The Bible contains many principles and regulations concerning behaviour, and mostly these apply to everyone in the community of God’s people, to men and to women. Nevertheless, various passages assume that there are some roles or activities for men that differ from those of women. In this article, I look at gender roles and at gendered activities in ancient Israelite society, roles and activities that the Hebrew Bible sheds light on.
In upcoming posts, I’ll be looking briefly at what Jesus says about gender roles and then at what Paul’s letters say about gender roles. Because I’m covering ideas in Genesis all the way through to Paul’s letters, I won’t discuss particular verses in any depth—the information will be general rather than comprehensive and detailed—but I will provide links to more specific information. The purpose of these articles is to find out if the Bible teaches gender roles as complementarians understand them.
1. Gender Roles in Marriage
The Rule of Husbands in the Hebrew Bible
When complementarian Christians talk about gender roles, they are usually referring to the idea that husbands (and men in general) are to be leaders, and that wives (and women in general) are to be submissive followers. They believe that men have a greater authority and responsibility than women in the home and in society. They even believe that men have authority over women.
After Genesis 3, the culture of the Ancient Near East, the setting of many of the stories in the Hebrew Bible, was mostly patriarchal. This patriarchy is sometimes reflected in narratives and regulations. However, there are only two verses in the Hebrew Bible that clearly state that husbands would be, or should be, leaders or rulers. The first is in Genesis 3:16. This is where God makes a statement about the consequences or punishments of the fall and says to Eve, “Your desire (or your devotion) will be for your husband, but he will rule over you.”
The other Old Testament verse that mentions the rule of husbands is in the book of Esther. When Queen Vashti refuses her husband’s request to parade her beauty before a party of drunken men, her husband Xerxes is offended. So he makes a decree that is sent to all the provinces in his vast realm. The decree states, “Each husband should rule over his own house” (Esth. 1:22 CEB).
Most people assume the Bible teaches that husbands are to be the rulers or leaders of their own homes or households, but Xerxes is the only person in the Bible to state this. Paul, for example, never says that husbands must be the rulers or leaders or heads of their homes. Furthermore, Paul never tells husbands to rule or lead their wives (Eph. 5:25ff; Col. 3:19). Rather he tells them to love their wives.
So do we, as New Covenant people, take our relationship cues from the pagan warlord Xerxes or from the consequences of the fall? I don’t think so.
Wifely Submission in the Hebrew Bible
It may surprise some to learn that the Hebrew Bible says nothing about wives or women being submissive, and yet women were seldom in positions of authority at that time. God’s words in Genesis 3:16b were realised and society was largely patriarchal after the fall. Perhaps male rule and male dominance were so entrenched in society that the biblical authors just didn’t bother mentioning wifely submission. Yet other, non-biblical, Jewish writers do mention it.
Ben Sirach, writing in around 180–175 BCE, is one example of an ancient Jewish author who plainly states that the only good woman is a silent woman. It is clear he has a dim view of the capabilities and proclivities of women, as he says some terrible things about them. The Hebrew Bible, however, doesn’t disparage women as a group. Furthermore, it contains regulations designed to curtail the excesses of patriarchy and to protect women in what was a fallen, and sometimes brutal, culture. But patriarchy was not part of God’s original creation.
Many complementarians read gender roles, or a gender hierarchy, into the Genesis creation accounts, and they argue that women are subordinate to men. But the actual language in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 is of equality, similarity, and unity. In Genesis 1, men and women have the same status, the same authority and the same purpose, and these are given to them by God (Gen. 1:26-28). In Genesis 2, the first woman is described as a helper equal or similar to the first man. I cannot find that the Old Testament ever speaks about gender roles in marriage related to authority and submission. But it does indicate that there were a few occupations and activities that differed between men and women.
