We interrupt our originally planned Proverbs reading to bring you some rudimentary research on the Biblical family: past and present.
I have been doing a little online research on Biblical families, just so I can have a little more background to go on when I talk about the family structures in the Bible. You'd think the Bible itself would be enough, but it is horribly vague and doesn't talk enough about some aspects of the family. So let's see what the internet has to say about this. I do intend to see if I can locate a book that will have the information I want, but that will take me time to find, purchase and then read so for now we'll have to be okay with internet research. Note: I will include a couple of more academic articles (I wish the internet actually had more academic articles to read) and also modern interpretations of the Biblical family (mostly for the lols).
Family, Work, Worship in the Bible:The Ideal Woman; Slaves and Servants; Daily Tasks
Biblical Archaeology: Work
So it seems women actually did have a wide variety of tasks, even if they are not mentioned in the Bible. Apparently there was a head matriarch in the central family (which we will read about in Proverbs 31 soon) who actually had power and real respect, it seems. Women had jobs that ranged from the inane (making herself look pretty, being on call for anyone who may need her, overseeing emotional needs of the household) to actually pretty interesting (clothing and tent making, gathering food, administering finances and buying investment property). Childrearing did not seem to play a huge role in the life of a woman in these times (more on that in a second). I find it interesting that it was women who were relegated to bury the dead, especially when handling the dead was decidedly unclean in the Bible. While it may have been considered a noble job in other religions or a noble job today, it was definitely considered lesser work to the Biblical God. Reading the description of life for these women, though, I do not think they were given the task of burying the dead as some sort of slight against them. Women seemed to have been revered and they played such a huge part in life and death in these communities. During births, the pregnant woman was surrounded by other women. Midwives, female relatives and female slaves all gathered around to help bring another life into the world. Giving life was something women did, and it was given the respect it so deserved. It only makes sense that since women were the bringers of life that they would also take care of the dead. Women are there at the beginning and the end, and during these times when many tribes and clans were still deeply entrenched in goddess based religions (like Ashera, who we have heard about in the Bible as an enemy to God) these roles were greatly respected.
It makes sense, then, that God, who views women as the downfall of his perfect creation, would use these roles to work against women. Once God started making the rules, birthing was no longer a celebration or a power that women held. Instead, giving birth and everything associated with it become unclean. Women who menstruated were exiled to tents until their bleeding stopped, and any man who dared to touch anything that may have been contaminated with the blood, including the women herself, were also declared unclean and had to perform purification rituals. Being born of a woman becomes a fault in the Bible, not something to be proud of. Then God declares corpses and those who touch them to be unclean, when this was apparently a woman’s job. Corpses had not been unclean up to this point. Dying was a part of life, and women being the keepers of life honored the dead by taking care of them. But God cannot tolerate women having any sort of power in the community so he declared that the handling of corpses was unclean and whoever should touch one would be exiled outside of the town until they are clean once more. God stripped women of a vast majority of their power, all so that men, his favored creation, could truly have full reign over every creature, big and small.
Once everything about a woman become unclean it didn’t take long for them to become the bottom rung of the ladder and for goddess worship to disappear. Why would one worship a female god when everyone knows that women are weak and unclean?
And if anyone here has never watched the documentary The Burning Times you really have to take time out of your day and watch it. It is an excellent documentary that covers the gendercide of women during the witch hunts that didn’t happen all that long ago. So many women murdered at the hands of religion and patriarchy. Really, it is amazing to watch.
Modern Interpretations of Biblical Families
Note: These all make me laugh and cry at the same time. It shows that even though women back in the day actually did have a decent amount of power in the home, the Bible's harsh take on women can slowly chip away at that power. What the Bible says beats out the actual reality of those times, and, more often than not, interpretation matters far more than the reality.
A Look At The Biblical Family
What does the Bible have to say about the family?
The Feminization of the Family
What Does The Bible Say About Family Relationship?
How revealing are these articles? It is insane how much they differ from what the reality of what a real “Biblical” family would have been like. Like I have stated before, what people do with something and how they interpret it is often much more important that what the actual reality is. Women in the times of the Old Testament had respect and power, but this reality has been completely overshadowed and pushed away by what is written in the Bible. If I had never done this research, I would have never known how life really was. I, like many, many people, viewed the Bible as at least ahistorical text if nothing else. A first hand view into how life was for these people. But the reality is that the Bible doesn’t even do that. It cannot even do the simple task of giving us an accurate description of the family. All we have in the Bible is what GOD wishes a family that follows his ways to look like. A home with a man as the head and all others under him to look to him as the leader, for the father is lord of them all. These men today can sugar coat that all that want, but the truth is they teach and preach that men are above women, they still teach that one is better than the other. That is the basis of this Christian family model. How do you have a happy well balanced family when one of the parents is considered a problem if she does not do as the husband wishes. If she does not bear as many children as her husband wishes, if she does not keep the house clean, if she does not cook efficiently, if she does not sacrifice all that she is so that the rest of her family may live better than she, that is a bad mother. A good mother, by the definition of a good “Biblical” family, is one who must think nothing of herself or what she may want.
