Women in the Old Testament

The image of women in the Old Testament is not flattering. Many Old Testament verses represent women in the most evil image.

In one place, they are shown as the source of deception, which led to the calamities of mankind. Eve was blamed as the one who persuaded Adam to eat from the forbidden tree with the result that Adam and his progeny were banished from paradise. This sin of disobeying the orders of God has resulted in what is known as the Original Sin and the Christian dogma of redemption through Christ, 'the savior'.

This perception of Eve as temptress in the Bible has resulted in an extremely negative impact on women throughout the Judo-Christian tradition. All women were believed to have inherited from their mother, the Biblical Eve, both her guilt and her guile.

Consequently, they were all untrustworthy, morally inferior, and wicked. Menstruation, pregnancy, and childbearing were considered the just punishment for the eternal guilt of the cursed female sex. In order to appre- ciate how negative the impact of the Biblical Eve was on all her female descendants we have to look at the writings of some of the most important Jews and Christians of all time.

Let us start with the Old Testament and look at excerpts from what is called the Wisdom Literature in which we find "I find bitterer than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare....while I was still search- ing but not finding, I found one up- right man among a thousand but not one upright woman among them all"

(Ecclesiastes 7:26-28).

In another part of the Hebrew literature which is found in the Catholic Bible we read:

"No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman.....Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die"

(Ecclesiasticus 25:19, 24)

According to the OT, women have been punished for the sin of their mother, Eve, by carrying the burden of preg- nancy and the pains of childbirth. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Such blame and sever punishment contradicts with the Qur'anic reporting of responsibility for people's actions regardless of their sex, male or female. As a matter of fact, The Qur'an never blamed Eve alone for eating from the for- bidden tree.

Al-A'raaf : 22-23

So, he (Satan) misled them (Adam and Eve) with de- ception . . . . And their Lord called out to them (saying): "Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you: Verily, Satan is an open enemy unto you?" They said: "our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If you forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers. The Qur'an emphasizes that each Person is person- ally responsible for his/her deeds.

No person earns any (sin) except against himself (only), and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another. Then unto your lord is your return, so He will tell you that wherein you have been differing.

(Al-An'aam: 164)

The concept of The Origi- nal Sin is totally foreign to Is- lamic and responsibility teach- ings because of three reasons. One, it contradicts the unique- ness of every human being. Two, it is unfair to blame and put wrath on the whole of hu- manity because of the wrong doing of a person. Three, the concept of the Original Sin was a pretext for finding another problematic teaching which links salvation to atonement through Christ. The Qur'an re- jects the fatalist view of the des- tiny of human beings and urges people to assume respon- sibility for their conduct and choices.

Al-Israa': 14

Whoever goes right, then he goes right only for the benefit of his own self. And whoever goes astray, then he goes astray to his own loss. No one laden with burdens can bear another's burden. And We never punish until We have sent a mes- senger (to give warning).

Al-Nahel: 97

Whoever works righteousness, whether male of female, while he (or she) is a true believer (of Islamic Monotheism) verily, to him We will give a good life, and We shall pay them certainly a reward in propor- tions to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter).

KENDATH (1983)

Kendath (1983) reported that Orthodox Jewish men in their daily prayer recite "Blessed be God King of the uni- verse that Thou has not made me a women." On the other hand, women thank God every morning for "making me ac- cording to Thy will."27 According to the Jewish Talmud, "Women are exempted from the study of the Torah." Swidler (1976) mentioned that Rabbi Eliezer said:

"If a man teaches his daughter Torah it is as though he taught her lechery."28 This prohibition is due to the unbelievable fabricated stories regarding daughters and wives of the prophets that they might find in the scriptures. Jewish Rabbis listed nine curses inflicted on women as a result of the Fall:

"To the woman He gave nine curses and death: the burden of the blood of menstruation and the blood of virgin- ity; the burden of pregnancy; the bur- den of childbirth; the burden of bring- ing up the children; her head is cov- ered as one in mourning; she pierces her ear like a permanent slave or slave girl who serves her master; she is not to be believed as a witness; and after everything--death."

Contrary to the Biblical teachings, The Qur'an does not view childbirth and pregnancy as a punishment for women but rather as an honorable duty that the mothers should be appreci- ated for. And We have en- joined upon man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years - give thanks to Me and to your parents,- unto Me is the final destination. (Luqmaan: 14)

By studying the verses from the Old Testament, the book in which both Jews and Christian believe, regarding the punishment of a rapist, one wonders who is really pun- ished? Is it the man who raped the innocent woman or the woman who has been raped and violated?

If this is the way dignity and chastity of women are perceived, what would pre- vent someone from looking for the best looking women in town, rape her, tell everybody about it, and then have the court force her to be his wife for the rest of her life? This is a quote from Deuteronomy regarding such a case. KJV Deuteronomy 22:29-30

29.Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of sil- ver, and she shall be his wife; be- cause he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. According to the Old Testament, daughters inherit their father only if they have no brothers. Widows, mothers, and sisters are deprived of inheritance. KJV Numbers 27:6-10

surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's breth- ren; and thou shalt cause the inherit- ance of their father to pass unto them. 8. And thou shalt speak unto the chil- dren of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter. 9. And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren. 10. And if he have no breth- ren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father's brethren.

I have briefly reviewed some of the teachings of the Old Testament regarding women. In the course of my re- search, I kept wondering how it was possible for so many immoral stories to be attributed to God's noble envoys, the prophets (peace and blessing of Allah be upon them all).