2. Gendered Occupations and Activities
The three main occupations for men in ancient Israelite society, which was an agricultural society when they weren’t on the move, were (1) farming, (2) being an artisan (such as a potter, carpenter, blacksmith or textile worker), and (3) being a warrior. And, quite possibly, many of these warriors were farmers or artisans during periods of peace. Furthermore, some men from the tribe of Levi were involved in priestly duties.
Women and War
Israelite women were not soldiers, probably because most did not have the upper body strength needed for hand-to-hand combat. But we do see some women playing crucial roles during times of military conflict. And these times were frequent as war was a regular part of life for many generations of Israelites.
The Bible records that women risked their lives by acting as spies and by hiding spies (2 Sam. 17:17, 19-21; Josh. 2:1-6). A few even killed army generals with improvised weapons: a millstone, in the case of the woman of Thebez (Judg. 9:53), and a tent peg, in the case of Jael (Judg. 4:21; 5:26). Some women successfully negotiated for the safety of their towns or families from threatening armies. These women include the wise-woman of Abel Beth Maacah, Rahab and Abigail. Deborah even went to war with Barak (Judg. 4:8-9). Women were not typically part of the fighting force of the Israelite army but this doesn’t mean they were all cowering at home.
Still on the subject of war, one role of women was to publicly celebrate military victories—think of Miriam after the Egyptians were defeated (Exod. 15:20-21), Jephthah’s daughter when her father returned home victorious after defeating the Ammonites (Judg. 11:32-34), and the women who sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Sam. 18:6-7). Conversely, women composed dirges and led public expressions of mourning when the Israelites were defeated. This role of leading celebrations and lamentations was set apart for women. So while they were not soldiers, they were actively and publicly involved in their communities.
Women in Agriculture and as Artisans
Women were also involved in agriculture where perhaps a few roles were allocated according to sex. Carrying water, for the home and for livestock, seems to have been a job mainly of girls or young women (e.g., Exod. 2:16; 1 Sam. 9:11), both men and women could be shepherds. Rachel, for example, was a shepherd (Gen. 29:9). And both men and women could harvest grain crops (e.g., Ruth 2:8-9). The Bible mentions women as milling grains a few times (Exod. 11:5; Eccl. 12:3-4; Isa. 47:1-2; Matt. 24:41). But it also mentions that Samson milled grain when he was in prison (Judg. 16:21).
Furthermore, women could be involved in agriculture in a more “leadership” role. Aksah, Caleb’s daughter, obtained land for farming, and the fictitious woman in Proverbs 31 obtained land to plant a vineyard. Zelophehad’s daughters inherited their father’s land (Num. 27:1-22), and Job’s daughters may also have had their own land (Job 42:15).
The Bible doesn’t say much about the division of labour in agriculture, but it shows us that women could do other jobs too, such as being perfumers, cooks, bakers and textile workers. And only women could be midwives. And then there’s Sheerah, a woman who built towns (1 Chron. 7:24).
Marriage and Motherhood (and Beauty)
The Old Testament doesn’t give us a lot of information about women as farmers or as artisans. It has more to say about marriage and motherhood, but much of this information is given by implication rather than by direct statements.
The primary role of women in Israelite society was to have children. It was a great disgrace for a woman to be childless. It was also important that men marry and procreate, but they were not usually blamed for childlessness, and procreation was not considered to be their primary role.
We see a few times in the Hebrew Bible, that the worth of a young unmarried woman was attached to her beauty and to her virginity, and this was tied to her future role as a wife and a mother. Beauty could be a sign of good health but it also made a girl more desirable to a man and this might help her to get a better match. And virginity was essential in prospective young brides. Once a woman was married, her beauty was still prized but so was her fertility.
In the Hebrew Bible, if an author, a male author, wanted to convey the idea that a woman was admirable, she was often described as beautiful. The daughters of humans (Gen. 6:2), Sarah (Gen. 12:11,14), Rebekah (Gen. 24:16), Rachel (Gen. 29:17), Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:2), Tamar (2 Sam 13:1; 14:27), Esther (Esth. 2:7) and Job’s daughters (Job 42:15) are all described as beautiful in the male gaze, though Abigail is described as both beautiful and smart.
