Numbers 30:1–16, 1 Corinthians 12:12–13:13, Psalm 25:1–22
Criticism of gender bias in the Bible usually happens when the critic does not know how badly women were treated in ancient times, or how God worked redemptively to bring change to the gender wars. Even the OT commands concerning men and women can be viewed from different perspectives. Consider the following example . . .
Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel saying, “This is what the Lord has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” (Numbers 30:1–2)
It was not the same for a woman. If she made a vow, she had to keep it, unless . . . “her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. And the Lord will forgive her, because her father opposed her . . . . Any vow and any binding oath to afflict herself, her husband may establish, or her husband may make void. But if her husband says nothing to her from day to day, then he establishes all her vows or all her pledges that are upon her. He has established them, because he said nothing to her on the day that he heard of them. But if he makes them null and void after he has heard of them, then he shall bear her iniquity.” (Numbers 30:5; 13–15)
Obviously the regulations concerning vows were different for a man and a woman. However, a man might look at this and wonder why God gives women a way out of a vow, but not men. Or if he is somewhat arrogant, he might think that she gets the way out because she is frivolous, a ‘silly woman’ who is apt to make foolish vows.
A woman could view this regulation as unfair, that the man is honored above her and that God thinks she is some kind of lesser being because her father or her husband has more control of her decisions than she does. Or she could be happy about this rule because God is giving her a safeguard and protection against making a rash promise, something a man does not have.
When it comes to living out the gender battles (this war started in Eden and continues to this day), the NT teaches that marriage is an illustration that symbolizes the relationship between Christ and the church. I find that helpful. If I can relate to my hubby the way the church is to relate to Christ, great things happen!
Today’s NT reading is also helpful. Men and women are not alike, but two women are not alike either. Each person, regardless of gender, has gifts that make us unique. Paul writes that those differences do not change our status or usefulness in His kingdom . . .
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:14–20)
This applies to the church (body of Christ), but also states a fact about the differences between me and my husband. We are not alike because we have different gifts and serve different ways, not just in the church but also in our home. He takes care of chores that I don’t even notice. I do chores that he appreciates, but has no time to do. We share some things too.
In both marriage and church relationships, the key to appreciating God’s directions is not about such things as equality, or gender privilege, or who is the boss, or all the other issues that can bring division. The key is that “more excellent way” Paul points to at the end of 1 Corinthians 12 . . .
“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing . . . Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:2; 4–8)
God teaches (as does experience) that love is not entirely mushy emotion, physical attraction, or adoring feelings. These happen, but love is being like Jesus toward others. It is as Paul describes, and grounded solidly in trusting the Lord. I cannot control how others behave, or how they treat me, or that they love and obey God. But I can trust God. He will supply my “I wants” as He sees fit, and by whatever means He sees fit.
To this I say, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” (Psalm 25:4–5)