The account that we have in the Bible of what took place between the time of Noah and Abraham is sparce. It is covered by the tenth and eleventh chapters in Genesis and that’s it. However, even though the Bible does not give much detail to this time period, archaeological discoveries do. The Tel el Amarna tablets, the Code of Hammurabi (King Amraphel of Gen. 14:1), and the numerous discoveries about Nineveh, in Babylonia, Egypt and other places, have combined in enabling scholars to reconstruct the manners and customs of the people during this time period.
One of the clear voices of the early centuries (early 1900s) that exposes the facts and discoveries regarding women and their positions in society during the early ages, is a Hebrew and Greek scholar named Katherine Bushnell. Bushnell did over one hundred Bible studies based on historical and Biblical research that present the truth about women’s roles in early history. Not only this, but her research also exposes the corruptions in translation and teaching by men in order to subjugate women to them; thus, setting women up for abuse. The following teaching is from one of Bushnell’s studies on the early dignity of women. I have updated some of the language to modern English for ease of reading, but have left most of it in tact as Bushnell herself wrote it. At the end of her study, I will bring this research around to today in order to show the magnitude of abuse that has arose out of male-kinship.
More Proof of Woman’s Early Dignity
By Katherine Bushnell
First of all, we have information that in Egypt women occupied a very dignified position in public as well as private affairs. While one may think that this is an exception, what we find in reality through the discoveries is that it was not exceptional at all. There were many scholars works published in the early centuries, such as Bachofen and McLennan, who traced the signs of that early dignity of women. Their research gave investigators new clues to follow out into past facts. This enabled historians and others access to new information regarding women of ancient history and their roles, public and private.
These newly discovered facts help us to better understand the numerous incidents in the Bible that regard women and how they have been misinterpreted. Nothing is more important to Christian women today than to understand that God did not Himself subordinate women to men. He merely prophesied that such subordination would follow as the fruit of sin in this world. The subordination of women to men is NOT the result of God’s ordinance; it is the fruit of wrong-doing; and, as such, the fruit can be no more God’s doing than the bad tree.
Ancient history proves that woman, in earth’s earliest ages, was not subordinate. As to Egypt, we shall never forget the profound impression made on our own mind by a review of the long line of ancient monarchs in stone, to be seen in the Gizeh Museum, a few miles from Cairo, near the pyramid of Cheops. Beginning at the end where the most ancient were placed, we noticed that the queen sat by the side of the king, of equal size and importance. A few centuries later, we noticed that the queen had become smaller than the king. The representations were all rudely true to life, and we could not but conclude that for some reason the man had taken to marrying a wife not as mature as himself (child-bride); and beginning to bear children in her immaturity, the development of woman’s stature had been arrested. Further on, the queen sat on a lower level than the king and was subjected to him. Lastly, the queen was no longer carved out of a stone block; she was merely scratched into the pedestal of the stool he sat on or, the arm of his chair or throne.
The progression of this story could not lie. No man had carved more than one or two of these stones; they had not been carved under the same dynasty; no architect had conceived the plan of the whole; no sociologist, no theologian had written this history of womanhood; no romancer had woven the tale. It was cold fact, in cold stone. And the revelation told us that the Egyptian woman was, of old, a dignified person; she gradually lost that dignity; her fall was not all at once; it was accomplished only gradually, through the working of ages of custom. How very different this is from that theological teaching that while the nations were as yet unborn, God placed their mother, Eve, under servitude, so that, by divine ordinance, every woman except Eve has been born in servitude!
Turning to Isaac Myer’s work, Oldest Books in the World, we quote what he says about ancient times in Egypt: “The mother of the deceased is usually shown with his wife, and his father rarely appears. The custom as shown by the funeral steles, was to trace the descent of the dead on their mother’s side, and not, as we do, on the father’s. This produced also the curious effect that the father of the mother was considered the natural protector.” “The position of woman both in religion and in government was elevated in ancient Egypt.” Mr. Myer reproduces teaching which was found on what he calls “The Papyrus of Balak, No. IV.” He dates the writing about 3000 B.C. The words are in the language of a god, addressing some mother’s son: “I have given thee thy mother who has borne thee; she gave herself a heavy burden for thy sake. . When thou was born after thy months [of gestation], she was truly subjected to thy yoke, for her breast has been in thy mouth during three years. As thou grew marvelously, the disgust of thy untidiness did not turn her heart against thee. . [Now] that thou has married, . . have an eye on thy child, raise it as thy mother did thee. Do not do what she would reprove in thee, for fear that, if she raises her two hands towards God [against thee], he will hear her prayer.”
Dr. J. H. Breasted, in his History of Egypt says: “Under the Old Kingdom [which he would place about 3000 B.C.], a man possessed but one legal wife, who was the mother of his heirs. She was in every respect his equal . . .The natural line of inheritance was through the eldest daughter, though a will might destroy this.” To these statements, and many more kindred ones which we might quote, we know of no reliable historian who would take exception.