Many women are primarily described with the adjective “beautiful” in the Old Testament. Women are rarely described by their abilities other than their ability to bear children. This changes in the New Testament.
Priests and Prophets
The majority of leaders in Israel, though not all, were male, whether they were patriarchs, judges, or monarchs. Priests could only be male. The priesthood was not open to women; however, it was also not open to most men. The priesthood was limited to a small and exclusive group of men within the Israelite community.
Only men belonging to the tribe of Levi could serve as priestly assistants in the Tabernacle, or Temple, regardless of how pious and godly a person from another tribe may have been (Num. 8:5-26; 1 Chron. 23:28-32). Moreover, as a way of symbolically declaring the perfection and holiness of God, only perfectly healthy Levites in the prime of their life could be in active service (Num. 8:24-25).
A male Levite could be disqualified from being a minister for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons were: having a physical disability or deformity; being temporarily “unclean” (this could be due to several circumstances); being outside the ages of 25 to 50 (the prescribed age range of Levites in regular service); or showing symptoms of certain diseases. But to be a priest, however, it was not enough to just be male, and a Levite, and perfectly healthy; a priest must also have been a direct descendant of Aaron.
It would have been impractical to admit women on the regular roster of Temple ministry because women within the required age range of 25 to 50 were frequently “unclean” due to their monthly period or they were having babies. Even though women could not administer any of the rituals and sacrifices of the Tabernacle or Temple, some women played a significant role in the national, spiritual life of Israel. Women could be religious leaders. They could be prophets.
There was a recognised and respected place for prophetic women leaders in Israelite society. “The biblical evidence . . . makes clear that prophecy was a role open to women on an equal basis with men.” Moreover, Deborah Gill and Barbara Cavaness state, “The highest Old Testament religious office was not the priest, but the prophet.”
Prophets could be leaders with considerable influence. Miriam, a prophet, is described as being “sent before” Israel as a leader with her two brothers (Mic. 6:4). Deborah, a prophet, is described as “judging”, or leading, Israel (Judg. 4:4). Huldah, a prophet, was a royal advisor (2 Chron. 34: 23, 24, 26). And all three were spokespeople for God. There may well have been other female prophets too, perhaps at a more local level of leadership, not mentioned in the Bible.
Though patriarchy is the backdrop of the Bible, it is not the message of the Bible. Apart from Xerxes’ edict, there is no teaching or rule in the Hebrew Bible that says husbands must be the leaders of their wives. There is no teaching or rule that says wives must be submissive to their husbands. There is no teaching or rule that says men must do certain jobs and women must do other jobs, apart from the priesthood which was open to an exclusive group of men. Any indication of gendered activity, excepting the priesthood, appears to be the product of biology and culture rather than biblically mandated.
This three-part series on gender roles in the Bible is based on a talk I gave at a CBE Sydney event on the 19th of May, 2018.
 For example, Numbers 30 tells us that a husband or father could cancel a vow made by his wife or daughter if he acted quickly. I write about this here.
 A post on 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and church supervisors managing their own households well is here. 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and 1 Timothy 3:12 are not about husbands, as such, but contain qualifications for supervisors and deacons.
 Ben Sirach is writing later than the authors of the Hebrew Bible. His understanding seems to have been influenced by Greek views of women as inferior, rather than by the biblical view of women
 The ministries of Levites and priests evolved and changed, and the demand for these ministries depended on whether Israel was going through a more pious period or an apostate period, and whether they were in their own land or in exile.
 There’s also the fictional story of Judith who cut off the head of the general of the Assyrian army.
 Several prominent Old Testament women had difficulty conceiving: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah.
 Not one woman is described as beautiful in the New Testament. And we don’t know if many of the women mentioned in the New Testament letters were mothers or not. Values in ancient Israelite society and values in the New Covenant community of God’s people, the church, were not the same. (More about this in Part 3.)