This is the antithesis of what an actual Biblical family was like. A woman was part of her family but she was also one who held responsibilities that were respected. Her housework was respected. Her ability to bear life was respected. She seems to have had as much power in a family as her husband did. Elder women were respected for their knowledge, not chided as being spinsters and called witches. And because these families lived in tribes and clans they were not just one family. A mother had the help of all of her relatives, her servants, her community when it came to taking care of her family. This, I think, is one of the biggest differences between being a mother today and being one back in the ancient times. Mothers today do not have the community to help her. No, instead often the community despises a mother who requires help to keep her family going. A mother is a bad mother if she must leave her child at any time to work or to run errands. A mother who needs to take welfare is a leech on the system and isn’t fit to raise her children. Today, a modern mother is expected to shoulder all of the responsibilities that were once the responsibilities of an entire village. Yet, as mother’s were given more responsibility as house keepers men were not. Men have no rules or laws concerning aiding their wives in work. While women are commanded to honor and obey their husbands, husbands are only instructed to “love” their wives, whatever that may mean. Love does not require action. Often in our patriarchy, love can simply be a lack of abuse. Love can be nothing more than a lack of action.
So a Biblical family requires most of the household responsibilities to rest on the mother’s shoulders, while the father is simply only required to love his wife and children and make sure his house remains in order. And yet despite the father’s lack of responsibilities, that seems to be all these men can talk about when it comes to a modern Biblical family. The “feminizing” of the family, which is becoming the ruin of society, is because men are losing control of their household. Their women are leaving the house to work, their women are becoming too independent, and, worst of all, their women can now decide to divorce and leave if they do not like their marriage. All of these “problems” of the family boil down to one thing: independence. According to the Bible and the way many people interpret it, women are meant to be dependent on their husbands completely. So when women gain independence and realize they do not need a man to survive (especially a man that is abusive or unloving), this chips away at the hierarchy that God has set up. This is also why so many religious people bemoan the single mother. There is constant talk and debate on how a child just cannot be raised correctly or will grow up to be a detriment to society (or worse in the case of male children, gay) simple because they do not have a father to discipline them. A woman without a man is a terrifying thought to a patriarchy that holds men in such high regard.
Fathers are the keystone to a family, so they get the most attention in these articles. Men are urged to regain control (“loving” control) of their households. To make the household like church, with him as Christ and the rest of the family as congregation. Men are placed in a worship position, they are expected to be revered and if they are not they are a failure. Is it no wonder that some men can so easily use the Bible to justify physical abuse in the house?
But let us not forget the biggest enemy to the family. The evil that slithers throughout our society corrupting our women and destroying the very foundation of a functioning community.
Dear sweet baby Jesus please save us from these horrible, corrupting women!
Seriously. Feminists are held up as the greatest plague upon the family. And why? Because they DARE to let people know that women are individuals who have a right to equality. They have a right to life and a right to happiness just like everyone else. That women should not be discriminated against just because of the sex we were assigned at birth. That women should be able to choose what happens to their bodies and when. That women should be allowed the resources to take care of themselves without having to rely on a man to get through life. That women should have equal pay for equal work, and that “women’s” work, both in the workplace and at the home, should be given the same amount of respect as “men’s” work. That simply being female shouldn’t be seen or treated as a handicap.
Oh my god what monsters! D:
Although they are not wrong. These ideas shatter the very foundation of what a “Biblical” family is. A Biblical family requires the woman to not be a person. To be nothing more than a servant to those around her and a slave to her husband. A woman who realizes that she can be her own person and is given the tools to be independent is the exact opposite of the subservient and dependent woman that Christianity calls for. Feminists are the greatest enemy of the Christian patriarchy and the Christian patriarchy knows this. It fights back as hard as it can against the feminist movement. It does its best to convince its followers (women especially) that God’s laws are really in the best interest of the family and that women’s subservience and dependence is really not bad. It is in fact a special form of power for a wife to submit to her husband and to think only of her family, and it is utterly selfish to think of anything or do anything that does not benefit the family. And the Christian patriarchy does its best to control those women who are not already under its control. Its foot soldiers work to restrict a woman’s right to choose. They work to insert their religious beliefs and hierarchy into government and laws. They work to keep gays and lesbians from being able to marry or adopt children. Women (and many others who choose to not live in a “Christian” way) are not safe either inside the religion or outside it. Christianity works to put everyone under its thumb.
In the end, it does not matter what the reality is, women today must face the consequences of the interpretations of “historical” writings in the Bible. Women may have held respect and power in the ancient communities, but today that power has been stripped down to nothing. Wives much submit if they are to be “good” wives, which means that they must forgo being a person with wishes and choices in order to serve the family. Feminists are such a danger to these ideals and are constantly being vilified by those who see ideas of female equality and independence as a detriment to society. Christianity plays a big part in making sure that wives remain dependent on and subservient to their husbands, both by making sure laws stay in place or are put in place to keep women from having full independence and by telling the women in their congregations over and over and over again that subservience is a virtue and is what God has decreed a woman’s role to be.
And honestly, who can argue against the truth of an almighty God?
Monday: Proverbs 23-27