We turn now from Egypt to ancient Babylonia, to learn the same things, as regards the early dignity of women. Formerly it was supposed that Hebrew was the oldest language, and no people were older than the nation from whence Abraham came. But before the Babylonians were the Sumerians; and Prof. Sayce tells us in his book, Babylonians and Assyrians: “Two principles struggled for recognition in Babylonian family life. One was the patriarchal, the other the matriarchal. Perhaps they were due to the duality of race; perhaps they were merely the result of circumstances under which the Babylonians lived. At times it would seem as if we must pronounce the Babylonian family to have been patriarchal in its character; at other times the wife and mother occupies an independent and even commanding position. It may be noted that whereas in the old Sumerian hymns the woman takes the precedence of the man, the Semitic translation invariably reverses the order: the one has ‘female and male,’ the other, ‘male and female.’” Again he says: “Women could hold civil offices and even act as governors of a city.” Again we read the same lesson,–in Babylonia WOMAN WAS BORN FREE!
These facts are brought forward for the sake of proving a point – viz., Woman was NOT subordinated, at the beginning of human history through the wrong-doing of Eve. At the dawn of authentic profane history, which must have been much later than Eve’s day of course, we find woman holding a position so dignified and honored, both in family and public life, that men are constrained to name it a matriarchate. If this be so, then the theologian has not read his Bible correctly, in his supposition that he can trace the subordination of woman all the way back to Eden, and to a day when the blight of God’s curse fell upon Eve. . . such a sad day as God’s curse of womanhood never dawned on human history.
This matter may seem of so little consequence to male Bible expositors that they are more than willing even to this day to ignore the “woman question” in their teaching, and allow the case to stand as God’s blight on the sex, when it is wholly the result of man’s wrongdoing. Thus Adam was more than willing to ignore the Serpent in the Garden, and lay the responsibility of his own wrongdoing at the door of the Almighty,–as he did when he said, “The woman whom THOU gavest to be with me.” (Blaming God) But such continuance in an evil way will not escape God’s eye, inasmuch as the teaching that all women are left under condemnation because Eve sinned is more a slight and disrespect shown towards Jesus Christ, the Atoner for ALL SIN, than a slight and disrespect shown towards women.
To continue the record as to old Babylonia: In the History of Sumer and Akkad, by L.W. King, of the British Museum, we read: “Tablets dating from the close of Ur-Nina’s dynasty [B.C. 3000] show the important part which women played in the social and official life of the early Sumerians.” He describes a plaque which has been found, among others, on which Lidda, daughter of the king Ur-Nina, stands in the first place of honor, facing the king, while the crown-prince is represented as attending his sister.
Now let’s look at Asia Minor. Here, on the testimony of the investigator, Prof. Sir Wm. M. Ramsey, are abundant evidences of an early “matriarchate,”—so called. But again we say, we must not misunderstand the real import of this word. Men are apt to name anything which savors of an equality of the sexes, in these days, a “petticoat government.” The matriarchate does not convey to our minds the idea of a rule of women over men; it merely implies the absence of an exclusive government by men,–the existence of that saner, righteous state, in which the governing privilege is invested in the competent, without regard to sex.
In Prof. Ramsay’s Church in the Roman Empire we read: “The honours and influence which belonged to women in the cities of Asia Minor, form one of the most remarkable features in the history of the country. In all periods the evidence runs on the same lines. The best authenticated cases of mutterrect [matriarchate] belong to Asia Minor. Under the Roman Empire [in Asia Minor] we find women magistrates, presidents at games, and loaded with honours. The custom of the country influenced even the Jews, who in at least one case appointed a woman at Smyrna to the position of “archisynagogos” [chief of the synagogue]. We could quote much more, and from Prof. Ramsay’s other books,–especially his Phrygia, but this is sufficient for illustration; it puts the whole case in a nutshell.
Next we turn again to Prof. W. Robertson Smith. Here we learn facts concerning the Semitic races, to which the O.T. Hebrews belong. In his preface to Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, he says, “The object of the present volume is to collect and discuss the available evidence as to the genesis of the system of male kinship, with the corresponding laws of marriage and tribal organization, which prevailed in Arabia at the time of Mohammed; the general result is that male kinship had been preceded by kinship through women only, and that all that can still be gathered as to the steps of the social evolution in which the change of kinship law is the central feature corresponds in the most striking manner with the general theory propounded. . .in the late J.F. McLennan’s book on Primitive Marriage.”