 There seems to have been ways around the regulations of tabernacle/temple workers and priests. Women served at the entrance of the Tabernacle (Exod. 38:8). Samuel, of the tribe of Ephraim, worked in the Tabernacle and was even dressed in priestly clothes (1 Sam. 2:18; see also 1 Sam. Ch. 3). And David, of the tribe of Judah, appointed some of his sons as priests (Heb: cohanim) (2 Sam. 8:18). Or were they simply “ministers”?
 Claudia V. Camp, “Huldah,” in Women in Scripture: A Dictionary of the named and unnamed women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament, Carol Meyer, et al (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 96.
 Deborah M. Gill and Barbara Cavaness, Barbara, God’s Women—Then and Now (Springfield, MO: Grace and Truth, 2009) (Kindle Location 703).
 Carolyn Custis James has made this observation about backdrop vs message. A 3-minute video of Carolyn speaking about patriarchy is provided in part two.
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The woman of Thebez is depicted in “The Death of Abimelech” illustrated by Charles Foster. From The Story of the Bible (Philadelphia: A.J. Homan Co., 1884) (Wikimedia)
» Part Two: Jesus on Gender Roles and Gendered Activities
» Part Three: Paul on Gender Roles in Marriage and Ministry
All my articles on various Old Testament women are here.
All my articles on Gender in Genesis 1-3 are here.
Beauty, Marriage, Motherhood and Ministry
A List of the Beautiful People in the Bible
Old Testament Priests and New Covenant Ministers
Women who served at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
The Portrayal of Women in the Bible and Biblical Inspiration
Three Old Testament Women with Clout
25+ Biblical Roles for Biblical Women
4 obscure OT passages sometimes used to diminish women
14 thoughts on “Gender Roles & Gendered Activities in the Old Testament”
Marg, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your research and thoughts with us. I so appreciate your research and understanding of the Scriptures. Needless to say, I look forward to what you will send next. I’m wondering how I can introduce the information about gender roles to the women and men at the church I am a member of. I’m rather new there at this time and will need a little more time to get to know the members of the congregation and they me. I know that the rector will be open to your writings and I will collaborate with him when the opportunity presents itself.
Again, thank you so much. I thank the Holy Spirit for you. Meg Gloger
Marg, I have a question about the relationship between Adam and Eve. God created the man we know as Adam first and put him in charge of plants, animals, etc., etc. Then God decided that Adam needed a helper as his partner. Now a helper works in tandem with the one who needs the helper. Adam is in charge because of what God has done for him (Gen. 2:18). Now when Eve took the fruit from the tree Adam was with her. She gave him some and he ate it (Gen. 6). As the text reads, Adam did nothing to try and stop her from taking the fruit, didn’t scold her, tell her she was wrong to do so, and didn’t worry about eating the fruit until after he had done so. Still he said nothing to Eve and they hid themselves because of their nakedness.
For centuries now Bible scholars have put the total blame on Eve for eating the fruit. They have implied that she led him astray. The Bible account does not say that. Both are equally guilty. Now, my question is: Does not Adam bear the full responsibility for their fall from grace because he never said a word and cooperated with Eve? To me, Eve is not the one who bears full responsibility for what she has done. The guy in charge, Adam, is. Adam did not exercise the responsibilities that God gave him and isn’t he the one who should bear the full blame before Eve? To me, the current interpretation is just a male interpretation and men have used it to blame women and mistreat them throughout millenia. To me, men don’t seem brave enough to see Adam for who he really was, which gives them a pass in being who they were created to be.
What think you of this, please? Am I understanding the text correctly? Thank you. MegG
I wish the creation and fall story in Genesis 2-3 told us everything we want to know. But it doesn’t. From what I can tell, God questions Adam and Eve individually about eating the fruit and he holds each accountable for their own actions. As you say, they are both guilty. They seem to be equally culpable.
