Women as Property: The Biblical View

My recent post “Here Comes Everybody” at the Open Tabernacle drew a query in the comments thread from a prolific commenter, Mark, who asked for some substantiation of my statement that in the Biblical world, women were seen as property. Responding, I assured Mark that I had a post in preparation in which I would provide this. That post has now been completed in draft, but given the importance of this topic, I thought it would be helpful to discuss it first in its own, dedicated piece.

Even a cursory reading of the Hebrew Bible should make clear the appallingly low status of Hebrew women, and their complete dependence on their men folk. It is this very dependence that makes the story of Ruth and Naomi important: deprived of family and male support, they sustain each other, until at last they can re-establish economic security- by working together to arrange Ruth’s re-marriage.

 

Ruth and Naomi: William Blake

But to more fully appreciate the extent of women’s subservience, we need the help of writers who have looked more closely at the texts, and reflected on them to show us their significance. William L. Countryman is just one of many who have done this, but his book “Dirt, Greed and Sex”, with a full chapter on women and children as property in the Hebrew Bible, is the one I have at hand, and the one I have drawn on for what follows. Read the rest of this entry »