Elsewhere he says: “Mother-kinship is the type of kinship, common motherhood the type of kindred unity which dominate all Semitic speech.” Now, how was that mother-kinship secured? All these writers whom we have quoted propound the evolution theory that it arose out of polyandry, in which state fatherhood cannot be certainly determined. But let us repeat: We are not driven to a theory to account for mother-kinship; the Bible tells us it was God’s own ordinance,–“Therefore shall a man [“husband” is the precise word used] leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife.” Prof. Smith says: “The common old Arabic phrase for the consummation of marriage is . . . ‘he built [a tent] over his wife.’ This is synonymous with ‘he went in unto her,’ and is explained by the native authorities by saying that the husband erected and furnished a new tent for his wife. . .Though the wife of a nomad has not usually a separate tent to live in, a special hut or tent is still erected for her on the first night of marriage. In Northern Arabia this is now the man’s tent, and the woman is brought to him. But it was related to me . . .as a peculiarity of Yemen [a southern tribe] that there the ‘going in’ takes place in the bride’s house, and that the bridegroom if home-born must stay some nights in the bride’s house, or if a foreigner must settle with them. This Yemenite custom. . .must once have been universal among all Semites, otherwise we should not find that alike in Arabic, Syriac and Hebrew the husband is said to ‘go in’ to the bride, when as a matter of fact she is brought to him”.
He continues: “As the ceremony of the tent is common to all the Semites, the kind of marriage to which it points must have begun very early, and with this it agrees that among the Hebrews, as Mr. McLennan has pointed out, there are many relics not only of female kinship but of an established usage of beena marriage, with which was associated not only female kinship, but also the rights of inheritance through females; but the covetous Laban was keeping all the property as his own, to the exclusion of his daughters’ rights. Second: Under beena or sadica marriage, the bridegroom made his gift to the bride, for the privilege of marrying her; but under ba’al marriage the bridegroom purchases his wife. These women complain of their father Laban, “He hath sold us, and quite devoured the price paid for us” (R.V.) In other words, they claimed that the entire wages of Jacob’s fourteen years of service to obtain his wives belonged to them,–not to Jacob, and certainly not to their father Laban. Their argument for leaving their mother’s roof (as doubtless it would have been called in those days), was not at all what one hears in these days.—“He is my husband; I must follow him.” Rather, they argue that since their own father will not give them an inheritance, they will be better off to forsake him for Jacob. They in no wise recognize it as a duty to follow a husband away from the parental roof. It is a quarrel about ba’al marriage being substituted for sadica marriage by a covetous father.
McLennan calls attention to the following interesting sidelights on woman’s position among the ancient Hebrews: “When Abraham seeks a wife for Isaac, his servant thinks that the condition will probably be made that Isaac shall come and settle with her people,” Gen. 24:5. (But in this particular instance Abraham, having been himself called out from among these idolatrous relatives, will not permit Isaac’s return to them—Gen. 24:6.) Upon this, Prof. Robertson Smith remarks: “He might have added other things of the same kind; the Shechemites must be circumcised, i.e., Hebraised, before they can marry the daughters of Israel; Joseph’s sons by his Egyptian wife become Israelites only by adoption; and so in Judges 15 Samson’s Philistine wife remains with her people and he visits her there. All these things illustrate what is presented in Gen. 2:24 as the primitive type of marriage; but perhaps a still more convincing proof that the passage (Gen. 2:24) is based on a doctrine of beena marriage and mother-kinship lies in the very name Eve.—‘The mother of all living.’” To this we add the further strong warning which God gave to Eve: “Thou art turning to [to follow] thy husband, and he will rule over thee.”
What we can see from this research is that female kinship was the “norm” in the beginning and throughout the early centuries. There was equality of the sexes. But men, wanting dominance, used force to rip women away from their families and natural protectors causing male kinship to come to pass. As a result, men then began taking away women’s autonomy, honor and dignity, relegating them to servitude. By marrying younger girls, this made sure that their “control” over their wives was solidified – since young girls cannot defend themselves. This allowed for these young girls to be raised by the husband and, by force, made to submit or suffer the consequence. This allowed for abuse of women and young girls throughout history and even today.
As a result of this practice of male kinship, women suffer bondage and abuse to wicked husbands. They have been stripped of protection, honor, dignity and equality in religion and the world. As a result of inequality, women have endured rape, torture, incest, polygamy, physical abuse and emotional abuse. Sex trafficking is rampant, child rape and mutilation is rampant and, men have made women the “scape goat” for their own wickedness. Instead of protecting women from mens criminal and in-humane behaviors, women have been made the “cause” of it because God made them female. That is why, after centuries of proliferating this mindset in men, we live in a rape culture. Men today, in many cultures are not held accountable for their crimes against women and children. In some cultures, young girls – as young as five, six, seven and eight years old—are married to men four and five times their age. This is pedophilia and rape! When God prophesied to Eve that, “Thou art turning to thy husband, and he will rule over thee.” He was prophesying that mens evil intentions would cause them to dominate women and strip them of their honor, dignity and equality. That prophecy has been fulfilled. The fruit of this evil perpetrated by men has been crimes against women and children without full accountability and, the enactment of laws (in some cultures) that protect men from full accountability.
It is time for the populous to wake up and realize that over half the human race has been victimized, abused and treated in-humanely. The weapon used to enforce this system of abuse against women, is religion.