Many Christians have lumped all the blame on Eve and even on all women in general, with tragic results for women. This mentality is still around despite Jesus dealing with sin, including Eve sin. But I don’t think we can put all the blame on Adam either.
Adam was in charge of the garden before Eve was formed. I believe that once she was formed, however, they shared responsibility. In Genesis 1 it says that both men and women have dominion over the animals (but not over other humans).
Also, the language of Eve’s reply to the serpent may indicate that we are meant to understand that God repeated the command about the forbidden fruit to the couple. Eve did know the command. https://margmowczko.com/eves-statement-to-the-serpent/
Whatever the case, we are supposed to look out for one another, and stop them when it looks as though they are going to do something stupid or dangerous. For some unknown reason, Adam did not stop Eve and then he ate the fruit himself.
I think we are all reading much more into the Genesis 2-3 story than the author ever intended. But it is certainly an interesting story to ponder.
Thank you, Marg. I look forward to the day when both will be equally blamed by those who teach about Genesis. Have a lovely weekend. I know that it will be filled with blessings for you and yours. MegG
There are so many problems with this person’s post and yet you let most of it slide. There are many “opinions”, “beliefs” in this post that can not be pulled from the text. It’s always scary when people start inserting their own ideas into the text. God keeps silent for a reason, He just doesn’t want us distorting what is written. Like many men know, if you don’t listen to your wife, you’r on the couch! 🙂
When we go to other texts that help explain this text, we see who is blamed, why they are blamed and what punishment they got. The NT clarifies this text a little. Blaming Eve for being deceived by the serpent and blaming Adam for listening to his wife. Did they both sin, yes, but differently. The text states that Eve was deceived by Satan. And no, I don’t fully understand what took place, what was said or how it happened, but I do know what the scriptures tell us. Sin entered by “one man”. Why does it say this? You say they were both guilty. Yes they were, but the woman is not blamed for sin entering the world, the man is. Maybe, just maybe Adam was sitting by a nice rumbling brook and the noise from the brook made it so he did not hear the conversation between the serpent and Eve. Then maybe Eve brought the apple over to Adam who was a few yards away by the nice noisy brook and said eat. Isn’t my opinion just as good as anyone?
You stated that before the fall, Adam and Eve were “equal”. (different post) What was Adam’s job and what was Eve’s job before the fall? Genesis 2:15 (NASB) 15 “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it”. Adam was the one who was given the job to “keep the garden”. God gives Eve as a helper to Adam. Not Adam as a “helper” to Eve. God created Adam from the dust and He created Eve from Adam. You know that even the New Testament presents this fact. Woman was made for man and not man for woman. There is an authoritative structure presented here. It’s very interesting that God created the creatures both male and female at the same time, yet He does not do this with Adam and Eve. The man is given the responsibility to name all that God creates. So what is Eve’s job, or should I say responsibility? It’s to support Adam, yes, even before the fall. They still had different roles to play. Yes, they were both “given dominion over”. I don’t see this as a “role”, but as a command.
One very important thing that I have learned over the years, women try their best to usurp men, in every arena. I will say that women are more responsible than men, in most cases. Women are what I call; “nesters” and women will do anything to protect their children, ANYTHING! Women run mostly on emotions where men do not. Are you forgetting that it was Eve who was deceived by the serpent and not Adam. Read the scriptures. Eve sinned by believing the lie of the “serpent”. Adam sinned by listening to his wife. Are you willing to understand this?
1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NKJV)
11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.
12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
Let’s not just quote Paul, and especially from Corinthians, (a very messed up church). Let’s see what Peter has to say.
1 Peter 3:6-7 (NKJV)
6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Peter calls women, “the weaker vessel”. Be honest and ask yourself why. Was it because Eve was the one who was deceived?
