverbs 31:26). "Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also; and he praiseth her" (Proverbs 31:28). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Woman in Easton's Bible Dictionary
was "taken out of man" (Gen. 2:23), and therefore the man
the preeminence. "The head of the woman is the man;"
honour is to be shown to the wife, "as unto the
(1 Cor. 11:3, 8, 9; 1 Pet. 3:7). Several women are
Scripture as having been endowed with prophetic
gifts, as Miriam
(Ex. 15:20), Deborah (Judg. 4:4, 5), Huldah (2 Kings
Noadiah (Neh. 6:14), Anna (Luke 2:36, 37), and the
Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8, 9). Women are
teach publicly (1 Cor. 14:34, 35; 1 Tim. 2:11, 12).
Hebrews it devolved upon women to prepare the meals
household (Gen. 18:6; 2 Sam. 13:8), to attend to the
spinning (Ex. 35:26; Prov. 31:19), and making
clothes (1 Sam.
2:19; Prov. 31:21), to bring water from the well
(Gen. 24:15; 1
Sam. 9:11), and to care for the flocks (Gen. 29:6;
The word "woman," as used in Matt. 15:28, John 2:4
15, implies tenderness and courtesy and not
where revelation is known has woman her due place of
assigned to her.
Woman in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
woom'-an ('ishshah, "a woman" (feminine of 'ish, "a man"];
gune, "a woman" "wife"):
I. IN THE CREATIVE PLAN
II. IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES
1. Prominence of Women
2. Social Equality
3. Marriage Laws
5. Domestic Duties
6. Dress and Ornaments
7. Religious Devotion and Service
(1) in Idolatry and False Religion
(2) in Spiritual Religion
III. INTER-TESTAMENTAL ERA
IV. IN NEW TESTAMENT TIMES
1. Mary and Elisabeth
2. Jesus and Women
3. In the Early Church
4. Official Service
IV. LATER TIMES
1. Changes in Character and Condition
2. Notable Examples of Christian Womanhood
3. Woman in the 20th Century
The generic term "man" includes woman. In the narrative of
the creation (Gen 1:26,27) Adam is a collective term for
mankind. It may signify human being, male or female, or
humanity entire. "God said, Let us make man .... and let
them" (Gen 1:26), the latter word "them" defining "man" in
the former clause. So in Gen 1:27, "in the image of God
created he him; male and female created he them," "them"
being synonymous with "him."
See also ADAM; ANTHROPOLOGY.
I. In the Creative Plan.
Whatever interpretation the latest scholarship may give to
the story of woman's formation from the rib of man (Gen
2:21-24), the passage indicates, most profoundly, the
inseparable unity and fellowship of her life with his. Far
more than being a mere assistant, "helper" (`ezer "help"
"helper" Gen 2:18), she is man's complement, essential to
the perfection of his being. Without her he is not man in
the generic fullness of that term. Priority of creation may
indicate headship, but not, as theologians have so uniformly
affirmed, superiority. Dependence indicates difference of
function, not inferiority. Human values are estimated in
terms of the mental and spiritual. Man and woman are endowed
for equality, and are mutually interdependent. Physical
strength and prowess cannot be rated in the same category
with moral courage and the capacity to endure ill-treatment,
sorrow and pain; and in these latter qualities woman has
always proved herself the superior. Man's historic treatment
of woman, due to his conceit, ignorance or moral perversion,
has taken her inferiority for granted, and has thus
necessitated it by her enslavement and degradation. The
narrative of the Fall (Gen 3) ascribes to woman supremacy of
influence, for through her stronger personality man was led
to disobedience of God's command. Her penalty for such ill-
fated leadership was that her husband should "rule over" her
(Gen 3:16), not because of any inherent superiority on his
part, but because of her loss of prestige and power through
sin. In that act she forfeited the respect and confidence
which entitled her to equality of influence in family
affairs. Her recovery...
Women Going For Water
GOING OF THE WOMEN FOR WATER
It is the task of the women to go for the household water to the well or spring. And they do it today in many places in the East just like it was done when the Genesis account speaks of it being "the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water" (Genesis 24:11). The women are trained to do this from girlhood, for Saul and his servant "found young maidens going out to draw water" (I Samuel 9:11). The chief time for doing this is in the late afternoon or evening, although it is often done early in the morning. Earthenware pitchers (Lamentations 4:2) are used for the purpose, and they have one and sometimes two handles.
It has been customary for Syrian women to carry the pitcher of water on their shoulder, although sometimes it is carried on the hip. Most Arabs of Israel carry it upon their head.
Scripture says that Rebekah carried her pitcher on her shoulder (Genesis 24:15). Carrying a pitcher of water was all but universally done by women. It must have been a picturesque sight to see them going and coming with the pitcher poised gracefully upon the head or shoulder. When JESUS instructed two of his disciples, "Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him" (Mark 14:13), that would be an easy way of identifying the person, for it is exceedingly uncommon to see a man carrying a pitcher of water, which is a woman's task.
When larger supplies of water are needed, men use large skins of sheep or goats for carrying the supply. The pitchers are reserved for the use of the women.25
There is nothing left at the well that may be used for drawing water from a depth. Each woman who comes for water brings with her, in addition to the pitcher in which to carry the water, a hard leather portable bucket with a rope, in order to let it down to the level of the water.26
The Samaritan woman whom JESUS met at Jacob's well had brought all this with her, but JESUS did not have such equipment with him. Hence she said to him: "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep" (John 4:11). In response to his request for a drink, she drew from the well and gave to Him.
[Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]
Women in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Enjoyed a status in Israel not assigned to them in the East
now. Mahometanism especially has degraded women in Asia and
Africa; anciently they had a liberty not now accorded them,
veiling was not then required as now: e.g. Rebekah, Genesis
24:64-65; Rachel, Genesis 29:11; Sarah, Genesis 12:14-19;
Miriam led a band of women with triumphant song, Exodus 15:20-
21; so Jephthah's daughter, Judges 11:34; the maidens of
Shiloh, Judges 21:21; the women meeting Saul and David after
victory; 1 Samuel 18:6-7; Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:1; Deborah,
Judges 4 and Judges 5; Huldah, 2 Kings 22:14; Noadiah,
Nehemiah 6:14; Anna, Luke 2:36.
The virtuous matron is admirably pictured Proverbs
31:10, etc. Polygamy transferred power from the wives to the
queen mother (called therefore gebiraah "powerful"), 1 Kings
2:19; 1 Kings 15:13; separate establishments were kept for the
wives collectively or individually, "the house of the women"
(Esther 2:3; Esther 2:9; 1 Kings 7:8); the wives had severally
a separate tent (Genesis 31:33); the women were present at
table (John 2:3; John 12:2; Job 1:4).
Women in Naves Topical Bible
Ge 1:27; 2:21,22
-Fall of, and curse upon
Ge 3:1-16; 2Co 11:3; 1Ti 2:14
-Had separate apartments in dwellings
Ge 24:67; 31:33; Es 2:9,11
-Veiled the face
-When jealously charged with infidelity, their guilt or
innocence was to be determined by an ordeal
-Took part in ancient worship
Ex 15:20; 21; 38:8; 1Sa 2:22
1Ch 25:5,6; Ezr 2:65; Ne 7:67
-Worshiped in separate compartments
Ex 38:8; 1Sa 2:22
-Consecrated jewels to tabernacle
-Required to attend to the reading of the law of Moses
De 31:12; Jos 8:35
Le 15:19-33; 2Sa 11:4
Le 12; Lu 2:22
-Difference in ceremonies made between male and female
-Religious privileges of, among early Christians
Ac 1:14; 12:12,13; 1Co 11:5; 14:34; 1Ti 2:11
-Domestic duties of
Ge 18:6; Pr 31:15-19; Mt 24:41
Ex 35:25,26; 1Sa 2:19; Pr 31:19-24
-Tended flocks and herds
Ge 24:11,13,14,19,20; 29:9; Ex 2:16
-Worked in fields
Isa 27:11; Eze 26:6,8
-Was a doorkeeper
Mt 26:69; Joh 18:16,17; Ac 12:13,14
-Forbidden to wear men's costume...
Women in Smiths Bible Dictionary
The position of women in the Hebrew commonwealth contrasts
favorably with that which in the present day is assigned to
them generally in eastern countries. The most salient point
of contrast in the usages of ancient as compared with modern
Oriental society was the large amount of liberty enjoyed by
women. Instead of being immured in a harem, or appearing in
public with the face covered. The wives and maidens of
ancient times mingled freely and openly with the other sex
in the duties and amenities of ordinary life. Rebekah
travelled on a camel with her face unveiled until she came
into the presence of her affianced. Ge 24:64,65 Jacob
saluted Rachel with a kiss in the presence of the shepherds.
Ge 29:11 Women played no inconsiderable part in public
celebrations Ex 15:20,21; Jud 11:34 The odes of Deborah,
Judg 5, and of Hannah, 1Sa 2:1 etc., exhibit a degree of
intellectual cultivation which is in itself a proof of the
position of the sex in that period. Women also occasionally
held public office, particularly that of prophetess or
inspired teacher. Ex 15:20; Jud 4:4; 2Ki 22:14; Ne 6:14; Lu
2:36 The management of household affairs devolved mainly on
the women. The value of a virtuous and active housewife
forms a frequent topic in the book of Proverbs. ch. Pr
11:16; 12:4; 14:1; 31:10 etc. Her influence was of course
Women Scripture - 2 Chronicles 35:25
And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and
the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to
this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold,
they [are] written in the lamentations.
Women Scripture - 2 Kings 8:12
And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because
I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel:
their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men
wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children,
and rip up their women with child.
Women Scripture - Deuteronomy 20:14
But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all
that is in the city, [even] all the spoil thereof, shalt thou
take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine
enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.
Women Scripture - Esther 2:8
So it came to pass, when the king's commandment and his decree
was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto
Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was
brought also unto the king's house, to the custody of Hegai,
keeper of the women.
Women Scripture - Ezekiel 16:34
And the contrary is in thee from [other] women in thy
whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms:
and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto
thee, therefore thou art contrary.
Women Scripture - Ezekiel 23:45
And the righteous men, they shall judge them after the manner
of adulteresses, and after the manner of women that shed
blood; because they [are] adulteresses, and blood [is] in
Women Scripture - Genesis 14:16
And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his
brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the
Women Scripture - Nehemiah 13:26
Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among
many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of
his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless
even him did outlandish women cause to sin.
Women Scripture - Revelation 9:8
And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were
as [the teeth] of lions.
Women Scripture - Song of Solomon 5:9
What [is] thy beloved more than [another] beloved, O thou
fairest among women? what [is] thy beloved more than [another]
beloved, that thou dost so charge us?
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