Let me stop here. I have nothing against women, but they can make or break a man. (No, I am not mad at women) Eve “broke” Adam. Yet, what does scripture say? “Sin entered through one man”, it does not say through one woman (even though Eve instituted the sin)! My role in this household of mine and in the church will be that I (man) will be held responsible to God, not my wife (women).
My son-in-law is a pastor; he and my daughter started a church plant 3 years ago and it’s going get. The problem is their lack of maturity and understanding of scripture. Even though they know the words of the Bible I do not believe that they understand the meaning of the Bible. God set up leadership in a specific order and there is no getting around this. Are we saying that Paul is stupid??? Would not he have given specific details entailing the criteria for a women elder? We cannot read into scripture what is not there. Many well trained and brilliant men and women have gotten it wrong. Calvin, the great reformer took years to understand Ephesians 2:8-9. How many times to you think that he read that passage and after how many times and years was it before he realized that God does the saving and started the great reformation. Yet he still believed in ‘infant baptism” which cannot be found in scripture without some “reading into” or scripture twisting. Just because people are “educated”, does not mean they have the answers. Even the great Paul of the Bible had it wrong before God changed him. And he was a ”Pharisee of Pharisees”.
The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to understand.
Let’s all seek after Truth and not what we desire to be so.
Thanks for listening,
Married 31 years, 4 children and 70 years old.
Mankind is always about being their own god.
I love this quote by Malcolm Muggeridge;
“So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”
Mark, apart from the two passages of scripture that you quote, your comment is mostly made up of bits and pieces of your own opinions based on your own observations and own experiences. There are numerous things I disagree with in your comment but I’ll pick one thing to respond to: your understanding of the ongoing consequences of Eve being deceived.
Both Adam and Eve sinned in the same way: they disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit. We know that Eve was deceived, we don’t know Adam’s reason, but there is no reason to assume that all women are forever easily deceived.
There’s also no reason to think that Adam was not present when the serpent spoke. Rather it seems, from the serpent’s plural language (which is not clear in modern English translations) and from the phrase “with her,” that Adam was there with Eve (“she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6b NASB).
After Genesis 3, Eve’s deception is never mentioned again in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), nor is it mentioned in the Gospels. None of the writers of the Hebrew Bible or of the Gospels felt it necessary to bring up Eve’s momentary failure. Moreover, none of the writers of the Hebrew Bible or of the Gospels ever mention or hint that women are more gullible or more easily deceived than men. Rather, the Bible contains several narratives where both men and women were deceived, usually, but not always, by other men.
For example, Jacob (Gen. 31:20, 27), Samson (Judg. 16:10, 13, 15), Saul (1 Sam. 28:12), and other Bible men deceived people. Paul, writing rhetorically, mentions that he was deceived by sin (Rom. 7:11). Elsewhere, Paul describes false teachers as “people of depraved minds” who were “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:8, 13). These false teachers included men. Deception is not an especially female trait.
Paul is the only New Testament writer to refer to Eve’s deception and he mentions it to make certain points. He mentions it in 2 Corinthians 11:2-4 where he warns both men and women about the danger of being deceived by people who were preaching a different Jesus and a different gospel to what Paul had preached. Paul does not give the Corinthian women an extra warning about being deceived. Rather, he believed that both the men and women of Corinth were putting up with false teaching too easily (2 Corinthians 11:4b).
Eve’s deception is also mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:13-14. While the meaning of these two verses in 1 Timothy is clear—they are an accurate summary of Genesis chapters 2 and 3—the intent of these verses is far from clear. We cannot say with certainty why Paul brought Adam and Eve into his discussion. I suggest Paul alludes Genesis 2 and 3 to correct some faulty ideas of a woman who needed to learn (1 Timothy 2:11).
More about Eve and deception here:
More about the portrayal of women in the Bible here:
About Bible women who gave much-needed, godly guidance to men here:
About sin entering through one man:
About “weaker vessel” in 1 Peter:
What was Eve’s job before the fall? I strongly suggest Adam and Eve worked together, side by side, doing more or less the same thing.
More about Eve’s job here: https://margmowczko.com/eve-as-helper-genesis-2/
Finally, while there is perhaps some truth in the statement “Mankind is always about being their own god”, there are many people who are not this way inclined. Many Christians are being led by the Holy Spirit and are faithfully following Jesus. These forgiven, redeemed and sanctified children of God are being transformed into the image of our Lord, from glory to glory. See Romans 8:28-30, Colossians 3:10-11 and 2 Corinthians 3:18, etc.
Mark, I am much more optimistic than you about the potential and the future of God’s people who are devoted and obedient to Jesus, who are being equipped by the Holy Spirit, and who want to love and serve others in accordance with the Word of God. We mustn’t underestimate the power of God and the gospel.
You’ll probably cover this later in your series, but it immediately popped into my mind when you spoke of the Levitical priests: “The priesthood limited to a small and exclusive group of men within the Israelite community.”
In 1 Peter 2:9-10, Peter, addressing EVERYONE in the Christian community, says, “But you are a chosen generation, a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
So, in the Old Covenant, priests were indeed only men of the tribe of Levi, but in the New (and better, per Hebrews 7 & 8!) Covenant, everyone, male and female are part of the eternal Royal Priesthood.
There is a big difference between the OT priesthood and NT priests and ministers. I’ve written about it here: https://margmowczko.com/old-testament-priests-new-testament-ministers/
I’m so grateful to be included in the New Covenant.
Hey, Marg. Just a minor glitch. When you wrote “And only priests could be male.” I believe you meant “only males could be priests” or such.
Good summary article!
Many thanks. I’ve fixed the glitch.
Thank you, Marg, for your reply about Adam and Eve, etc. Since I first wrote you I’ve been doing a lot of research on Genesis 1-3 and have found some very interesting information. It’s at a stand still for the moment because I’ve been helping the Deacon at church with a 5 Sunday Adult Forum on Women in the Early Church and New Testament Women. I will be getting back to my writing soon. Thank you so much for the research and writing that you do. I find it very informative and helpful. Margaret “Meg” Gloger
My husband is using Numbers 30 as a proof text that husbands did rule over the home in OT and thus patriarchy is prescriptive. What would be your response to that argument please. Thank you for your many many articles! They have helped me so much.
Patriarchy was the norm after the fall and is reflected in both Israelite and pagan societies and in Old Testament laws such as those in Numbers 30. I have a note about Numbers 30 in a footnote in this article: https://margmowczko.com/portrayal-of-women-and-biblical-inspiration/
The practices of patriarchy, slavery, polygamy, and other less-than-ideal social practices are regulated in Old Testament laws. These laws are usually kinder than similar laws of surrounding nations but they still allow for the harsh reality of life in the bronze and iron ages when warfare, raids, and famines were common threats.
God made allowances in a fallen world, but that doesn’t mean that God thinks patriarchy, slavery, polygamy, etc, are good.
Patriarchy is not God’s best plan for relationships or social organisations. And there is no patriarchy in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 before the fall. The ideas in Genesis 3:16 are a consequence of the fall; this verse is the first of many references and allusions to patriarchy in the Old Testament.
With Jesus’s death and resurrection (which dealt with sin, including the sin of the fall), and with Pentecost (and the Holy Spirit’s empowering that helps us to be more like Jesus), there is now the possibility of the kind of mutuality that man and woman had before the fall.
Also, in Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul tells husbands to do things, but doesn’t mention leadership or ruling. More about this passage here: https://margmowczko.com/pauls-main-point-in-eph-5_22-33/ There is no New Testament verse that says husbands are to rule their households or their wives.
Hi Linda, Since leaving the last comment, I’ve written something new about Numbers 30 (and a few other Old Testament passages) here: https://margmowczko.com/old-testament-women-numbers-30-vows/